Steve and I drove to Bird’s Hill Park on Sunday (January 23). We had a good long ski – my longest this winter and Steve’s longest ski in 20 years. It was a good workout, probably the same as cycling 40 or 50k and the best workout I’ve had since November.
I had planned to drive to Portage la Prairie on Saturday and ski with Joyce and Joe on some trails near Rossendale, west of Portage, where they ski on club trails on some hilly, brush covered land. The trails are well-maintained, moderately challenging, and there is good shelter from the wind except under severe conditions. We called it off because there had been a winter storm on Friday, the roads were bad, and there was a high windchill on Saturday. I thought of going to Portage on Sunday but decided to ski closer to home and save some time to check in on n. at the hospital (back in the Psych ward since Friday night after his life imploded again).
The weather did change through the day and overnight on Saturday. There was light cloud when we started at noon, and it got heavier through the day. The temperature was around -14 C when we started. It eventually warmed up to -7 but I think it was still around -10 when we finished skiing around 2:00 PM. There was a strong south wind. The wind had blown snow drifts across the roads in the Park which made driving a little tricky. The wind was not much of a factor on the trails in the woods except in a few places.
The trails had been freshly groomed after new snow had fallen on Friday night, and had been polished by light traffic. I found the trails were quite fast. I was getting a good long glide in my stride. The strong wind was blowing granular powder into drifts across the trail in a few spots, and the trail got sloppy there. There were a couple of places were the trail went across a small clearing in the woods into the wind, and the wind was a powerful force. I also noticed that there were a few stretches of trail which were fairly well sheltered, but ran into the prevailing wind. The glide on these stretches was mediocre to poor, and I would say that the wind had blown a dusting of that granular powder into the tracks.
(Here is a link to a Birds Hill Park map in the Acrobat pdf format at Manitoba Conservation’s web site). We started at the stables and took the Aspen trail to the Chickadee loop. We saw about 6 or 7 deer crossing the trail just where Bluestem branches off of Aspen. We turned north on Chickadee, went up the hill and down the back of the ridge and around Chickadee. Chickadee loops back and crosses the Big Bluestem at the bottom of the hill near the lookout tower. We turned on to Bluestem and went north and west, around the Bluestem into a more remote part of the Park, and then back to the Chickadee parking lot. From that point the Bluestem and the Aspen trails are parallel, but the Aspen is a little further back in the brush, and more sheltered from the wind. We headed back to the stables along the Aspen trail, under the powerlines. It added up to close to 15 k.
We saw lots of snowmobiles along Highway 59, and the little Springhill ski and snowboard hill on the slopes of the floodway seemed to be busy. The parking lot at the stable was pretty full. Many of the cars had ski racks, although some of the traffic was for winter equestrian and snowmobiling on the Park’s dedicated snowmobile trail. We saw lots of people just walking, and few people on snowshoes.
I was able to have a beer with Steve before he went out with his family, get home and cleaned up, visit n. at the hospital, read, watch a little TV and get a good night’s sleep.
It wasn’t a day that was crying out to be enjoyed. It was windy and cloudy, and road conditions around the City and in the Park were not very good. There were reasons to stay indoors, and I think the wind and blowing snow probably would have affected outdoor skating and skiing in many exposed areas. It turned out nicely.