Waterloo Ski Odyssey 2011
I'm still tired so this will be brief. (I worked the MMBA Expo all today. Not a bite to eat!)
Yesterday, John Rutherford, Gary Helzerman and I skied the WHOLE Waterloo-Pinckney hiking trail. 36 miles. 9 hours.
We had a fine time. We ate a lot of pizza. We saw majestic views for hours. And hours. Hard to get tired of them. And we didn't.
We survived the big technical drops. Well, RadNord CLEANED them all, no dabs, no dismounts. I ended up with a shiner.
Some of us were nervous at the start. JR and Harry had been wanting to ski this route for years and it FINALLY was happening! It'll get ya excited...and wondering. It would be the longest plus hardest ski days yet for them. (Tim and I did the First Ever in '09 so I knew the feeling.)
We'd just been socked with 4 fresh inches of snow. It was 25F. And it was raining and freezing on our windshields as we drove over in the darm a.m. Gulp! Would it be heavy? An impossible slog?
Through overwhelming and inspired teamwork, plus huge doses of luck, we conquered 2 early obstacles and got into a nice ski groove. But what would breaking trail be like? We skied along, quiet. When I finally took my turn at the front: ho-ho! It was GREAT! The wee-hours precip on top of the snow created tiny ball bearings that actually speeded up the skis. Sure, there was some resistance but it was offset by the secret speed spice. For me, that was the time to start grinnin'.
A special treat was seeing several majestic trees, both in the forest and in the fields, along the way. Some had recently fallen across the trail. Oaks with 5-foot trunks and leaves still on them. Awesome in several ways. It struck me as funny to value a ski trail by the grandeur of its fallen trees, but, hey, standards are relative. I'll take mine. :)
The other best tree was a huge pale dead oak covered in snow out in the middle of a rolling field. We'd been in the woods until then. When we popped out it was a savory eyeful to see the far-reaching view with all the different kinds and textures of field grass and trees overlapping each other as the hills rolled away. That tree stood amid 4 shades of brown, 3 of gray, 2 of green and a lot of white. We were saying "Ansel Adams on Kodachrome." Who says overcast days can't be colorful in their own subtle way.
We also really liked it when our trail dropped down and crossed still-flowing creeks.
We enjoyed a savory lunch stop halfway through with a surprise thermos of coffee and a bottle of porter to split. 5-Hour Energies and Cokes made up the difference. It was a 5-pizza slice day for me. Plus a handful of those wimpy "power gels" and "bars."
I even learned about a new poem along the way. Gary quoted it here and there as the occasion inspired. He said it was the only one he knew by heart. It sounded real good. Also, Martha has made a couple paintings using two of its lines as a title: "Let me live by the side of the road / And be a friend to man." Here's the whole thing, since you'll want to check it out now:
Very nice! Good thoughts for any day. Horizon-broadening.
John pitched in with "Up on Cripple Creek" throughout the day, along with other rock classics rephrased to a skier-point-of-view. All appropriate and in the spirit of the adventure.
So we had pleasant glide all day and no injuries or damage. Hee-yaw!
Actually, the nowaxers were grabbing now and then but we were in the groove and could savor the glide as it fought off the slings and arrows of changing conditions. Rain was forecast so RadNord made the nowax call at the start -- but the rain held off. We didn't care, we were ready for anything.
It's a grand old trail. It has big hills, long rolling prairies, and a fair number of tricky descents. "Moah" is nuthin to mess with -- "Mother of All Hills. Feel free to dismount for both climbs and descents -- but that DOES cut into your time, sometimes. It saves time sometimes, too.
Near the halfway point we were skiing along a high forested slope when I noticed two skiers way down below us along a pond-shore. We hollered back'n'forth and it turned out to be Dave and Gerrick, fellow kooks of the trail. We thought about pulling their legs. We recognized their voices right away. "Who is that?!" "It's John Jeff and Gary!" "It's Dave!" ... at that point we wanted to start in with "No, Dave's up here!" "What?" But we were nice to them. They had broke a couple miles of trail ahead of us, which was great. They were going another way. They coulda caught up for a chat, as they didn't know we were doing the Big Push, but we were on the move.
Another time, Gary showed that we could exchange a webwork of trails near a nature center for a big lake crossing. That was a nice change of pace, getting out in the big sky. Can't do that on a bike or a hike!
Gary lives nearby and often travels beautiful chunks of this trail. But never the whole thing at once!
Along the Mill Lake near McClure road is a complete campground resort. A big lodge, out-buildings and a half dozen nice old log cabins. They're state-owned. And all boarded-up for the past 15 years. Sad. Sad. Sad. They were so picturesque to see along the shore from out on the lake ice. ...What a loss to the people of this state. But they aren't too far gone. Any time the value of such a facility could be seen again, it could be set free. What better vision-thing could we have? Is the idea that it'd be better off as a private resort -- no real public role for it? -- but it's on public land so it has to be trashed?
Anyway, if ya ever want to do something like this, go right ahead! :) Build up stepwise. The steps on the way up are just as fun. For around this area, first get comfy with skiing the entire Stinchfield system at a go. Then do Crooked Lake, then try the Potto / Potawatomi a bit (plan on taking the cut-off, at best). Feel free to redo downhills that give you trouble -- go partway back up them until you see how it works. Then do a Full Potto. Then look to the West...
Learn what YOU need to prevent bonk for a full day out working in the cold. It's not always obvious. (Likely involves meat, nuts, cheese, eggs.) Learn your fluid rate per hour. It's not rocket science.
Use proper equipment -- well, tried and true for you, that is. The new midlength skis, boots with cuffs, plus carbon poles with big, solid, 80's-era baskets will do ya nice. BC-NNN bindings are a GREAT idea. Can't go wrong, there! As regards packs, I'd say 10 lbs is good. 15 lbs max.
An overnight with pulks might be cool. Maybe 25 miles a day... An organized overnight a la the Canada Ski Marathon might be cool, too. Stash some stuff at a camping place halfway along some route. Consider security, I suppose, or wing it -- walk it in, leave one set of tracks (walk out as you walk in). Don't forget your hay bales and firewood. Bales around a bonfire mean: warmth. Down along a flowing river sounds good. What if someone volunteered to man the base-camp. They could ski local loops and get a BIG pot of stew a-brewin'. Tune up the guitars.
The CSM folks ski 50 miles a day and carry their overnight stuff in packs. Well, they're skiing groomed, not technical hiking trails. Although, they do face some infamous grades. A somewhat gradual trail with some level of grooming, even a snowmobile, without overly technical climbs/descents is what lets you hit the 50-mile mark.