January 19: Ride From Home to Hwy 2, Back Through Fish Lake

I (without much brains apparently) headed out this morning at 7:30 to go on a short solo ride up to the Hwy 2 lot north of Two Harbors and back. When I left home at 7:30 the temp was -22F. I'm surprised the snowmobile even started.

The ride actually turned out pretty good - I got a little chilled on the face for a while until I realized I had a vent open on my helmet that I thought was shut. After that things seemed to be pretty good. I took my time heading up the trail, stopping quite a few times just to get off the sled and admire the morning. The trail was groomed last night and for most of the ride I was the only one that had been on it at all (usually there's a track or two from before the groomer made the return pass but not this time).

I ended up heading just past the Hwy 2 lot to where the Yukon Trail starts, then came back down and headed down the spur trail to the Dixie Star Diner on Hwy 2, then back up to the North Shore Trail and back home.

On the way back home I stopped off at Island Lake to watch Megan race. She races in the Champ 120 class this year with KC PRO East. She has been doing quite well - she won the two races I watched her race in.

I threw some pictures in the snowmobiling album for the year.

Total trip mileage: 104
Total year mileage: 983

January 12: Ride from home, Canyon, Virginia, Grand Rapids (almost), Back To Canyon, and Back To Home.

Out with Pat today. We left the Eagle's Nest at 7:30 this morning for a near marathon ride.

Trail conditions were excellent, especially in the morning. The Res Rider trail and Canyon -> Virginia trails were nearly perfectly smooth with virtually no ice and some powder on top. Laurentian Trail outside of Virginia was the same. We ran into Brian C and a buddy totally by chance on the Laurentian Trail. It's one of those things that if either of us had been 30 seconds later or earlier we never would have met up.

Taconite Trail from the Laurentian going west was in very good shape as well until you got near GR. At about mile marker 12 the trail started to get very thin and the corners got VERY icy - very easy to slide through a corner even at low speeds. We took the Keystone Trail towards the Penguilly Trail (both of which were ok although also thin and icy), and then the Alborn grade back. The grade was in fair shape where it's groomed out of Penguilly but in excellent shape where the Alborn folks take over.

Reservoir Riders trail was not in the best of shape on the way back although we passed one of their groomers on the trail after a while and I saw another one making the corner to head that direction as well (thought it was interesting that they were double grooming the west segment of their trail but hadn't touched the eastern half yet).

We were very surprised at the condition of the trails overall, especially regarding the recent warm temps. Thanks to the clubs that groom the trails (we were on at least 8 different trails for the day). It's not any fun on junk trails (been there, done that).

Ended up getting back to the Eagle's Nest at about 5:40pm - not bad for a long ride.

Total trip mileage: 292
Total year mileage: 879

January 5: Ride to the Pequaywan Inn

Rode up the Pequaywan Inn with Jamie, Ruth, and Natalie last night. Started out from Jamie's house near the Martin Rd. parking lot. Trail was in good shape until we got to the Normanna Pit, then fair shape after that to the Pequaywan Trail. The Pequaywan Trail was in good shape.

The fact that the North Shore Trail above the pit being a little worse isn't surprising - I spoke with Pat later that night and found out that he and Brian C had started out from the pit parking lot and gone north. He said the parking lot was virtually empty when they left but was packed when they returned - apparently a lot of people decided to start from there.

Food at the Inn was good - better than I recall. I got a Western burger which came with a healthy dose of pepperjack cheese - way more than I expected. Nice sized burger, big basket of fries! Next time I'll have to remember to just get the 1/3# burger instead of the 1/2.

We met the Pequaywan groomer on the way back south on the trail and also met the DNR groomer south of the pit. Unfortunately with the temps as high as they are the trails probably won't be lasting all that well until things cool down again.

Total trip mileage: 64.
Total year mileage: 587.

January 1: Ride to Barnum

Rode with a bunch of family down to Barnum yesterday. There was a total of 12 sleds, making this the largest group I've ridden in. Thankfully we had no issues other than getting lost a couple of times.

We made it from Brian's house down to the Munger Trail without any issues. The Hermantown Trail and City West Trail were both in pretty poor shape. Once we got to the Munger Trail it wasn't too bad until we got to Carlton and was excellent from Carlton to Barnum. The original plan was to head to Moose Lake, but time started to get away from us so we opted instead to eat at Barnum. We checked out the pizza place first although it was closed. We then consulted with the map at Barnum and decided we needed to backtrack a mile or two to get to the trail cutoff that led to the restaurant near the freeway. We missed the cutoff, checked out the 29 Pines (which was also closed), then end up heading BACK south again and found the proper trail.

In the end a good time was had by all! The restaurant was only partially filled and had no problems accommodating a group of our size. I ended up getting the pork sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes - a large plateful for about $7. I'll have to add this as a destination that Natalie and I can make sometime (now that we know how to get there)!

Total trip mileage: 120

New Year's Eve Trip to Timber Lodge

Headed out this evening to Timber Lodge Steakhouse with some family - Cliff & Kathy, Brian, Shari, Jamie, Ruth, Natalie and myself (plus everyone's kids except ours). Had a pretty good time there - it's nice to get together with family around the holidays. We were here last year as well but had less than exceptional service (which was pretty unique in my experiences). This year was good service and good food. I've always felt that the Timber Lodge is a place where you can go and get both and not worry about it - they are a little more on the spendy side but it's worth it to know you'll have a good time.

The only part we didn't care for was the fact that they tack on an 18% gratuity to the bill because of our large party size. Regardless of party size, gratuity is supposed to be figured (in my book anyway) on how the service was. Our service was good and I likely would have given her the money that we were charged in the end, although that's not the point.

After the Timber Lodge Natalie and I headed over to Jamie's. While Natalie visited I helped Jamie reassemble the old Ski-Doo Skandic so that it would be ready for our ride tomorrow.

We're off on a snowmobiling trip tomorrow down to Moose Lake with most of the same family. Should be a good time!

December 29: Martin Rd Lot to the Trestle Inn

Started this morning at about 9am at the Martin Road parking lot and headed up the North Shore State Trail to the Trestle Inn near Crooked Lake with Jamie, Pat, and Scott. Today's trip mileage: 227.

The trail was beautiful. The entire North Shore trail got groomed last night and traffic was fairly light in the morning (we were surprised that there were only 3 other vehicles in the Martin Rd. lot when we left - 4 if you could the DNR that had just pulled in as we pulled out). Even the Hwy 2 lot north of Two Harbors only had a half dozen or so trucks in it.

The trail remained in very nice shape until we got to the Silver Bay cutoff. The piece between Silver Bay and Finland was starting to get a little choppy, but then things were good again after we gassed up in Finland until we got to the Tomahawk Trail. The Tomahawk hasn't seen a groomer in a few days (at least) and it shows - that was the worst 5 miles of the trip. We had some excellent burgers at the Trestle (albeit some slow service), and then opted to take the forest roads back to the North Shore Trail. This was about an extra 15 miles to avoid the bad 5 miles of the Tomahawk but it was well worth it - the forest roads were in excellent shape and the extra piece of the North Shore Trail that we took was in good to excellent shape as well.

Things got worse the closer back to Duluth we got although I commented to the guys that this is probably the best I've seen the North Shore Trail at the end of a Saturday. The trail held up well and should be in excellent shape tomorrow as the DNR is grooming the whole thing again tonight (Saturday night).

The next trip is planned to be January 1st when we'll probably head down the Munger Trail to Moose Lake with the families - it's looking like there will be about a dozen sleds making the trip!

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