The Ups and the Downs

On a sunny, blue-sky day, when the temperature is warm at 24 degrees, it’s really easy to play hooky from work to go skiing.  I don’t know about your neighborhood, but we haven’t seen the sun this winter as much as in other years.  Of course, when it was lower-than-thirty-below, we had plenty of sun, but it’s a little difficult for me to get excited to go out on the trails.  And it makes my skis squeak.  Today was my kind of day, so I finished my morning chores and mapped a route. 

 

Headed up Wipe Out Hill on the Highlands Trail

Headed up Wipe Out Hill on the Highlands Trail

It had been a while since I did Wipe Out Hill, so I decided to head that way.  I parked on the Gunflint Trail near the Cross River, grabbed the skis and headed across the road to the trailhead.  At this stage in my skiing adventures, it’s much better if I take a hill like this one from the bottom up, even though it means a lot of herringbone.  It also means I am more in control.  (I hate the thought of helter-skelter madcap descents!) 

 

Better than halfway, but still a stretch to go

Better than halfway, but still a stretch to go

The snow was lovely today, a bit of powder on top of the groomed trail. Enough tooth to slow me a bit, which is just the way I like it.   The sunshine cast all sorts of patterned shadows on the snow.

 

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About halfway through my route, I came to freshly groomed tracks.  I generally don’t take this trail in the direction I was going, so I was seeing it with a new perspective.

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I finished out my run on Highlands when I reached the intersection with Ham Lake.  From there, I headed towards Rabbit Run.  I had planned this trek while keeping in mind that the best way to do Rabbit is from Highlands to Aspen Alley.  That way it is a manageable down, down, down almost the whole way.  Such a nice reward after the likes of Wipe Out.   

 

Past every climb there is a coast.  Good thing I can do a decent snowplow!

Past every climb there is a coast.  Good thing I can do a decent snowplow!

Rabbit Run did not disappoint!  It was a lovely run down the hill, with a bit of a breeze blowing through the trees.  I got to the bottom, and headed for Aspen Alley.  Aspen Alley is about a mile long, and it travels through a large pit that is used for brush disposal in the summertime.  Today, piles of brush were buried under a thick blanket of snow, as was the road leading out to the Trail.  It was a peaceful ski through that section.  Soon enough, I was done and back at my car. 

Word is that there is wonderful snow throughout the state right now. If you can, grab a moment and your skis and get out there to play in it.  It’s invigorating, inspiring, and, believe it or not, fleeting.  Already that sun is higher in the sky, notifying me that these trails won’t be ski-able forever.