Saturday, February 15, 2014

Just Stay in the Grooves!

As I write this post, I am sitting in the Spokane Amtrak station waiting for my train to Seattle that is now delayed by 9 hours. The purpose for this delay is the same as the delay I had getting to Spokane--excessive freight train activity on the shared tracks, primarily originating in Williston, North Dakota. I have a sneaking suspicion I will arrive too late into Seattle to catch the last train of the day to Olympia...hmmmm...maybe they'll put me on a bus? At least I got to sleep in a bed last night instead of on the train. Also, I'll get to go over Stevens Pass in the daylight.

Anyway, after our adventures in snowshoeing, which was totally fun, we decided to continue our adventure by trying cross-country skiing. Mt. Spokane State Park has all the winter snow sport options, snowshoeing, snowmobile trails, downhill, and a nice network of XC ski trails. First we had to find a place to rent the necessary equipment. Mountain Gear fit the bill. Wednesday night we stopped in to get our skis, poles, and shoes. It cost us $15 each for a day's rental. This is pretty cheap considering we didn't have to pay at the park (except for the Sno-Park pass).

Yesterday morning we got up, had our breakfast and headed back to Mt. Spokane. First we parked in what we thought was the parking for the XC section. We got our stuff on, walked over to, what appeared to be a groomed trail with a XC sign. It was uphill. We decided it would be best to walk up to a more level spot to put our skis on (this was after Annette dropped her skis, and one went sliding across the parking lot).

We got up to the level-ish spot, and put on our skis. We promptly determined it was not level enough. Off came the skis, and we walked up more. We walked a ways, and came out to where the lodge well as the real parking lot for the XC trails. Annette gave me her skis and poles, and she walked back to the truck to move it to the lodge parking lot. I walked on over to the lodge and waited for her.

From the lodge, there was a short uphill to the beginning of several trails. Annette walked up. I was determined to get up with the skis on. Amazingly, I made it (Annette was much faster walking). At the top, there was another couple. They were more familiar with the trails, and told us to take the Mtn View trail. They said it went down, but then we would get on the Linder Ridge trail, and that was mostly flat. They said to just stay in the grooves down the hill. Okay, we can do that! Apparently, they also said to get out of the grooves before the bottom. I didn't catch that part. 

So, I get in the grooves. I start picking up speed as I'm going down the hill. I keep telling myself, just stay in the grooves! As I make my way at a pretty good clip down the hill, I notice up ahead that the grooves end. Uh oh! The snow is groomed and has an icy crust on the top. I shoot out of the grooves. Immediately, one ski (and my leg with it) goes one way, and the other ski goes the other way. I'm trying like crazy to bring my legs back together so I can get into some sort of effective snowplow. Nope, not happening! My legs reached a point of no return. I fell backwards. Except for kind of jamming my thumb into the semi-solid snow, my biggest concern was that Annette was going to come shooting out of the grooves right behind me, and my body was creating quite the obstacle to get around. I yelled back to her to warn her. She ended up being able to accomplish that snowplow action, and slow down enough to not run into me. My next concern was, how do I get back up? I finally managed to get my knees under me, get the skis pointed in the right direction, and get to my feet. Okay, clearly, there is more of a learning curve to this XC skiing than I thought!

The Mtn View trail ended. We looked at the trail map and found the Linder Ridge trail. We slowly made our way to the trail. Ah, there's the grooves again! Now, it was just a matter of getting this walk and glide thing down. The grooves certainly made that easier.
That's Annette in the grooves.

We took the Linder Ridge trail to its end. Here's some photos along the way.

 There was a considerable amount of downhill on the Linder Ridge trail. As long as we stayed in the tracks, going down was fun. We did have a brief moment where we thought about how we were going to get back up. I told Annette we would figure it out. When we got to the end of the trail, the grooves ended again. This time the ground was more flat, and I managed to stay on my feet/skis. We looked at another map. There was one "green" trail--Mica Rd. We started to go on it, but it wasn't groomed, and had no tracks. We were mostly just having to walk. Even that was not easy. We turned around and went back to Linder Ridge. Here's a video of some downhill.

It turns out, the going back up was pretty easy. Either that, or we were finally getting the hang of it. We made it back to where we had begun the Linder Ridge trail. Annette wanted to try a "blue" trail. I was skeptical of our ability to manage that. Also, I was hungry. I suggested we take Valley View trail (another "green" one) back to the lodge to eat lunch, then look at doing another trail. The Valley View trail had the grooves, but it looked like a snowmobile had chewed up the snow. It was tricky until we switched to the tracks on the other side. 

This took us back to the Selkirk Lodge. We came out at the top of the hill that we had gone up to start.  I was not the slightest bit confident that I could go down the hill and remain standing. Annette gave it a try and promptly fell. She ended up sitting on the back of her skis and sliding the rest of the way down. I decided, instead of falling first, I would purposely sit down on my skis and slide down the hill. It wasn't as easy as it sounds, but it worked. Here's a video. 

We went into the nice warm lodge and ate our lunch. While we were eating lunch, we looked at a trail map, and saw that Linder Ridge actually came all the way to the lodge. We decided, instead of trying a blue trail, we would take Linder from the lodge to where we had gone before (as far as the park boundary), and turn around. We both wanted to do the downhill part (in the tracks, of course) again.

We went down a whole lot faster this time. The plan was to go to the park boundary and turn around. As I whizzed past the boundary sign, I realized I would be turning around when the trail flattened out. There was zero chance of me stopping until then! 

I got to a flat area and coasted to a stop. Once stopped, I looked behind me to see where Annette was. She was coming, and still at a pretty good clip. Sensing immediate collision, I quickly hopped out of the track just as Annette whizzed by! Whew, that was a close one!

We turned around and headed back. We stayed on the Linder trail back to the lodge and parking lot. It occurred to me that it would have been a whole lot easier to do Linder Ridge from the very beginning, instead of Mtn View. Lesson learned! 

I still have a lot to learn about this XC skiing, but it was fun, and I'd do it again! We did try getting out of the tracks and "skating", like the people who know how to XC were doing. Annette tried more than I did (and fell more too). I found myself returning to the tracks rather quickly.

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