Brother Where are We?
Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine|February 2021
Two brothers discover a winter challenge when they ski to McKeever Cabin in the Upper Peninsula— along with the refuge of warm fires, gorgeous landscapes and Blackrocks beer.
Chris Loud

In THE CENTER OF THE UPPER Peninsula’s Hiawatha National Forest, several miles south of Munising, my brother and I parked our car near the sign to Widewaters Campground, closed for the season, with an abandoned snowplow sitting ominously at the end of the cleared entrance, framed by 8-foot snowbanks. This is where we were told to park. We changed into our cross country ski boots, added a few extra layers, and set off across the road toward a hidden trail leading to our demise. I mean, cabin. Who knew that awkwardly crossing the road in slippery cross-country ski boots, carrying our skis and poles, with backpacks and a 6-foot-long toboggan loaded with “essentials”would turn out to be the easiest part of the trek?

Our destination was McKeever Cabin—a rustic escape, maintained by the National Forest Service and volunteers, perched above McKeever Lake, and accessible only by ski or snowshoe in the winter. The trail to the cabin is a little over a mile long. With gear and more than two feet of ungroomed snow at the start, it took us about two hours.

After less than five minutes on skis in the knee-deep snow, it was pretty clear what happened. We packed too much stuff, and there was too much fresh snow. I carried a large, old-school backpacking pack—a hand-me-down from my dad. This was its first true voyage on my back. It was completely full, but well designed, and felt relatively light, considering. Being the older brother, I let Nick pull the heavy sled, teetering with our piles of gear—from sleeping bags to food to six-packs of Blackrocks beer. The sled is a wooden toboggan that's been in the family for a couple of decades. As kids, my brother and I used to sled down a hill that rolled over an old farm lane behind our house. Sometimes our dad would join us for a three-person bobsled-esque tear down the hill, full inertia at work, with my dad laugh-grunting on every bump and bounce. The laugh-grunting sound he made stayed with me in a more literal way than I had hoped, because I was making the exact same sound now.

That sledding was fun. This ... this was something else.

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