Tuesday, December 26, 2006

King of the Ridge

I have returned from Christmas! It so happened that I went up to Mom and Dad’s earlier than expected due to the threat of some freezing rain and snow on Thursday. Because of that, I never got a chance to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! So I hope your holiday season was fantastic!

We had a wonderful Christmas. The weather was nice so we could spend a lot of time outside hiking and exploring. We ate extremely well (seafood chowder, prime rib, home smoked BBQ ribs, venison stew), Mom and I made our traditional lefse, I received many nice gifts (too many, in fact, including some awesome NASCAR flannel sheets, a Kasey Kahne polar fleece blanket, a T-shirt of Milton from "Office Space," and some wonderful running gear and food items), and as always, it was fun to spend time with the family.

Over the last several days, I got to do lots of trail running through the network of dirt roads, ski, snowmobile, and hiking trails near Mom and Dad’s. According to my altimeter, I logged more than 2200 feet of accumulated elevation over the course of four different runs, so I got in some great hill work (at least, for me!). As per usual, I was treated to some beautiful sights and wildlife, including the somewhat rare black-backed woodpecker. It was so much fun.

My most exciting run came on Christmas Eve Day. I challenged myself to run to the top of the ridge where there is a snowmobile trail and a shelter that overlooks Lake Superior. As there is almost no snow (notice I said “almost”...more on that later!), there would be no danger of getting run over by any snowmobiles. Therefore, I decided to take Robert Herrick’s advice and “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” :) I took a camera with me to record my journey.

I had remembered this route from several years ago when my brother and I were hiking, and I had been wanting to do this as a run for some time. The entire run would be approximately five miles, with the first half being almost entirely uphill.

Trekking up the dirt road at the start, I found the little unmarked trail that my brother and I had taken, which would lead me to the snowmobile trail on top of the ridge. The first thing I noticed was that the trail was steep, even more so than I remembered. Second, whereas there was virtually no snow at Mom and Dad’s house, there was actually more and more snow at the higher elevations. Some areas were as much as 4 inches deep. So not only was the uphill climb difficult, but that difficulty was compounded by the snow. I felt like I was running in sand!

Snowy trails

Slowly, I made my way up the ridge. It was hard, and there were areas that were so steep that I was reduced to hiking them. A curious red squirrel in the middle of nowhere stopped what he was doing to watch me struggle with the climb. I doubt he had seen a trail runner before!

After much sweating, I found the snowmobile trail and continued onward. The snow on the trail had many animal tracks, including those of deer and red squirrels. But I had to stop for a picture of this one.

The Big Dog

A timber wolf had been walking right down the middle of the trail the day before and left his prints. I was amazed by the size of his foot. To offer some perspective, my shoe is a size 13. Clearly, this was made by one big puppy dog. Of course, I made sure to make a lot of noise so as not to surprise this large critter in case he was in the area. Then again, he would probably be more acutely aware of my presence that I would be of his. I had best keep moving!

I kept on running until I reached an oasis of sorts. The snowmobile club had built a “lean-to," which offers shelter and a place for snowmobilers to take a break. This is the spot I remembered hiking to with my brother. The view of the lake has changed because the trees have grown taller since I was last here, but it was a spectacular sight nonetheless.

I had made it to the top! I stopped to admire the view and propped my camera up on a log for a few cheesy Leonardo DiCaprio-esque “I’m the king of the ridge!” pictures. In the photo to the left of me and just below the cloud line, you can see a little bit of Lake Superior, which should give you some idea how high above the lake I was.

King of the Ridge

The trip back down the ridge was rapid, to say the least. It was pretty easy to get some good footing going downhill, thanks to the crunchy layer of snow, so I absolutely bounded through the woods. This just in: running downhill is fun! :)

The time it took me to get from the “lean-to” back to the dirt road was approximately 13 minutes. I am sure it took twice that to go up! I made my way down the hill and through some winding single track trails, returning to Mom and Dad’s place. What a fun and challenging run!

So that was my Christmas week! Again, I wish all of you and yours a belated but very Merry Christmas, as well as a Happy New Year!

Until next time,

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