Friday, January 30, 2009

Round Meadow ski

Friday I went skiing at a new place to me: Round Meadow. This is west of Kalispell.

Bill didn't sleep well the previous night so he canceled. Sue Ann didn't want to drive across the valley to meet us. So it was just Joyce and I who skied.

A few other cars were at the parking lot. A young couple with three young kids were just starting out when we arrived. The youngest appeared to be around four or five and the other two appeared to be between six and eight. The parents were with the youngest kid teaching her how to ski.

After we passed the family a dog ran up near me. Dogs are allowed on the trail. I wasn't too thrilled at the dog on the ski trail as I was concerned about it getting underfoot. Shortly a woman skied passed us by. The dog followed her and occasionally squatted on the trail to pee. The trail had a couple red shovels near the start for the dog owners to 'pick up after' their dogs. Ya right, like someone is going to carry a shovel when on skis.

The weather was ideal: sunny, upper 20s temperature, and no wind other than occasionally a slight breeze moving the moss on the tops of trees. The snow was excellent. The recent snowfall made for great skiing. There was a track to follow if one wished, else the trail was wide enough to make your own track.

The forest was mainly recent trees. Some areas looked to be five or so years old while other sections ranged from ten to fifteen years and some areas older. A nice variety.

The trail was relatively level but not completely. Most areas had some nice long straight downhills and I worked on my ability to ski down them and stay upright. I did encounter a long downhill that then curved. I kept picking up speed. My snowplow ability is lacking and I purposely crashed to stop before the turn and the next steeper downhill section.

For the most part I was able to ski upright. It was only near the end when I was on the Fox Run and Lookout trails where I had more crashes. And a few times I took off my skis and walked down the hill. Usually those were hills that had a curve at the bottom and I didn't want to risk crashing into a tree. On the steepest and longest hill I even had trouble walking partway down it. A little under half way down I put my skis on to finish skiing down the hill and I promptly crashed as soon as I started as my skis took off before I was ready.

One time I was on one ski to maintain my balance (along with some arm waving and yelling). I am proud to say I recovered and did not crash. Once I tried to walk down a hill sideways on skis but that failed miserably.

The snow was not slick so I was able to ski up most hills. I did have to take my skis off a couple times to walk up a hill as my skis are so long I can't walk up hills in a "v" fashion as the skis cross in the back.

In the next photos, the smudges are from the snow that got on my camera lens after I had crashed earlier.

By the time we were on the Tu Mennie Chief trail the snow began to stick to our skis. As long as I kept moving I was ok. We then got sidetracked onto a spur trail between the road and the trail. This section was totally in the sun and the snow really stuck to our skis. I could no longer glide and with each step I gained snow until I felt I was on stilts until I got some of the snow off the skis.

Joyce had wax and we put that on our skis after scraping the snow off using a tree branch. That made skiing great again.

There is a really long and steep hill on Lookout trail. I already picked up speed on the upper third when the trail turned. At the top of the turn I suddenly saw two skiers slowly climbing up the middle of the trail. Even without the skiers on the trail I would have purposely crashed to stop. No way was I skiing down that hill!

The couple coming up the hill looked to be in their 20s. Each was carrying a child on their bodies. He had a larger kid on his back and she had a baby on her front. Man, that is some dedication to skiing!

They had been on the trails before and purposely came this direction so as to climb the biggest hill and not ski down it.

Here are a few hills I went down:

Photo 1: I skied down this hill without falling.

Photo 2: This is the biggest hill - the one the young couple skied up. I wasn't able to capture and show the hill's height due to the shade. Joyce and I walked down to the next level and from there we skied down the last part into the sunny part.

On the way home we stopped for Joyce to retrieve a realtor's for sale sign. Joyce and her husband have a job placing and caring for the for sale signs for a realty company.

It took a little work to get the sign post out of the frozen ground once I shoveled the snow away from the post.

I am not sure how many miles we skied. Maybe eight miles?

Friday, January 16, 2009

McGee Meadows ski

Today, Friday, Joyce, Sue Ann and I went cross country skiing again in Glacier Park. I had learned of a couple other spots to cross country ski in the park and we decided to try one. Bill decided not to come this time.

In the past Joyce, Sue Ann, and Bill had skied to Rocky Point. Today we weren't sure if we would ski just to Rocky Point or all the way to McGee Meadow. It depended on the snow condition.  It was so quick to reach the turn off to Rocky Point that we decided to ski to McGee Meadow even if the ski conditions were less than ideal. The weather was perfect and it was great being outdoors.

Trail Description for McGee Meadow Loop:

11.5 miles round trip

Begin at the road closure gate just beyond the McDonald Creek Bridge on the Camas Road.

Take the right fork of the road at the closure and ski past the houses until the road turns to a trail.

The trail soon joins the road to Fish Creek Campground and the Inside North Fork Road.

Bear left past the campground. The Inside North Fork Road soon turns to a narrow climbing gravel road.

From this point it is 3 miles to the first meadow. Continue over the crest of the hill to an orange marker identifying the side trail to McGee Meadow.

Ski along the northern edge of the meadow until you see the opening for the car pullout to the west, on the Camas Road.

After a couple of short uphill sections, the route descends to the road closure.

This trip can be done in either direction, but going up the Camas Road is more strenuous.

We got going at 10 am. Joyce had a grandson's basketball game she wanted to attend at 4:15 pm.

It was foggy when Joyce picked me up. It looked to be an inversion day. Sue Ann wasn't too enthused at skiing as she didn't care for the weather. I believe we made the right decision as while it was cloudy all day, it wasn't too foggy in the Park. That night I heard on the news that a number of airline flights had been delayed during the day due to the thick fog in the Valley from the inversion.

After a cold morning it felt warmer in the Park. Probably because the Park was not in the inversion. Most of the time we were plenty warm skiing, especially going uphill. At times I was covered in sweat. I must not be doing the "layering" thing correctly.

Since Sue Ann had mentioned it on our last ski trip I wore the coat she had given me a year or so ago. That made her happy. The coat only unzips part way and I had to pull it over my head to get it on and off. Because my camera is a large size I normally hang it around my neck and tuck it inside my coat. I unsnap a few coat buttons to get the camera out for photos. With Sue Ann's coat I couldn't do that. I was warm enough during our skiing to leave the coat unzipped and I would pull the camera up and out of the coat for photos. Sometimes it was a pain as I had trouble finding the camera strap with my gloved hands. Joyce commented that I looked pregnant with the camera in my coat. Thanks Joyce. Just what I wanted to hear.

At the start, at the road closure on the Camas road, off to the right we saw a short road and a parking lot. Joyce drove there and parked next to a lone pickup. The pickup was for construction workers removing a metal roof from a private cabin along the trail. Next to the cabin was a fork lift to load shingles on roofs. With snow banks all around it appeared the lift was driven in to the work site before the snow fell. One man was operating the lift and the other stood on the lift and worked at removing the metal roof as the roof had a steep pitch. Half the metal was already off the roof. In the quiet morning in the park the sound of the lift running seemed out of place.

The trail ran along a half dozen cabins, or roads to cabins set back in the trees with only a person's last name indicting who's cabin was down the road. The trail went up and down slightly and was a little icy which sometimes made the downhill sections a bit tricky. We all fell at least once. Sue Ann was not happy about falling.

Then we went along Lake McDonald and saw pretty views. Down below, along the lake, Joyce and I saw two deer.

At the Fish Creek campground we went left and on the inside north fork road. Up, up, up on a narrow winding road. The snow was icy and at times I had to put effort into skiing forward. When I stopped for photos I had to take care not to start slipping back downhill.

We skied through the area of the Robert Fire from 2003.

I had printed the map shown above and we would occasionally check it or the description so as not to get lost. We had a side trail to catch and no guarantee it would be marked.

The road was on the south side of mountains - the north side of a valley. The Camas road on the south side of the valley could not be seen but we felt it must be on the higher ridge to the south.

Eventually we stopped to eat lunch. Sue Ann wanted to go until we found a log to sit on but that was not happening. Joyce and I were hungry and we saw no potentials for sitting logs along the road.

I ate a banana and casually tossed the peel over the side. It slid and slid on top of the snow down the mountainside. It was amazing to watch. The same happened with Joyce's orange peel. Note to self: don't slip over the side or lose my ski over the side.

When we started out after our short lunch we were delighted to find the snow was now soft and good for skiing.

We came to McGee Meadow from the east and we curved north around it. We kept on skiing and watched for an orange marker and signs of the side trail to the meadow. We weren't the only other skier who had done this as all along the inside north fork road there were a pair of old tracks.

Eventually I spotted an opening in the trees to the left that could be a trail. I noticed the tracks continued down the road and also went on this 'trail'. From the way the tracks curved from the road to the trail it appeared the other skiers had gone down the road and came back to this trail. At least that is what I had hoped as I am not an expert tracker.

Down the trail we went with me in the lead. The trail was narrow and twisty and we had to constantly change course. The trail went up and down and over a few snow piles. At one point I took my skis off as I didn't trust going down a longish section that curved at the bottom. I had fears of going too fast and crashing into a tree.

As soon as I took off my right ski it slid down the trail. *sigh* When I took off my left ski it went off the side of the trail and down the ski. *argh!* What is wrong with me?! You'd think I'd learn after my right ski took off! I had to walk down the hill to retrieve my ski where it had finally stopped when snagged by a tree. I found without skis that I sank into the snow as I walked. Imagine that?!

Joyce and Sue Ann had skied on by while I retrieved my right ski. Somehow I caught up to them and again was in the lead.

My next challenge (Yes, I am challenged. ) was getting over a large pile of snow and around a fallen tree and navigating a short downhill stretch beyond that. The slippery snow made it difficult to go up onto the snow pile and several times my skis and legs slipped backwards and my body forwards and down. One time I sank my ski poles into the snow up to their handles. Try getting up after that! Joyce and Sue Ann were having problems of their own with falling elsewhere. Eventually with a lot of effort and laughter we got through this area and on our way.

Where the trail came out to the meadow was on a steep downhill part. I decided to take my skis off again. Ya, I know I am a wimp. But a wimp without a broken bone or concussion from crashing into a tree. Joyce told me to watch her how to sidestep down the slope and then promptly fell. Yup. Taking my skis off was the right choice. By the way, Joyce is not going to live that down.

Once we reached the meadow we saw small orange markers attached high on several tree trunks. Help to those looking for the trail from the meadow and not us.

Now the question was, where do we go? Where is the trail? The description had said to "Ski along the northern edge of the meadow until you see the opening for the car pullout to the west, on the Camas Road." But I thought we had come out of the north and the meadow went south/southeast with trees to the west. *shrug*

We continued to follow the ski tracks. They appeared to be confused like us as I saw where they investigated openings in the trees to the west. Eventually I said we should ski along the meadow to the south. Sue Ann was concerned we would have to turn around and ski back the way we came and she did not want to do that.

Where do we go?

After a short while I spied what appeared to be an opening to the south. Yup, at the top of a short hill was the Camas Road and a pullout for parking. I climbed up the hill sideways to avoid taking my skis off. I'm not always a wimp.

The Camas road seemed to be twice as wide as the inside north fork road. In addition to the pair of ski tracks we had been following we saw another pair of ski tracks. And moose tracks where it had sunk deep into the snow. At least these tracks didn't interfere with our skiing like the previous time on the Sun Road. We also saw mountain lion tracks. These did not sink into the snow.

After a long shallow uphill the road went downhill. At first it wasn't too bad but over time I began to pickup speed.

Umm... again, how do I slow down? Snowplow? Nope. Not working for me!

Hang on!!!

The old ski tracks sometimes were good to follow and other times were annoying. After flying up a small bump I decided to sit down/crash to stop as all my other efforts to slow down were not working. I was well ahead of Joyce and Sue Ann.

After my 'stop' I discovered my right ski had come off and before I could grab the ski, it continued slowly down the road staying in an old ski track. *sigh* Hopping along on one ski I tried to catch up with my other ski but I only could go as fast as my other ski - which continued its slow journey down the road.



Sue Ann caught up to me and then went after my ski. My ski stopped just before Sue Ann reached it. I found that my shoe's sole had broke and the front part up to the ball of my foot had come off the shoe and stayed in the ski binding. As I fiddled with the ski I dropped it and it then went sliding down the hill again. *sigh*

After I caught up to my ski again after a few minutes Sue Ann suggested I tie my shoe to the ski. I had no rope or shoelaces but Sue Ann had the idea of using one of my coat's drawstrings. I found they were sewn into the coat. Just my luck to have a quality coat and not a cheap crappy one. Finally I tore out a short string from the bottom of the coat.

I found that my way of tieing my shoe to the ski was not good. The lace went under the ski and that created a drag on the ski throwing me off balance. After I untied my shoe from the ski I got the idea of removing the broken sole from the ski binding and clipping my shoe front into it. This compressed my toes but held my shoe. I skied the remaining few miles this way down the hill. The odd thing when it was all over was that the toes on my left foot were sore from being rubbed and my right foot's toes were ok.

I also found when I started up after my crash that the snow had changed back from soft to icy. Why the upper part had soft snow and the lower part was icy was odd. At least the road was wide so I had plenty of room to go without crashing into a tree. I just had to be careful on the sections with no trees and a drop off into the valley below.

To the left (north) of the road was the valley with the inside north fork road on the other side. I could not see the road we had skied up.

I reached the road closure gate well before Joyce and Sue Ann. They were tired from the effort to ski down and not crash. It was after 3 pm so we had been skiing five hours. Apparently for the distance covered we are not fast skiers.

Here is a view of Lake McDonald from Apgar taken before we left. The cleared area is the boat ramp. I wonder how much action that gets during the winter?!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Trail of the Cedars Avalanche ski

Today I went cross country skiing in Glacier Park with Joyce, Bill, and Sue Ann. We skied along the Sun Road. Sue Ann and I skied all the way to Avalanche.

At the north end of Lake McDonald we decided to go to the bridge over McDonald Creek. Sue Ann was ahead and took the road. Joyce decided we should cut across using a trail. She handled the up-and-downs well but both Bill and I crashed at the bottom of a dip.

After crossing the bridge we continued on and caught the McDonald Creek trail on the west side of the creek. Sue Ann was hesitant about taking the trail as she was concerned it wouldn't be level, but she had no problems. Joyce did well and only took her skis off once. Bill was slower and only took his skis off when Joyce did. Me, on the other hand, had problems on a couple uphill sections. The snow was a touch icy at times and I had no traction going uphill. I discovered my ski's bottoms were smooth and had no scales. Apparently there is wax to: not make the snow stick, wax to help you go faster, and wax to make the skis grab the snow. I needed the 'grab snow' wax. Trying to fish bone or go sideways didn't help as it was much easier to take the skis off and walk up.

Our route is the seen on the map at the 1 and 2 of McDonald Falls and Sacred Dancing Cascades. We crossed back across McDonald Creek via the newly rebuilt horse bridge.

McDonald Creek was low with lots of snow. Sue Ann and I skied ahead and eventually reached Avalanche Creek. Bill and Joyce turned around before reaching Avalanche.  I figured since Bill and Joyce weren't with us we would turn around at the creek but as I took a photo of the creek Sue Ann took off on the Trail of the Cedars. Okay...

Eventually I caught up to Sue Ann at Avalanche Falls where she had stopped to grab a bite to eat and wait for me. The water was way down and it was hard to see the falls from the bridge.

Then it was quickly back to Bill and Joyce. A moose had been out and about. It's legs sunk deep in the snow making deep holes. It didn't walk in a straight line and crossed back and forth over the ski tracks which made it annoying to ski over especially when one of my ski poles would drop into a hole affecting my balance.

We hadn't seen anyone else out on the road until we were almost back to Joyce's car. A woman skiing alone had stopped and only began to ski when we got closer to her. She said she had waited as she saw a deer off the road and was watching it.

Sue Ann - being Sue Ann - launched into her life story. This poor woman could barely get a word in edgewise. I tried to interrupt and asked the woman where she was from, When she said Vermont, Sue Ann then launched into stories about an ex-boyfriend from Vermont and her visits there. I gave up and skied on ahead. I know... leaving this poor woman to Sue Ann was not the nicest thing to do but we were almost back to Joyce's car and I was getting pretty tired by this point.

Joyce had made and brought a huckleberry pie for us to eat after skiing. When we drove to Glacier I was in charge on ensuring the pie did not tip over and its juice spill. Well... the pie did not tip over, but in placing the pie by my side I accidentally rested my elbow on the pie and it dented the top crust and the juice squeezed out. Oopps. The pie still tasted good and afterward Joyce gave me the last two pieces of the pie to eat later so I guess I was forgiven.

We had started skiing a little after 11 am and it wasn't until 4:11 pm that Sue Ann and I returned to Joyce's car where she and Bill were waiting. Well... not quite waiting as they were gone when we arrived. The fan for the heater in Joyce's car didn't work and she drove around a little while in hope of it starting up. It hadn't, but before we got out of the Park the fan started to blow and we finally warmed up and defogged the car windows.

After we dropped Sue Ann off and were driving on the road one of Bill's skis fell off the car onto the right lane of the road. I had Joyce back up and move into a parking lot and then - even though I was very tired and vegging in the back seat - I summoned up some adrenaline and ran - still wearing my ski shoes - and got the ski just before the traffic came. That was close. Bill's ski was alright. He forgot to latch the ski rack after helping Sue Ann take her ski from the rack.

Photo 1: north road above Lake McDonald
Photo 2: McDonald Creek trail. Watch out for those trees!

McDonald Creek flowing into Lake McDonald.

Photo 1: McDonald Creek
Photo 2: Don't slide in when taking photos!

Photo 1: horse bridge
Photo 2: McDonald Creek from the bridge

McDonald Creek seen from the Sun Road.

Avalanche Creek after it goes under the Sun Road.

Ice along the Trail of the Cedars.

Some of us are fashionable and worth a photo. Those of us not (like me) don't rate a photo. Actually Sue Ann told me I should be wearing the jacket she had given me some time back. She says it brings out the blue in my eyes. Okay... okay.