Sunday, February 26, 2012

Three little words to warm a skier's heart

No, they aren't "I love you." Or "Time for bed." 

It's "Winter Storm Warning."

Here's the latest from the National Weather Service.



Even though it's five words long, the phrase "elevated terrain near Lake Superior" is a total heart-melter. That puts me right back in to the amazing ridges and trails, from Tettegouche through Sugarbush all the way to Pincushion Mountain.

Let's go skiing.
Groom those trails.
Eat more pie.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On, Wisconsin: Great ski trail in Brule

I have a new favorite ski trail. Call me old-fashioned, but that trail happens to be the "Classic Trail" at the Afterhours trail system in Brule, Wisconsin.

It's been such a crappy snow year in Duluth and the North Shore, so I've been delighted to take a 45-minute drive through Superior and east along US Highway 2. In fact, I went twice this weekend. Not only do they have ample snow there, but they have this great 3.2 kilometer trail.
Unlike the rest of the trail system at Afterhours, the Classic Trail is just for us old-fashioned classic skating allowed. So we don't get buzzed by those lycra-clad, stopwatch-punching racers training for their next Birkebeiner Loppet Korte-Marathon. 

The Classic Trail is mostly level, with few real climbs, but it still turns and curves majestically through a variety of forest habitats. It's lovely.

The only problem is, the Classic Trail ends smack-dab in the middle of the regular system and you have to work your way back to the trailhead on those same wide skating trails you were able to avoid so nicely before.

At the end of your ski, head for the cozy chalet. You can warm up, chat with your fellow skiers, then head out on the Classic Trail again. 

Ski it for yourself

The Afterhours Trail is about 25 miles east of Superior, Wisconsi on US Highway 2. Watch for a sign reading "After Hours Trail 1 mile" on the right, and then the turn onto the Afterhours Road. Parking is right above the highway. Day passes are $4.00 per person, age 16 and under free.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What to do with the poo?

On the regular morning tromp with the poodle to Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge and back, I couldn't help but notice this little crop circle laid down on the sandy Park Point beach. Some dog walker had VERY CAREFULLY bagged up their dog's do, set it down on the beach, and drawn a two-foot circle around it. They must have kept on walking...and forgotten the poop bag.

Hats off to the artistic walker for at least bagging the stuff. 

Park Point is a popular dog-walking area, so we get a lot of poochies, many of them off-leash. Some dog owners seem to think that if their dog is off-leash, they don't have to worry about picking up poop. With what could be called an "extended January thaw," we are already seeing piles of abandoned excrement emerging from the thin-if-any snowpack. 

What a person does about their dog's poop says a lot about them, and how they feel about nature and society. Are public parks simply wilderness areas where your dog's excrement belongs just as much as wolf scat? Are you concerned about the impact of your actions on strangers who will follow? Would you drop a beer can on the beach as quickly as you'd leave your dog's poop? Simply, are you responsible for the actions of your dog?

Yeah, it's awkward dangling that bag o'poop as you finish your walk down the public beach. But it's way better than stepping in it, even if it's a total stranger doing the stepping.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In search of February ice at Shovel Point

View from Shovel Point, February 1, 2012
I went for a lovely walk yesterday out to Shovel Point, along the rugged shoreline of Tettegouche State Park. Mine were the first human footprints in the meager snow, along with a rambling deer's, a scattered squirrel's, and a deliberate fox'. 

The view from Shovel Point looking west is classic North Shore. Palisade Head looms in the distance. Cliffs and coves stud the shore. 

But there was something very important missing: the ice.

It's February, the freezing month. In a "normal" North Shore winter, the water of Lake Superior is finally cold enough this month that it can really freeze solid. Normally the ice starts in the little bays and coves, then on one dramatic cold and calm night it covers the lake as far as you can see. If we're lucky, a succession of cold days freezes the ice hard, and mere mortals can take off on the ice and down the shoreline.

Shovel Point observation deck
It was the same story at the far end of Shovel Point, at the dramatic observation deck perched on the storm-washed shore: no ice anywhere to be seen.

I love the feeling of walking out onto frozen Lake Superior, of gingerly stepping below tall cliffs, of feeling the thrill of a pile of ice slabs sliding underneath like well-greased cookie sheets. The lack of ice on the North Shore this year hits me nearly as hard as the lack of snow. Goldarnit, it's February, it's supposed to be freezing out here.