This past weekend we made what will probably be our last ski trip of the season. Even though Northern Wisconsin had received lots of snow earlier in the week we already had planned a trip to the U.P. The snow we received was heavy and wet while the snow the U.P. received was light and fluffy.
We arrived in Houghton, Michigan late in the day on Friday and after checking in to the hotel and grabbing something to eat we headed off to Calumet for 7:00 pm start of the CopperDog 150 sled dog race. I’ll have more on the race in a later blog. We were surprised by the large number of people in town for the race. After finding a place to park we took up a position about 5 blocks from the starting line. We watched the first few team head out. We then worked our way down to the staging area and watched the mushers and the volunteers get the dogs ready for the race. It was quite a sight.
The next morning we were up early so we could make it to Eagle Harbor for the 9:00 a.m. start of the 2nd stage of the CopperDog 150. As we left Houghton it started to snow and the wind was blowing at 25-30 mph. Our directions suggested turning off of highway 41 on to 26 to reach Eagle Harbor. This turned out to be an adventure. The roads were good until we hit the Lake Superior shoreline. The strong winds and blowing snow were creating large drifts on the road. The waves on the lake were wild and the water had an ominous green color. There weren’t many places to pull off but we found one and I tried to take a few shots but the wind was so strong and with the blowing snow it was difficult to even face the lake.
We arrived in Eagle Harbor just prior to the start of the race. There were not as many folks at the start so we had our choice of where we wanted position ourselves to watch the race. I spent my time wandering up and down the race course and watching the teams start from a variety of positions. I also walked over to a local park to watch the mushers and volunteers get the dogs ready for the race.
Our plan had been to do some skiing at Eagle Harbor and then drive up to Copper Harbor and watch the end of the 2nd leg of the race. However, it was snowing and blowing so hard we decided to drive on to Copper Harbor. This is the sign in Copper Harbor indicating how far it is to Miami, Florida. Just outside of Copper Harbor is the northern terminus of Highway 41 which runs south to Miami. It was probably a lot warmer in Miami than Copper Harbor. We checked out the ski opportunities at Copper Harbor but the trails were a bit exposed so we decided to drive up to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and see if it was open. We had gotten different stories as to whether or not the ski trails were open and being groomed. Unfortunately the road to the Lodge was closed and the ski trails were not groomed this year. Too bad because we really enjoyed our experience skiing the trails the past couple of years.
Red Jacket Cyclotron
We decided to head back to Calumet, while the roads were still in good driving condition. When we arrived in Calumet the first annual Red Jacket Cyclotron Snow Bike Race was underway. We watched the bikers racing on the sled dog trails before heading out to Swedetown Ski Trails for some skiing.
Me on the Backcountry Trail
Swedetown does a good job of grooming and the trails are more sheltered from the wind than the trails at Copper Harbor. It was snowing hard so we decided to start on the Backcountry Trail since it had not been groomed recently. With the fresh snow the skiing was outstanding. By the time we finished the Backcountry trail most of the other trails were also covered with a thick coating of fresh powder. Later in the day we encountered some strange tracks on the trails. At first we thought someone was skiing with old fashioned skis because the tracks were so wide. We finally figured out that several people had been out on the trails with fat tire bikes. I can see this is going to be a problem for ski areas because they really tear up the ski trails and make it dangerous for skiers. It is easy to get a ski caught in one of the ruts and take a bad spill. Flat Tire biking is a new sport and will likely create new demands for trail access.
Michigan Tech Ski Trails
On Sunday morning we decided to ski the Michigan Tech trails. It was about 9 degrees and just right for a beautiful morning of skiing. As it turned out it was spring break at Michigan Tech so we had the trails all to ourselves for a good part of the morning. All of the trails had been freshly groomed and they provided some great skiing. While the trails are great they just don’t seem to have the same ambiance as Swedetown where the trees are usually covered with lots of snow.
After lunch we headed back to Calumet for the finish of the CopperDog 150. Again there were lots of people in town but it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it was for the start of the race on Friday night. We were able to check the status of the race on our cell phone so we knew about when the first of the mushers would be reaching town. We took photos of the teams arriving and then walked through town to the staging area to get some crowd shots and watch the dogs resting up and getting a well deserved meal.
Monday morning we were up early again for the trip home. It was 0 degrees outside. We decided to make a stop at Bond Falls since it is one of my favorite winter waterfall locations. We weren’t disappointed. There was lots of fresh snow and with the cold weather the trees along the river were covered in frost. After walking along the river and enjoying the beautiful falls we headed for home.
It was a great trip and made for a fitting end to the ski season.