Thursday, January 8, 2009

Skiers beware!

Last night a few of us braved the 5F (-15C) cold of the French Regional Park to knock off 10k or so on the nicely groomed, well lit, and perfectly marked trail system. It was a refreshing change from the brutal and hazardous conditions I encountered in Iron County over the weekend.

My friend and legal mouthpiece, the WoodFondlingBarrister, is a yellow dog Democrat and a man made wealthy from billing me on lucrative timber and property matters. He and his long suffering spouse have a very scenic complex of ski trails on their palatial Iron County estatebetween Lake Superior and the thriving village of Saxon, WI. These trails are meticulously groomed and have been laid out to follow various interesting stands of hardwood trees, (his lifelong obsession), on the property. The trail winds through hemlock, hard maple, cherry, and various coniferous stands. It has gentle rolling hills, lots of up and down to keep things interesting and is an excellent trail system, one of the finer classical trails in the area in my opinion. It only has one flaw: it is impossible to get out once you are in.

I suspect the counseler had either just visited a corn maze or perhaps ingested LSD and then viewed some MC Escher prints before laying out the trails. The Escher print, Ascending and Descending pretty much desribes the trail layout. In that print, monks go either up or down the stairs; it makes no difference because there is no beginning or end to the stairs. Perhaps they have to walk the stairs daily for penance. Its much the same on the WFB's trails. Last year I ventured out on the trail alone at about 3pm in the afternoon. Since it doesn't get dark until around 5pm I figured I could easily do a couple laps and be back at the house for happy hour. The reason I arrived so late to ski was due to a delay in getting from the downhill ski area to the WoodFondlingBarristers estate. I was forced to stop for a social drink in Hurley, WI with the KingOfIronwoodIsland, who was also bound for the WFB's trails. Since the sun shines an average of 2.3 days per month in Iron County in the winter, there was no telling the direction of travel from the sun and there was no wind to give a hint from that quarter as I skied into the woods. The trails cut back and cross over one another like a garden hose piled up on a garage floor and very soon I was confused. I was pretty sure I had been past certain trees before but because one of the WFB's passions is a forest full of straight, orderly, uniform trees as befits his Teutonic heritage, they all pretty much looked the same. Soon it was dark and the wolves began to howl. I figured I might see a light but no luck. Surely someone would realize I was gone and ski out to see what was up. In the interim I just kept skiing. In addition to the wolves, my thoughts turned to a murder that had taken place on this very property.

Ten years ago the movie, A Simple Plan, was released starring Billy Bob Thorton, Bill Paxton, and Bridget Fonda. Due to a lack of snow in the Minneapolis area, production moved north and based in Ashland, WI for some location scenes. Hollywood soon discovered the pristine snow in the WoodFondlingBarristers property and rented it for the opening scenes of the movie. You may recall the plane crash with the $4 million bucks that Paxton and Thornton discovered in the woods. You also may recall the hapless neighbor that came by on his snowmobile and was bludgeoned to death on the spot. As I skied, I saw a light and figured to hell with it, I was skiing toward the light. As luck would have it, I came out in almost the exact spot where poor Peterson got his head caved in.

At least I knew where I was at that point and hit the road, took off the skis, and began walking, figuring I should let people know that I was out of the woods and to not worry about my whereabouts any more. As I reached the house it became apparent that the only one worried about me at all was the KingOfIronwoodIsland. He had scouted the area between the house and the sauna and, not finding me, decided to get cleaned up. The rest of the group debated where I was, figured I could last another hour easy, and popped another bottle of wine.

My complaining about the complexities of the trail and the danger from wild animals and wilder humans fell upon deaf ears and inspired several derisive comments. The sign at the top of this post however, was in place when I hit the trial this year. It's a feeble attempt to mitigate this attractive nuisance, one that would never stand up in a court of law, especially if the judge's last name ends in -ich. Once again this weekend, I arrived late to the trails after telemark skiing at Big Powderhorn with several members of the SKOAC Renegades, and was forced to set out on my own with a slightly elevatee BAL. After a couple of loops I ran into RangerMark and the GreenThumbChef. RangerMark decided he had some extra energy and set off on one of the many Escher-like meanders while GTC and I continued back to the house. We arrived just about dusk and she seemed relieved that we had actually made it back. When we walked into the house and she announced in a shaky voice, "I had to follow Olson back!", the comment was met with raucous laughter.

Go ahead and laugh! My guess is that there are skeletons of key grips, sound men, associate producers, and other expendable Hollywood crew people laying out there like deceased climbers on the slopes of Mt Everest. All I know is if any of the skeptics, cynics, and especially the WoodFondler himself, do not return on time I have two alternative courses of action. Either uncork a fine Italian Sangiovese or pop a South Shore Brown Ale and contemplate the situation.


gurneygranny said...

The trails are actually nicely laid out and not confusing at all to people who don't imbibe first and then set out at dusk!

DaveO said...

Are you implying my keen, Daniel Boone-like sense of direction may have been compromised on two separate occasions!?

Silbs said...

A wonderful tale. I should have become a lawyer.