Hook and Bullet Club

by Nick Wognum

We have lucked out this winter with the snow conditions. My wife Mary and I decided to get back into snowmobiling and it looks like we picked the perfect year to do it.
Trail conditions have been great for each ride we’ve taken so far.
There was one trail, however, that wasn’t quite ready to be ridden on yet. There is a portage that connects Twin Lakes and the North Arm of Burntside Lake.
This isn’t on a main route but it’s a pretty ride through the woods. We saw tracks going that way and decided to give the trail a try.
We didn’t get far before we ran into Scott Olson who was finishing turning three sleds around.
“I have a hand saw but there’s too many trees down,” said Olson.
We moved our machines off the side of the trail so Olson and his family could pass.
Now it was our turn to go back from where we came. Both of our sleds are long tracks and there really wasn’t a lot of room to negotiate.
I told Mary to walk back to the lake and I would get her sled back down the trail. Instead of getting stuck trying to turn around, I pushed the button to run the engine in reverse.
By standing on the uphill side of the machine I was able to slowly back each one all the way down the hill to the lake without getting stuck.
Skill? More likely luck.
We continued on our ride that had started by taking the old railroad grade to Fall Lake. From there we hopped over the Cloquet Line and zoomed down Cedar Lake.
Then we took the road to Low Lake and headed to the Range River. There was a solo machine ahead of his and we watched as a timberwolf came out of the brush and crossed the river in front of him, bounding through the deep snow.
From the Range River we headed toward what used to be the Chainsaw Sisters Saloon (could we just recreate that for the name alone?). We turned left and headed to Grassy Lake where we would follow the Ely Igloo Club groomed route including Tee, Sletten and Fenske lakes before taking the short portage to Twin Lakes.
After our escapade on the blocked portage we took the Dead River to Burntside Lake. From there we followed the stakes until we came to Camp Van Vac and drove the trail over to the Shagawa River.
I asked Mary if that was enough for one day and she suggested we keep going to put on some more miles.
We meandered our way back home and finished with around 50 miles of riding. The trails were great, the lakes were good (especially the groomed portions) and we arrived back home safe and sound.
It’s a good winter to get out and enjoy it, whether skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.