By Joel Schnell
January 21, 2016
Winter in ruffed grouse country is a quiet study of beauty and survival. Under a pristine blanket of snow the ruffed grouse roosts, warm in his cocoon until it’s time to feed again. Now is the time to see the Northern Boreal Forest on a landscape level, without the leaves and grasses blocking your view. Take it all in by snowmobile, a feast for the eyes, it’s breathtaking.
Where and How to Go
I use a few resources to find good riding in a year without a lot of early snow. The Minnesota DNR has a snow depth and trail chart updated every Thursday. Johndee.com offers snow depth, plus a Northwoods trail cam network and discussion forums with plenty of helpful advice. The Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association has links to clubs around the state. I narrowed my search down to Ely, a great little town offering lots of hospitality. I contacted the Ely Igloos snowmobile club, and got a response back the next morning that we were good to go.
The Taconite Trail
The host for the first ride of the year was our sponsor Don Beans at Jasper Inn, on Ely’s main drag and right off the snowmobile trail. It offers a large common area kitchen and fireplace room accessible by five bedrooms, great for group riders.
Ely had about a foot of snow and it was coming down as we arrived in big flakes. Trails through the woods were hit-and-miss as some were bumpy without enough snow to groom. We still had a good weekend of riding, doing loops using the lakes where practical. From Ely a good run took us to Winton, across Fall Lake to the Silver Rapids Lodge for lunch. We rode the Tomahawk Trail a bit, then turned around and looped back for a stop at Samz in Winton. The next day we cruised the Taconite Trail South before heading back to Grand Ely Lodge. Staying on Sheridan Street makes many of Ely’s finest establishments in walking distance. The Ely Steak House is recommended, as is the Boathouse Brewpub and Restaurant across the street.
Ely is great little town to spend a winter weekend.
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com