Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Screamer, literally

What sane person sees a sign that reads, in essence, "Go This Way to Die," and chooses then to follow it? Well, besides fans of Russian roulette, cross country skiers follow some dangerous indicators of doom. In Ely, MN, you can follow just such a sign, except it is labeled "Screamer."

Ely is the Grand Marais of the Iron Range. Instead of Norwegian fishermen, Ely has equally charismatic Finnish miners. There's a Sven and Ole's, "Sir G's," only without those cheesy bumperstickers or TV ads. And just as Grand Marais has Pincushion Mountain, Ely has a mighty fine nordic ski system just on the edge of town.

The Hidden Valley trails are a terrific outpost of well-maintained ski trails in a lovely near-wilderness setting. Hans and I took off on some of the challenging inner loops this week.

At first the endorphins kicked in and he was pretty happy:

Then we began the climb to the top of the Screamer. Though I kept saying, "What goes down must go up," Hans' attitude worsened faster than a typical teenager. Here he is at the top:

Note the yellow and black caution sign. That is the top of the Screamer itself, a drop straight across the contour lines, all set for maximum acceleration.

I skied first, I yelled a bit, especially at this point where the steep downhill turns steeper and my stomach rose to my throat with a gurgly "a-HMP."

You'll have to ask Hans how he made it down. How he lived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, he erased the images from the camera.

"Screamer" is an apt name for this trail. Which got me thinking about other trails and their bodily results. How about a trail that's named "Bruiser"? Or "Broken Collarbone"? Hey, I'm a skier, sign me up!

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