We unloaded at a farm south of Sault Ste. Marie, MI. Then we rode to catch the ferry to Sugar Island. From there we crossed the ice of the St. Marys River to St. Joseph Island, we crossed the ice of the St. Joseph Channel to Bruce Mines ON and rode to Thessalon ON and where we spent the night.
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 11, 1996
We left Thessalon and rode in blizzard-like conditions from Thessalon to Chapleau on some of the trail (about half of the way), the rest on Route 129. Locals stopped us and said conditions were to dangerous for us to continue.
MONDAY FEBRUARY 12, 1996
We met with a group of 12 or so from Dubreuilville who had been stranded overnight. They said we should ride with them, as this was going to be challenging due to the snow. We left at noon and it was a working ride.
We used a lot of fuel. Along the way, we passed a snow cave where a couple had spent the night. It did not look like a motel, but the couple survived. The group got a gas station in Missanabie to open. We gassed and had a burger which they talked the owner of the store into cooking for us. Then we were off to Dubreuilville. We continued on to White River. The temperature was 40 below.
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 13
We Rode 180 miles to Terrace Bay. The temperature was 20 below most of the day. The scenery was awesome, as most of the riding was on the power transmission lines.
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 14, 1996
We left Terrace Bay and struggled with deep snow to Schreiber, where we worked our way out of the woods and started to ride highway 17 toward Nipigon. We ran in to the Royal Mounted Police. They knew that the trail was closed, as they were out retrieving their sleds that they had abandoned the day before. They led us down to the ice of Nipigon Bay and pointed to a smoke stack in Red Rock and told us we could get on the trail to Thunder Bay at that point. We asked if the ice was safe, and they said that’s where they just came from. Seventeen miles later we arrived at the harbor in Red Rock to be greeted by the Red Rock Police. They escorted us to a restaurant on the trail, fed us, and sent us on our way. We found that there was not much love for snowmobiles in Thunder Bay, so we went on the Kakabeka Falls for the night. We met some local snowmobilers and had a great evening.
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 15, 1996
We left Kakabeka Falls (it was -20F) and while trying to cross the Kakabeka River two of our the sleds got stuck in the river overflow. Water was up to our knees. It took us three hours to dig the sleds out and get back on the trail. Around noon, we got to an outpost camp on Whitefish Lake where the women took our wet clothes, boots etc. and tried to dry them. They fed us, warmed us up and we left for Gunflint Lake. The Ontario DNR stopped us there and pointed the way across the lake. They told us to follow their tracks as they had just come back from having coffee at a lodge on the Gunflint Trail. We rode the Gunflint trail to Grand Marais, MN.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 16
We rode 180 miles from Grand Marais, MN., to Carlton, MN. We saw the first snowmobiles we had seen in six days. The trails started to get rough because of the President’s Day traffic. This became the normal as we had found civilization after five days of wilderness riding.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 17
We rode our 180 miles from Carlton, MN to Watersmeet, MI. We are now riding boring, rough trails.
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 18
More of the same, cold, rough trails, and lots of sleds. We went 180 miles from Watersmeet to the Buckhorn just south of Munsing,MI.
MONDAY FEBRUARY 19
The last day of the journey. The trails were getting very rough, traffic was at its max, gas stations closed, trails around Paradise were rough. We rode the last 180 miles to Sault Ste. Marie, MI, and drove all three sleds into the trailer at 4:00 pm. Then we drove back to Findlay, OH so that we could go to work on Tuesday and rest up.
1836 total miles, three sleds, two women and one man, rode every foot of the distance. We carried extra wear bars, hi-fax, tools, a clutch, and our bags. We used it all and needed no mechanical help or trailering. Also, GPS and cell phones were not available at the time of this adventure.
Would we do it again? I thought about doing it again in 2016, but due to increased security and the fact that many of our trails are now closed on the western end of Ontario, it is impossible to accomplish what we did in today’s world. (We would not include the Presidents weekend in the trip either).
Why did we do this? We showed an 8 horse hitch of Percherons at an invitational show in Ocala, Fl. every year for 8 years. Every year it was cold and windy (Not shorts weather). One morning after dumping ice out of the water buckets again, Laureen said “I would just as soon stay home and go snowmobiling”. Hence man’s mind goes wild, and two women joined him.
Everywhere we gassed, ate, and spent the night people asked or said “You are doing what? Going around the lake?” They usually would look at me and say “You’re the man”.
Note: So many Canadian people were concerned about us. When we would leave a town or gas station, they would tell us where to stop next, and have those people call back to let them know we arrived.
Bill & Laureen Knapp, Richland, MI
Shar Miller, Clarkston, MI