Yesterday, I went spent the late afternoon snowshoeing down one of my favorite trails. I didn't do the entire trail--snowshoes are too slow and it was too late--but I did my favorite part. I missed my cross country skis the entire time, but if I'd had them, I wouldn't have been able to take pictures as easily, so the trade-off was worth it.
The trail loops around a marsh. I don't know how many miles it is, but it takes me about 2-2 1/2 hours to ski the whole thing. I'm the only nutjob who skis the entire trail. I know this because when I get to the (seemingly endless) middle section, it's always virgin snow. I just did the very end of the trail yesterday.
Below is the prettiest part of the trail, the only place where the sun shines over the marsh. I call it the John Denver moment. Seeing this near the end is the payoff for skiing the whole trail.
Below is a long descent along the side of a hill, between the trees. When you are on cross-country skis, this part is kind of a nail-biter. I've been known to grab a tree or two to slow myself down. Much of the trail, actually, is kind of scary--root-covered, narrow, twisty, with a number of steeply downhill, tight turns where, if you miss the turn, you're either going into the marsh or into a tree.
Next is the place in the trail where I usually hit the wall and become tired, hungry and achy. From the beginning of the trail (remember, I started at the end today) it's about 2/3s of the way around, and it's a long slog uphill. By the time I get here, I've usually hit a tree or two, and landed on my butt hard several times. Yesterday, I turned around shortly after this section to head back. It was too late to keep going.
I know I don't make it sound like much fun when I tell you how I ski into trees and fall on my butt, but it is. I learned to cross-country ski on this trail a couple of years ago. I've never skiied on a golf course or groomed cross-country trail, and now I can't imagine why you'd ever want to. How boring. Where's the adventure? Where's the challenge? Where's the observation deck?
Little creeklets in and out of the marsh wind throughout the trail. The Boy Scouts have built solid, well-crafted bridges over them for us. They also maintain the bridges as a part of their program.
Every time I ski this trail from beginning to end I have such a sense of accomplishment. It is hard and long and tiring and frankly, a little risky, but the scenery makes up for all of it. This little hill is near the very end of the trail. When I get to this point, I know I'm almost done. And even though it's a small hill, after skiing for 2 hours, it might as well be Mt. Everest.
Time to go home. The sun is low in the sky and the woods are getting dark and cold.