Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snowmobile trails are a winter runners friend...

especially when we have received a foot of snow in the past week and the single-track trails aren't packed down yet.

I live about a mile from the eastern terminus of the Duluth Cross City West Trail and run on it regularly. Today as I contemplated where, and when, to run Mr. Wildknits offered to drop me off at a trailhead (he knows how much I like point to point courses). With a little checking on line I determined that starting at Magney-Snively would result in about a 10 mile run, so we had a destination!

It has been pretty warm lately and the snow is fairly soft so there was a possibility that this run would be more of a slog. Fortunately if it got too bad there were plenty of road crossings that would allow me to bail and take the paved route home.

We arrived at Magney-Snively and it turned out that the snowmobile and cross-country ski trails shared the access route for a short bit. Up the hill I headed and off towards home. The woods surrounding the trail are lovely, and full of small hills. This trail took me into an area of the park I have never been in before and I had a nice time looking around as I ran.
Looking back down one of the hills.

At Skyline Blvd, looking west/back.

Spirit Mountain ski area is off to one side and I would cross an
overflow parking lot just to the left on my way down the hill.

It was as I ran along the trail in the overflow lot (set on top of the plowed up snow) that my left leg broke through and I went down - up past my knee! Thankfully the snow is pretty soft and no real harm was done.

From here it was all down hill, though not before one of the switchbacks brought me within spitting distance of the ski hills' terrain park. Soon I was passing the infamous 131 steps on the Superior Hiking Trail. Can you see them in the following picture?

SHT's 131 steps

Running downhill on a cushion of snow is FUN! The snow was flying off my shoes and I am sure I had a silly grin on my face. Despite my best efforts to warn some dog walkers I think I gave them a bit of a scare as I passed by just before reaching the base of the hill. From here the trail is flat for quite awhile(along an abandoned rail road), before another descent towards the Zoo, and then back onto another abandoned railroad grade.
A long straight stretch of trail. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you can see the
freeway overpass and my ultimate goal at the top of the hill off in the distance.
(Enger Tower is barely visible and I live just this side of it. Seems a long way off, doesn't it?)

The run started around 1100 feet or so and this railroad grade was near lake level - about 625 feet. By the time I finished the run I would have climbed back towards 1200 feet and then descended again to about 900 or so. Yup - hill training; with the added bonus of a soft surface for an extra bit of resistance.
Passing under the freeway

Climbing back up the hill. This railroad trestle is tagged with the neighboring streets name.
The SHT also passes under this trestle just a few hundred feet to the east (right).

Looking back down the trail from the road crossing at Skyline Blvd.
Somewhere near 500 feet of climbing in the past 1/2 - 3/4 miles.

Sign post at the road crossing

Once I arrived at the top of the hill, it was off to the east... and more hills!

I encountered a few snowmobilers while out and they were all very gracious about sharing their trail. Once reaching the trails terminus it was onto the roads (and down the hill) for a little over a mile to reach my neighborhood. The route map can be viewed here.

OKC (Obligatory Knitting Content)

I finished my only Christmas knitting project - a pair of socks - just in time to gift them Christmas morning. That left me free to finish up a baby sweater that has been languishing this past month. And now, I have nothing on my needles (What's that you say? What about those lace curtains?!).

I did download a pattern for some toe-up toe socks. I am thinking about giving them a try as I know a few folks that run in Vibrams and, if the pattern is reasonable, this seems like a good gift idea. Now to get a proper foot tracing....

I also have 5 skeins of a lovely alpaca waiting for the perfect pattern as well as some sock yarn that is insisting it would make a nice shawl if I would only give it a chance.

Link to pictures from todays (12/31) run on some of the same trails as detailed above. It was a bit slicker and wetter than last week. Yesterday it was raining - hard. Today temperatures were in the high teens to low 20's.

The shawl was cast on the other day and is well on its way towards completion.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The hunt for a christmas tree...

Today I headed out to Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center to harvest a balsam for the Wildknits household. Having slept in and skipped my morning run I was ready for a bit of a hike so loaded up the red pack with a Sven Saw, my pruning shears, water, a snack and my camera. My plan was to find a tree that would not only fit in our small house (~800 sq ft) but also inside my car ('07 Honda Fit).

The 18 mile drive out to Boulder from town was beautiful! Trees were still coated with a thick layer of snow. I arrived to find cars parked all up and down the access road and had a bit of a hike in to the staging area.

Christmas Tree Cut Staging Area

The Boulder ELC staff and volunteers had hot chocolate, cookies and chili available in addition to several fires and were very helpful in directing me down a quieter section of trail. I love skiing out here, and spent years skijoring here with my dog Porter and various friends and family.

Pam and Porter - Winter 2006(?) heading back to the warming shack

Today I left the skis at home as there was only about 5 inches of snow and no tracks were set. Besides, my plan was to head off trail and into the woods to find the perfect tree and skis would be a hindrance in the sometimes thick undergrowth and plentiful downed trees.

I walked down the ski trail for awhile, enjoying the scenery and quiet. Eventually I came to an ungroomed trail and used that to access another section of the trail system. From there I headed off into the woods in search of "my" tree.

After ducking under and climbing over a few trees I came into this clearing

and began to look around for a nice little balsam to thin. Many of the smaller trees were bent over from the weight of the snow and I continued to wander around, checking out the various tracks under the trees as I walked. Saw lots of evidence of snowshoe hare, deer and possibly a canid or two.

I wonder who was hanging out under this log?

The frost on this branch is a pretty good clue something has hunkered down in this deadfall lately.

Close by I found the perfect tree! I had given up on the smaller trees and started checking out the taller ones. I was most interested in a nice shaped top and a decent sized trunk (the tree stand won't adjust for the itty bitty trunks of a truly 5 foot tall tree).
The tree was part of a thick stand of balsams all over 10 feet tall. I liked it's shape and that the top wasn't all tall and spindly.

After assembling the Sven Saw I set about clearing the lower branches with my pruning shears and made the first cut. Once the tree was down (dropping a lot of snow on me as it fell) it was time to trim some more low branches and make the final cut on the trunk. I wanted the tree to be around 5 - 5.5' tall as that is a nice height for our house (and would easily fit in my car for the trip home).

"My" tree after final trimming of branches and before final cut on the trunk

Once out of the woods, I headed back to the staging area where I paid for the tree and then walked back to the car.
I needed to reconfigure the seats a bit - the back seats fold flat and the front passenger seat also reclines fully giving me 7 feet of cargo space - to fit the tree inside the car.

Once loaded up it was time to head for home. Found Mr. Wildknits working on some sourdough when I arrived.

Mmmm - fresh baked bread!