A Regular Trip in Winter
With snow falling almost every day, it was only a matter of time before Wren and I set out to explore the cross country ski trails off Fish Hatchery Road in Lake Clear. It is a fun network of trails and there always seems to be more snow there than there is in town. The trails are also great because they can be skied as a challenging backcountry experience, or skiers can stick to flatter loops which can include cutting across the lakes which dot the landscape.
It is far too early to test the ice on the lakes as it has only just formed, and I was given evidence of this when we stopped in at Lake Clear Beach on our way to the trailhead. I’ve been stopping at the beach all fall to look for ducks and other aquatic species on migration and so I took advantage of being in the neighborhood to do so again. The ice edge was growing out from shore, but the majority of the lake was still open for potential migrants. But while we had seen several Common Goldeneye and Hooded Mergansers at the beach only a few days earlier, the waters lapped quietly with no ducks in sight. We moved on to the trailhead.
Skiing in the Dark
Since our sunsets are so early this time of year, Wren and I are always racing daylight to fit in our daily adventures and I often bring along a headlamp in case we get caught in the dark. We set out as the evening cast a pinkish gray light across the snow, but I could see well to read the snow beneath my skis and to follow the well-kicked-in tracks set by others. We started by looping Little Green Pond – a tight trail that weaves through the trees and up and down a few hills on its way to link with the Fish Pond Trail.
The waxing gibbous of the moon was already in the clear sky and as dusk gave way to dark it seemed to shine brighter and brighter upon the white snow. Skiing by the soft light of the moon gives one an almost transcendent feeling of being in a different world. In some ways that is true whenever you adventure into the cold and snow – the world of clocks, cars, and deadlines doesn’t exist in that moment – only the immediacy of your breath, the cold, the snow, and perhaps your hunger - and you need to be prepared for all of them. As darkness began to fall, I clicked on my headlamp for extra help as we skied a while on the Fish Pond Trail before turning around to ski back to the car along the railroad bed.
A Return Trip
While skiing in the dark with a light can be fun, the following day Wren and I planned on starting sooner – I generally ski much faster when I can see the ground more clearly. But through the busyness of delays, we weren’t as far ahead of the previous day as I had hoped. I stopped in at Lake Clear Beach anyway to admire the significant growth of the ice which had occurred in just one day – only the outlet area appeared to remain open.
As we went to the trail, I realized that not only was I later than I had planned, but that I had also neglected to bring my headlamp. I was a bit frustrated by the oversight, but I wasn’t going to chance the dark without it. There are too many risks for injury or simply scratching skis on exposed roots or thin spots early in the season, so I decided to make sure we were back by dark. At least we set off knowing we had at least given ourselves a little more daylight than we had the day before.
We started by checking out the ice which had almost completely covered Little Clear Pond before we again looped Little Green Pond. We also skied a stretch of the Fish Pond Trail, but I turned early enough so that we wouldn’t be caught in the dark beneath the cloudy skies. Like the expanse of ice on the lakes, the gibbous moon was larger than it had been the previous night, and it could be seen through the cloudy veil as if it was trying to burn through the gray layer to offer us some help. With its aid we arrived back at the car in good time and set off for home.