Friday, January 29, 2010

A ski through the woods

A couple of days ago, I went out for my morning ski. It is wonderful excercise and gets you out in the open; an essential ingredient in fighting off "cabin fever," or the malaise caused by staying indoors. This time I took my camera with me. So we're off. Our objective is to extend the Westbound trail through the woods west of the house. First, however, we warm up.
This is my warmup piste, or track. It goes around my "backyard." Temperature is about -15C. There are 40-something cm of snow on the ground, under the usual for this time of year. The snow is nice at -15C, we get a good glide. I think -10 is ideal, but you takes what you gets. Four laps, and all gear secure, my boots are not coming unlaced, don't need the hand-warmer today. OK, onwards.

A short bit through the woods next to my driveway and we are at the Power Line Right-of-way, or PLRW for short. I spent most of my life in the computer business; acronyms are a way of life. We are facing north at this point, we will go right up the PLRW. I have beaten out a track there. Swish, swish and...
...we are at the northern end of the PLRW, facing west, about 150 meters from the last photo. Off to our left, the Reutov II house, beyond it, the Polushkin house. That's where we're headed, Still power line, but badly hacked by the hateful snow machines, or Satan Sleds as I call them. However, their unskiable tracks were dusted over by our last snowfall. So we head toward maison Polushkin.
About 40 meters behind Polushkin, we arrive at the West Expressway junction. The West Expressway is a semi-cleared track through the woods, going north-south, wide enough for a small car, a snow machine, or me. You can see my snowshoe tracks, going west like Horace Greeley. We will be back here, but for now we turn right, going N to pick up a trail I am hacking through the west woods. This is all track I have broken before, so it is quite fast.
We turn on to my Westbound trail, and as you can see, we are really in the deep dark Boreal woods. Deadfall all over the place. My track is zigzag to say the least; you can't go 20 meters without zigging (or zagging, as the case may be). There is usually a tree, a deadfall or brush in your way.

Eventually we reach the end of the broken trail, and it is time to break some more. I try for a few hundred meters a day. It is a big effort to break trail through snow. Your skis go down deep:
I have a pair of skis that were designed for Telemarking. I love them, not because I Telemark well (no hills for kilometers around!), but because they will float you in deep snow like this. They are really wide. Not bad for a $10 yard sale buy. Those narrow things they sell you as "cross-country skis" at high prices are good only on prepared tracks. Here at Chalupy, the only tracks available are those I make myself.

Eventually I run out of steam. Time to return. It is much easier going back because you are following broken trail. Eventually we arrive back at the Expressway Junction:
We are now facing due south. In the middle of the picture there is a small bright dot. That's the sunlight on the meadows at the end of the Expressway. We are going there, and we have about a Kilometer to go. It is easy skiing; we have a track and the snow machines have left it alone. This luck cannot last, but we enjoy it while we can.This is Moose Meadows, as I call it, at the end of the Expressway. There are often moose there, hence the name but today (because I have the camera) there is nary a moose. My tracks can be seen off to the left. Moose Meadows is a rough ski unless there is a meter or so of snow to fill in the bumps. In summer, it is a swamp.

So off we go to the left (previous photo faces south) and go some 400 meters, and we arrive at the desolate Ghost House:
The former owners of this place were killed in an automobile accident. There are a few vehicles, like the trailer at left, junked around the place; a hole in the ground. And no doubt ghosts. We ski on by. We come to the Ghost House driveway:
This leads right to my own driveway, maybe 400 meters, we're almost done. I like the Ghost house driveay, it's fast unless the moose have torn holes in my tracks.
And we're home. We have been out an hour and a half, but some of that was spent taking pictures. Taking a picture at -15C is not at simple as it sounds. If you let the camera hang around your neck, the batteries give up in the cold. So you have to stuff the camera down your warm clothes, So before you take a picture you unzip any number of zippers (and you have great big mitts and ski poles to deal with, too) and pull the camera out and check the mode and take the picture, and then reverse the process to put the camera away.

Alaska is wonderful. The dreaded winter is not so dread, if only you get out in it for a bit.

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