Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A big screamer at Cascade, and a lesson re-learned

I skied some trails I'd never skied before yesterday at Cascade River State Park. That's hard for me to admit, since I write these guidebooks and take pride in the work. I've been on every other trail in the park, but not this one. There's nothing as humiliating to a writer as to be caught in an ignorant lie. I see these readers on a trail with my book saying "This isn't right, HE WAS NEVER HERE!"

Though I'd written about the trail to the top of Moose Mountain in Skiing the North Shore, I had never skied it. With tons of snow this winter and a business trip to Grand Marais yesterday, I had my opportunity. God, I hoped I was not too far off base in the book.

It's a long slow climb to the top. I started at the trail head, which is right in the state park campground. There's one trail going up and 2-3 trails coming down. The trail up weaves along the top edge of some deep ravines of the Cascade River and its tributaries, past big spruce and pine. I was the first one out on the trail after its grooming earlier in the day. Skiing up hill is exhausting and warms me up fast, so I took off my hat and unzipped layers as I went. Here I am at the summit, practically naked:

In the book, I called the last part of the climb "challenging," based on my reading of the topo lines. In fact, it was some of the flatter, straighter and smoother parts of the climb, away from those scenic ravines. Oops.

I also called the view of Lake Superior from the top "worth it." I guess I fudged that one, but here's that view:

Lots of young birch and aspen blocking the view of Lake Superior here, though it was a nice perspective on Lookout Mountain to the west. "Worth it?" Sure, but I really should have seen it first before I made that call.

The highlight of the ski was the ride back down. After switchbacking up the hill, the run down ran literally straight down the hill. I have no photo of this, because to have photographed would have been to die. The snow was soft but fast. I barely stayed on my skis. With my recent ski-related experience in urgent care, and being all alone out there, I was seriously scared. Not a real emotive guy, I heard myself say things like "Erk" and "Oogk" and "Ai-eek" on the way down. I call these big hills "screamers," and even stuffed up old me gave out a noise or two on this one.

Here was my back up safety plan, a note on my windshield:

I could have written, in small print "You'll find me plastered to a pine tree below Moose Mountain." But I would never write that, since I hadn't been there first.


Bryan Hansel said...

I broke a ski on that downhill. It was a fast, almost icy day. It took just one little I knew, I was on the ground sliding and had a broken ski.

It's one heck of a screaming downhill!

Andrew Slade said...

At least it was a ski you broke and not, say, a collarbone. I'm glad you lived to tell the tale.

Anonymous said...

"Erk, Oogk, Ai-eek".... those are strong words, Andrew. But that downhill does deserve them.


Andrew Slade said...

My wife says I only laugh out loud when I have to, like when I'm on the phone. If a man screams in the woods when there is no one else to hear, did he make a sound?

Anonymous said...

Well of course not; HE wasn't scared and that must have been someone else doing all that screaming....


Sally said...

If I had been going down that hill with Andrew, you would have heard some real noise, baby! But it looks like I really should stay away because when I'm along, Andrew lets me do all the emoting....

This way, he gets to express himself. Although I personally have never heard him say such colorful language as "erk" or "oogk." But I HAVE heard him laugh out loud on the phone.

Anonymous said...

Laughing out loud on the phone? Ai-eeking on the downhill?

Back in the century men knew how to control their emotions.