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Where the Snow Goes Snowmobile Tour
People are always amazed at the snow. Even those from other parts of the Northwoods are surprised by how much snow falls here. It all has to do with Lake Superior and which way the wind blows when snowstorms are due. It's called lake effect snow. For the snowmobiler it means a tour in this corner of Wisconsin is sure to be on a thick carpet of white. If that's not enough to whet your winter appetite, add the vast beauty of the Chequamegon National Forest, pristine lakes and flowages like the Gile and the Turtle Flambeau, and towns and businesses that love snowmobilers. You just can't have a better time sledding - anywhere. That's why folks return again and again to ride Ashland County's 200 miles and Iron County's 400 miles of trail. From the friendly little town of Butternut, Corridor Trail #21 takes you north to Glidden, a small town that lays claim to one big bear. The world record Black Bear was shot nearby in 1963. The giant 7-foot, 10-inch, 665-pound creature is on display downtown in a special log cabin. A plunge into the wilderness of the Chequamegon National Forest seems appropriate. You'll cut a corner of the immense 850,000-acre forest on your way to Cayuga, a town consisting almost entirely of the Cayuga Hotel Saloon. Still, little Cayuga has its claim to fame too; on display in the saloon are three whitetail deer antler racks listed in the Guiness Book of Records.Corridor Trail #8 takes you east out of the Chequamegon, though in truth you can't really tell where the forest ends. As you slide into Iron County, you're heading toward the pristine beauty of Island Lake where you'll find the first services since Cayuga. Here, you can also opt to continue the loop, or take a shortcut on Trails #11, #9 and #12 back to Butternut. If you continue north on Trail #9, you pass the little crossroads village of Upson. As the trail winds through Upson Town Park, you'll pass the frozen facade of 18-foot high Upson Falls. It's quite beautiful, even in its icy winter shroud. Nearby, Whitecap Mountain downhill ski area looms ahead as you ride Trail #7 on towards Saxon, yet another tiny outpost of civilization and services in the deep northern forest. From Saxon, Trail #4 leads to the old mining town of Montreal where rows of cookie cutter-like homes are part of this company town's legacy. A historical marker near the Montreal River marks the site of what was, in its day, the world's deepest iron mine. The mine's high-grade ore was extracted nearly a mile below the surface. From Montreal, a five-minute side trip into Hurley shows another side of the area's mining-era history. Silver Street in downtown Hurley retains much of the character of a 100-year-old mining town - where the miners went to have a good time. The ample snowmobile parking lot a block north of Silver Street also serves as a northern jumping-off point for this tour. Nearby, the Iron County Historical Museum preserves artifacts from the mining era. Back on the loop, Trail #13 heads south past Pence and the western shore of the scenic Gile Flowage. Jogging west and south on Trail #15, you'll cross six streams in six miles before joining Trail #11 past Island Lake. Trail # 9 continues south skirting the edge of the 18,900-acre Turtle Flambeau Flowage. A wonderful side trip on this tour, the flowage's 200 miles of wilderness shoreline and marked on-ice trails make for nearly endless riding options. The Turtle Flambeau has all the ingredients for a perfect snowmobile experience: tons of snow, great scenery and just enough shoreline services. From the Turtle Flambeau, Trail #12 takes you back to Butternut. You've completed a tour of surprising interest and beauty. Just don't be surprised if it snowed.