Saki and Carmen skiing at the Youghiogheny River Trailhead


Cross country skiing, January 2011

Last updated January 19, 2011



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three

Ever since I was introduced to cross country skiing by Norma, almost 3 years ago, winter has never been the same. I still don't like it as much as the spring or summer but it has its own special charm.

While the Baltimore area doesn't typically get enough snow to do anything fun, there are plenty of places not too far away that are ideal for exploring with cross country skis. We decided to do just that with some friends on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in 2011.

Day One, Saturday, January 15, 2011

Norma and I drove to New Germany State Park. There, we ran into Mikhail and his friend Dimitri. I met the former (aka Moonshine) on August 30, 2008. They already had their skis while we were still waiting for our friends to arrive. So unfortunately, we did not see Mikhail and Dimitri again. But before departing, Norma recommended they ski at Herrington Manor State Park. I later found out they did so and enjoyed it very much.

A few minutes later, we found Clark and Carmen. Carmen didn't have her own skis so she rented them at the park. She got a pair of Karhu skis. It was her first time cross country skiing. Clark had his own skis...a vintage pair from the 1980s.

We started out skiing on the green trail, which runs parallel to Poplar Lick Run. See first and second photos. This is a good warm-up since it is so flat. Here, we got to work on our kick-and-glide technique.

Next, we headed uphill onto some of the more difficult trails. This was a little tough for Clark who has waxable skis without scales. See third photo. I think the scales might make the rest of us a bit slower on the flat and downhill but they definitely help us grip the snow when moving uphill (fourth photo).

The last time I was at the park was on February 16, 2008. Prior to that, I had never done any kind of skiing whatsoever...not downhill, cross country, or water. Back then, there was barely enough snow and what snow there was was a little slushy. So Norma and I found the uphill parts very strenuous and the downhill parts very fast and hard to control. But today was much easier. There was much more snow and it was colder so the snow was more powdery and thus easier to work with. See fifth, sixth, and seventh photos. By no means am I a good skier. Everything I know about skiing, I learned from Norma or watching South Park. But today I felt pretty good. I could slow down and do some wide turns...something I couldn't do before. I only fell twice...both times I wasn't even moving. I was just standing there and lost my balance. Clumsy me.

Somehow (I'm not sure how), I managed to bend one of my $18.83 Scott Triton Ski poles. The bend was very minor...not even noticeable when I was skiing.

After a few hours on the trail, we headed back to the Recreation Hall, where Carmen rented her skis. On one of the buildings hung a huge icicle (eighth photo). Inside, some old tools were on display, including a "bung hole reamer" whose name I found humorous in a juvenile sort of way. See ninth photo. In the Recreationn Hall, we warmed up and ate snacks. I caught a quick power nap. Then it was back out for more skiing.

This time we did the pink trail which starts out along New Germany Lake.
  • Tenth photo: Me on a gradual straight downhill.
  • Eleventh photo: Taking a break.
  • Twelfth photo: Carmen makes her way uphill.
  • Thirteenth photo: Carmen and Clark before the big downhill.
  • Fourteenth photo: Looks like Clark fell down not too long ago.

  • Near the end of the pink trail was a big downhill area where there were some boys cranking up the Godsmack and sledding. I remember this slope well because I tried it several times in 2008 and never once made it without falling. But today I did just fine. I was feeling confident.

    Carmen was working on a rather unique method of stopping that seemed a little painful.

    We finished the day after putting in a little over 7 miles!

    Then we went to the house of Norma's mother (Hazel) in Deer Park, Maryland. Here we ate our fill, played three games of Blokus, then went to bed.

    Day Two, Sunday, January 16, 2011

    After sleeping in, then eating a hearty breakfast, the four of us headed out. Our first stop was a ski shop where Carmen rented Alpina skis. Then we all piled into my car and drove north to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.

    That morning, Norma checked on-line to verify the status of the cross country ski trail along the Sproul Trail. But when we arrived, we were told the trail was closed. So instead, we went into town and parked at the train station and visitor center. We didn't actually start skiing until 1320.

    From here, we skied parallel to the Youghiogheny River (first photo), on the Youghiogheny River Trail, heading upstream. This ultra-flat rail trail is excellent for refining one's technique since it allows one to kick-and-glide under ideal situations with great repetition. See second and third photos. It is scenic but also somewhat monotonous.

    I found a small bird nest on the ground.

    A few trains passed by on the opposite side of the river.

    Norma set her camera on timer mode and after a few attempts, we got a group photo. See fourth photo.

    We only saw about 6 other people on the trail. While we were close to civilization, at times I felt like I had gotten away from it all.

    We passed some scenic frozen waterfalls, including one that Clark said resembled the teeth-like structures of a baleen whale.

    After a little over 4 miles, we started heading back (fifth photo). Clark picked up some serious speed. See how I try to keep up with him in the sixth photo.

    Clark and I spoke about how with such white snow and homogeneous terrain, it would be easy to ski in the dark as long as there was just a little bit of moonlight. Near the end (seventh photo), we noticed that a bright moon was rising. See eighth photo. But we were also getting low on energy. Maybe we'll do some night skiing on a rail trail next time.

    Crossing over the Youghiogheny River Trail/Beech Trail bridge, I saw that a significant portion of the river was frozen in some areas. A slow moving fish made its way downstream.

    Our day of skiing ended after 8.35 miles! Yesterday and today were very good for Norma and I in that we now had a baseline as to how much skiing we could comfortably do in a day. We had talked about eventually skiing from hut to hut. I am thinking we could do 10-12 miles a day on moderate terrain if we start early.

    It was a good day of skiing though I think it would have been more interesting if we were actually going to a particular destination with a car shuttle rather than doing a yo-yo route.

    Before driving back, we stopped in at the corner market and restaurant for a light meal. There, we ran into the most adorable puppy (ninth photo) and the most enthusiastic owner who told us far more than we could ever remember about trails in the area. Apparently, there are many more good places to cross country ski than are shown on the map. The dog's name was Daisy, which was coincidentally, the name on two of the drinking glasses that we used at Hazel's house. I forget the name of the owner.

    Back at Hazel's house, we played Trans-America. Clark won the first game and I won the second.

    Despite having eaten a cheesesteak sandwich at the restaurant, I was still hungry and managed to wolf down quite a lot at the house. I guess cross country skiing really does burn a significant number of calories...or at least it builds up one's appetite.

    Day Three, Monday, January 17, 2011, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

    On our final day, we got an early start, heading out to Herrington Manor State Park.

    We parked on the east side of Herrington Lake then skied southwest on the blue trail. For the most part, the trails were easier than those we did on Saturday and more difficult than the flat rail trail we did yesterday. There were two fairly big hills that were lots of fun but not too terribly difficult.

  • First photo: Carmen makes her way down a gentle downhill with Clark following behind.
  • Second photo: Clark and Saki.
  • Third photo: Carmen on Alpina skis.
  • Fourth photo: Race mode!
  • Fifth photo: Clark smiles for the camera.

  • I noticed that my ski poles would sometimes stick in the snow and pull me back as I tried to pull them out. So I tried Clark's poles which look more like the stereotypical cartoon ski poles with the big circle near the base. But this big circle did its job in keeping the pole from sinking too deep into the snow. Maybe my next poles will have this feature. See sixth photo.

    About midway through, we encountered a man walking his Siberian Husky. The dog was a little hesitant to meet us but eventually it warmed up, taking particular interest in Carmen. The dog's name was Zowie, which is the name of one of Carmen's cats (although she spells it "Zoe"). We asked the owner if his dog has any playmates and he says that there is a dog at the local nunnery by the name of Woody. Interestingly, that is the name of Carmen's other cat. What is the probability of that? My guess is somewhere between zero and one.

    We finished the day having skied just over 5 miles.

    In the car, we sang Kenny Roger's "The Gambler" until I was sick of it. I later learned from Carmen that Don Schiltz actually wrote the song.

    Having once again worked up an appetite, we drove to Denny's for lunch. I had a delicious bacon cheeseburger (man food).

    Back at Hazel's house, we packed up. Clark and Carmen headed home.

    Norma and I took Hazel to Joyce's house (Joyce is Norma's sister). Hazel agreed to help Joyce watch Harlem, a foster baby. See seventh photo.

    I played with Oblina, their cat, who found the strings hanging off my field jacket most entertaining. See eighth photo.

    Norma and I made it home without a hitch just as the roads started to get nasty from all the sleet and freezing rain. While folks in western Maryland get all the nice, fluffy snow, we here in the Baltimore/D.C. area get all the bad stuff...although if February 2011 is anything like it was in 2010, then my skis and snowshoes will get plenty of use right in my own neighborhood.

    It was a great weekend spent doing three things I really love: cross country skiing, playing games, and spending time with friends. We managed to get in over 20 miles in our 3 days of skiing. Because of weekends like this, winter has become much more enjoyable.

    I also learned how to spell "Youghiogheny."