Copper Harbor to Big Bay

Published: March 20th 2013
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Keweenaw Snow MeterKeweenaw Snow MeterKeweenaw Snow Meter

Record Snow: 390" '78-'79 Avg. Snow: 240"
Contributing Photographer: Michael Weinstein

We awoke to a freezing drizzle in Copper Harbor. This is probably the worst condition for riding. The drizzle freezes to the visor of your helmet within seconds and reduces visibility to close to zero. By the time we finished breakfast across the street at the Pines Restaurant, the drizzle changed over to snow, thankfully. It snowed hard after that all morning.

We rode back over Brockway Mountain, but it was snowing too hard to see much of anything. We rode down to trail 124 which runs southeast from Phoenix to Gay. I have several fovorite trails in this part of the world and Trail 124 is one of them. The trails that make my favorite list are always scenic and remote with stretches of curves and some straightaways. 124 is all of that and almost always perfectly groomed.

When you cross US Hwy 41 on the trail, you come up on a landmark, the Keweenaw Snow Meter. It stands about 35 feet and has snowfall data in the Keweenaw Peninsula accumulated over the last 57 years. The record snowfall occurred in the winter of 1978-79, 390 inches. The average snowfall in the Keweenaw is 240 inches. That's surely more than anywhere other than the larger mountain ranges of North America.

As we continued down the trail to the east, we came across 2 dogsled teams going the opposite direction. It looked like a husband and wife with their teams of dogs. The first was the man who signaled that one more was coming. The woman musher showed up too soon for Michael to get his camera out, so I waited while he turned around to get ahead of them and get his shots.

Our destination was the Gay Bar. I told Michael that it was just named after the town of Gay, but He WAS intrigued. Just before you get to the Gay Bar , you come up on a very expansive area of dunes right on the shore of Lake Superior. The dunes are the black stamp sands from a long defunct Mohawk Mining Company stamp mill. You can ride the dunes right up to the shore and it usually gives you a very scenic view, but the snow was still coming down hard and we couldn't get any good pictures.

We then headed toward the
Dogsled TeamDogsled TeamDogsled Team

On Trail 124
towns of Lake Linden and Dollar Bay. We had one problem with the itinerary of riding to Big Bay today and that was how to get to the town of Chassel. Two trails have closed that have isolated Chassel from snowmobiling there other than one trail which goes north to Chassel From Baraga. One closed trail ran from Houghton to Chassel and the other ran from Painesdale to Chassel. We stopped at a motorsports shop and asked if it was safe to ride on Portage Lake the 8-10 miles to Chassell and the two guys there weren't so sure it was a good idea, although this late in the season, all the lakes are frozen probably with two feet of ice. Being unfamiliar with this large lake, I decided that we would ride the shoulder of the Painesdale-Chassel road to Chassel, as Richard Krupp advised. It had been pretty sunny the previous days, so the shoulder didn't hold much snow, which made that 8 mile portion of the trip pretty crummy, but we made it to the Green Light Tavern in Chassel, where we had lunch.

The trail to Barage and L'Anse started out of the Green Light Parking lot and it was groomed and smooth. We gassed up in L'Anse to start the final 55 miles to Big Bay. This is a remote area with no towns or gas stations the whole 55 miles. It's a wonderful ride on a great trail, Trail 14. It's wide, perfectly groomed and winds through the Huron Mountains to Big Bay.

Our reservations were at the Thunder Bay Inn , one of my all time favorite places in the U.P. It was originally built as a warehouse for the Brunswick Corporation which had a large lumber mill there for making bowling pins. In the early 1940's, Henry Ford bought it and made it into an executive retreat for his company. He also milled the lumber for his woodies there. It's still furnished with antiques and looks almost exactly the way it did in Henry Ford's day. It's also famous for several scenes shot there in the classic movie "Anatomy of a Murder." starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick and George Scott, directed by Otto Preminger. It's based on a true murder that happened in Big Bay in the early 1950's.

After checking in with the very hospitable owner, Gretchen, we ate a very good dinner in their dining room. I then had to take Michael to the Lumberjack Tavern, where the actual murder occurred. We met the owner there and took a couple picures where the victim's body hit the floor.

Other than riding the road, we had nothing but super smooth trails again for the 182 miles we rode from Copper Harbor. It doesn't get any better than this for snowmobiling!

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Abondoned Copper MineAbondoned Copper Mine
Abondoned Copper Mine

One of many in the Keweenaw area.
Thunder Bay InnThunder Bay Inn
Thunder Bay Inn

Big Bay, MI
Latest VictimLatest Victim
Latest Victim

Michael Reenacting.

20th March 2013

four stars
great stories, glad I was apart of it.

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