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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Loon Lake Ice Check and Trail Scouting

Checking the ice on Loon Lake

Loon Lake

Creek outlet along the bush trail

Smoldering ground from the summer wildfires

Old railroad bed heading to Gunflint Lake

Scoping our location by map atop a charred remnant of the summer fires

Gunflint Lake; so close!

View from a top the knoll

The picture taker rarely has a picture taken of herself. I am standing on the old railroad bed

Water at Bridle Falls rushing under the ice

In an effort to expand our currently limited program due to ice and trail conditions, Erik and I set out the other day on the snowmobile to check the ice on nearby Loon Lake and then the trails beyond. We had hopes of this route connecting to Gunflint Lake which would mean a very long adventure loop on which to take guests.

With proper safety gear along and making sure to spread our weight out while checking the ice by not walking to closely together, we augered our first hole in the ice. 14 inches of black ice! Now that is safe ice. The biggest part of the lake that was wide open only three weeks ago proved safe as well with 10 inches of ice. Snow conditions on the lake are another story all together, however. There was about 6 inches of light fluffy snow on top of the ice. Not good for setting a snow hook and stopping a dog sled team. The current warm-up may prove to be a blessing in disguise. Our temps in the high 30s will help pack down that fluffy snow layer and it will adhere to the ice surface forming a nice firm base to sink a snow hook.

Continuing on beyond the lake we found some wonderful trails for dog sledding. Some I would classify as bush trails; very narrow and windy, and they followed along a babbling brook and some open ponds. Very beautiful.

We ended our adventure that day at Bridle Falls. Due to the steep and rocky terrain and blow down trees as far as the eye could see, we were unable to find a safe connection to Gunflint Lake. We were within a 1/4 mile of Gunflint Lake and could almost reach out and touch it so it was a bit disappointing not to be able to make the connection. The disappointment, however, only lasted a moment because this location would be the perfect destination for our guests due to the scenic vistas and the waterfall. A perfect place for a lunch stop.

Something quite amazing was found just beyond the falls. As we began walking I began to smell wood smoke, one of my very favorite smells. I began to look around for the cabin producing this glorious smell. No cabins in sight. Just ahead we spotted an old railroad grade leading to Gunflint Lake and there was smoke rising from the ground! The wildfires in this area last summer were still smoldering in the ground in this area! What a sight. A call to the Forest Service will be made on Monday morning to inform them of our find.

Although I prefer the silence of running by dog team versus the use of a noisy, smelly snowmobile, we had another fulfilling day on the trail.

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