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Posts Tagged ‘snow’

Hey Adventure Foot readers! I’ve got some fun news!

Nuun Hydration before my long run! These flavors are grape, fruit punch and tropical!

Nuun Hydration before my long run! These flavors are grape, fruit punch and tropical!

Adventure Foot is now an ambassador for Nuun Hydration!  I was introduced to Nuun out on RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa.)  It was one of those days over 100 deg. and over 80 miles, and another rider noticed that I looked exhausted and that I’d sweat so much that there was salt dried in my jersey and my shorts.  He asked me if I was staying hydrated and I replied, “Yeah, I’ve had like 8 bottles of water!”   And he said, “Well you can’t just drink water! You need electrolytes too!” and he popped a Tri-Berry Nuun in my water bottle.  Not much later, my headache had subsided, I felt much better, and I became a real believer in Nuun!  Anyway, I’m sure I’ll tell you much more about Nuun over the next year of my ambassadorship, so stay tuned for more!  I’m also planning a give-away, so now would be a good time to “like” Adventure Foot on Facebook, and while you’re at it, like Nuun Hydration too!

Now, on to adventure!

Cross country skiing at Wakonda State Park

Cross country skiing at Wakonda State Park

It’s funny to have just told you about one of the hottest days I can ever remember, seeing as the last few weeks around central Illinois have been so cold and snowy!   But like any good adventurer, I like to follow my foot no matter what the weather.

Wyconda State Park

Wyconda State Park

Quincy took on a pretty deep coat of the white stuff in two big snow events in the last couple of weeks, and it seemed like it was the perfect time to try out some winter sports that we normally don’t have enough snowpack to support: snow shoeing and cross country skiing! The only problem?  I don’t have gear.  Luckily though, my very sweet friend from the bike club, Deb Esnault, had both and was willing to let me borrow them.  Also lucky for me: we wear the same shoe size!

I headed over to Wakconda, our nearest Missouri State Park.  Wakonda State Park in LaGrange, MO is reclaimed land which was once a series of quarry pits.  Now, the quarries are 6 deep lakes surrounded by nicely groomed hiking trails, camp grounds, and swimming beaches.   I’ve spent plenty of time hiking and kayaking there in the summer, but I’d never been over in the winter before.

Adventure Foot Cross Country Skis!

Adventure Foot Cross Country Skis!

My friend Karen and I were going to cross country ski together, but our schedules didn’t work out, so my Wakonda trip turned into a solo expedition.  I pulled up at the park and unloaded my gear.  Save one man setting up to ice fish, I had the entire 777 acre park to myself.

I decided that I was going to cross country ski the 3.5 mile trail around Agate Lake first.  I’d run on that trail before, so I knew it was wide and not too hilly.  Since this was the first time I’d tried cross country skiing, I spent a little time at the beginning of the trail trying out the skis and learning what they were capable of.  The first big difference I found between these and downhill skis is that it was surprisingly easy to move uphill.  That’s primarily due to the way the boots are attached at the toe but not at the heel.  The heel detachment allows for a more natural foot motion when walking uphill.

581867_616430828371818_2096944925_nThe second difference I found was that though these skis were much better at making it up hill, they were much worse at making it downhill!  The shape makes turning the skis difficult and their textured surface doesn’t slide as well down a hill.  That’s okay though, because cross country skiers are often bringing gear and things along, so controlled slow descents are probably preferable.

Once I had the hang of things I set out around the lake.  It wasn’t long until I’d found a good rhythm and was scooting right along the trail.  The day was gray, but the trail was still very beautiful.  I watched a few immature bald eagles dive in the open water at the center of the lake and the only tracks in the snow besides mine belonged to coyotes.

About half way around the lake there is a camp shelter, which I used to prop up my camera for a quick blog pictures. Though cross country skis allow you to stay on top of the snow, it’s still a big cardio workout, and I had really worked up a sweat!  On a longer trail in rougher conditions, I might have really been in trouble since I was so wet.  It would be bad news to have bad weather or cold wind set in if I were too far from shelter.  Anyway, since this wasn’t an episode of Dual Survival…

The beautiful trail around Agate lake.

The beautiful trail around Agate lake.

I really enjoyed the rest of my time on the trail.   The hills the lake offered were gentle and rolling, and just enough of a challenge to keep it interesting.  I liked how quiet the skis were on the undisturbed snow, and it was nice to have some time by myself.  I was back at my car in no time at all.

Showing off my Adventure Foot by the start of the Jasper Lake trail!

Showing off my Adventure Foot by the start of the Jasper Lake trail!

Like I said before, we have so few opportunities to play in deep snow around here, so even though I was pretty worn out from the skis, I decided I was still going to snow shoe for a little while.   I switched gear and headed off towards the smaller Jasper Lake trail.

Snow shoeing was much slower going than the skis, but it had its own charms.  Snow shoes have large flat bottoms called “decks” for staying on top of the snow, but also have metal cleats called “crampons” on the bottom for gaining purchase on slippery rocks or ice. The bindings fit around a regular pair of hiking or snow boots and are attached to the deck by bolts that rotate and let your feet move in a walking motion.

A frozen corner of Jasper Lake

A frozen corner of Jasper Lake

I used the snow shoes to explore the lake shore and generally poke around a little.  The park looks so much different in the winter and a little sunlight showing through the clouds added a lovely sparkle to the snow.  The snow shoes were fun to try and really did save energy when compared to just trudging through deep snow.

Wyconda State Park Map (Click to view larger)

Wyconda State Park Map (Click to view larger)

I really enjoyed my solo trip to Wakonda and am looking forward to visiting this nearby park for more adventures, no matter what the weather.  I hope you find ways to follow your Adventure Foot this spring! There’s so much to explore!

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Adventure Feet!

Adventure Feet on the ski lift!

In our little corner of Central Illinois, winter sports just aren’t high on our to-do list.  Really, I spend most of the winter trying to squeeze the proverbial square peg in a round hole by bundling up in 46bazzillion layers and riding my bike like it’s June anyway.  The lack of winter sports in our area isn’t too surprising though, as large quantities of snow are hard to come by and are almost always accompanied by a glaze of ice which makes a cup of hot cocoa and a movie sound better than most things you’d want to do outside.  But not so very far away… 4.5 hours from Quincy by car… exists a little pocket of wintertime fun tucked in the glacier-carved hills of northwest Illinois…

SKI TRIP!

Most of the gang!

Some of the gang! L-R: Adam, Jeff, Sarah, Sara, Laura and Justin

This past weekend I followed my Adventure Foot and took a trip with my husband and 12 of our friends to Galena, IL to check out the skiing and snowboarding at Chestnut Mountain.  Today is not Chestnut Mountain’s debut on my blog however.  If you recall, I biked up this very hill in June of last year during the Tour of the Mississippi River Valley bike ride (TOMRV).  I believe the exact thought I had was, “If you see a sign while on your bike that says “ski area ahead,” you really should consider turning around.”  But I digress…

Justin and I on the slopes around midday.

Justin and I on the slopes around midday.

This trip was a dual birthday celebration for my husband and our friend Jeff, so we decided to make it extra special.  Jeff found a wonderful vacation rental home [read: with a hot tub] in Galena, and we all made our way up north after work on Friday. It was early to bed, early to rise for us, and after a surprisingly winding and hilly road, we made it to the Chestnut Mountain lodge to grab our rental gear and lift passes.

Chestnut Mountain has 19 trails on 220 acres overlooking the Mississippi River.  The longest trail boasts a drop of 475 feet.  Now…I know you’re thinking “I’ve been to Colorado where 475 feet is the run-off for the bunny slope,” but in Illinois, this is respectable.

Weekend lift tickets are $40 for a day or $78 for two days, and gear rental of either boarding or ski equipment is $32.  Rates are slightly less during the week and they also have special rates in the evenings.  A neat feature of the rentals is that if you rent, say, a snowboard to try but don’t end up liking it, it’s only $5 to switch to skis instead.  Helmet rental is $8.  Lessons are available for $20 an hour in a group or a $50 for a private lesson.

This trip was only my third time skiing, and much like my previous outings, the worst part was sitting in the locker room sweating and trying to wrestle ski boots on.  In no time though, we stepped outside into the beautiful day, ready to roll.

About the beautiful day: it was over 40 degrees outside.  That’s not ideal.  Sure, it’s nice to not be so cold, but the mostly man-made snow was awfully slushy and got worse throughout the day.  At times, the slush was nice for me because it slowed me down a little, but at other times, it caused everything to be extra slippery and skiers would gouge the slopes making bizarre trench hazards.

Sara and her awesome snowboard!

Sara and her awesome snowboard!

Our group had mixed experience with skiing, so some of the more experienced members headed off to the blue trails while I tested my legs out on the bunny slope.  A pair of safe rides down the cotton-tail-trail and two trips up the moving carpet later, and I decided to go on one of the larger trails.

The first beginner trail was called, “Old Man.”  This trail butted up against the bunny slope in the beginning and then dog-legged to the left down the mountain.  I started out okay, but took the first turn down the steeper slope faster than I expected and ended up wiping out and sliding on my belly for ten feet.  My husband, who is much better at this than I am, skied over and helped me up, and we hit the trail again.   My friend Sara was right behind us on her snowboard and was finding her legs too.

Just before the steepest part of the trail there was a member of the ski patrol holding a “slide zone” sign which the slushy conditions necessitated.  I skied over by him, clearly a little shaken by my fall, and asked how I could avoid another fall in this slippery area.  His answer? Make the mountain bigger! He said to take long, sweeping passes more horizontally across the slope (while watching for other skiers, of course) and that it would help me not feel so out of control on the slush.

So that’s what I did.  And we made it safely (and slowly) to the bottom of the slope.  My husband and I waited in a relatively short line for the ski lift and headed back up the mountain to try some more trails.

We had lunch around noon at the restaurant inside the lodge.  I imagine locals bring their own food when they ski because eating at the lodge is very expensive, but I suppose that’s to be expected at a resort.

Some friends from Iowa City joined us too. Chestnut is only about 2 hours 15 minutes from IC!

Some friends from Iowa City joined us too. Chestnut is only about 2 hours 15 minutes from IC! L-R Jordan, Becky, Justin and Laura

After lunch, I made an equipment swap and upgraded to a half-size bigger pair of boots. This was the best decision I’d made all day, because I had more mobility in the larger boots.  Note to self: never suffer in ill-fitting equipment!

The group of us spread out over the mountain- some people took on the hardest trails, some stuck to medium or easy ones.  The bravest thing I did all day was to go down “Rookie’s Ridge” which runs alongside of some jumps, and I skied up the side of the jumps and back into the bowl a few times. I thought that was just the best!   I also tried out the little slalom course and finally felt like a real skier whooshing back and forth between the markers.

All in all, the entire group had a lot of fun regardless of skiing skill level.  Despite being so nearby, being in the hills of Galena seemed like a real vacation.

My favorite store in Galena

My favorite store in Galena

I should mention that downtown Galena is very cute and shouldn’t be passed by if you head up for a ski trip.  My favorite shop there is called Fever River Outfitters.  This shop is an outdoorsperson’s paradise.  They carry great kayak, cycling and general outdoor items as well as a nice line of merino wool tech gear.  They are one of the sponsors of the Fever River Triathlon, which I’d really like to participate in this year.  In addition to Fever River, there are lots of great specialty food shops, gift shops, a brewery and several bistros in downtown Galena.  It’s a fun place to spend a whole afternoon if you’re not on the slopes.

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