Hello and welcome to Michigan! David and I grabbed an opportunity for SnowRiderMag to sled the Traverse City trails in mid-March for a farewell to winter ride. We were about five minutes ahead of spring, and managed to get a couple of hundred miles on in a day and a half. Driving down, we followed Lake Michigan through Wisconsin, then around and into Michigan for several hundred miles, enjoying the scenic communities. On the route home we headed directly out to Interstate 75 North and across the Upper Peninsula on highway #28 West, for a change of scenery.
Day 1 we took off on our own with a rental sled and hit the snow. The owner gave us the map of his local trail, which connected with the main trail in a couple of miles. Being from Saskatchewan, I had a certain expectation for trees, so when we reached towering pines in a mile I was absolutely awestruck. It felt like the trees might actually touch the blue sky above us.
David, on the other hand, was drawn to the massive drifts along the powerline, where he could whip up and down like an immense roller coaster ride. The area, which had been cleared some years earlier, acted like a massive magnet to attract the snow. It gave us a good idea of how much had really fallen over the year. With more than 100 inches of annual snowfall and its warm winter temperatures, Traverse City snowmobilers really benefit from the Lake effects.
Of course we weren’t the only ones on the trails. While we were making the hundred mile loop from Marker #2, South of Traverse City, around on Trail #5 and #55, into Kalkaska, we met numerous snowmobilers. The area is great for families, since there are frequent staging areas to give little ones a rest. At lunchtime we stopped at Ranch Rudolph for a delicious–and quick–lunch. True to its name, the dining room even has antler chandeliers. The trail into Ranch Rudolph is one of the most scenic on the loop as well, since the sled hugs the hillside, winding through the terrain. Peering through the trees gives a breathtaking view of the snow shrouded drop far below.
Day 2 we set off from Sureway Guided Tours, on a luxury Arctic Cat sled behind owner, Tim Dunlop. He proceeded to lead us through the local terrain with an insider’s wisdom. I found the everchanging terrain fascinating–particularly a relatively open area dotted with tall white birch trees. With over 100 different species of trees in Michigan, I gave up trying to catalog all the new varieties we encountered. It was great to leave reading the trails and signs to an expert, so we were free to relax and enjoy. Crossing a small bridge off the beaten path, and encountering some deer grazing, I leaned back into the 2-up seat and soaked up the sunshine.
I doubt these snowmobilers we met on the trail were as impressed by the beauty of the scene as much as I was. The reflection of the sleds and sledders in the crystal clear water made a truly pretty picture–unless you happened to be on the opposite side of the water! They’d left the main trail on a short cut to Ranch Rudolph, but would either have to splash through or reverse direction. Ah, we smiled, there were indeed lots advantages to having a local guide who could take the detours without encountering any surprises.
As we raced the melting snow back to Sureway Guided Tours, I flipped my visor and filled my lungs with the crisp, clean air of the great outdoors. There’s truly nothing more fun than snowmobiling the trails in new terrain.
For more information on snowmobiling the Traverse City area visit: http://www.mytraversecity.com/