In addition to setting up a booth and helping the attendants, I actually participated in the 3 mile race and took 1st in my age group, 2nd overall.
The snow was certainly less than ideal given this crazy Winter season. Above the icy subfloor, there was only about 1-2 inches of hard packed snows. Given the conditions and the flexibility of the race organizers, snowshoes were optional. So, I ran with my trail running shoes with Ice Spikes mounted generously on the sole. This seemed to be the winning combination for the conditions.
The local paper, the Post Crescent even did an article on the race with some quotations from yours truly.
The Mosquito Hill Nature Center is a great facility. I only wish I had more time to explore it. After finishing the race and wolfing down some lunch, I taught a Snowshoeing Basics to a dozen first timers.
Here is a photo at the awards ceremony.
There's a little known gem of a trail in Kohler, WI that's part of the River Wildlife system. It's such a secluded spot that I hesitate even bringing new snowshoers on the trail so that I can keep it all to myself. Yesterday, one of my friends and customers got to experience it firsthand. The weather was perfect and the sun cooperated for some beautiful shots (my photography doesn't do it justice).
The trail is very challenging and requires an adventurous spirit. Along the way, we saw at least 10 flying turkeys, several birds of prey (couldn't tell what), and evidence of deer everywhere.
The Dion 166s with the deep cleats that both I and my friend wore were the perfect choice for the traction needs on the trail. Poles are a must!
Can't wait to go back!
It's been some 250+ days without snowfall here in Kohler, WI, so this last snowstorm was very welcomed! Unfortunately, Kohler only got about 4". Fortunately, 20 minutes West in the Northern Kettles, they got 12-15"!
I hadn't been snowshoeing for so long, I almost forgot what made it so great. We'll after snowshoeing both Saturday and Sunday on the Ice Age Trail from Glenbuelah's trailhead, consider the memory refreshed. There is just nothing like fresh snow, a clear sky, and trees covered in snow.
If you haven't had the chance to hike the Ice Age Trail in the Northern Kettles, I suggest starting in Glenbuelah and heading South. It's one of the best sections.
I also forgot how tough breaking trail can be. Luckily, my Northern Lites Backcountry snowshoes were up to the task. There is quite a bit of elevation change on this section of trail, so the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles also came in really handy. The sign of good gear is gear that you forget you are even wearing. That's certainly the case with the Northern Lites snowshoes. They never slip, come loose, clank around or trip me. They are also perfectly quiet.
There really is nothing quite like the day after a major snowfall, especially when the air is a crisp 17F. The sweat was rolling off the head and freezing before it could get far.
I'm beat for now, but can't wait to get back out there over the Holiday break.
I have found a new passion, backpacking the Ice Age Trail. This weekend, I went on my second ever backpacking adventure and chose to head out on the Ice Age Trail again, this time from Route 23 in Greenbush down to the Parnell shelter #4. As with the first time, I went with Tim R, an awesome companion and someone that can really push me to go faster and longer.
Time is always precious when you have a young family looking for Daddy time, so I had to keep this trip short. Tim and I hiked down in the afternoon Friday, about 8.5 miles. Everything was great until the last 2 miles (South of 67) when we hit a mosquito infestation. They were awful, so bad that we didn't even want to stop to put on spray. Luckily they died out as we got close to the shelter. A little Deep Woods Off and all was good.
Got the Hammock set up and made a quick dinner. The fire was awesome with some dry Ash wood providing a sweet aroma. Unfortunately it started to rain and then didn't let up for another 12hrs. Made for some good sleeping, but the thunder and lightning was a bit much. Luckily, my hammock kept me completely dry. Go Hennessy Hammocks!
Hiked home about 9 miles in the light rain, but it felt good since I normally sweat so much anyways. With the 30lbs on my back, the Black Diamond Ultra Distance trekking poles were mandatory and worked flawlessly. The celebratory pig out at Fudgienuckles was well worth it.
Got home and found that I had a deer tick on my neck. It had been there a while. Great. Went to the urgent care the next day just to play it safe. They gave me an antibiotic for Lyme disease.
After the 100 mosquito bites, rain, and tick; my wife asked why I do it. Hard to answer her verbally, but easy to answer in my head.
There may not be snow on the ground, but that isn't keeping us from enjoying the outdoors. My older daughter and I went to Parnell Tower yesterday. I am so proud that she endured all the stairs up to the tower and then even braved going all the way up the tower itself.
What a spectacular view at the top!
Her legs must have been spent afterwards though because we only got 1/4 mile down the trail afterwards before turning around. Still, not a bad first effort for a 4yr old.
It's hard to believe as I type this on a 70F day, that it was snowing two weeks ago and I was snowshoeing in Greenbush in a foot of snow! I think the season is officially over, but I've seen crazier things happen.
The snow was beautiful in the Kettle Morain forest. I got to try out my new Sony NEX-5 camera and was very impressed by it. The panaramic mode did the scenery justice.
I took a fully loaded backpack with my Hennessey Hammock to backpacking shelter 5 to try everything out. The trail was pretty packed down despite the foot of snow that fell recently. The Dion 166 snowshoes were the perfect choice for the conditions. I had no idea how a 30lb pack can slow you down though. It was like snowshoeing twice as far!
I quick set up my hammock, made a beef stew dehydrated meal, took a short nap, and then headed back out. It was like a micro backpacking trip.
This trip better last. I imagine I'll be looking forward to snow in a few months when I'm dripping in sweat trying to stay cool.
To get past the depression of having no snow, I've mentally moved on with the seasons and begun thinking about Spring and upcoming backpacking. Typical me, I've done a ton of research on the best equipment. Some of it is a bit more radical than others.
That brings me to the Hennessy Hammock. I was all set to buy a lightweight backpacking tent, but then had a friend tell me all about these hammock shelters. They are supposedly comfortable, light, and easy to setup. After reading hundreds of reviews and researching the best model for my application, I settled on the Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip. I couldn't wait to try it out, so I did a mock trip at Kohler's River Wildlife this weekend to see how my gear would work.
This has to be the coolest "tent" I've ever seen. It went up easily, thanks to an Internet tip to use carabiners and rings. Total setup was 10 minutes including learning curve. I'm sure with some practice, I can get this down to less than 5 minutes.
It looks a bit like a spaceship from this angle. Reminds me of Flight of the Navigator:
Getting inside was easy. The zipper model is a bit more cumbersome than the Velcro model, but most reviews on the Internet still suggest it's a better overall system. Once inside and adjusting the radiant pad, I found laying on the diagonal to be very comfortable. I was able to lay flat, and a pillow is unnecessary. I even could side sleep without issue. I only spent 15 minutes inside to see what it was like, but I am optimistic for my first overnighter. Total system with fly, ropes, stakes, hammock, carabiners, rings, straps, etc... weighs 2.65 pounds!
I can see how the hammock could feel cold, so I'll wait for the weather to warm up a bit before I brave an overnight too far from home.
I loved my Black Diamond Axiom 40 pack and Jetboil Sol stove. Reviews on those to come later.
There still is no snow to speak of in Sheboygan County, WI. The only way to get my snowshoeing fix is to drive 2+ hours to Iola, WI for the Great Lakes Endurance Series Iola Twilight Snowshoe Race held at the Iola Winter Sports Club.
Before I spend any time talking about the excellent race, I just had to mention what has to be the coolest statue that I've ever seen that was being installed as I arrived.
It's a 10+ foot viking ski jumper! Awesome!
Anyways, the Iola Winter Sports Club is home to great cross country skiing, ski jumping, hiking, snowshoeing, even a WORS mountain bike race. As you can imagine from that listing, this place is blessed with hills. My screaming quads the day after attest to that fact, but more about that later.
The Ski Jump
I was watching warm weather conditions the week leading up the race and was doubtful that the race would be held. Even the drive up wasn't promising. Wouldn't you know it, the groomed ski trails still had just enough snow. In fact, the snow was perfect for snowshoe racing: hard packed, shallow, and crusty.
Great Lakes Endurance Series doesn't get quite the participation as a larger USSSA race, however, there were about 60 participants at this 5 & 10K. The race started at 6:15pm, so it was plenty dark. With a near full moon and decent lighting on the entire trail, headlamps weren't necessary. The evening added a really cool dimension to the whole race.
The 5K & 10K race shared the same course, with the 10K folks taking another punishing lap. Because the 10K participants tend to be the stronger runners, and the fact we all started together without knowing what race anyone was running, I had no idea that I was running a strong race. At the 1K mark and after climbing countless hills, I found that I was still near the front of the pack (that's very unusual for me). Part of that had to be the awesome Dion 121 snowshoes with the standard sized cleats that I was running. The best snowshoe for this race would have been no snowshoe at all and the Dion 121 is as close to that as you can get. The traction was necessary to get up the steep hills, so the cleats were much appreciated. I was passing going up the hills, but was getting passed going down hills. Looks like I need to work on taking advantage of gravity a bit more.
After 3K, I was in a group of 4 runners that was trading spots regularly. 2 men broke away, but took a wrong turn. I yelled to them to turn around, but was happy to get a 100 meter lead from their mistake. At 4K, I was still in the lead, but could hear 2 runners on my heals. 1 was a guy who took the wrong turn, another was a girl that was closely following me the whole race. Apparently, I was the only non-runner in the threesome though. Both of them turned it on for the long .5K straight to the finish and left me in the dust.
I ended up finishing about 15 seconds behind them both. I had no idea though that the guy was the men's 5K winner. Ugh, you mean I could have won the men's race?! He won a nice Mountain Hardware jacket and was offered a sponsorship deal by the Redfeather snowshoe guy at the finish line. No way!
Given the endless hills, my lack of training, and being one of the few non-runners out there, I'm happy with my 2nd place finish and a 32min44sec finish (I'll wait for results to confirm). This encouraged me to actually try harder for the next race. I want some swag!
Thanks to Jeff and Ryan for a great race. Looking forward to Keyes Peak.
Updated: Results now posted.
"Dawn is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise. It is recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, while the sun itself is still below the horizon."-wikipedia.org. Being somewhat of a night owl, I don't get to see dawn on the weekends all that often. Well, this time, my friend Tim convinced me that I should try snowshoeing to see dawn on the Ice Age Trail.
That meant getting up at 4:45 when NOAA.gov said it was -1F outside, eating a quick breakfast of leftover Chinese food, and then driving to Parnell Tower to start our journey. We arrived before 6am and it was still pitch dark. Thankfully, both Tim and I had Black Diamond headlamps to lead us into the dark forest.
We decided we were going to start at Parnell and hike South to Butler Lake to see the setup for the Fat Otter Frozen Classic, an insane 50k and 100k race on the Ice Age Trail that starts at Butler Lake (the Fat Otter contestants can thank us later for packing down the virgin snow for them). Round trip was to be 10 miles, the longest I've ever snowshoed. Mind you, Tim doesn't lolly-gag around. We never backed off from his brisk pace of 15-17 minute miles despite the terrain and the foot deep snow in spots.
I chose the Northern Lites Backcountry snowshoe as my weapon of choice. I knew the snow would be deep in spots and I wanted a lightweight comfortable shoe for the long haul. I made the right choice. Half way through, Tim asked me if I had to chose one snowshoe, what would it be. After today, I'm firm in my answer: the Northern Lites Backcountry. Sure it's a bit big for some conditions for me, but it's lighter than most smaller snowshoes. I love the additional traction I get in my Dion 166's, but that kind of traction is only necessary for certain snow and steep hills.
I also brought my trusty Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles. Trust me, if you are going 10 miles hiking or snowshoeing, get a light pole like these. My arms hurt after the hike, but I can't imagine what it could have been like with heavier poles.
I felt good till about mile 7 when Tim picked up the pace and it wasn't getting any warmer. My Smartwool was completely soaked and the only thing keeping my fingers from going numb was the aerobic activity. Stops for water, like the one below, were brief to keep from freezing. (Tim thinks he got frostbite in one of his thumbs today. Hope it heals quickly.) My water bottles were freezing faster than I could drink the water and my phone died from the cold right after taking this picture.
The phone wasn't the only thing that died after mile 7. Tim noticeably picked up the pace to keep warm and I was getting a blister that prevented me from keeping up. My spirits went South until I got to the top of the Parnell Tower hill and saw all downhill to the car.
3.5 hours to go 10+ miles in the snow on snowshoes with stops for pictures and water isn't too shabby. Will I do an early morning hike again? Absolutely. Seeing the sun rise over the hills on a perfect, crisp morning was totally worth the ache and exhaustion I feel now. Thanks Tim for helping me see another side to the Ice Age Trail.
Posted in Snowshoe Gear Blog on January 12, 2012 by Administrator
It certainly took long enough, but the Southeast Wisconsin finally got its first significant snowfall. After blowing the drive with my 1971 Ariens snowblower (another passion of mine), I had to take to the trails. I'd estimate 3-4 inches of loose powder. More was falling, which is good because what we have so far wasn't much of a base.
I took my Dion 166 snowshoes out on my neighborhood River Wildlife trail for a quick 3 mile jaunt. I quickly remembered why I like these snowshoes. They are perfect for the aggressive trail requiring a maneuverable show with lots of traction. I love the quick fit "Velcro" bindings.
As an experiment, I wore a long sleeved cotton shirt just to remember how bad cotton is for snowshoeing. It didn't take long for it to get cold, wet, and clammy. I don't need to repeat that experiment again. Back to the Smartwool.
I brought along my Black Diamond Storm headlamp, but didn't need it with the falling snow catching the light pollution in Sheboygan County.
Off to the Ice Age Trail in Glenbulah after work tomorrow for more snowshoeing!