New Year's Glide In Marquette
Saturday May 3, 2003 - By Ed Steinman
Steu and Lucy White and Rita and I left Ann Arbor together just before dawn (not quite the troopers you might think--dawn was 8 am) last Saturday to head to Marquette for the annual Washtenaw Ski Touring Club's New Year's Glide. Despite unpromising weather and so-so trail reports the trip was on.
It was above freezing on the way up so we hoped to do some on-the-road skiing in the UP before reaching Marquette. But, when we stopped at Forbush Corner, which is in the Lower Peninsula, as a pretty place to eat lunch, lo and behold there was very good snow as we drove into the lot. It seemed like magic. As we pulled our Zingerman's lunch out of the car Steve and Lexanne pulled up beside us. They were on their way to Stokely so the meeting was quite coincidental especially considering they had stopped at Cross Country Ski Headquarters which normally would result in a half day of shopping. We finished all of the Zingerman's food--quickly--and then skied a couple of hours at Forbush where snow conditions were very good and the day was sunny.
We all met for the annual first-night dinner at Vierling's--a cozy restaurant in a turn-of-the-century building in downtown Marquette close to the water. A walk around town afterwards and a stop at an indoor miniature golf course played under black light (I kid you not) was the evening's entertainment.
Before skiing the next morning, and every morning after, co-trip leader Diane Scarpace led a half-hour of tai-chi exercises which provided very beneficial stretching.
Before skiing we picked up some of the great whitefish sausage from Thill's, the fishmonger in a small Quonset hut at the water's edge. The catch and smoke the fish themselves. The sausage keeps for a while without refrigeration and is a terrific snack while skiing.
The first day of skiing was at Blueberry Ridge for most in the group. We kept off of the steep hills because of the icy conditions but skiing was otherwise good. Several of us spent about 4 hours skiing--a very good workout--with a break for lunch at the Crossroads Bar where they have good soup and pasties and prices are low. The it was back to the hotel for hot-tubbing, swimming or just showers and a rest before tackling our large dinner.
Dan Cutler and Diane Scarpace put a lot of effort into organizing the trip which was evidenced by a very thorough information handout and an excellent menu at the hotel. Since good food is a core goal of WSTC the dinner menu is presented here:
Yes, we roughed it a bit on this trip but it's amazing what you can get used to.
The next day, all drove out to Saux Head Trail, a new trail near Big Bay but it seemed too icy to ski. We found out later, from a couple of skiers from Minnesota, that it was skiable once you got away from the road. We went on the Big Bay, ate lunch at the Thunder Bay Inn, a site for the filming of "Anatomy of a Murder" (the murder occurred in this town) and went for a walk around Big Bay Point Lighthouse which is now a B&B. Steu, Rita and I then skied a couple of hours at Blueberry.
After dinner we walked the section of town that is high up, overlooking Marquette Bay. Large beautiful Victorian homes, many with very artistic Christmas light arrangements make it worth braving the cold and the wind although this year the weather was mild. I think it was this night that we then watched the "Pirates of the Caribbean" video back at the hotel while eating Juyfruits and drinking Ouzo--both supplied by Dan and Diane. There were also Nancy Morehead's delicious home-made molasses cookies.
Martin Stenzel , Rita & I skied Blueberry Ridge on Tuesday. Skiing was fair to good. We skied the morning there and then head over to the Lower Noquemanon Trail on the advice of a woman we ran into at Blueberry. This part of the Noquemanon Trail (http://www.noquemanon.com/course_description_2002.php) is a 25K stretch a few miles northwest of Marquette. The trail starts in downtown Marquette but the first 10K was not good. Skiing from the 10K marker and beyond was very good--the best skiing in the area. It wasn't icy and over a foot of good snow--a big surprise.
Being the athletes that we are we all went ice skating after dinner at the city hockey rink which Dan and Diane had on their activities list. We skated hard for 2 hours--until the place closed. It was an excellent evening activity.
BTW, the topic of snow fleas came up this day, I believe it was. Do they really exist? Rita said yes. If so, what are they? Here's the complete story: http://www.fcps.k12.va.us/StratfordLandingES/Ecology/mpages/snow_flea.htm
On New Year's Eve day the Steu, Lucy, Rita and I braved brisk, cold winds to ski all day on the Lower Noquemanon Trail with a break for a nutritious gas station lunch near town. We were the skiing fools of the trip.
After another delicious dinner Dan and Diane gave all of us an hour swing dance lesson. We then headed over to the pretty Landmark Hotel where a good swing dance band was playing for the New Year's Eve party there. Marquette society was out in fashionable dress. After dancing part of the night away we left to watch the ball drop at midnight from the towering 3-story bank building. We wished each other Happy New Year and then a few of us went back to dance some more.
After midnight the dance crowd changed from the more elegant set to the younger "hip" set and the dance also changed from the more formal swing to a swing-rock, if there is such a thing. Leaning against the bar we watched the different Marquette characters come and go. The music of the Superior Swing Band filled the hotel lobby-turned-ballroom.
On the way home New Year's day we stopped at Wildwood Hills Pathway near Indian River on Steu's suggestion. Despite almost no snow along the road, Wildwood was skiable. The snow was good although thin. We didn't take the time to get all the equipment out and, instead, hiked a short time and continued the drive home. A great trip! BTW, here's a site for Wildwood: http://www.fishweb.com/maps/cheboygan/trails/xcountry/wildwoodhills.html
If any other trip goers have a story to share--please do!