Lake Superior looks like a glacier breaking up. Indeed, in many ways, it is. I am literally at the ends of the earth at the northern-most tip of the Upper Peninsula in Copper Harbor, Michigan.
Only, it's not cold for the second weekend of March. In fact, it's downright balmy for these parts at this time of year. The water surrounding Copper Harbor is full of break up, and my hair hangs in ringlets, curls soaking in the moisture in the air.
Ice break up at Copper Harbor
Road trips offer possibility and often perspective. I welcome the opportunity to follow M-41 all the way to where it ends in Copper Harbor. The chatter from mushers is that the only real thing to combat this weekend is the weather. Unusually warm, rainy conditions have all but deteriorated the trails, leaving mud and slush. Equipment usually reserved for hauling snow out is used to haul snow in.
Brian Tiura looks tired and frustrated as he discusses rerouting the course with Race Marshall, Pete Curtice. For this having been his first race, and the first Copper Dog, he sure has had to combat a lot.
As I'm having lunch at the Tamarack Inn, Lloyd Gilbertson and other mushers chatter about the first hundred miles.
A dog from Lloyd Gilbertson's kennel rests in its dog box at Copper Harbor
Musher Geri Minard says, "It felt like crossing over several state lines, the trails were so different. It went from slush, to hard-packed snow cover, to gravel, to mud, and water run off." Amanda Vogel concurs. An additional challenge last night was a thick fog that settled in the Keweenaw. Vogel reports that the Can-Am trail was worse, however. Global warming?
A sign hangs in the Tamarack Inn that says "Fishing stories told here." Ice huts still line the coastal waterways here, and some boast pulling whitefish, trout and pike over 30 inches in length from these icy waters.
The restart from Copper Harbor is tomorrow at 8 a.m. instead of the original 9 a.m. start. Despite trail conditions, competition is still stiff. Ken Josefsen is the one to beat, with a total elaped time of 8:03:18 and an average speed of 11.18 miles per hour.