Nine of us skied the Jordan River Pathway on Sunday. The guidebook says this 19-mile trail is "not suitable for skiing" due to steep hills, no run-outs, etc. Whoa, nelly! It was a doozy. 7 hours of technical beauty finishing with a half-mile extra-steep climb up Deadman's Hill.
And so the inaugural season of the Triple Crown Michigan BC Ski Touring Series finished with a bang! -- Potto Raid (17 mi's, 3 hrs), Stinch Rally (12 mi's, 3 hrs), Jordan Jam (19 mi's, 7 hrs). 63 skiers all told. Yeah!
As we skied this last "Big Day" loop of ridges at the headwaters of the Jordan, we saw a dozen beautiful creeks, many valleys and watersheds, otter slides, a majestic white pine grove, an ancient hemlock, huge poplars, a bloody coyote kill, grand vistas, quiet interiors of cedar swamps -- all amid fresh snow that turned the forest into a kind of palace.
We were in various forms of awe all day as we surveyed steep downhills that wrapped around sideslopes and out of sight and stopped on bridges over crystal-clear creeks and were mesmerized by all those snow-plastered trees.
We dedicated the day to the venerable Dick Fultz who was scheduled to join in and lend an extra degree of fiestiness, but who came down with a nasty lung hack the day before.
What was really cool was that there was a wide range of successful ski solutions used at the JJ. We were all nowaxers. But several had mid-width mid-length performance skis, one full-length metal-edged BC-99's, a few wider mid-lengths, and one with big, wide S-Bounds with cable bindings: they all worked.
It was also neat to see the wide range of high-end downhill skills in play. Mine weren't among them, but I made a happy solution by traversing the semi-open, soft hillsides. Randy on his pivot-y S-Bounds was throwing in joyous little tele-turn flicks whenever the trail twisted a little, like every minute or so, even on the flats. How cool is that?
Randy also gets the Ironman Award because he skied the 50km Great Bear Chase freestyle marathon up in Calumet the day before!
So... a couple degrees warmer and the unbroken snow we were just able to get sufficient glide through would've turned into exhausting mashed potatoes. We squeaked through.
The locals among us said we hit it on exactly the right day. There hadn't been much snow up north, but they got a fresh pounding the previous few days. But just the day before it was raining. On our day, it was darn nice. A tad warm and sticky, but not past the critical point. Just barely overcast. Right on the good side of the edge of glop.
About a dozen times during the day we climbed up to high hardwood ridges which we cruised along until we dropped down into densely cedared lowlands along creeks and the river itself. Signs of critter life would usually pick up as we got close to running water.
(Almost 3000 feet elevation gain -- but I don't have a sense for what that stat is all about.)
RadNord broke trail much of the day like a human-powered Piston Bully, often making crazed engine sounds when being forced to take a break back in the pack.
RadNord, JP, and J Rosso won the first annual prize for doing all 3 of the Michigan "Big Day" Ski Touring events. Celebration commenced after the JJ at nearby Short's Brewery (where we met the new State Record Muskie, champion angler Kyle, and Stephanie, the vivacious bartender).
You can add the 36-mi Waterloo-Pinckney Odyssey, 9 hrs, to the Big Day list, if you like.
All 4 of our "Big Days" this year had great conditions. No grooming, no fees, all skills tested, grand scenery, many tasty snacks.