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By: Carrie Muhlrain, Modern Day Adventure Insider
On 2015’s winter solstice, instead of holing up indoors to wait out the cold and dark, my pooch and I went for muddy late-afternoon hike. They day was grey, but the weather was not. We drove north to Newport State Park and parked in lot 3. I strapped Riga into her doggie backpack, and we walked out to the lakeside beach without a plan. We took in the view, but didn’t chance near the water as it was thick and green with algae.
The green did not end at the water’s edge. The Europe Bay trail head was nearby, so we set off down the Europe Bay trail and turned onto Lynd Point trail in hopes of keeping near the lake. The choppy water crashed into the low limestone shelf below us. The trail we chose was already marked in anticipation of the supposedly upcoming season: Hiking and Snowshoeing Trail. The numerous cedar roots intruding the narrow trail made it necessary for me to watch the my feet equally as much as the green-blue waves. I felt I was in another place as we walked. While my internal clock expected to find frost and snow on the ground in December, I encountered fuzzy green moss and soft grass. In contrast, the barren branches made it possible to see further into the forest.
As we rounded the point, a brisk wind picked up, prompting me to tug my hat down over my ears and my scarf over my lake-ward cheek. As the shortest day of the year drew to a close, I quickened my step to make sure to be out of the woods before dark. Without encountering another soul, we made it to a trail junction. We chose Fern Trail. Compared to the curving, root-punctuated path we had just walked, Fern trail was wide, flat and civilized. As we walked, I imagined what it would look like covered with a fluffy coat of fresh snow, and though the walk was nice, I longed for brisker air and longer attachments on my feet.
Walking in the woods is certainly not to be taken for granted. Cabin fever can feel very real, and anyway, I need a way to expend excess holiday sugar. Cross country skiing, while slow and tedious to some, is my ticket through winter. I skied a little as a child, but I wasn’t able to appreciate the sport until I became a runner in college. Running taught me that when my body can find its rhythm, I can carry on at a moderate pace for a fairly long time. It also taught me the joy of breathing fresh air during all the seasons. Like running, classical cross country skiing is a sport that requires rhythm. On a groomed trail over fresh snow on a 15-degree day, it’s easy to find that rhythm and maintain it over five or six miles.
Though skiing is called a “silent sport,” it can be anything but. There’s the rustle of your many layers adjusting to your movements, the scrape and slide of your skis against the snow, and of course the sound of your own breathing as it grows heavier and settles into a cadence. The quiet, when you stop in a deserted wood after thirty consecutive minutes of skiing, is deafening.
When I began skiing regularly, I used a pair of my mom’s old skis with three-pin bindings. I learned, with varying degrees of success, how to wax them to compliment the temperature and snow. Even on the sticky old Norskis, I found my rhythm. I skied so frequently and enthusiastically, that last year for Christmas I received brand new skis, skis that don’t need to be waxed. Unfortunately, snow was scarce last year, and I was only able to ski in Door County one March weekend.
My husband and I skied at Newport State Park, where I had my first experience skiing beside a Great Lake. Skiing at the beach feels exotic, otherworldly. The trees sans leaves and the cloudless sky make the outdoors seem even larger than normal. The sun’s reflection off the snow makes me squint, so even when it is overcast, I have the impression that the grey winter is actually brighter than a summer day. We’re not Birkie skiers, so that day our outing wasn’t too far, perhaps five miles. We skied part of the Europe Bay loop, which is mostly flat and was well-groomed. Though the trail was well-used, we saw few skiers. The trail winds through the woods and, if you ski the whole seven mile loop, takes you along the beach again at Europe Bay. We emerged from the forest at the end of our ski sweaty, warm, and exhilarated.
This winter, I love that I can take my dog walking in the woods: it’s good exercise for her. I appreciate that I don’t even need to wear footwarmers yet. The sight of fresh moss next to melting ice is mystical and lovely. But it seems the seasons are out of rhythm, and I am out of rhythm. If only great snowstorm with about eight inches of white stuff would cover the trails. The groomers could set out on their four-wheelers to groom miles of trails through the woods. I could set out to cover miles on my still-new boards, without wax, and pause to take in the deafening silence. This is why I long for snow.
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