I apologize for the lengthy post but here is a summary of the trip I took a few weeks ago riding the NWOSTA Wilderness Loop. The trip was Tuesday through Sunday with those days being travel days and riding Wednesday through Saturday.
We were originally planning on starting this trip from Gunflint Lake and entering Ontario using our remote border permits on the North side of the Lake. Due to the access trail right across the border being closed at the time of our trip we trailered up to Fort Francis on Tuesday night. We stayed at the Rendevous Hotel which worked out good for us as they let us leave our trucks/trailers for 4 days while we were gone.
Day 1 (Wednesday): we left early and headed east towards Atikoken on the A113A trail. Rainy Lake was our first stretch and let me tell you it was long and windblown creating very large drifts that were not fun as we were fully loaded with gear and spare gas. We got off the lake and continued on the trail, which due to low snow had vegetation and reed like plants coming through all over the place. This made it more of a single track than an actual trail. We stopped at a warmup shelter and relaxed before continuing on North on the L903 towards Browns Clearwater lodge. We were hoping to grab a bite to eat or a drink however it was closed (shame on us for not doing research about this stop and for not calling ahead). We carried on to the White Otter Castle which was cool to see and stop for a bit. From the Castle we continued North to Ignace and stopped at Clooch's Tavern for lunch. After gassing up, we rode the "A" trail north towards our final stop for the night in Sioux Lookout. The trails from just south of Ignace to Sioux Lookout had been groomed a few days prior according to the worker at Clooch's and we were breaking first tracks on them. They were smooth, hard and fast for miles, so much that we stopped as we entered Kukukus lake just to lay in the snow and cool off. Crossing Kukukus Lake we encountered our first two snowmobiles coming the other direction. We stopped in the middle of the lake and talked for a few minutes before pressing on. We arrived in Sioux Lookout at dusk and made our way to the Sioux Inn for the night. The hotel is being renovated but was still nice and the staff was pleasant. We unloaded our luggage in the rooms, took a quick ride to get gas and then went across the street to the Forest Inn for some food.
Day 2 (Thursday) we met up with a local man named Mike who I had contacted in planning this trip as he has done the wilderness loop in previous years. Mike was gracious enough to meet our group and show us some local trails and sights such as the lookout on Sioux Mountain and the Wapesi boat. Mike is an amazing photographer and an avid snowmobiler (check out his pics on instagram and facebook @ mikes winter world). After leaving Mike we continued on the "A" trail West Towards the L301 trail north. We were again blessed by freshly groomed trails and no other sleds in sight. A light snow started and we took advantage of another great warming shelter for a quick break. We made our way up to Ear Falls and stopped for gas and lunch at PJ's Roadhouse. The food was great and the server was full of personality which suited our group perfectly. Leaving Ear Falls on our way up to Red Lake for the night again, groomed trails and no other sled traffic. At about 4:30pm and about 30 minutes from Red lake, one of our riders felt a slight vibration at speed and so we stopped to investigate. We knew the closest Ski-Doo Dealer, Lakeside Marina, was located in Red Lake and closing at 5pm, so we gave them a call. Andrew (Andy), who we later learned is the owner, answered and assured us he would stay for us to get there so his mechanic could check out the vibration. We arrived and Andy and his crew took care of us. They did a quick look over his sled, adjusted the track and had our rider take it out for a test ride. The vibration was less and reduced to barely noticeable. The mechanics offered to stay late and do a more thorough check questioning if it was a warped brake pad/rotor, noticing excessive brake dust, or come in early to get us back on the trail first thing in the morning since we were staying in town. We decided it was good enough after they adjusted the track, it was about 6pm already, and we wanted to do a quick loop around Red Lake to see the area. Andy gave us his cell phone number in case we ran into any other issues and told us to give him a call when we get back from our ride to let him know how it went. We called him and everything was good, he then offered to let us keep our sleds in his heated shop overnight to let them all thaw out. We accepted his GRACIOUS offer and me met us at the shop, shared a beer with him and then made it back to our hotel. (ANYONE EVER IN RED LAKE, STOP BY LAKESIDE MARINA AS THEY ARE TRULY AWESOME PEOPLE)
Day 3 (Friday) Started with a ride south back down the L301 toward the "A" trail and Dryden. It was like they were grooming the trail just for us, as a local club member informed us that they had sent the groomer out to groom the L301 again to smooth out any bumps. (the trail was amazing already). We made our way into Dryden, gassed up and continued on to Eagle Lake. The trail on Eagle Lake is about 26 miles and it was a total back breaker. Windswept, hard drifts and no relief, it made Rainy lake on day one feel smooth. It sucked, but we knew there was nothing we could do about it so we just put the hammer down and made the best of it. Getting off the lake, we stopped in vermillion bay, topped off fuel, checked our kidneys and kept riding. Knowing this was going to be our long day of about 260 miles, rest was not on our radar for at this point. We were staying in the Sioux Narrows this night and so we took a left turn to go south from the "A" trail onto the L102. As I stated earlier the trails (except rainy lake and eagle lake) were awesome up to this point. We turned onto the L102 and couldn't believe it could possibly get better. The L102 south to the L108 and across Dryberry Lake were some of the best trails I have ever ridden. Riding multiple lakes, in Narrows surrounded by rock walls, the scenery was beautiful, everything was groomed, including the lake trails, and we were again breaking trail, one word.....AMAZING! We were chasing the sunset and blessed with pure awesomeness as the sun painted the sky orange and pink as it set over the trees on the lake. We arrived at our hotel, unpacked and rode to dinner at the Yellowbird. We were quite shocked as there was only two other people in the restaurant for dinner. The server who was also the manager was super nice and explained they were short staffed and normally aren't that busy during the week. We enjoyed a good (but pricey) dinner and then some drinks at the bar before calling it a night. The bartender was very friendly and we all enjoyed sharing stories.
Day 4 (Saturday) began with a ride across the Lake of the Woods (the A113A to L110 to the L111M) to the Northwest Angle. It was about 45 miles of lake trail, most of which was smooth. We arrived back in the U.S. and made our way to the Sunset Lodge on Oak Island, checked in with customs on our phones and got a snack. Crossing back into the U.S. we saw sleds everywhere and big groups at each stop we made. We saw more sleds in the first 5 minutes of being in Minnesota then we did for the three days prior. We hopped over to Flag Island resort for lunch and then onto Jerry's Restaurant before heading south. We rode south along the shoreline of lake of the woods before crossing back back into Canda and hooking up with the L201 trail. We took the L201 back to the A113A towards Emo. The snow was really thin in this area but the trails had been groomed. Alot of this section rides alongside the roadway so it felt as if we were ditch banging a little bit. We made it back to Fort Frances loaded up the sleds and had a nice dinner.
Overall the trip was great. Everyone we encountered was very nice and super friendly. In total we encountered 6 other snowmobiles on the trails in Canada (in 3 1/2 days). Our total mileage was about 940 miles and I would say that over 90 percent of the land trails were freshly groomed. The scenery is beautiful, we saw a Lynx, a wolf, two deer, a skunk, a couple snowshoe rabbits but no moose. (we are convinced that seeing a moose is just a marketing ploy to get us to come up to the area lol). We would definitely ride the area again, possibly with some slight changes to our itinerary.