I took some personal time on Thurday and Friday to drive to Bird’s Hill Park and ski. The weather had been above freezing balmy earlier in the week, and I wanted to ski on before the tracks got too icy. Thursday was cooler at about -8 C and Friday was about -12 C. Back in the (Swix) green wax range.
I had wanted to get away from the office by 2:30 on Thursday and get to the trail head by 3:45. I was held up by a surprize visit from n. I made it to the trail head by about 4:20 and I took a moment to scrape off the Toko Red I had applied last Sunday and put on some Green. I took the front end of the Bluestem Trail to the lookout on Griffith’s Hill (about 6.5 k), but went down the hill on the Chickadee tail and crossed on to the Esker trail where they touch, and back to the stables. It was dark by 5:45 and I did the last kilometer in twilight. I could see pretty well but the track was obscure. That didn’t matter much except in a couple of places where the set track had been filled by blowing snow, and the traffic had not cut a clear new track. I think I did about 10 k.
On Friday I was successful in getting earlier and I made it to the trail head by 3:15. I was able to go all the way around Bluestem by about 5:00 while it was still light. The front half has a lot of places where evergreen twigs and needles or fallen leaves slow the track. The back half is faster, although there is an area where dust or dirt or old pollen seems to have blown into the track.
I had a little surprise on Friday. Near the 2 k point, just after the Bluestem branches off of the joint Aspen trail, I found a deer carcass that hadn’t been there the day before. The deer wasn’t that big – perhaps this year’s fawn, or only a year old. The viscera had been eaten, and the hindquarters. It was right on the trail and I couldn’t make out the predators’ tracks in the packed snow. My guess was coyotes or perhaps dogs running wild. I called the park office on my cell phone when I got to the shelter at the lookout so they had a chance to move it before the weekend skiers arrived this morning. The woman on the phone said the Conservation officers had reports of a lot of coyote activity in the park. It may get interesting in the camp ground in the spring – watch your lapdogs and your toddlers. I have to say that I looked over my shoulder a couple times after passing that. I knew that it was probably just coyotes, and that they were well fed but it’s still a primal encounter.
The skiing was good. There hasn’t been any new snow in a few weeks and the warm weather followed by cold nights has altered the snow but it’s still more powder than ice. It was very fast, for the most part, and still a quiet hissing sound rather than the clatter and scrape of icy tracks. There are some places where the tracks have been scraped out by sideslipping, and the tracks on down side of Griffith’s Hill are just gone – everyone snowplows down (and quite a few people take their kids there for the fun of repeated downhills).
There may be another 6 weeks of good skiing, but it is possible that a couple weeks of warm weather will turn it to slush very fast. However the road in the park is largely bare now and when it warms up, cycling season will arrive too.