A Happy Change in our Snow Fortune
I’m not going to lie. A few weeks ago I was pretty miserable about our lack of snow. In fact I was really quite grumpy. The ground was muddy and brown with patches of ice. The sky threatened rain and then delivered on its promise. And I looked continually at the forecast in the hopes that it would turn to more seasonable temperatures. It finally did.
In fact, it not only began to feel like winter, it began to look like winter as well. Little by little we began to pick up snow. At first it was just enough to cover up all of that brown and to make everything pretty again. Cosmetic or not, it helped my mood and returned the hope that we would have skiing again soon. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long.
Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been picking up so much snow that my shoveling muscles seem constantly tired – aided by the fact that I’ve been skiing as much as I can in my excitement for new snow. Suddenly the ski season at centers like Dewey Mountain and Mt. Van Hoevenberg were rescued, and the Lake Placid Nordic Festival was saved. With such great conditions everywhere I’ve been alternating between skiing on groomed trails at ski centers and hitting the woods with Wren.
And so on the other day our ski site rotation took us to the Jackrabbit Trail. The Jackrabbit is best with lots of snow to cover up the roots and rocks along the route, and there are many segments of the trail to check out. We usually access it off McKenzie Pond Road in Saranac Lake which is what we did on this day.
Exploring Along the Jackrabbit
The trail had already been kicked in when we arrived – and beneath the fluffy, new snow there was lots of packed powder which offered nice glide to my skis. It also helped since Wren wouldn’t sink in too much – unless she stepped off the trail as she followed her nose. We set off through a world of snow-laden conifers which set cascades of powder to the ground or down my back whenever they were bumped. Here and there Black-capped Chickadees or Red-breasted Nuthatches called – a reminder that spring is coming despite our deep snow. I also stopped throughout our time to listen to the chatter of overhead Pine Siskins – which have been common across the region all winter.
Anyone skiing the Jackrabbit should be aware that the bridge across the outlet stream from McKenzie Pond still has a drop-off on it, thanks to a large ice chunk created by an early winter melt. In fact, the banks of the outlet are lined with such impressive hunks of ice – evidence of how high the water had been. But the bridge is easily navigated with a little care and attention, and we had no difficulties when we reached it.
We made quick progress along the flat portion of the trail which runs through the low cedar-dominated woods on the way to McKenzie Pond. The further along the trail we went I noticed that the snow became softer and softer – the result of people turning around and fewer skis to kick in and pack the snow. At the junction for McKenzie Pond, the new tracks stopped altogether – I could only see the depressions from past tracks hidden beneath a fairly thick layer of new snow.
So we set to work kicking in the trail a bit further – it’s part of the etiquette of ski trails I suppose. Everyone extends the track a little bit more than the last person. So we kicked the snow in on our way to the pond and I stopped there to take a few photos, noting that despite our more seasonable temperatures, the ice on the edge of the pond is still open and mushy. So we did not attempt to cross it.
We returned to the main Jackrabbit and began breaking trail up a portion of the large hill which the trail climbs as it takes skiers toward Lake Placid. The going was fairly slow on the hill but my impeded efforts did allow me to notice the tracks of what was likely an American Marten. I paused to look at them in an attempt to be certain they weren’t the tracks of Mink – often a tough call. With Wren sinking into the snow more and more (and likely to grow weary with her efforts) we turned to enjoy a soft, powdery descent back to the flats.
We once again made short work of them, our speed picking up as we reached the portion of the trail where other skiers had helped pack down the snow. No doubt that the trail is getting better and better each day as more people explore it. And with so much snow on the ground, and seasonably cold weather coming, we should have good skiing on the Jackrabbit – and every other trail in the area – for a while. And that’s a beautiful thing.
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