Cross Country Skiing 2011

This page is about a cross country ski trip that Norma and I did with Carmen and Clark over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in 2011.

Above is a photo of of Norma racing downhill with Clark in the background at New Germany State Park on January 15, 2011.

 Saturday, January 15, 2011

IntroductionOpen accordion icon
Ever since I was introduced to cross country skiing by Norma, almost three years ago, winter has never been the same. I still don't like it as much as the spring or summer but it has its own special charm.

While the Baltimore area doesn't typically get enough snow to do anything fun, there are plenty of places not too far away that are ideal for exploring with cross country skis. We decided to do just that with some friends on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in 2011.

Arriving at New Germany State ParkOpen accordion icon
Norma and I drove to New Germany State Park. There, we ran into Mikhail and his friend Dimitri. I met the former (aka Moonshine) on August 30, 2008. They already had their skis while we were still waiting for our friends to arrive. So unfortunately, we did not see Mikhail and Dimitri again. But before departing, Norma recommended they ski at Herrington Manor State Park. I later found out they did so and enjoyed it very much.

A few minutes later, we found Clark and Carmen. Carmen didn't have her own skis so she rented them at the park. She got a pair of Karhu skis. It was her first time cross country skiing. Clark had his own skis...a vintage pair from the 1980s.
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Green TrailOpen accordion icon
We started out skiing on the Green Trail, which runs parallel to Poplar Lick Run. This is a good warm-up since it is so flat. Here, we got to work on our kick-and-glide technique.
Norma and Clark skiing

Next, we headed uphill onto some of the more difficult trails. This was a little tough for Clark who has waxable skis without scales.
Clark climbing a hill in his skis

I think the scales might make the rest of us a bit slower on the flat and downhill but they definitely help us grip the snow when moving uphill, even at a slight incline.
Norma, Carmen, and Clark skiing on a gradual incline

The last time I was at the park was on February 16, 2008. Prior to that, I had never done any kind of skiing whatsoever...not downhill, cross country, or water. Back then, there was barely enough snow and what snow there was, was a little slushy. So Norma and I found the uphill parts very strenuous and the downhill parts very fast and hard to control. But today was much easier. There was much more snow and it was colder so the snow was more powdery and thus easier to work with.
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Norma skiing downhill with Clark behind
Norma downhill.
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Me going fast downhill
Speedy me.
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Norma skiing downhill through the woods
Through the woods.

By no means am I a good skier. Everything I know about skiing, I learned from Norma or watching South Park. But today I felt pretty good. I could slow down and do some wide turns...something I couldn't do before. I only fell twice...both times I wasn't even moving. I was just standing there and lost my balance. Clumsy me.

Somehow (I'm not sure how), I managed to bend one of my $18.83 Scott Triton Ski poles. The bend was very minor...not even noticeable when I was skiing.
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Recreation HallOpen accordion icon
After a few hours on the trail, we headed back to the Recreation Hall, where Carmen rented her skis. On one of the buildings hung a huge icicle.
Big icicle hanging off the side of a building

Inside, some old tools were on display, including a "bung hole reamer" whose name I found humorous in a juvenile sort of way.
Cooper's bung hole reamer used for making holes in barrels

In the Recreation Hall, we warmed up and ate snacks. I caught a quick power nap. Then it was back out for more skiing.
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Pink TrailOpen accordion icon
This time we did the Pink trail which starts out along New Germany Lake.
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Me skiing on a gradual straight downhill
Gradual downhill.
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Me taking a break
Taking a break.
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Carmen making her way uphill on skis
Carmen heading uphill.
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Carmen and Clark before the big downhill
Before the downhill.
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Clark with snow on his jacket and pants
After the fall.

Near the end of the Pink Trail was a big downhill area where there were some boys cranking up Godsmack and sledding. I remember this slope well because I tried it several times in 2008 and never once made it without falling. But today I did just fine. I was feeling confident.

Carmen was working on a rather unique method of stopping that seemed a little painful.

We finished the day after putting in a little over seven miles!

Then we went to the house of Norma's mother (Hazel) in Deer Park, Maryland. Here we ate our fill, played three games of Blokus, then went to bed.
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 Sunday, January 16, 2011

Youghiogheny River TrailOpen accordion icon
After sleeping in, then eating a hearty breakfast, the four of us headed out. Our first stop was a ski shop where Carmen rented Alpina skis. Then we all piled into my car and drove north to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.

That morning, Norma checked on-line to verify the status of the cross country ski trail along the Sproul Trail. But when we arrived, we were told the trail was closed. So instead, we went into town and parked at the train station and visitor center. We didn't actually start skiing until 1320.

From here, we skied parallel to the Youghiogheny River on the Youghiogheny River Trail, heading upstream.
Through the trees view of the Yough

This ultra-flat rail trail is excellent for refining one's technique since it allows one to kick-and-glide under ideal situations with great repetition. It is scenic but also somewhat monotonous.
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Rear view of Clark, Carmen, and I skiing
Clark, Carmen, and I.
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Carmen skiing

I found a small bird nest on the ground.

A few trains passed by on the opposite side of the river.

Norma set her camera on timer mode and after a few attempts, we got a group shot.
Norma, Carmen, Clark, and me on the rail trail with the river in the background

We only saw about six other people on the trail. While we were close to civilization, at times I felt like I had gotten away from it all.

We passed some scenic frozen waterfalls, including one that Clark said resembled the teeth-like structures of a baleen whale.
Carmen, Clark, and I in front of frozen waterfall

After a little over four miles, we started heading back.
Rear view of us skiing

Clark picked up some serious speed. See how I try to keep up with him below.
Clark skiing hard with me behind

As the sun started to get low, we came in for the finish.
Me skiing near the road

Clark and I spoke about how with such white snow and homogeneous terrain, it would be easy to ski in the dark as long as there was just a little bit of moonlight. Can you see the moon in the below pic?
Clark and I standing with a rising moon behind us

We were getting low on energy. Maybe we'll do some night skiing on a rail trail next time.

Crossing over the Youghiogheny River Trail/Beech Trail bridge, I saw that a significant portion of the river was frozen in some areas. A slow moving fish made its way downstream.

Our day of skiing ended after 8.35 miles! Yesterday and today were very good for Norma and I in that we now had a baseline as to how much skiing we could comfortably do in a day. We had talked about eventually skiing from hut to hut. I am thinking we could do 10-12 miles a day on moderate terrain if we start early.

It was a good day of skiing, though I think it would have been more interesting if we were actually going to a particular destination with a car shuttle rather than doing a yo-yo route.
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DaisyOpen accordion icon
Before driving back, we stopped in at the corner market and restaurant for a light meal. There, we ran into the most adorable puppy.
Carmen holding a puppy with Clark behind

We also met the most enthusiastic owner who told us far more than we could ever remember about trails in the area. Apparently, there are many more good places to cross country ski than are shown on the map. The dog's name was Daisy, which was coincidentally, the name on two of the drinking glasses that we used at Hazel's house. I forget the name of the owner.

Back at Hazel's house, we played Trans-America. Clark won the first game and I won the second.

Despite having eaten a cheesesteak sandwich at the restaurant, I was still hungry and managed to wolf down quite a lot at the house. I guess cross country skiing really does burn a significant number of calories...or at least it builds up one's appetite.
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 Monday, January 17, 2011, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Herrington Manor State ParkOpen accordion icon
On our final day, we got an early start, heading out to Herrington Manor State Park.

We parked on the east side of Herrington Lake then skied southwest on the Blue Trail. For the most part, the trails were easier than those we did on Saturday and more difficult than the flat rail trail we did yesterday. There were two fairly big hills that were lots of fun but not too terribly difficult.
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Carmen making her way down a gentle downhill with Clark following behind
Carmen and Clark.
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Clark going fast and me standing still; we swapped poles
Clark and I.
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Clark and I racing
Race mode!

I noticed that my ski poles would sometimes stick in the snow and pull me back as I tried to pull them out. So I tried Clark's poles which look more like the stereotypical cartoon ski poles with the big circle near the base. But this big circle did its job in keeping the pole from sinking too deep into the snow. Maybe my next poles will have this feature.
Me holding Clark's ski poles

About midway through, we encountered a man walking his Siberian Husky. The dog was a little hesitant to meet us but eventually it warmed up, taking particular interest in Carmen. The dog's name was Zowie, which is the name of one of Carmen's cats (although she spells it "Zoe"). We asked the owner if his dog has any playmates and he says that there is a dog at the local nunnery by the name of Woody. Interestingly, that is the name of Carmen's other cat. What is the probability of that? My guess is somewhere between zero and one.

We finished the day having skied just over five miles.
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Heading homeOpen accordion icon
In the car, we sang Kenny Roger's "The Gambler" until I was sick of it. I later learned from Carmen that Don Schiltz actually wrote the song.

Having once again worked up an appetite, we drove to Denny's for lunch. I had a delicious bacon cheeseburger (man food).

Back at Hazel's house, we packed up. Clark and Carmen headed home.

Norma and I took Hazel to Joyce's house (Joyce is Norma's sister). Hazel agreed to help Joyce watch a foster baby.
Joyce, Hazel, and the foster baby

I played with Oblina, their cat, who found the strings hanging off my field jacket most entertaining.
White cat with a patch of beige on its head

Norma and I made it home without a hitch just as the roads started to get nasty from all the sleet and freezing rain. While folks in western Maryland get all the nice, fluffy snow, we here in the Baltimore/D.C. area get all the bad stuff...although if February 2011 is anything like it was in 2010, then my skis and snowshoes will get plenty of use right in my own neighborhood.
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ConclusionOpen accordion icon
It was a great weekend spent doing three things I really love: cross country skiing, playing games, and spending time with friends. We managed to get in over 20 miles in our three days of skiing. Because of weekends like this, winter has become much more enjoyable.

I also learned how to spell "Youghiogheny."