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Go north for winter fun

By DICK MARTIN • Dec 30, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Winer has settled in with a vengeance in northern and northcentral Ohio. There's been a little snow and the ski resorts have been working their magic to build more, so tubers, cross country skiers, and snow boarders have had at least a little time to enjoy their sports, but the fun has been much more limited for snowmobilers. Why? Because there are hardly any out there. Snowmobiles just don't sell in Ohio because too many winters (like last year) have been open, and there's rarely any snow in quantity for them to enjoy. So, expensive machines sit in garages and gather dust for most of any winter. Even if they chance buying a machine or two, there aren't many places to use them.

I've seen one this winter racing across thinly snow covered fields, back and forth and back and forth, but that gets old in a hurry even for teens and young adults. The Division of Parks folk do what they can, and provide trails for snowmobilers wherever possible. Google up "Snowmobiling in Ohio" and you'll find that Mosquito Lake has 15 miles of trails, West Branch 20, East Harbor 7.5 miles, Paint Creek 25 and a few more have modest stretches of trail. But you can run through these before your motor has really warmed up, so what do would-be snowmobilers do if they'd like to really experience this lively sport? They head north.

Not only do towns from central Michigan clear up to and on the UP (Upper Peninsula) have untold miles of snowmobile trails, but nearly every town has a few places where rental machines can be had, which relieves visitors of the cost of buying one. And up there the snowmobiling can be wonderful! You'll travel along for miles, racing through rooster plumes of white stuff, past flocks of wild turkeys, yards of deer waiting for spring, even occasionally a coyote or bobcat or cougar.

Then stop for a snack in some forest of aspen or evergreens, sipping coffee or hot chocolate and munching a doughnut, listening to silence and maybe a soft fall of snow. There may be others along the trail or maybe no one at all, and you'll cruise along on well marked tracks that are usually groomed nightly by big machines that turn the trails pristine again.

And instead of each trail covering six miles or 10 miles or even 20, they go on almost forever, tying into other trails and others yet. Snowmobilers up there can literally travel from coast to coast or north to south where snow becomes thin, and keep it up for days. Many do.

Some go for days, stopping for lunch at a nice little snowbound town, quitting around dark and finding a motel room, partying a little if friends come along, and heading out next morning for another day of racing cross country. It's a wild free sport, and one thousands of people truly enjoy if numbers are any indication. Where do you go? Take your pick.

Cadillac likes to call itself the "Snowmobile Capital of the World," and it well might be. There are events and festivals of all sorts each winter, and trails spider out in all directions from this city. There are plenty of rental vehicles and if you Google up the Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau (231-775-0657) you'll find tons of information on everything from rentals to motels, watering spots, and trail maps.

There are other towns up there catering to snowmobilers, and you can Google the Chamber of Commerce or tourism people for such as Gaylord, Grayling, Baldwin, White Pine, Drummond Island, Benzie, and lots more. If winter in Ohio is already dragging, pick a spot, make sure there's plenty of snow on the ground there, and head north. Michigan is waiting.

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• The Ohio Friends of NRA are holding a firearms raffle again in 2018. Raffle tickets are $50 and the many drawings in 2018 will be for 290 guns. It tallies up to 17 cents per drawing and there's a possibility of winning multiple times with the same ticket. For details, call 888-685-9023.

• Hunters who like to travel north and/or west should know that not only are bear populations increasing, but wolf populations, too. There are an estimated 3,500  to 4,000 grey wolves living in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota alone, and they're causing trouble wherever populations are high. The animals are killing hounds being used to hunt bears and other game animals, whether for food or territorial reasons, and hunters should check with state DNR's wherever they plan to hunt to make sure it's safe to use dogs.

• Normally, the Division of Wildlife stocks catchable trout only each spring, but this year they've stocked some almost as "Christmas presents" for area anglers. Catchable sized rainbow and brown trout have been stocked at Malabar Farm State Park, a total of 300 fish released into the Inn pond across from Malabar Farm Restaurant, and nearby Swisher Creek received 400 brown trout. Thanks to a surplus of fish this year, trout have also been stocked at Atrim Lake in Franklin County, Punderson Lake in Geauga County, and White Star Lake in Sandusky County. Each location has received at least 300 fish. These areas have a daily bag limit of five fish.

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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