Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rock Lake Trails

One of the main reasons the Intensive Training weekend is held in the Lake Namakagan area is because of the close proximity of the Rock Lake trail system. These trails were designed and laid out by the US Forest Service in the terminal moraine of the last glacier that scoured Wisconsin 10,000 or so years ago. The results are a topography that's perfect for cross country skiing, mountain biking, and just plain hiking. The hills, valleys, and snaky ridges make for the perfect combination of a third uphill, a third downhill, and a third flat. The area is dotted with small lakes and none of them have cabins or any sign of human habitation. on them. It is also laid out for classical technique only. I like to skate ski but its nice to have an area where you can tour and enjoy the scenery without some guy yelling, "track!"and then blowing by you in a skintight racing suit the color of a blue bottle fly. Its OK to be obsessed with your personal record, aerobic capacity, and rigid race training schedule but its also OK to have a down jacket, bamboo poles, and a beer in your pocket as you shuffle along, enjoying life. I would draw the line at a cigars (a ski technique favored by our buddy, the Famous Crimminal Defense Attorney from Milwaukee) but even that isn't any worse than crossing a snowmobile trail with its subtle fragrance of burned gas and two cycle oil. Another big part of my enjoyment of this trail system is my extensive history of skiing there with my two then young boys.

I started both guys on skis about the time they learned to walk. The cheap plastic Sno-Cat skis that strapped to regular boots were always the first pair, used to shuffle around in the snowy yard. We would rent the Junek's Bay Cabins with friends and ski the Rock Lake trails the week between Christmas and New Years. They were the classic hand build log cabins with fireplaces, banged up cooking utensils, and the famous 'deep valley' beds, famous for bringing couples together in the northwoods for decades. The guys were always lobbying to ski with the adults but we knew a 5 year old would not finish an 11k trail so we would always take turns skiing with the kids. Like most kids they hated the uphills and there were plenty of them on those trails. I would normally have to bribe them at the top with hard candies, 'hill pills' was our name for them. But they both learned to ski well and the distances increased, a lot of times simply because they wanted to do what the adults were doing. This actually reaped dividends later on in high school when both of them quit hockey and took up nordic ski racing in their junior years. This did not make me too sad since seeing my kids get crushed along the boards or high sticked by some goon was not necessarily a pleasant thing. Both boys also noticed that a number of other kids in their A/P classes and on the honor roll, were on the nordic racing team while a number of their hockey teammates seemed to have chairs reserved with their names on them in the principal's office. Cross country skiing can be a very positive thing.

Sharp observers will notice that in the photo from last weekend and the one circa 1985 in front of the very same 'parking lot 2.9km' sign, that it would appear I am wearing exactly the same anorak and wool hat. I confess that is indeed the case. I hate to give up on a perfectly good, functional piece of gear and since I normally favor natural fabrics they tend to last. Initial experiences with the toxic stench of plastic undergarments (the 'revolutionary' polyprop long johns) kind of threw me off the concept for good. The advent of the merino wool gear from Icebreaker and Smart Wool only served to reinforce that opinion. Observers may also have noticed that function seems to trump style in my case. I will confess that this is true as well. While I have moved on from the knickers, three pin bindings, and wooden skis, some gear is just timeless. And if I got some modern bindings on my woodies, maybe, just maybe, I could..............


Nan said...

You're It. You've just been tagged with an excuse to talk about another photo.

DaveO said...

Huh? I must be dense....what other photo??