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Category Archives: snowshoeing

Last weekend my wife and I headed up to the U.P. of Michigan for another extended weekend of skiing. Our main destination was the Swedetown Ski Trails in Calumet, Michigan. Normally it is a six hour trip but on Friday it was even longer. Northern Wisconsin and the UP were just digging out from a snowstorm and the temperature hovered around one degree so the roads for the last four hours of the trip were snow packed and slippery.

Union Bay

We made a stop at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to purchase a 2012 park pass. While in the area I took a photo of Union Bay with a lake effect snow clouds out over the lake.

We had a free night at a Houghton hotel so we stayed in Houghton on Friday night. We arrived late in the day a made a quick stop to check in before heading over to the Michigan Tech ski trails for some late afternoon and evening skiing. The sunset was spectacular but unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera. Skiing under the lights is great fun but it was cold, about five degrees, and there were not many folks out skiing.

Swedetown Ski Trails

The next morning we debated whether to ski the Maasto Hiihto trails or to go over to Swedetown. Since we couldn’t find out any reviews of Maasto Hiihto we decided to go over to Swedetown. Later in the day we encountered another skier who lives about five blocks from Maasto Hiihto and he indicated that it is a rough course with some rock issues so they need lots of snow before it is in good condition. So it was good that we saved it for a later ski trip.

Swedetown Ski Trails

Just as we arrived the groomer was finishing up grooming the trails after Thursdays storm. The trails were all in excellent shape. They do an outstanding job of grooming at Swedetown. We headed out on the Valley Trail and planned to hook up with the Back Country. We found where the Back Country trail head used to be but it had not been groomed and the sign was gone so we continued on and skied several other trails. Later we found a single track trail Back Country Trailthrough the woods and headed off on it. After a short distance we found a sign indicating it was the Back Country Trail. We continued on an skied it for a over an hour before entering a portion of it that we had not skied before. When we reached the trailhead we found ourselves back in the parking lot. It seems that they changed the trailhead for the Back Country trail. It is now located at the main trailhead by the parking lot just to the right of the large map showing the Swedetown Trails.

Swedetown Ski Trails

After a morning of skiing we drove into town and stopped at the local ski shop. I noticed a snow bike in the window. Earlier in the season there was some chatter on the Keweenaw ski trails list about snow bikes but I didn’t have any idea what they were. We went into the store and I was looking at the bike when someone came to take it out of the window. It turns out that he was the groomer for the Swedetown Trails. I asked him about the ski bike. Apparently he was taking it out because a TV station was going to do a piece on snow biking. It’s a new and fast growing sport. This model was a fat tire model with two large tires. Others have a ski in front rather than a tire. They can go on ski trails, snowshoe trails and snowmobile trails just about any place where the snow has been packed down. This year they will have a snow bike race the day after the Great Bear Chase cross country ski race. Swedetown is thinking of adding some multiuse trails in the next couple of years to provide an opportunity for snow bikers and Skijorers to enjoy Swedetown.

Little Tigers

We went back out to Swedetown and skied the rest of the afternoon. We encountered a couple of people with stuffed tigers attached to their back and were a bit puzzled. Later we discovered that it was Copper Country Ski Tigers. It’s a chance for young skiers to get some instruction and have a day of fun with the family.

Swedetown Ski Trails

On Sunday we were thinking about heading up to Copper Harbor to ski the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge but no one was sure if they were being groomed this year. The weather report was for rain later in the day so we decided to spend a second day at Swedetown. We headed out to the Back Country Trail again, did I mention we love to ski it, and skied it for the second day in a row. This time we actually found the trail head. Apparently Swedetown is thinking of doubling the length of the Back Country Trail in the next couple of years. That would be great because it does give one the feel of skiing the back country. The trail is occasionally groomed with a snowmobile and a single center track laid. We like to ski it after a big snowfall because the trees are covered with snow and it really gives the feel of being in the back country.

Swedetown Ski Trails

On Sunday it was free skiing and snowshoeing at Swedetown. We actually saw quite a few a few folks out snowshoeing and decided to bring our snowshoes along the next time.

Swedetown Ski Trails

Fortunately the freezing rain never materialized and on Monday we were faced with heavy snow for the trip back home. We thought of staying another day but decided not to. Wouldn’t you know they had 18 inches of new snow. Bummer for us great for Swedetown.

More photos from Swedetown can be found on my website.

Last Friday we drove up to the Ice Age Trail for some hiking/snowshoeing. Our first stop is always the Interpretive Center to check on trail conditions and find out what is going on in the area. It is also a great place to visit if you have kids. They have live fish, snakes and turtles at the center as well as stuffed animals and birds. They also have a variety of activities for kids. In the winter they also have snowshoes available for use.

Stanley

We happened to encounter Stanley at the visitors center. He is the unofficial hiking companion dog that will hike the trails with you at no charge. He resides in the area but spends a good part of his time walking the trails with hikers. His name is Stanley and he is kid friendly. He was on hand at the center on Friday but had just come back from a hike with someone else and didn’t seem inclined to go out again. This is a photo of Stanley taken last summer. Since I’m generally doing photography on my hikes Stanley usually becomes bored and heads off to do his own thing.

We generally take the 4.5 mile loop trail that starts from the visitors center. We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of trail conditions because the trail is heavily used snowshoe trail in the winter which means it could also be a little slippery after warm weather. We took along the snowshoes and traction devices for our boots just in case. As it turned out the trail was hard with some ice so we chose to use the traction devices. It was easy walking and we made good time. Also I didn’t stop to take any photos so that speeds things up. My recommendation for navigating the trail this time of year is to bring along snowshoes, traction devices and hiking poles so you are prepared for a variety of conditions.

It was one of the few bright sunny days we have had recently with temperatures in the mid 20’s. There was some strong winds blowing so it was cool on the ridges.

We followed up the hike with a stop at the Bloomer Cafe for some pie alamode.

There are more photos of this segment of the Ice Age Trail on my website.