Ireally wish it would snow again. As I'm writing this, we are coming off of a weekend where the annual U.P. 200 sled dog race was cut short due to icy trail conditions.
That warm weather a week or so ago was nice, but once it froze, it not only made the trails for the sled dogs bare or icy, but also wreaked some havoc on my favorite cross country skiing location - the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
I won't lie to you and pretend like I'm some sort of major skiing enthusiast, because I'm not. I can move forward at a steady pace, but I'm in no way contemplating a try at the Noquemanon any time soon.
That's why the heritage trail is an ideal skiing trail for me. It's fairly flat and there's a community on either end, so you're never far from civilization, should a ski-related emergency arise.
I've been skiing at other trails, of course, but it's nice - and by "nice," I mean "amazing" - to have an easy trail I can get to within a five-minute drive of my apartment. Basically after work all I have to do is get changed, throw my stuff in the car and get on the trail. I could technically walk, but it's awkward to haul your skis by foot 15 minutes through town.
The trail is groomed for skiing between Ishpeming and Negaunee. I usually park at the trail head at the old Howard Oil building, which is just off of the back road between the two towns, putting me right in the middle of the trail. I usually head toward Negaunee first, then turn around and go back to Ishpeming before returning to my car.
It takes me a little more than an hour to do the loop, which I'm sure seems like an eternity to the more hard-core skiers that pass me two or three times each time I'm out, but as long as I don't end up falling in front of any of them, I don't care how fast I'm going. I've been known to face-plant at inopportune times.
The great thing about the heritage trail, besides its proximity and flat terrain, is you'll usually find a number of other people out on the trail, provided it isn't snowing horizontal. Even then I've seen people out there.
I think the trail has filled a real need in the west end communities, providing people a smooth place to walk, bike, skate, ski or whatever off the road. We're using it, too, from families to young people to lifelong residents of the area.
Although I've been out skiing for most of the winter, the recent icing over of the snow has made it possible to walk on the trail without sinking up to your knees, so I've taken up walking until the weather decides to cooperate. One thing I miss, however, is being able to go fast enough to cover the length of the trail.
Over its span of a couple miles, the trail takes you past open mine pits in Ishpeming, through a stretch running parallel to the road. It then veers off past the old landfill and through the woods, which gives a quiet, woodsy atmosphere for whatever type of activity you're doing, until you come out of the woods in the Old Towne area of Negaunee.
If you're interested in the history of the area, you get a mini-lesson in iron mining thanks to some interpretive signs, but mostly its a way to unwind, stretch your legs or just breath in the fresh air.
Once the full 48-mile trail is in place from Republic to Chocolay, my ambition might be to ride the whole thing on my bike, but that's a few years down the road. Good thing. It'll give me time to build up to the distance. For now, I'll anxiously await the arrival of more snow and more skiing.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.