TR-Skiing the Wisconsin Logging Roads (Long)
- From: George Cleveland <georgecleveland@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2006 23:13:51 -0600
(I promised Eugene I'd post a skiing report when I had one, instead of
the string of quotations I was doing a few weeks ago. Well, here it
The snow around north central Wisconsin is old and worn. We've been
without new snow for a couple of weeks and the intervening period has
seen more than its fair share of above freezing days. On the plus side
all the substantial snows we've had this year have been very wet. This
means the snow that is onb the ground and the few days of rain we've
had have only consolidated the snow pack more. An hour or so north
there is still good to excellent track skiing but around here the ski
areas that are open are pretty much limited to skating. So lately I've
been skiing in the ungroomed city parks. And it hasn't been bad.
In a way its been like being 12 again. I've been skiing through areas
that resemble the cow pastures and river banks of my well spent youth.
I've seen plenty of rabbits and a few days ago I had a fox run across
the unused snowmobile trial that I had appropriated. Its been fun.
But today I decided that at least a short road trip was in order. So I
loaded my 8 year old son Mason, my 6 month old Jack Russell Terrier
Cosmo and a backpack and our skis into the Taurus Wagon and drove the
7 miles north of the town to the City of Merrill Memorial Forest. This
is a piece of wild land that was established after WWII to honor the
returning Vets. It is well used by hunters and has a snowmobile trail
(still closed) running through it, seldom visited by others. But its
main road, used by loggers in the summer, is gated and only foot
traffic is allowed afterthe bough cutters (for Xmas wreaths) are done
in early December.
We pulled into the driveway and parked near the gate. The boy and dog
were freed and the skis unloaded from the Thule box. Mason used his
old waxless skis (why wreck his good skis in case the snow was thin)
and I brought along my 25 year old yellow Epoke 1000s. I had put on a
layer of Holmenkolen purple klister, a nice broad range wax (-4C to
+4C). Mason put his skis on by himself (a new thing this year) and I
clicked into the NNN BC autos. The backpack with extra clothes and
water was slipped on and the camera hung around my neck and we were
The first stretch had been plowed at some point before our last
snowfall. The road ran through a swamp. There was an old set of ski
tracks and several sets of snowshoe tracks. The coverage was thin,
only a couple of inches, but very firm. The few bare spots were easily
by-passed. The purple klister, which at first seemed sticky, was,
within a hundred yards or so, running very well. Good kick and good
glide. We skied through the swamp secton and then came to a long low
hill. The road entered the woods here as it climbed and the snow depth
also increased. We skied up the hill, listening to a small pack of
hounds howling on the trail of something a few hundred yards away.
Mason thought that they might be wolves, but I told him it was
probably just some rabbit hunters.
We passed an untracked side road and then a few hundred yards passed
another. The snow there was pristine. So we kick turned off the plowed
road and headed into the hills to the south.
The dog was having the time of his life. Every rabbit and deer track
was investigated. Every descent we made was a race to be run (he
At the top of one hill I had to rest, there haven't been many hills
this January and I was carry more extra weight this year than just the
few pounds in the pack.
We kept passing other side roads, the unmarked snow beckoning us to
turn first left then right. But we stayed straight on. The snow itself
was as close to perfect as it can get. The depth in the woods was
maybe 8 inches, on the trail 6. But it was hard. My 200 pounds forced
my skis less than an inch into its surface. I didn't break through
once the entire ski. And despite the rain we've had a couple times in
the last month there was no ice. None. It was the kind of skiing you
see on cartoons, the skis riding on the snow's very top layer. And it
was fast, even with the wide old BC skis.Definitely the best skiing of
the year, perhaps, to be honest, the best in quite a few years.
Finally we came to the foot a nice sized hill. The road split here,
with one fork going straight around the bottom of the hill and the
other, right hand fork, going straight up the hill. We went straight
up way. At the top of the hill the road ended. There was a No
trsspassing sign nailed to a tree at it's terminus. A quick drink of a
shared bottle of water and we headed back down.
It had been about an hour and a half getting in and both my son and
puppy were looking a little tuckered so we skiied back the way we
came. Soon we hit the plowed road and all too soon we were headed down
the hill to the swamp section, with only a few run ins with snow
The ski back to the car was slow, alowing for some time to look over
the bogs to the south, lit by the lowering sun.
And then we were back at the car, loading up and pulling out past the
City Forest sign.
A good day in the woods.
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