February 21, 2009: Hwy 2 lot to Canada and back




The title sounds so short and simple. The ride was anything but.

Jamie, Pat, Brian B, and I left the Hwy 2 lot at 7am, bound for the end of the Gunflint Trail. We expected about a 350 mile day. Before I go further though, I need to explain that Jamie and Brian rode up from Jamie's house to the lot on their sleds - they had 40 miles on when we met up with them at the lot. I was somewhat bummed at first to learn that they were going to have significantly more miles on than we did, but shortly afterward I recalled what my 408 mile day was like, and then suddenly I didn't feel so bummed. I felt more...relieved.

We didn't have too many problems on the way up (actually, it was surprisingly nice). Trails were freshly groomed (in some places we were the only tracks on the trail), and the trails were smooth and fast. We didn't see the first sleds on the trail until somewhere right around Finland.

We made good time up to Grand Marais, got our second tankful of gas there, then headed up the Gunflint, having lunch at Poplar Lake, and then proceeding to the end of the trail. I knew from the last time I was at the end of the Gunflint that the trail was windy, slow, and not in good shape. I was hoping to find better trail conditions this time around, but it wasn't to be. I honestly believe that the Cook County club grooms the trail on a regular basis, but because it is incredibly narrow in some places and sees what appears to be an inordinate amount of sleds, it breaks down quick.

We made a short detour onto Gunflint Lake to get a few gallons of gas, then headed further north. Once we got to Saganaga Lake, we opted to continue up into the Boundary Waters to the Canadian Border. Travel by sled is allowed on the marked trail in the BWCAW with a (free) self-issuing BWCAW permit, which we had filled out while having lunch at Poplar Lake (although the permits are also available to the landing at Saganaga Lake). Travel from the landing to Canada is roughly 6 miles (according to the map).

We ended up riding significantly more than 6 miles (more like 12 miles), which put us significantly more than the 0 feet into Canada that we were aiming for (more like about 31,680 feet, or about 6 miles). Once we got that figured out (after talking to a resort/home owner in Canada), we promptly made tracks back to the US side of the border (one person in the party said that we were fugitives fleeing Canada, which isn't far from the truth I guess). The first giveaway that we crossed the border should have been the buildings that were suddenly on the lake (as opposed to the US side, which is BWCAW and thus has no buildings), or the Canadian flag.

Once we got off the lake I think we really started to do some of the math in our heads. It was nearly sunset (I think it was about 4:30pm at that point), and we were only basically at the mid-point in the ride. We continued to make some decent time back down the Gunflint (although the trail just got worse and worse as we went). Pat and I stopped into the store on the east side of Devil Track Lake for some gas, then met up with Brian and Jamie and the Caribou crossing.

We ended up getting back to the Hwy 2 parking lot at about 11:20pm, with Pat and I loaded and on the road back home at 11:30pm. I became very thankful when we rolled into the parking lot that the ride was over - and very thankful that I didn't start from the Martin Rd like Brian and Jamie had. I ended up with 382 miles, so they must have been at about 420 at that point. I know what my previous 400+ mile day was like, and that was on excellent trail the entire way, something we hadn't seen today. And to top it off, being at 420 miles, they had another hour to hour and a half of riding, and 40 miles, to get back home.

I never did understand what Jamie was thinking. I can somewhat understand Brian's wanting to do it - he had never experienced such pain before, but Jamie knew the pain and fatigue that comes from riding 400+ miles.

All in all, it was a good ride. No real problems to speak of (a minor accident, Brian's engine literally starting to suck so hard on his gas tank that it started to collapse, and two more minor mishaps with virtually no damage done), and some good laughs (probably the best was Brian whipping out his pink camera to take some pics).

Total miles this ride: 382
Total miles this year: 1704



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