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Anwatin Ski Team in Grand Marais


trip 5The Anwatin Ski Team had a marvelous trip up to the Bally Creek Cabins just outside of Grand Marais, MN this past weekend, March 10-12, 2017. With twenty middle schoolers from the Loppet’s TRAIL KIDS Junior Loppet team from Anwatin Middle School packed into one 15 passenger van and two additional vehicles, we hit the road Friday at noon in search of snow at the end of a winter that so sadly lacked in that winter essentials category.

The team stopped along the way to play on the rocks just north of Duluth and take in the grand Lake Superior. Fighting daylight, we kept moving so we could sneak in a hike along the Temperance River as well before the sun went down. Between the icy rocks and frosty waterfalls, the northern waters has quite the dangerously beautiful quality at this time of year. The next two days were similarly gorgeous bright blue skied, but frigidly cold days. Along the shore, there was still not much snow as we went past Lutsen, but as we drove in-land, the snow grew deeper and deeper and by the time we got there, we found the deep snow waiting for us.

The cabins we stayed at were described as rustic, meaning no electricity or running water, along with a “variety of charming outhouses,” but these cabins were perhaps one of the most comfortable places we’ve stayed. The propane lanterns, wood-fired stoves and woodsy decorations made for cozy, warm cabins. Navigating to the outhouses wasn’t a problem either, because we had a nearly full moon to guide us. There were 25K of single-track classic trails just 20 feet from our cabins’ doors, and a little further yet was a spur trail that brought us to the Superior Hiking Trail.

trip 4So early Saturday morning, we hopped over to the Bally Creek Ski Trails and explored for 2-3 hours. The trails were what I would describe as backwoods touring trails, and nothing like the trails in the Cities, which was perfect. There wasn’t current grooming, and we often found ourselves bobbing and weaving with one foot up on a mound and another in a dip in the snow, which I also like to call “agility training.” It was delightful. We took a break mid-day to learn how to chop wood for the stoves, eat some lunch, feed the chickadees seeds which would come eat from your hands, and explore the trails around the cabins on foot. In the afternoon, we thought we would seek out the Pincushion Trail System just past Grand Marais off of the Gunflint Trail, and they were about as neat as I was hoping. The one Pincushion Mountain Loop was the pinnacle of trails, and the trails were wicked fast with all of the ground up icy conditions, so we flew up and down the trails, past overlooks into the Devil Track River valley, took a detour to climb up to the Lake Superior overlook, and over creek bridges and through groves of birch trees.

The kids were pretty tired by the time evening fell, but not too tired, because they played a couple of rounds of “glow-stick capture the flag” in the dark after dinner. A few took up the sauna as well, though we got a late start at starting the fire, so it was a bit cool as far as sauna temperatures go. Next time, we’ll know better! Most everyone else took to an early bedtime.

trip 2Sunday morning, we once again skied the Bally Creek trails, and this time, we all skied together on a specific route, and what I didn’t know was that part of my route was not exactly maintained, and the first half of this unmaintained section was downhill. Fortunately for me, I think the kids thought this was the best part of the ski! And though I fell on my bottom so I didn’t run into a tree on a particularly technical downhill bumpy section, for a good minute there, I couldn’t help but feeling like James Bond, maneuvering through the pine trees, over mogul-like bumps and under low-hanging branches. I tried to snowplow only when necessary, because as we all know, James Bond does not snowplow.

After our “adventure” ski, we quickly got on our hiking shoes and tromped up the Spur Trail to the Superior Hiking Trail and found a nice overlook of the lake, and with the bright sun, it was a little bit like walking on the moon in that glowing snow.

Soon enough, it was time to go back home and while we cruised most of the way home effortlessly, feeling satisfied with the last of our skiing days this winter, we were surprised to find that snow was coming to the Cities and we may just have a few more golden ski days ahead of us! So thank you, Bally Creek, for the wonderful trip, and thank you, Mother Nature, for giving us just a few more days of real winter!