Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Snow hunt

We headed north for our traditional New Years escape, a weekend of cross country and gravity assisted skiing as well as some snowshoeing and New Year's Eve midnight beer drinking around the bonfire. As it turns out only the midnight beer drinking was reliable, with the usually dependable lake effect snow being noticeably absent for most of the weekend. It did eventually snow, just not in the timely fashion that both we and the local business folks would have liked.

It has been a weak snow year, which is exactly the opposite of what the long term forecasts predicted. Downhill areas have been making snow but for dedicated cross country skiers, both recreational and racers, it has been pathetic. This mornings Strib had a photo of the 18" of manmade snow at Elm Creek Park. Every high school Nordic team in the area is there training and that, combined with the hamster cage-like 2.5 boring miles, has kept me and most of my cronies away. The problem is that both the Vasaloppet and Birkebeiner races are right around the corner and those of us who refuse to train by any method other than actual skiing are already in trouble. Resorts up north that rely on skiers and snowmobilers piling cash into their tills over the holidays are deep in the hole already. We are in desperate need of a good dump and there does not seem to be one in the forecast.

Lake effect snow has even been weak. Last weekend at CampO there was not even enough snow to track trails. We got about 10" on New Years Eve, seen in the image above, but by then everyone was heading for home. Or for the Frontier Bar to watch the Packers in the case of Podman and I. We did get a nice hike in on Saturday on a new segment of the North Country Trail, a hiking trail billed as running from New York to North Dakota. It has been a long time coming and I remember working on the trail along the ice age segment in Rusk County Wisconsin in the mid 1970's. The terrain in the part of Iron County that we hiked is glaciated rolling hills with lots of rock outcroppings, small streams, and mostly hardwood forest with a smattering of evergreens, mainly balsam. We also ran into an old gold mine, an area with several deep holes and an ancient piece of equipment used for God knows what in the process. This quaint reminder of the mining past in the area will be dwarfed by the proposed GTAC iron mine, which would be sited within a good sized dynamite blast of the area. A post on that issue is long overdue and will be the next thing coming out of this word processor. As usual, nut cases on both sides of the issue are trying to turn the debate into a zero sum game and that just ain't how it is.

I guess the only thing we can do on the snow thing is cross our fingers, and maybe do a little snow dance and appeal to Hekki Lunta, the UP folk hero of snow. I guess we need to get into the woods to hike, do a little downhill or tele skiing, and maybe strap the skates on. Podman told me that he was going to tell me that Saxon Harbor was completely ice free last weekend before we headed up, but was afraid I'd throw the kayak on the roof and try to talk him into paddling on Lake Superior. He may have been right.