Winter In Michigan
February 15, 16, 17, 2008




Our weekend winter trip to Michigan started on Thursday evening when Ted and Connie drove to Toledo and spent the night. Friday morning Tony drove by and picked up Judy, then met Ted and Connie at Cabela's for shopping. After an hour or so of shopping, we continued up to Midland, Mi to Sir Lance's house. Lance served the hungry travelers chili, crackers and beer which really hit the spot. Two hours later after buying grocery's, we headed farther north to the Houghton Lake - Higgins Lake area which is just south of Grayling.

Lance really did his homework and found us a real nice cabin for the weekend. We got to the cabin as the temperature dropped to the mid teens. The 12-18 inches of snow on the ground made everything look like a winter playground.

After getting settled in, we took a walk to the shores of Higgins Lake and even walked out on the snow covered ice where we could see ice fishing shacks off in the distance. The temperature was now in the single digits and falling. We went back to the cabin to warm up, and then were off again, to the Silver Dollar Bar-Restaurant for mountains of fried walleye and fries. It was very busy with snowmobile enthusiasts, sled heads or bubble heads as Tony calls them, milling all over the place, in their heavy insulated suits. Back at the cabin we poured drinks and played Apples to Apples. What a strange game or maybe it's us that are strange. Around midnight we called it an evening and headed to our rooms.

Saturday we were up by 7:00 and coffee, tea and cola were served. Ted and Connie made potatoes with eggs, peppers, onions, beans (out of a bag) with biscuits fresh from the oven. Judy also provided banana nut muffins. Yum Yum!

The Snowmobilers

Tony had plans to cross country ski while the other four members wanted to try snowmobiling. After numerous phone calls to numerous snowmobile dealers, Lance finally scored the last two snowmobiles in the tri-county area. Off they went south, to rent their sleds, while Tony headed to the east side of Higgins Lake to the XC ski shop.

Tonys's notes

I went to the Cross Country Ski Headquarters to look around and inquire about skiing. They had a pair of ski boots just my size that I've needed, so I made my purchase plus paid the $6.00 for entry to their groomed ski trails. Off I skied, trying to finish every loop and trail. I forgot what hard work XC skiing is. I was sweating in no time but, my new, expensive Under Armor wear was performing great. The temps were in the low 20,s but I stayed very comfortable. The snow conditions were perfect with a fluffy powder meeting the well groomed trails. I pretty much had the trails to myself, especially the back trails, that is until I got closer to my car. The parking lot was filling up and families were hitting the trails for the afternoon. I skied a total of 9.3 miles before heading down the road to a state park called Marl Lake. There are five geocaches hidden around this lake so I started bush whacking, on skis, in search of the treasures. The 8 inches of fresh powdery snow combined with the winter stillness of the woods just put me in heaven. Everything was perfect and so quite. It was like the woods were sleeping and I was trying not to wake them up.

The first cache was easy to find, just off the summer trail up in a tree. The second cache was up a hill which was hard to get to on skis, but coming back down was fun. The third cache had lots of back trekking to find the stump it was located in. The four and fifth caches were left alone as I was really getting tired by this time and they were 3/4 of a mile further away. My legs were getting sore by now, as I added another 2.2 miles to my grand total of 11.5 miles of skiing today. I got back to the cabin just after 3:00 and the snowmobiler's were still out. After a hot shower I settled on the couch with drink in hand and watched a cooking show on the only TV channel we could pick up. PBS!

Ski Trail
Ted's Notes

On Sat morning, after exhausting the list of snowmobile rentals, Lance finally had luck with the very last one he called. They only had 2 machines left, so we had to double up. I think all of us, except maybe Connie, would have taken their own, if possible.

So, Lance, Judy, Ted and Connie bundled up and they were off. This was a first for all of them at snowmobiles. The rental was well below Houghton Lake. We made arrangements to rent the last 2 machines and after a quick demo by the owner we were off. Ted bought a map so we could have some idea of where we were going. Good thing, cause there are 6000 miles of trails available. This adventure isn't cheap. $160 for 6 hours, $28 for helmets, + gas and oil, + $500 deposit, refunded if you don't hurt the machine.

This is a great place to snowmobile. The trails are great. Actually, lots of them are actually roads that cars can drive on. The smaller trails were much more fun. At first we didn't encounter many other machines, but then we found the main herd. I bet there were several hundred machines out on the 6000 miles of trail. Better not turn corners too quickly on the wrong side, you may meet someone head on. We noticed that those people we met were holding up their hand. We thought they were being friendly at first, but soon realized that it was a code. You are supposed to hold up as many fingers as there are machines following you in your group. This way you will know how many machines to expect. The last person holds up a closed fist, indicating no one behind them in that group, pretty cool.

We found our way back up to Houghton Lake, about 20 miles probably by trail. We had to cross the main highway in Houghton (Harry), to get to the lake. We ran around on the lake, going by some ice fishing shanties. Cool, but hard to keep from thinking that you may be over 100 ft of water. We crossed back over the highway, found an open restaurant and ate. We filled our bellies and the snowmobiles, and headed back out on the trail. This involved traveling some backstreets, which are all covered with snow and real smooth. I took this opportunity to "go fast", and reached about 65, before I got the signal from Connie (smacking me on the head) to slow down.

Ice Shanty

We took a somewhat more indirect route back to the rental. Lance wanted to take off on some unused paths into some "fluffy" snow. So, he decided to take a little short cut when going from a side trail to the main trail. Connie and I turned a corner and there was Judy picking herself up out of the snow. Lance was still kind of stuck under the snowmobile. We stopped and managed to get the machine up righted, freed Lance, and pulled the machine up on the trail, out of the deep ditch that they tried to cross.

We continued on our way, getting a little lost, and found our way back to the rental. The owner didn't think we had refueled the machines, but we had in Houghton, not knowing there would be a station any closer. Apparently, there was a station on past the rental, which he didn't mention when we rented. So, he was going to charge us extra. Of course we haven't seen our deposit refunded either, yet.

But, it was a great experience, and I would do it again, for sure. We need to make reservations way ahead of time, so we can get more machines and maybe closer to where we stayed. Everyone should join us; it was a beautiful winter wonderland!

Back at the Cabin
Ted Reading Dumpling Directions

Ted and Connie had a crock pot, filled in the morning with chicken and dumplings, which cooked all day. Judy had precooked a whole chicken and Tony threw a spaghetti squash in the oven while Lance provided appetizers. That started our traditional OHCRA potluck feast. We ate until we were stuff, then cleaned up and started playing Apples to Apples. Lance was the winner this day until the left, right, center game came out. Judy won the most hands at that game, however; we were playing with chips not money, so she didn't really win anything. Maybe next time!

Judy, Lance and Tony talked about skiing Sunday morning while Ted and Connie announced that they had a 7.5 hour drive and were going to leave right after breakfast. After watching some of the Red Green show on our PBS channel, we all turned in.

The Sunday morning Michigan weather treated us to a wintry blast of ICE. Everything was coated in ice. You even had trouble walking to the vehicles. Lance made us a wonderful breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs and potatoes with biscuits from yesterday. What a way to start the day. Ted started loading his car while the ice continued to fall. The rest of us decided to cancel the skiing so all of us could start earlier on the drive south. Ted and Connie left while the others went to the ski shop for a quick look around. By 10:15am everyone was on the highway driving through heavy slush and ice. It was slow going as we headed for home but thankfully everyone made it safe and sound.

Happy Lance

A great time was had by the five of us and plans were already discussed about doing it again next year. Keep your eyes on the 2009 schedule and hope for lots of snow.

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