Tuesday, March 2, 2010

XC Skiing - Charleston State Forest

Charleston State Forest lies at about 1,200-1,300', and during the storms of the past week, got prodigious amounts of snowfall. There are about 20 miles of ski trails in this forest, maintained by volunteers, and we've only begun to explore them. I'm responsible for verifying the map for this area for an upcoming revision of the "Ski Tips" booklet published by ECOS, a publication that identifies numerous local free cross-country skiing locations, so needed to get out here and see how the existing map matched reality on the ground.

This afternoon, 5 of us made the short 35-40-minute drive to the northern section of the forest where none of us had ever skied before. We found the parking area on Hughes Road to be unplowed and blocked by large snowbanks, so parked in the road and got ready to go.

There are two loops in this section, connected by a crossover trail between them, and we were starting from the north end, hoping to do the longer loop.

We found snowshoe tracks for the first quarter mile past a couple of ponds, but there the tracks ended, and we were on our own. The snow was close to 2 feet deep, and very heavy and wet, and we were breaking trail, never knowing just how far the next step forward was going to sink. It was tough going, to say the least. It was complicated by the scarcity of trail markers headed in our counter-clockwise direction, and by the number of downed or leaning trees and branches. We had to stop often to find a marker and look at the map to be sure we were headed in the right direction.

Picture by Judy

When we reached the junction with the crossover trail, we all decided that the shorter loop back to the car would be the better idea, given the conditions, our rate of progress, and the time remaining until dark. We looked forward to a downhill run shown on the map just after we ended the crossover and rejoined the main loop trail. Unfortunately, it was short, gentle, and very slow, and we continued the tough slog back toward the car. When we finally finished, we were pretty beat. Two GPSs both showed we'd covered only about 3.67 miles in over two hours time, a pretty dismal pace on skis, though there was also 1,158 feet of climbing involved.

CORRECTION, 10 March: I misread that graphic that appears below. 1,158 was our starting elevation. At the bottom right, it shows we only gained 231 feet. Even more dismal...

Back in the car, we drove a little south to another trailhead to pick up a map or two from the kiosk there. The snowbanks here were even higher, and the kiosk was on the other side.

Picture by Judy

Back home, GPS tracks showed that the existing map was accurate for the portion of the trails we had covered. We just wished that the downhill was a little more exciting after all that hard work.

From Judy's GPS

Thanks to Judy for the pictures and GPS track.

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