Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the ski trail with Sigurd Olson

Everywhere I go in northeastern Minnesota, the great naturalist, writer and activist Sigurd Olson was there before me. I skied along the top of an esker the other day with my son, lovingly pointing out to him how the trail ran down the top of the winding ridge. Eskers are basically fossils of the rivers that ran underneath the great continental glaciers

In search of a skiing quote later that day, I found this from Sigurd Olson (in Spirit Of The North: The Quotable Sigurd F. Olson)

An owl is hooting in the darkening timber, and over the trees hands a thin sliver of a moon. It is time to go, and we drift easily down the old river bed. On the last long slope we gather speed and know the thrill all skiers have at night of seeming airborne, of floating down into the darkness of a bowl. For a fleeting instant we are part of that glacial river churning through its tunnel of ice, part of the milky-white water speeding toward the boulder-strewn outwash below.

Here's me skiing down the steep end of the esker, into a gravel pit:

While Sigurd Olson probably never skied this trail (the Ridge Runner trail at Boulder Lake), he captured the spirit of the place and the skiing. He understood and explained the land of NE Minnesota like no one has since.

Sigurd Olson was a backcountry, break-your-own-trail skier. He wrote in his journal back in 1930 about his temporary ski trails, "How few men have a road all of their own that they alone travel and enjoy and how few can afford, once they have so expensive a treasure, to abandon it as I can. I am a millionaire of the spirit." (I love that last line!)

Get out today on your skis and find your own millions, thanks to the great Sigurd Olson.

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