Memorable Firsts: Carnival & Cross-Country Skis

Traveling North For Carnival

My niece Rebecca has been asking to come to Winter Carnival in Saranac Lake the past couple years, but has always had conflicts with school and other obligations. This year her regular requests finally won my family over and they came north last weekend to enjoy the beginning of Carnival for the first time. They explored the ice palace both during the day and at night (it is a different experience depending on the time of day), and arrived in plenty of time to see the fireworks and the palace lighting ceremony. Their trip was also well-timed for the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid, and we all enjoyed watching squirt ice hockey, short track speed skating, and figure skating.Rebecca and I Carnival

Outdoor Adventures

Despite all the carnival-associated events happening, one of Rebecca’s priorities was to head outside and play in the snow – of course! First on this outdoor list was to go see the Gray Jays in Bloomingdale Bog where she had fed them during this past summer. While the weather conditions were somewhat different than in August, she bundled up and heartily took on the cold as we went out with my mother to look for them. But our late day walk was largely quiet except for a few Black-capped Chickadees and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. So the following morning we headed out again, this time meeting with success almost immediately. Gray Jays and Black-capped Chickadees buzzed to and from Rebecca’s outstretched hands, and my mother happily joined her in feeding them while Wren nosed the snow for any tasty-smelling food that dropped. My father and I stood and snapped photos.

Elated with this success, Rebecca still had one more thing on her list for the trip and that was to learn how to cross-country ski. So after lunch we headed over to Dewey Mountain Recreation Center, checked out their fancy new lodge and rented a pair of skis for her. We elected to take the skis back to the Bloomingdale Bog Trail – this time to the southern end of the trail – since it is flat for learning and the thought of climbing or racing down hills was a bit intimidating to her.Rebecca - Chickadees

The First Time on Cross-Country Skis

After helping Rebecca step into her skis I told her to stick her poles in the snow. “Put my poles down?” she asked a bit incredulous as if I was having fun with her. But I showed her the basics of the stride without poles to help her begin to understand the balance and rhythm of the sport. After a bit we added the poles in and set off. She did quite well – smiling with each fall or success, and plugging along for about two miles before we turned to head back to complete a four mile ski. I initially showed her some basic techniques but then just let her relax and have fun. If she has opportunity to ski some more there will be time to work on form. “This is so cool!” she exclaimed as she learned to trust her balance and glide a bit on one ski at a time.

From time to time I skied ahead to help me keep warm and to stop so that I could take photos of Rebecca approaching me along the trail. Wren moseyed here and there exploring along the trail as she waited for us to keep up. She also watched Rebecca who paused now and then to scoop up some fresh powder to eat. With each opportunity Wren immediately ran to her excitedly and Rebecca obliged by throwing a few handfuls of snow for Wren to catch. Everyone was having fun.Rebecca and Wren - skiing

We saw a few other folks on the trail, one of whom was also out for his first time on cross-country skis. But for the most part we had the trail alone which was great to help Rebecca relax without the pressure of people around. It is a good way for anyone to get comfortable with a new activity. We returned to the car with a sense of accomplishment as the evening shadows were beginning to advance on the landscape. It was time to head back into town and grab dinner and a warm beverage. We played a board game that evening and everyone – particularly Rebecca – was quite tired from the active day in the cold. We all slept well that night.

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About The Author

Alan Belford has spent much of his life outdoors exploring and learning about wildlife – particularly birds. Alan is often out hiking, paddling, running, or cross country skiing – with his Labrador retriever Wren at this side. A certified teacher and former cross country, baseball, and ultimate frisbee coach, he loves teaching others and has taught multiple natural history (specializing in ornithology) courses for both college students and the general public. He is a licensed guide in New York State, he has traveled widely both domestically and internationally, and he is also a published travel writer and photographer – focusing on outdoor and nature writing.

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Sunday, December 9th, 2018
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