Monday, March 18, 2013

Bearskin Lodge to End of The Banadad Trail

 Saturday night - not quite roughing it.
Rule-free pot luck at Bearskin Lodge with the City of Lakes Loppet group who were enjoying a Northwoods ski weekend. Hot tub. Soft bed.

The Banadad Trail
A late start on our longest day.  We started this leg with a new shuttle pilot (Kathy B.), a new coat of glide wax, and the temp right at zero. We headed southwest on Poplar Trail then hit the east trailhead of the Banadad. After just a km or two we got to Ted Young's place. He runs a B and B along with a handful of yurts along the edge of the BWCA. Ted tells us a group of Lutsen Lodge employees is ahead of us on the trail on their way to a yurt. Ted was interested in our trek and curious how the connections from the Northshore trails to the Gunflint ski trails will work. So are we.

We got back on our skis. The first half of the Banadad was built on old logging roads and is flat, straight and narrow with trees growing close on both sides. Half way up the trail we caught the Lutsen group. They had read about our trek on the Sugarbush Ski System website. We talked for a bit and they shared a swig of some awesome Fitger's. Then we all headed west. The Lutsen group on their way to the yurt and we still had two hours to the west end of the trail - where our car was waiting.

Moose Tracks
In two places the trail was stomped heavily by what appeared to be a party of moose. The size of their hooves and the depth of the impressions showed their weight and power.

The Sandwiches
Not often I feel compelled to tell about a sandwich. But here is one. Pretty darn good whole grain bread - but the magic was inside. Humus, Fully ripe red peppers, goat cheese. Flavors merged in our slightly warm packs. We nearly cried as we raved. Sandwiches from heaven.

Second Half of the Trail
The second half  of the Banadad had long climbs and one long steep drop (hair-raising). The trail turned northward and we guessed we must be aiming toward the Gunflint Trail. We were getting tired but like horses headed to the barn we picked our pace. Twenty minutes later we passed the entry to the BWCA and ten more we were at the car. It started. Seventeen miles back to Bearskin Lodge for a hot tub and good night.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Searching For Devil Track

The owners of Bally Cabins suggested a new way to Devil Track
We skiied the Bally Trails north to an ungroomed spur where we broke trail uphill in knee deep snow through a narrow uphill forest path. We changed leads frequently. Sweat profusely. Breathed heavily. The trail leveled off. Then, finally, we reached the The North Shore Trail which is used mostly by snowmobiles. For a future organized trek we are hoping to work with snowmobile clubs to use a section ski the six - seven miles to Devil Track Lodge.

We then researched the possibility of skiing CT 154 - unplowed, multi-use trail from Devil Track to Gunflint. It looks like a good options. Forested with a large climb and possible views.

Friday - Exploring CT 158

Refreshed after a night at Cascade Lodge we searched for a route from Bally Cabins to Devil Track Lodge.

Our first, best plan was to angle NW on CT 158 for 10km then turn east on North Devil Track Road, which we heard was plowed but enough snow remained on the road to ski. As part of their trail network, Bally Cabins grooms CT 158 for a couple km. Then we took turns breaking through four inches of new powder. The road was wide but we were protected by thick forest on both sides. After a while and a snack we met up with Kathy (shuttler in chief) and the three of us skied to our waiting van. We were disappointed to see our next  leg was plowed to the dirt and ruled out as a possible route. To bad, North Devil Track runs on a high esker populated with red pins and views of small lakes.

In the afternoon we wound down with a couple loops on the Pincushion Trails.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lutsen to Bally Creek

A long days work over the hot snow. Explored a possible connection between Sugarbush Trails and Lutsen Road. Ended at Bally Creek Trails north of Cascade State Park.

Connecting Sugarbush to Lutsen
It's five km from Sugarbush to Lutsen Road. Several years ago a Nordic ski trail was maintain between these points.  A new golf course followed by condo developments ended this connection. And, locals tell us, this old connector is grown over and blocked by wind-fall. Tim, Kathy and I skied westward from Onion River Road on Oberg Trail then turned south, breaking trail. The snow was deep and going rough. It we after a while we gave up, knowing we had many km to explore further up the Northshore and Gunflint Trail. Next time we are going to solve this connection with by snowshoeing the Superior Hiking Trail from Onion River to the top of Lutsen ski area where there is a restaurant with a view.

Breaking Trail

Lutsen to Cascade Lodge
This day was a glorious Blue Extra day. Sunny with clouds later. This section is long and rolling through Cedars and mixed forest with more views of Lake Superior. Groomed for classic and skate.

The Nap
Stop at our room at Cascade Lodge for a snack and a nap - not just any nap - and not a simple Churchhill power-nap. This was a nap of legend. One our children will tell their children about. We woke alert and ready for more skiing.

Cascade State Park
Refreshed we worked through a network of classic only tracks until we joined the the connector trail to Bally Creek.

Cascade River State Park

To Bally Creek Trails
This 10km classic only connector is a continuous uphill, forested, quiet trail. Even though we were racing to beat the setting sun we enjoyed this calm, gentle stride session.

For Friday we are search for a route to Devil Track Lake and a unplowed road called 154, which will move us northwest to the Gunflint Trail and, finally, to Bearskin Lodge.

Bally Creek Trail

Bally Creek Cabins


Product Review
Atomic Skintec again

Kathy is Skintecs along with Tim - Kathy said when she first tried them "Tony you won't believe these things". Since I am the only one on this trip without Skintecs I watch Tim and Kathy stride up and glide down the North Shore trails ahead of me. The Bally Creek Trail is over 10km of nearly continuous climbing. Late in the day the temps climbed to the mid thirties I selected my light-weight fish scales. I could, kind of, keep up with them on the climb but when we hit the flats at the top they double-poled away as I worked to keep up. They disappeared around the bend and I skied the last few km alone. Members of Team Skintec were smiling waiting when I got to the car. I was breathing hard and spitting phlegm. I imagine I had just as much fun, however. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day One - Tofte to Lutsen (not quite)

Departed Mpls - 7am.
Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte - 11am.

Owner, Jeff, Gave us some ideas feasibility of skiing from Onion River Road to Lutsen. "You may want some wider skis for that section".

Checking out Lake Superior
Heading up Tofte Trail
Kathy (Chief of Support) dropped us off at Bluefin Bay and drove to Onion River trail head where she skied westward along the Sugarbush Trails in hopes of meeting us. Tim and I hopped on the Tofte Trail and skied a long climb nearly to the top of Carlton Peak. We then headed east to meet Kathy.  The three of us skied the Northern section of Picnic Loop - which was spectacular. Hilly with views of Lake Superior to the South and a dramatic valley of Six Mile Creek to the North. Don't let me forget to tell you about the snow and the tracks. Six inches over the weekend and newly groomed trail gave us firm tracks for striding and soft snow for control on some exciting downhills. New snow on branches. See photos below.

It was getting late when we glided in to Onion River Trail Head where our van (The Beige Stallion) was waiting. The topo map posted at the trail head showed no easy want to cover the five kms to Lutsen Road. One map says "Back Country" but we are not sure we will find a path (with likely downed trees). So we put off this section for Thursday morning.

A stop at the Lutsen information desk supplied no additional information. We were hoping a route over the downhill area's Mystery Mountain - or something as fun.

Inflated by amazing conditions and scenery and deflated by this, seemingly impassable obstacle, we headed for our lodging at Cascade River. Limited web access there. So we are in Grand Marais, in our car, grabbing the internet from Sven and Ole's. Hopefully tomorrow will be as terrific as today.


North Shore Trek Product Review
Atomic SkinTec

Tim Crampton - my North Shore Ski Trek partner, picked up a pair of SkinTecs just a couple days before our departure. Tim had heard SkinTecs are a no-wax ski that gets a great kick in any condition and glides better than other no-wax skis. He was not ready for the performance he found on the North Shore's Picnic Loop. He raved. He was thrilled with the kick and he flew down the hills. Tim is a double-pole fiend and he loved how he could power his new skis on the flats.

I was impressed as I tried to keep up to Tim and his new SkiTecs.

I watched him stride up the long climbs on the Picnic Loop with solid kick and glide with terrific speeds down the winding track. Missing was the tell-tail singing and drag of fish scales. As an outside observer I can say the Atomic SkinTec lived up to the promises of performance no-wax ski that delivers both kick and glide.

Monday, March 11, 2013

North Shore Trek starts March 13

Tofte to Gunflint Lodge in Seven Days
Wednesday morning Tim Crampton and I (Tony Mommsen) will start skiing from Tofte Minnesota, seven days later we will finish at Gunflint Lodge. This is not a hard-core adventure. We will be skiing on groomed trail networks along Lake Superior and  the Gunflint Trail (with just a couple obstacles).  Sleeping in lodges with saunas and hot tubs. Gear will be shuttled. And we will experience long warm days and views of Lake Superior and hills and forests along the Gunflint Trail.

A Few Obstacles 
We've been talking with resort owners, outfitters, Nordic skiers familiar with the North Shore trails.  There are two sections with no cross country ski trails where creative problem solving will be required.

Last year on the Gunflint Trail [photo: Ingrid Remak]
Tofte to Lutsen. More than one North Shore contact has told us we will not be able to ski from the Sugarbush Trail System to Lutsen Trails. So we may ski as much as possible then walk or shuttle to Lutsen Road.

Bally Creek Trails to Bearskin Lodge
30 miles. We plan on piecing together unplowed roads and lake skiing over the course of a couple days to get to Bearskin Lodge. Including Pine Mountain Road, South Brule Road and Lima Mountain Road.

The Idea
Family and friends became weary of my trek ideas. I talked about skiing across Minnesota - too much prairie.  Ski across Wisconsin - too far between towns. Then my brother Pete told me it had to be the North Shore - The best skiing and the best scenery around and it's begging to be linked together as a week-long trek. See map above.


Product Review
Timex Marathon GPS
We are hoping this is a pilot trek, paving the way for a formal trip with a bunch of skiers. North East Minnesota tourism contacts will want to know if we find good connections. If people can make if from one lodge to the next without putting in double Birkies. So distances we travel is important and we will be using the Timex Marathon. This GPS is basic, it will tell us how far we travel each day and how fast we average and allow us to save previous day's records for up to 30 hours. And that is about it. So, it will not help us much if we get lost. Unless knowing how far from found we are.

Tomorrow we put it to the test.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Korte skier thanks paramedics

Hi Jan, Brian and Lynne,

Here's my 'shout outs' for this year's Korteloppet.  As you folks know, I ski in the back of the pack (see Silent Sports article April 1996).  So for the last 13 years I have been skiing the Kortie.  This year I found that I didn't have any space left on my Madshus Classic skis so it was time for a family reunion at Gear West.  Thanks to you Lynne, Jan and Brian for supporting my purchase of new boots and skis.  I was excited to try out the latest in Atomic' SkinTec skis.

Race day comes and they are feeling good in my practice runs and then I'm off.  All was going well even if the snow was heavy and slow for me from wave 8.  My final slope down hill to the finish and something awful happened . . . I took a big tumble spinning and landing on my left side.  I tried twice to raise my right arm only to find that my arm would not move.  I was clearly in sight of the finish and within moments, two Paramedic teams were surrounding me.

My first comment was "Looks like I won't be finishing this year"  Then Bob said, "What makes you say that, can you walk?"  I said yes and he said "We'll get your arm in a sling, get your skis off and walk you to the finish line".  Bob and Karen got me up and walked beside me.

I FINISHED, thanks to these understanding and kind-hearted Paramedics.

The story continued in Hayward Memorial ER.  Recommendation was to see an Orthopedic Specialist.  Which I did after returning home.  Shoulder replacement scheduled for this Thursday.

Thanks to all who help the Birkie skiers . . . both fast and slow and for all the care that was shown me on my 18th year on the trail.

Stan Ragnes