Where I come from “sledding” means “sledding”. Like with a Flexible Flyer or a plastic sled from the Co-op feed store kind of sledding. Where you have to walk back up a hill to go again kind of sledding.
Here in Northern Michigan it means motorized. As in no walking. As in fast. As in “throw you off the back if you ain’t hanging on” type of fast.
A couple of Friday’s ago, because Jake had the day off from school, Todd took us “sledding” on one of the many, many interlocking National Forest trails just twenty minutes from the farm. We were very excited!
Todd has been out countless times and even as far north as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on an overnight with friends.
Not Jake and I. Because he’s not met the age requirement in years past him and I have always stuck to properties and the surrounding hayfields the farm owns. This would be our first time out on the big boy trails. Todd showed us how it was done and we soon found out what all the “Down-Stater’s” rip up here on the weekends for.
It was as simple as unloading three of the farms sleds, stuffing helmets on our heads and getting down the trail. In case anybody wants to know these are 800cc Ski-Doo’s. I have no idea what 800cc means. A certain fourteen year old kid just thought I should throw that out there.
I had been on this particular section of trail before, but under me then I had something that wasn’t quite as fast.
Shhh, don’t tell my little bay Quarter-horse that I don’t think he’s fast or that I think he might be short in stature. He believes he’s a rocket and stands 17.2HH.
The first time I saw the signage on these trails while horseback riding, it just cracked me up.
It makes so much more sense this time of year.
I learned there’s a set of trail rules/etiquette that must be followed due in part to the high speeds everyone rides.
Read: Average speed is anywhere from 50 mph to 75 mph (or more – ugh), so there’s no tail-gating allowed, you stay back just like you would on the highway. Todd did not go those speeds with his family in tow…I think we averaged between 45- 50 mph.
When you meet oncoming snowmobilers on the trail the first person in your group (if you are traveling with a group) holds up as many figures as there is behind him or her in their party.
Make sense? No? It will, read on.
See, Todd was first in our group of three so he held up two fingers indicating, “There are two more of us. Peace man”. The on coming group or single person gives a relevant hand signal back at each of us as we pass.
Since I was in the middle of our group this was my hand signal for the day. “One more”.
It also meant, if only to me, “My one and only child is behind me somewhere, be extra careful or I will have to fix you up. Have a nice day”.
This is Jake’s signal indicating that he is the last one. FYI: If he were a person riding alone this is also the hand signal he’d give. It also means, if only to him, “If you’ve run into my mom ahead of me and made her cranky I’ll have to fix you up. Have a nice day”.
More FYI: I asked Todd when we stopped for lunch and fuel at a cute woodsy cafe , “Ok what if you have more than say five in your group? What then? Does the lead person take his/her other hand off the other handlebar too or rip their boot off and flash some toes?” He, with a smirk, said, “Noooo. They keep showing you five fingers until it really does get down to five. Then it’s four, three.. and so on.”
Huh. Interesting. Weren’t you wondering too?
We really had a fantastic time riding these regularly groomed trails. All groomed by volunteers using their own tractors and stuff mind you. Is that not great or what?
We did about 62 miles round trip and even though it was about 9 degrees we stayed warm, which is probably one of the reasons why I personally had a fantastic time – that and it was gorgeous out!
I think the built-in heaters in the hand grips had a lot to do with the staying warm part. Those things are wonderful and much appreciated by this girl.
Speaking of wonderful, so are these things. This was obviously a permanent outhouse but I saw a couple portables set up when we were out that day. Todd told me during the evening hours there are make-shift warming shelters with bonfires set up all along the trails this state has to offer! This is NOT the sledding of my youth. This is just plain cool!
Michigan sledding…How sledding for grown-ups should be!
*I hope when the winter storm/blizzard we’re getting eases off, the trails will be packed with people and that’d be fantastic because this area, like a lot of places across the northern states, relies on the winter tourism!