Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A morning on skis

The picture to the left is of the neighborhood from behind the wheel (ignore the date, it was taken a week ago).

Below is my account of skiing...

It was a last minute decision. I’d almost decided not to go since no one else wanted to join me. But I couldn’t miss the opportunity and needed to take comp time. Throwing skis and poles into the back of the truck, donning boots and gaiters, a wool sweater and vest, and a fanny pack holding a bottle, extra gloves and a wind shell, I headed south of town to the nature center at the headwaters of Cedar Creek. By the time I get to the parking lot, it’s 30 minutes after sunrise and the air is still cold. I work some wax onto the skis, noticing that the edges have become a bit rusted. I’ll have to take care of that later. I debate putting on my shell, but know when I began to move, I’ll warm up. I quickly step into my skis and begin to stride across a prairie, heading for the hardwoods along the ridge overlooking the creek, picking up a few cockleburs along the way.

The wind bites my face, but I’m working hard enough that by the time I reach the forest, I’m a bit sweaty. I work my way up the hill, steep enough that my skis begin to slip and I break into a herringbone technique for the last fifty feet. There on the top of the ridge, I pick up the boundary trail, the center’s property line running the creek bank down to the opposite side. I make my way eastward, through old growth forest. At times the ridge drops and I quickly shoot downhill, only to have to herringbone again to get back up the next side. At one point, I surprise a large number of turkeys. Are they called a covey or a flock? After the ridge turns north, it drops into the marsh along the creek-bank, where the water out of several small lakes feed into the creek. The trail snakes through the swamp on ground barely higher than the frozen water. The fast flowing creek, in contrast to the still lake water, isn’t yet frozen and a flock of fifty or more duck takes to flight when I come along beside. Soon, I’m back climbing again, past an old milking barn, toward the snow-pack Cloverdale Road.

Crossing the road, I continue to climb, heading north by an old homestead, the house and barn still standing. Three dairy farms use to reside on the property now is set aside as a nature preserve. It must have been a hard life. The last glacier stripped off most of the good topsoil from this land, depositing to the south where it nourishes the fertile farms in north Indiana. From the appearance of the forest, most of the hills had been cut. The exception being a few along the south ridges near the creek and the lines of maples that highlight the former pastures and alfalfa fields. I sure the hills were used as pasture, put was probably contained poor feed and, especially in the spring when things are wet, were muddy from the hooves of cows. But that was another era, as most of the trees are now six to eight inches in diameter, indicating many decades of growth. The farmers struggled just to have some dairy products and maybe a little maple syrup from the trees that lined the fields to sell.

Coming to the north boundary, I pause and stick my skies into the snow, tucking the tops under my arms, as if a short-handled shovel. Its now calm; the sun is high about as high in the southern sky as it gets this time of the year. I’ve made four or five miles. I catch my breath, looking and listening. The faint roar of a distant jet climbing into the atmosphere fails to drown out a woodpecker digging into a nearby tree. A few other birds still hanging out around in winter sing. I notice the bark of the trees. The forest consists of mixed new growth, mostly maple but a few cherry and oak and an occasional cedar. Snow is perched on all branches. I take a drink of water, then continue on. At the northwest boundary point, the trail and property line turns south, across fields of alfalfa, back to Cloverdale Road and the parking lot where my truck awaits.


  1. I was there with you, Sage. It sounds like a place I'd like to hike in the summer, though, not with snow on the ground. I'm averse to snow!

    Funny how many of us were in Va. Beach at the same time, isn't it?

  2. I can't do that kind of snow. I'll stay in VA Beach any day of the year. Once and again we get snow, and that's enough.

    So, who are all these people that have been in Virginia beach at the same time?

  3. I wish more people like Dr. H. Lewis Batts would preserve land like what is now the Cedar Creek Institute from the ravages of man so more people had the opportunity to explore it in a more pristine state. Public places like that are so hard to find here in SE Iowa.

    I have never learned to cross country ski though it is something that I have wanted to do. We just don't get as much dependable snow down here to make it worth while buying and storing skis that might only be used once every four years. The biggest reason to do such a sport in my opinion is that few people do it and it allows one to depart civilization for awhile.

    I liked your description and could follow right along on their online map. Unfortunately, it wasn't a topo.

  4. Would love to learn to cross country ski. You write such beautiful descriptions

    Writing a memoir about a girl, her dad, and the world. My dad was an amazing character--CPA who starred in an MTV commercial--though he refused to believe me when I told him what it was--early days

    Even accidentally found my birth mother--I was adopted and loved it

    Now I have finished the longest plug for me!

  5. Dena, Kenju wrote about being in Va Beach in 1964 on her honeymoon. At the time we were living in Virginia (Petersburg) and I was 7 and we went to Virginia Beach... Other people in her blog also noted that they were there in '64 too. Were you?

    Ed, you must of done a google search to fine the nature center when I didn't even use it's "official name" But you got it! We'll have good skiing until it warms up a bit and rains, then we'll have to wait for more snow. When I was out west, I just drove up on the mountain and they'd be plenty of snow until at least April and some years June.

    Pia, I'd love to read your book when it's finished. You'll have to let us know.

  6. This is funny, but I was just about to write that I felt like I was right there with you, because of your beautiful descriptive writing abilities. And, come to find, other people have literally been there! LOL

    This was a terrific post. You write so beautifully. It's always a pleasure to read about your life. You recognize beauty everywhere; I think that's why I love to read your posts so much!

    Cheers, Bhakti

    p.s. I've posted an update on my latest post that gives a biography--and an extra added poem for your reading pleasure. I've also put a link to your site, since you asked for the info.

    'Hope this finds you well! :)

  7. Beautiful. I can picture it as if I was there. The crisp, cool air, the feel of the snow beneath the skis.

    Thank you for this.

  8. Cloverdale road and Cedar Creek were the search terms. Not to be nosy but because I was intrigued at such a large public space for cross country skiing. Like I said, here in Iowa those kinds of places are very rare. But your neck of the woods sounds a lot like where I lived in Minnesota where there was more areas like that. Must be a northern thing.

    One of the greatest novelties is backing in the mountains in late July or August and getting up high enough to find snow. I never take skis but with size 13 feet, glisading (sp?) can still be excellent.

  9. My typing is off... backing = backpacking.

  10. Ed, that's okay (re-checking on where I was skiing). There are a number of places here in Western Michigan to ski--several good state parks, some good trails along abandon rail lines, etc.

    Yes, coming upon snow in the summer is wonderful. Making snow cones from powder drink mix and snow can be a treat on a hot summer day.

  11. Your writing paints such a beautiful picture in my mind. Makes me want to try cross country skiing!

  12. Sounds like fun!

    I love Wendell Berry's writing...especially Jayber Crow who I think is character who lives in the same town as the character you mentioned. I answered you longer at my site.

    Did you make some cornbread after skiing? When I read your post about cornbread, it sounded so good that I ended up making some. I tried to leave a comment that day, but it wouldn't take.

  13. Christa, you'd love it! Colleen, no, I didn't have time to make cornbread--I had an afternoon staff meeting to run so I had to get into the office.

  14. What a lovely image of a lovely morning experience. Reminds me of when I was a kid and I'd go skiing in the woods near my house. I miss those days....there's nothing quite as peaceful as being in a snow-covered field, alone.