If there ever was a better time to invest in a snowmobile, the winter of 2014-2015 was that time! The current cooling weather pattern which settled in on us around summer/fall of 2013 has continued in its full glory allowing for copious amounts of winter sports! In my life, Ice Fishing started as and has always been a hobby for winter with little or no usable snow. This winter has featured continuous snowfall; therefore I do not believe I have even gone out ice fishing on a single occasion, excepting for Ice Fish and Chips!
As a quick update on ice fishing in the winter of 2015, Zach Boynton has caught a few Northern Pike, his girlfriend caught a large Brown Trout and Chris Woodhead purchased a gasoline auger. That has been the extent of my ice fishing discussion this year.
This blog is a comprehensive overview of all the winter fun had by the Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing Rod, Gun and Snowmobile club. There should be an upcoming final Ice Fishing blog on these pages shortly. For your fishing entertainment I have tucked in a picture of Mark’s massive Chain Pickerel caught through the ice as any blog is not complete without at least one fish pic.
New Jersey suffered back to back hurricanes, Irene in 2011and Sandy in 2012, combined these storms did extensive ecological damage on the forests and streams of northwest New Jersey. The winter of 2012/ 2013 was snowless and 2013/ 2014 the blow downs made it near impossible to navigate a snowmobile in the forests. In 2014 we enjoyed a white Thanksgiving, at that moment I resolved to get back into snowmobiling for 2015. Call the return to snowmobiling a New Year’s Resolution!
The first step for the resurgence of snowmobiling at the MKFF proving grounds was driven by a January 23rd snowstorm, also my 31st birthday! We woke up to a fresh clean blanket of snow across all of the fields at the Lazy K Ranch and the MKFF Proving Grounds. I had been working on clearing trails before this storm, after the storm it became a little more difficult, however, not too difficult that the New Holland Workmaster and my Stihl Chainsaw could not blaze through the mess.
Brenton, dad and I used to maintain a hare scramble track through the woodlot on Old Barn Acres (MKFF Proving Grounds). The track winds a challenging course through the limestone outcroppings, swamps, ledges and forests common in our area of Frelinghuysen Township. Over the years the track has evolved and several features were added but the general principle of a strenuous trail through rugged and wooded terrain remains.
The trail, henceforth referred to as SnoMax, with its tight features lends itself well to vintage and smaller sleds, the type of machine where you have to lean in and become part of the chassis to make it go and dowhat you want it to. A vintage sled takes skill to ride, which is what we like! SnoMax features one small table top, a rhythm section, one ditch jump, a ledge climb and countless hairpin turns mixed with dodgy high speed straightaways.
This summer, the SnoMax will be expanded with the help of heavy equipment, the features enhanced, the brush cleared wider and various other improvements will be made. With these augmentations and the help of a cooling climate in 2015/2016 the MKFF RAGSC will host a vintage snowmobile timed hare scramble.
Tug Hill Plateau
The plateau is a forested upland region of New York that is known far and wide for it unbelievable winter snowfalls and epic snowmobiling. Locate east of Lake Ontario, north of Oneida Lake and west of the Adirondack Mountains; this region, covering four counties of upstate New York receives more than 200 inches of snowfall per winter. In fact the local ski area, Snow Ridge Ski Resort receives more snowfall than any ski area east of the Mississippi River. This gem, located only five hours from northwest New Jersey is a true national treasure for Winter Sports!
Tug Hill is home to a very active snow sports community. Sometimes, it is refreshing to leave my home state where everyone but me curses the winter and go somewhere that the season is embraced with a passion. Depending on the snowmobile club in the area, there are 24-7 grooming operations on major trails. The gas stations pump ethanol free gasoline for snowmobiles and a restaurant or bar will not survive without access to the snowmobile trail network.
The Edge Hotel
Nick initially approached me about a 2015 snowmobile adventure back over Thanksgiving weekend when we received our first snowfall of winter 2014/2015. At that time I was anticipating a return to “normal” New Jersey winters which do not amount to much snow, only mud. I was also anticipating getting the Lazy K Ranch lodge construction project kicked off early, the January 23rd snow event quickly dampened those expectations. With the lodge on hold, Nick informed me that he had found accommodations that meet the needs of snowmobilers. He showed me some pictures and we booked at The Edge Hotel in Lyons Falls, New York.
Driving into The Edge’s parking you will understand that this is a place built for snowmobilers by snowmobilers and managed by people who ride snowmobiles. The hotel is coupled with a bar called Boondock’s, there are vintage snowmobiles and SUVs decorating the roof! The bar crowd is lively and arrives largely by snowmobile, in fact; the trail goes right through the parking lot. The hotel has a snowmobile loading ramp set for three sizes of pick-up trucks, I consider this a new must have for any new lodge construction. The rooms are modern, clean and comfortable while the main lobby is decorated as an Adirondack style lodge. The staff is friendly and breakfast is free in the morning, allowing you to get on the trail quickly!
No, Winter Sports!, story is complete without the breakdown or adventures of being lost. You could own a brand new sled or be driving something from the 1980s, it does not matter, they are machines designed to operate at peak performance, you ride them and they breakdown! The 1997 Yamaha Ovation, which I have run continuously since the late 1990’s was functioning perfect all year. However, about ten miles into the town of Brantingham, NY, a horrible noise started to erupt from inside the engine compartment. A screeching, bearing disintegrating howl poured out from under the cowling.
No sooner had the howl started; it calmed down for a minute after I shut off the sled and restarted. Maybe the belt was cold? Nope! As I piloted across the soft snow at about thirty miles per hour all of the sudden, an extreme howl and loss of significant engine power. I quickly pulled to the sled and shut down; this ride just became a recovery operation.
Two hours passed, with Nick and Rob’s help, the Ovation was in the back of my GMC, I rented a sled at the Flat Rock Inn and we planned a ride for rest of the day. The four hour tour which took almost eight hours, in the dark….we will save that story for another day.
The Montague Inn
The Montague Inn located in Lowville, NY is the site that recorded a snowfall total in the United States, 77 inches in a 24 hour period from a single storm. In addition, the New York State Seasonal Snowfall record of 466.9 inches in the winter of 1976/1977 was set in this very town. A localized architectural feature is second floor entry ways for people’s homes. It goes without say that this place is an excellent snowmobiling bar and restaurant. Heavy snows, friendly people and a business that is OPEN to snowmobilers, day or night. Walk right in and there is a huge helmet rack for your gear. Saddle up at the bar; enjoy a delicious local brew and one of the many reasonably priced daily specials.
White To Brown
This brings us to the end of this tale of a white and wondrous winter. As I type my closing thoughts, I am staring out the window at a brown nightmare, 45 degrees and mud everywhere, not yet warm enough for daffodils. The mud season has commenced, so has maple sugar season. Trout fishing is a mere 23 days out, to pass the time we will be working on boiling down maple sap to make maple syrup.