In honor of the triumphant Norwegian Olympic nordic skiers, this afternoon I donned my best red ski clothes and went out skiing. With the poodle. But it was not skijoring.
Now skijor is a Norwegian word, meaning "ski-drive." Basically, some animal pulls you around the ski trail. In Montana, people skijor with horses. In Minnesota and in Norway, people skijor with real dogs. Dog and people are smiling as the husky or malamute or Marmaduke strains ahead and runs like the wind.
I am stuck with the poodle. The willful, paranoid, psycho poodle. Who does not skijor. At least not for long.
This is the same dog who, when out for a walk on the city sidewalk, strains at the leash to the point of suffocating herself just to get out in front. Do not dare to walk in front of her, you will kill her.
Out on regular ski trails that wind through the forest, she's okay. But on the open fields of Lester Park golf course today, there was, in the words of Bob Dylan, "No direction home." What fun to run circles around your owner...and tie him up in the stretchie leash! What fun to stop for a massive dump right in the middle of a downhill run!
Finally we figured out that someone had to ski ahead and challenge her to catch up.
At the top of the Ninth Hole, with a big view down to Lake Superior, we paused to soak in the sun and the scenery. The older son skied away and ahead, almost out of sight but not quite. Chloe watched him go. Then, with the target of a beloved boy in sight, it was time to run. I had the best 20 seconds of my whole winter as dog and I careened down the fairway toward the clubhouse and the lake.
Then she got all crazy again as all four of us people regathered at the clubhouse. Go to Mom? Dad? The baby in the sled? Poop again? Lasso the big guy?
Over the years, your car becomes you. All those miles driving with friends and family. All those arrivals at trailheads and put-ins. And, of course, the stickers you apply.
Moab Man joined our Honda CRV after a particularly fun road trip three years ago through southeast Utah. It's a very simplified version of a real petroglyph just outside Moab, Utah. We LOVED Moab Man. He was like a family pet, only one you didn't have to feed or walk. He was our freedom and our wanderlust.
Moab Man, and the car he was attached to, went to the junkyard last week.
All four of us were packed into the car and on our way to Ely for the week. A car ran a red light in downtown Duluth and bashed us hard, sending us into oncoming traffic where we got bashed hard again. Air bags went off, it was way too loud and way too scary.
Moab Man made it through the accident without a scratch, unlike me (burns and bruises) or Sally (bruises all over). We also left the Minnesota state park sticker attached to the car.
The car was totaled, and now we're wrestling with the insurance adjusters to replace the vehicle. But there's no replacing Moab Man.
At the cusp of a dark February evening, a North Shore state park is normally a quiet, serene place. But last night, Gooseberry Falls State Park was the absolute center of the universe for North Shore winter enthusiasts. It was the annual candlelight ski event, and the park was abuzz with activity.
This event has grown over the last 10 or 15 years to include more trails and more people and more fun. Dozens of volunteers set out real candles on five kilometers of ski trails. Campfires are lit and tended in remote corners of the park. This year, a Two Harbors High School jazz group filled the Visitor Center with dance-able tunes. There was a HUGE case of BIG cookies. And I was there to sign copies of Skiing the North Shore. It was the grooviest booksigning I've ever done.
The first sign for me that things were crazy was when I pulled into the parking lot...on a dark Saturday night...and could not even find a parking place. It was already overflow parking, like a fall colors weekend in winter's black and white.
Two loops had been lit. The Campground Loop runs right from the Visitor Center and down through the lower part of the park. A 1.6 km loop ran across the highway, across the river and up into the Center Fields area. Despite this winter's marginal lakeshore snow, the Campground Loop was in better shape, with decent ski tracks. The upper loop had been well used by snowshoers and the ski track had been demolished. Apparently, some park staff had told hikers to walk "in between" the ski trails, and that meant hikers were trying to walk on that narrow ridge between the right ski and the left...destroying the track.
I struggle with nighttime photography, especially since I don't use a tripod. I finally caught the light trail of a skier with a headlamp passing the Visitor Center, by resting my camera on a wooden post.
I talked with families from Duluth, a big pack of Rovers from the Twin Cities, and a couple from International Falls who had skied nearly every place I have and still wanted new ideas.
This is a great event and I was really glad to be part of it. Something about the jazz group and the big box of baked goods made the whole thing perfect. See you there next year!
What does it take to enter heaven? Would a bag of M&Ms make the difference, if offered at just the right time?
When you stand by the pearly gates of heaven and St. Peter decides your fate, does he check out your posse too? When you want to head out onto the big back loops of Sugarbush, should you be stopped by the beginners you're skiing with?
I took my sister's family cross country skiing this weekend at the North Shore's famous Sugarbush trail system. Helen had skied a lot in high school but her urban art and architecture career has kept her off the ski trails. None of her boys (husband and two preteens) had ever XC skied.
The Sugarbush trails at Britton Peak start with three perfect beginner loops. From the last of these, Piece of Cake, some of my most favorite ski trails take off. But before we even got to Piece of Cake, the younger cousin had demonstrated his love for falling in the bottomless snow enough times to tire even himself out.
The Homestead Loop starts with the big bomber downhill of Bridge Loop. That's where our group stopped. My oldest son skied to the lip of the big hill to check it out. I had a BIG bag of M&Ms at the ready.
I chatted and schemed a bit. I had a bag of candy for rewards or bribes. Maybe the better skiers could just take the first bit of Bridge Loop around and catch up with the crowd on the way back. The cousins were ready to turn the corner, stay on the easy trails and loop back to the car. I was ready to go go go.
In the end, we all stuck together. I stood at the gates of heaven and I turned away.
They say it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. But what if you had the chance to love again, to ski that trail one more time...but cannot? Is that better?
Of course it is better...we were out on a gorgeous day on a great ski trail. We had a great time. The Sugarbush trails worked their magic.
But next time I stand at the gates of heaven, I'm going straight through them. Maybe St. Peter would like some M&Ms.
..SIGNIFICANT LAKE EFFECT SNOW POTENTIAL CONTINUES ALONG NORTH SHORE...MAY REACH TWIN PORTS TONIGHT...
..WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON CST TUESDAY...
* POTENTIAL FOR MORE SIGNIFICANT SNOW THIS EVENING IF LAKE EFFECT SNOW DEVELOPS. A WINTER STORM WARNING MAY BE REQUIRED.
* LIGHT SNOW WILL CONTINUE WITH 1 TO 3 INCHES OF SNOW BY AFTERNOON. WINDS ARE THEN EXPECTED TO BECOME MORE EAST TO NORTHEAST THIS EVENING. THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT HEAVIER LAKE EFFECT SNOW SHOWERS MAY PUSH INTO THE TWIN PORTS LATER THIS EVENING. ADDITIONAL ACCUMULATIONS WILL BE HIGHEST ALONG THE ELEVATED TERRAIN NEAR LAKE SUPERIOR.
It's February on the North Shore. While all the other lakes in Minnesota froze over in December, big deep Lake Superior had stayed open. For one below-zero morning after another, sea smoke rose from the open water.
In the last few days, winter cold finally has the lake in its grasp. What was open water two days ago off Duluth is now a vast field of ice. The satellite maps are showing a ring of ice 20 miles wide around the entire coast.
The good news is, the ice is beautiful. A few more cold days, and ice anglers will take the first tentative steps out, followed by skiers and skaters.
The bad news is, this will cut off lake-effect snow on both the south and north shores. No open water means no evaporation, and no evaporation means no piles of yummy snow.
This morning, the vast ice sheet was not quite frozen in place. Waves from somewhere far away were still moving the ice and grinding it quite slowly against the shore.
But it was freezing.
Even the poodle, normally frenetic when she's offleash on the beach, froze for a moment:
It gives me a kick to see how big deep Lake Superior fights off the freeze for all those months. But nature eventually wins, and the lake begins to freeze.