It has been a frustrating start to the cross-country ski season thanks to el Niño. It was 60 degrees and raining two days before Christmas in Chicago. Even the usually reliable Upper Peninsula of Michigan has been without the flaky white stuff. Finally a the storm that brought rain to Chicago provided the long awaited snow to northwest Wisconsin and led to a Birkie GoPro cross-country ski adventure.
I was searching constantly on Skinny Ski for updates and thought I might be shut out over Christmas, but with the snow in Wisconsin, I decided to head for Hayward, Wisconsin – home of the Birkie Marathon that I was training for.
I stayed in Eau Claire where there was a little bit of snow. The next morning I drove north and stopped at Timberland Hills to ski their trails. The snow that hit was quite heavy and falling on Christmas made it a challenge for places to groom in time. Heavy snow also creates a lot of deadfalls, so skiing places have to clear their trails of debris and then roll over the snow and create tracks. The added task of clearing the trails can add hours.
After skiing in Rice Lake, I then took off for Hayward. When I turned east on 63 north, I was amazed at the scenery. Heavy snow covered the pine trees. There was not a lot of snow like the race two years ago, but it was just as beautiful. The wintry scene inside the woods was even more incredible.
Birkie GoPro adventure
Unfortunately, the skiing was really slow. I parked at the Highway OO trailhead and headed towards Hayward. From kilometer 23 to about kilometer 27 there was a lot of traffic so there was some well laid tracks. At the 28 kilometer mark this all changed. It was all fresh snow here, and there was absolutely no one on the trail.
It was bizarre because the only time I have ever skied the Birkie is during the race. I am used to sharing this cross-country ski interstate with thousands of other racers and seeing clusters of spectators and volunteers handing out donuts, gatorade, and water. On this day the only living thing I shared the trail with was a pileated woodpecker.
I skied up to kilometer 34 and then turned around. It was slow going on this fresh powder snow as it took me about four hours to ski 22 kilometers. Snow was also sticking to my skis, so I had to stop several times to scrape the snow off. I was taking a lot of pictures and fiddling with my GoPro, so that took some time, but I was really laboring breaking through the new snow. Both the trail and myself have some tuning up to do before the race in February.
I was not complaining though as el Niño had turned the rest of the Midwest into a brown ugly rainy wasteland. What the trail lacked in speed was more than made up for in beauty. It was a true winter wonderland. There was heavy snow on every branch and many times the trees along the trail were leaning over with the weight of the snow creating a white tunnel. It was spectacular.
I experimented with my GoPro taking time lapse video, regular video, and time lapse photos. I set the time lapse photos to 60 seconds. In the first video I made a collage of video time lapse and stitched them before and after clips of regular video. In the second video I slowed down a time lapse video that was 16 seconds in duration to over two minutes to create a creeping slow motion video.
It was great to see this amazing trail in a different light. Even though the skiing was tough, it was a great workout, and it really got me psyched for the race. See you in 2016 Birkie.
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