Even though I stated on Monday that I had gone for the last local cross country ski of the season I made myself a liar this morning with a fine outing at a local golf course. It got down to around 20F(-7C) last night, forming a hard crust on top of the snow that was perfect for skate skiing. The warm 50F(10C) weather last week had melted a lot of snow, leaving patches of bare grass and small rivulets of water that you had to navigate but that just made it more fun. The hard crust on the snow and absence of a trail to follow gave the sensation of flying rather than skiing across the snow. Tomorrow a few of us will drive up to Duluth for a day trip to ski Spirit Mountain and hopefully watch the Mesabi Miner steam out of Duluth harbor for Marquette, officially marking the beginning of the shipping season, resumption of the Nearshore Forecast from NOAA, and the 'keep a close eye on the south shore so we can paddle' watch.
I've relied on RangerMark and the GreenThumbChef to keep me apprised of the ice conditions for some possible ice floe paddling next month. The most recent report from the GTC was, "Most of the snow is melted off the ice, no open water is visible from the house and the ice road is still open". Their home is on high ground between Washburn and Bayfield. Now a new tool has appeared so we all can keep an eye on the Chequamagon Bay ice. The Bayfield web cam, which I've linked on the 'kayak blogs and other useful links' part of my blog, looks out at Madeline Island from the City Dock. If you watch the camera long enough you will see cars driving across the ice road to and from Lapointe on Madeline Island. I noticed the link on the Friends of the Apostle Islands website and was also informed of it by kyker13 (Steve) who we met down at Canoecopia. So the countdown begins. When will our hulls first be wetted by the cold clear waters of Gitchee Gumee? Stay tuned for further developments.