Friday, January 31st
Trail conditions are once again awesome.
Saturday January 25th I rode in the Yeti Tour 2014. It was a balmy five below zero when the event kicked off at ten o-clock AM with the wind bringing the wind chill into the thirty-five below zero range. The temperature did not deter the forty riders who had registered for the event. Everyone donned their best cold weather gear and went out to brave the elements. Before we could even get underway one of the guys I was riding with developed a chain case issue backing his sled off of the trailer. Luckily I had a backup sled for him- my old 2000 Indy 600 Touring. Swapping out sleds put us fifteen minutes behind the group so we high tailed it out of there to try to catch up to the others. Thirteen miles away was check point #1: The Eagle’s nest resort on Fish Lake. The Eagles Nest is a great destination all winter long as the trail literally dumps you out into their parking lot, they serve breakfast lunch and dinner there. It is here that we caught up with our first group of riders, including the Yeti (Yes they did have a snowmobiling Yeti- a reason in itself to ride in this event). It was also here that we met up with Yeti Tour director Nate Alvar who informed us that the rest of the group had continued on while the riders currently at the Eagles Nest had stopped to make adjustments to their gear and grab a warm cup of coffee. The two other riders I was with were not the sitting around sort so we again embarked on a furious pace to try to catch the rest of the group. We eventually came across another bunch of Yeti tour riders who said that everyone had sorted themselves out into subgroups of riders. This is one of the things I love about the Yeti Tour- its a rider friendly event with a very casual set up that allows riders to team up with those that have the same general pace as they do, the Yeti Tour has no stringent groupings, everyone gets a feel for the pace of the people that they are with and splinter off into groups of riders that share their same pace and level of riding skill. This group we had just found classified themselves as “The Slow Group” which explained why were able to catch up to them.
Our next encounter took place at the gravel pit where the CJ Ramstad and Reservoir Riders trails intersect. This was “The Middle Group” who had decided to wait for the slow group to catch up. They informed us that “The Fast Group” had gone on ahead- as did we. The three of us felt pretty good about ourselves after leaving fifteen minutes behind the pack and managing to run nearly all of them down. Now came the monumental task of catching “The Fast Group” Needless to say we were unable to catch up to them until we reached Checkpoint # 2- The Pequaywan Inn, there we found them munching on a burger, but the fast group had made one crucial mistake – they did not sit by the fireplace! Yes the Pequaywan has the one thing that most trail side stops lack and that is a real life old fashioned wood burning Fireplace. Noticing this the three of us plopped our freezing butts down right next to the fire. Now let me tell you, there is nothing like a real wood fire to heat your bones- especially when you mix in a burger and fries- but not just any old fries- beer Fries.
“What are beer Fries?” my buddy asked the waitress.
“They are fries dipped in beer batter and then fried,” She replied.
Beer battered deep fried French fries- now how could any American male pass that up- all I can say is WOW! A fire, a burger, and deep fried battered fries- I was pretty content to just stay right there for the rest of the day. After a while the entire rest of the forty man Yeti Tour Contingent showed up including the Yeti who also came to sit by the fire- his fur was wet and smelled horrible- but we weren’t sure if that was two stroke exhaust or just the natural wet Yeti fur smell. It was here that half of the riders decided to call it quits and had back. We were roughly fifty miles into the ride and the temperature had been dropping all day, probably about ten below at this point, that combined with the 35 mile an hour wind created roughly a 35 to 40 below zero wind chill making riding a bit taxing on the fingers. For some the idea of logging another 90 miles wasn’t that appealing. All told about twenty of the forty riders decided they had reached the end of the road and turned back. The Fast Group, however, had finished their lunch and blazed out the door. This was decision time- do we tough it out or go back? We decided along with 17 others, to go on and we decided to all stay close. Fourteen miles down the trail from the Pequaywan was Checkpoint #3- Hugos. For some the fourteen miles was the straw that broke the camels back and they succumbed to the cold. Our ranks dropped from 17 down to 12- but we pressed on. Our next goal was to reach Checkpoint #4- the John Allen Brandt Memorial Shelter off of the Yukon Trail. I have an entire article dedicated to this shelter coming up so I wont go into details on how amazing it is. Unfortunately one of the remaining twelve sleds broke down so we never made it to the checkpoint. This is where the other awesome thing about the Yeti tour comes into play- Jake Alvar and the support staff. The support staff consists of a truck and trailer that shadows the riders to each check point. If someone breaks down you tow their sled to the nearest road and the support staff comes and picks you and your sled up and brings you back to the Sunset. They also carry with them some emergency gear and gas and oil just in case. This little piece of mind is priceless, especially on a bitterly cold day like that. A couple of riders stayed with the disabled sled and the rest of us departed but this small group didn’t last long either- Darkness was coming soon and the biting wind put everyone into a hurried rush to get home. We broke into fractured groups that took shortcuts, ditches and back roads to a waiting spouse with a trailer or one of your buddies houses off the trail or, with some boon docking, a quicker trip back to the Sunset. In the end only 3 riders from “The Fast Group” finished the entire Yeti Tour.
The night ended with all of the riders eating pizza in the warm confines of the Sunset and waiting to see some lucky raffle ticket holder out there win a brand new 2012 Yamaha RS Vector LTX snowmobile- the Grand Prize in the Yeti Tour Fundraising Raffle. As usual no one in the room won the sled but we all shared a memorable and cold experience- definitely something that falls into the “Stories you can tell your grandchildren about” type category. On behalf of myself and the other riders in the Yeti Tour I would like to thank the Alvars for putting together a great event. My friends and I will certainly be back next year and I encourage other snowmobilers out there to get involved in this worthwhile fundraiser to me its the perfect way to spend a Saturday- you get to ride and raise money for babies in the process- what could be better than that!