Next Issue: October 2017

Print Date: October 4, 2017

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Consequences of Conflicts

It’s been said that conflicts, or differences of opinion, are a fact of life and will always be present where there is any size group of individuals whose goal it is to establish a single purpose for anything, and where consensus of the group must agree. When common ground can be found between factions, some degree of success can be forthcoming and projects of mutual interest can continue forward movement. But when there are just a few, on either side of the issue, that for whatever reason refuse to negotiate, or even discuss, the differences of opinion, inevitably a stalemate occurs and there can be no winners!


Three or four decades ago there was little strife among the recreation groups, but then many of the trail users didn’t exist back then, at least not to the degree that they do today and, for the most part neither did the trails. Most trails back in the day consisted of loops of varying length and were usually established by clubs for their members, where they could assemble, begin their ride, and barring any breakdowns along the way, return safely back to the place where they started.


These clubs usually had a nice parking area, a warm building, and volunteers who would periodically go out and check the condition of their trails, make any necessary repairs and occasionally groom it to some degree without much assistance from any outside source. They usually invited non-members to enjoy their trails as well, in efforts to increase their membership. About the only other trails available to snowmobilers were developed in cooperation with some business establishment, usually a tavern or some snowmobile related concern, but almost always they were looped in nature where the riders always returned to their point of origin.

As a writer, from time to time, I end up doing things I had no idea I would ever do. Some, because they are so cool, like being on the floor of the Pontiac Silverdome for a snowcross race. Others, for lack of personal interest. Like a tractor show.

Now, don’t go all “Old McDonald” on me. I was brought up in a commercial fishing village. No cows. No tractors. We did fish and nets and boats. And, in the winter-Snowmobiles! Which is why I started riding when I was six and had my own machine by the time I was nine. It was what we did.

Tractors? Not a clue. I didn’t even know which end of the things you hooked the cow up to. And, as a fisherman, I knew a lot about spreading the bull, but nothing about spreading manure.

Now, I know for a fact snowmobiles are the coolest machines ever created, which is why we have so many snowmobile shows. But now I am also seeing a lot of tractor shows. To each his own, I say. I actually never had anything against them. Farmer types seem totally into them. Just had no personal interest.

Then, a short time ago, I was visiting with Charlie Vallier, at the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway. He told me that they were going to be doing a snowmobile show in conjunction with the annual Tractor Show, Bridge Crossing in St. Ignace, which took place on September 8th and 9th. So, with nothing better to do, I headed down there that Friday.

Snowmobiles Slide Into St. Ignace Tractor Show

It is with the greatest of sadness that we advise of the passing of Lori Johnson, Director of Community Services & Tourism for the Municipality of Wawa.  Not only did Lori work with the greatest of passion for Wawa, she was, for many, many years, a very active member of the Board of Directors of Algoma Country.  For those that had the privilege of knowing Lori, she was not born and raised in the North, but rather moved here, shortly after finishing college in southern Ontario.  When she got the job in Wawa, she was interviewed over the phone and packed up everything she owned into her small compact car to move North.  She had a map, as she didn't even know where Wawa was located.  She fell in love with nature, Lake Superior, outdoor sports and the community she now called home.  Lori met Doug after a few years.  When they married Doug moved from his hometown to Wawa, where they would raise their daughter Kathleen and Doug would also become passionate for this town.  You never saw Lori at a Sports Show without Doug and Kathleen, together they made a tourism team like no other.  Many of us have watched Kathleen grow into a young woman that Lori was always so very proud of.

The Loss of a Special Women: Lori Johnson

Well, some months I impress even myself with the strange things I find to talk about here, in the Vintage Sled of the Month column. This month, I am going back to the days when people were still trying to figure out exactly what a snowmobile was and how to build one.

Like, there were just about an endless line of people trying to figure out ways to travel across the snow. There were the power toboggans. Some of them make me wonder if there was a contest to see how big a contraption you could make to travel on the snow. Then, there were the precursors to today’s sleds. One cute little thing at the Top of The Lake Snowmobile Museum looks almost like a toaster oven on skis. Then, people were installing ski kits on the old cars. Which was a pretty cool idea. Cars that would go on the snow. Not bad for way back when.

But, one of the coolest things I have ever seen are what I call “Snow Planes”. These things are just plain cool. They look like someone took an airplane, got it involved with an old car, like a Model T or something, and then mixed in a design from a dog sled. Strange looking contraptions.

Now, the one they have at the Museum looks like something that would scare the icicles out of an Eskimo, if they saw that coming across the ice. Jet black with a painted on shark mouth. And, they are loud. I actually believe that I heard this one run once, long long ago. Totally deafening.

Vintage Sled Of The Month: Snow Plane

On the evening of September 20, the Eastern U.P. Snowmobile Council met in their regular bi-monthly meeting, which was held this month at the Soo Snowmobile Association’s clubhouse in the Soo. Prior to the meeting, the SSA provided a nice lunch for the attendees, which also allowed for discussion about snowmobile related issues.

However, once the actual meeting began, there were many items on the agenda. One of the first items discussed was the issue of maps. As you may know, the EUP SC raises money for various snowmobile related causes by selling maps. To date, they have been printed every three years. However, one item of discussion included changing that to every two years, to give customers who buy the maps, basically snowmobilers, more recently updated information.

As well, there was much discussion about the ads that are sold to finance the printing and other costs. At the meeting, a representative of a local printer was on hand to ask questions and trade information about the process.

There was much back and forth discussion between those present and the printer. However, at the end of the evening, it was noted that all ads were to be in by the following Friday and that the maps would be ready in about a month.

On this, the decision was made to purchase 15,000 maps. This was down from 20,000 purchased the last time the maps were printed. However, it was decided to go with the two year turn around rather than three. Thus the logic of lowering the number printed.

EUP Snowmobile Council Discusses Maps, Beavers and MSA

One of the best things about living in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula is that when we get snow we can ride from our front door. We don’t have to drag our trailer around.

In January of last season, my wife (Patti) and I took off work on a Wednesday and rode from East Jordan to Gaylord. The snow was great because we had gotten 8 to 10 inches over night which made the trails flat and fast.

We rode south out of East Jordan and picked up trail 4 and headed toward Larry’s Bar staying on trail 4. We headed south to Alba and then to trail 76 to Starvation Lake for some lunch and fuel. G

On a Wednesday the trails where great and we only saw two other snowmobilers.

We spent about an hour there before heading East on trail 679 over to Frederic. Just before we got into town we saw a bunch of deer in the trail we sat and watched them for about a half hour. Its not like we have never seen deer in the trail but its always pretty cool to watch them.

When we left Frederic we went north on trail 7 and saw 4 more snowmobiles that made a total of 6 all day.

Trail 7 it is a very straight trail and we made good time to Gaylord.

Mid Week Ride

Securing the Future of Our Sport

From time to time it becomes necessary to review, and in some cases re-educate, not only snowmobilers, but the public in general, what organized snowmobiling is all about and why those in leadership roles for that recreational activity feel it necessary to do so.With more than a million individuals across the country taking part in this most popular of winter recreation, less than 2% have any knowledge at all, and less than 5% even know what was involved in procuring the access to a majority of public lands where they may freely enjoy the experience, or what it takes on an almost daily basis to maintain such access so that they may continue to exercise those freedoms. So… who are these people who labor so feverishly not only for themselves, but for all snowmobile enthusiasts nationwide? In many cases they are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, or folks you don’t even know. They are the members of local snowmobile clubs and state snowmobile associations who have joined with other clubs and state snowmobile associations within a national organization known as the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA). Considering today’s social attitude, they would be labeled “Activists”, and in the best sense of the word they are… but not to protest, rather to protect and preserve!

A while back I spent some time with Keith Miles at his place (Fays Motel) in Grayling. He and two buddies, Mike Brown and Art Fisette, were getting ready to move one of the plows from one of the John Deere tractors. After about 9 years of service, the plow swivel was just plain wore out, so it was loaded onto Arts trailer and was taken to Gaylord for repairs.

Keith and I talked a while about the off season work, such as maintenance of the tractors as well as drags and of course, the trails. The AuSable Valley Snowmobile Association does all the grooming, 69 miles of trails.

Something I didn’t know was all the work that is done in the summer months. Not only brushing and signing, but the grading or grooming of the trails in the warmer months.

I asked if the ATV’s did much damage to the trails? Keith’s response was, “We have to grade them anyway so it’s not that big of a deal.” He said the tough part was the money. They are hoping to see money from the ATV permits, that would help out with the big cost of keeping the trail’s in good shape. Yes, the groomers are for snowmobile’s, but they still have to do summer maintenance to make the trail’s smooth for us snowmobilers. Also it take out all the perm-a-bumps so it can be groomed better in the winter.

A Groomers Job is Never Done