Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trail Work Party

Wow, it could not possibly have been a more gorgeous fall day to be in the mountains, breathing the cold clean air, eyes soaking up the dark pines and golden maples and bright blue skies, spiffing up the trails for winter.  Today was trail work day at Cabin Creek, and 21 Kongsberger regulars showed up, saws and loppers and pick axes in hand, to beat the summer's growth back into submission and clear the way for Nick to do his magic this winter.  We put in a solid morning's worth of work on Amabilis, then headed back to the cabin for lunch and time to catch up with good friends we hadn't seen this summer, hearing stories and comparing notes and making plans.  It could not have been a better day, and if you were hoping to come but soccer/gymnastics/swimming/laundry/shopping/Saturday got in the way, never fear -- Jim will be there tomorrow to lead another trail work party for anyone who can make it.  The mountains are spectacular this fall; go get yourself some before winter comes back!

Saw sisters!
Trail Chief Glen, looking for something to chop

Messiest spider web ever!

Oh, hello, Mount Rainier!
Poisonous?  Or edible?
Jim winning the battle with the ditch
Susie contemplates a really big lopping job
After lunch, Bert, age 90, heads out for a mountain bike ride.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Party for the Ski Community!

Two of my favorite things: a party, and a chance to hang out and support junior skiers!  Here are all the details you need to know.  What a great way to kick off what's going to be a terrific ski season!

 Food, drinks, prizes and the official start of winter!

Join the National Nordic Foundation and Momentum Northwest for our first annual Winter Kickoff Party! A good time for a great cause, bringing the cross country skiing community together to celebrate the coming season. Food and drinks included with entry, and many great prizes are to be had. This is an opportunity to see old friends, meet new ones and support two great causes.

Mt. Baker Community Club (Seattle)
2811 Mt Rainier Dr. S 
Seattle, WA 98144

In advance: Over 21: $25, under 21: $15
Day of event: Over 21: $35, under 21: $15
Momentum Northwest was founded in early 2014 through a need for a comprehensive, inclusive, year-round Nordic ski program in the greater Seattle area. 

With an emphasis on junior skier development, Momentum Northwest provides critical, experience-based coaching and technique development, while also creating an exciting and fun competitive racing program that fosters individual accountability, goal-setting, and personal betterment through

About the National Nordic Foundation:
The National Nordic Foundation (NNF) is the leading grassroots Nordic sport development organization in the country. The NNF serves the skiing community by centralizing energy and funding towards a common purpose. 

By matching our collective donations with funding opportunities, we amplify our giving community, engage skiers at every level and establish a pathway to athletic success.
Event Contact: 

Monday, October 3, 2016

What I Am Talking About ...

Last spring the Norsk speakers in the club were passing around a book written in Norwegian that purported to measure and quantify all the various reasons why we love to ski.  I was jealous of being left out of the conversation, because there aren't many things I'd rather talk about than skiing, so I begged Per to write a book report describing the concepts, and he generously did, and here it is.  It would be super fun to compare notes on how we each rank the five measurements.  Feel free to leave a comment at the end of this blog post, or maybe we can talk about it at the next KSC meeting or trail work party.  It's a grand subject to wrap your brain around, especially now that the days are cooler and wetter and the nights are longer and winter is finally finally coming back.

Book Report

Hva Jeg Snakker om Når Jeg Snakker om Langrenn
(What I am Talking About When I Talk About Cross Country Skiing)

Author: Thorkild Gundersen
Published by: Gyldendal, Oslo, Norway 2015

I found this book last January at one of the book shops at Gardermoen Airport in Oslo.  I was immediately interested.  I picked it up and read it on my return flight to Seattle.  I thought that the contents of the book would be of interest to my ski friends at Kongsberger Ski Club and made a 15-minute presentation of the main ideas from the book at the end-of-season meeting of the club in April.  It seemed to stir some interest and, since the book is not likely to be translated and published in this country, I promised to produce a ”book report” so that others can also participate in the self-analysis among those of us who are nuts about cross country skiing.

We recognize a kindred spirit in the first sentences of the book.  “I love cross country skiing. I mean I really love cross country skiing ….. When ski conditions are good I need to get out: I want lots of skiing; I want it often; and I want to ski far”.

He opens with a description of that near perfect day of skiing and you are nearing the end of a long and enjoyable workout. You have sunshine, great snow, fast wax, good conditioning, and effective technique, and for a short while you enjoy complete happiness.  Those moments can not be ordered up; they just happen.  Gundersen wonders what there is that produces such bliss.  He grants that such moments can occur for anyone in the middle of a favorite activity.  There is quite a body of writing in Sports Psychology that deals with similar reactions.  Concepts such as ”Flow” and ”Peak Experience” are common themes in this field.  Simply put, ”Flow” is the feeling well trained and proficient athletes sometimes experience when they are working hard, they are fast, and they are doing something difficult, yet it feels relatively easy.  An example would be what we know as the Runner’s High.  Peak Experience is that rare occasion, maybe once a year, when the hard and fast performance seems like play, and yet it is the absolute best you are capable of.

So the questions that Gundersen raises in this book are:  What is there about cross country skiing that can elavate our enjoyment to such ridiculous heights?  Why is it so important to us?  Which elements of the ski experience release such an enormous feeling of well being?

With that the author identifies five possible factors.

1.     Could it be the PHYSICAL?  Is it simply the feeing of being in good shape?  When you have skied for several hours and you are feeling strong and you realize that even when you are way beyond 40, 50 ,60, or even 70, you are strong and healthy, and age  doesn’t matter, since you ski as well and easily as you did when you were 26, maybe even better!  You simply like to be physically active, and skiing is what you enjoy.

2.     Perhaps it is BEING OUT IN NATURE.  You realize that ski trails can be incredibly beautiful.  You left the city under gray clouds and drizzle and now you are in sun, new snow and gorgeous terrain.  It is uplifting to be there and appreciate the trees, the mountains, the well-groomed trails, and the quiet.

3.     Could it be the ESTHETIC aspects of skiing?  This deals with the fact that skiing is somewhat difficult, yet you have mastered it.  Many skiers who love the sport have skied most of their lives, and the coordination of movements are nearly automatic and beautifully coordinated.  You don’t have to think about the details of efficient technique, they are already incorporated into your body.  So this means that the joy you get from skiing may come from the satisfaction from mastering the distinctive movements of the sport and, in a way, you can express yourself in how you ski.

4.     Maybe it is THE COMPETITION that is the main motivation and the greatest source of enjoyment.  Athletes who train hard are often participants in races.  For some the upcoming races during the winter are the reason for training in the off-season.  Why else would you go out on a rainy day in October to roller-ski on a pavement that is littered with wet leaves?  Skiers have goals that can be attained in competitions.  “ I want to ski the XC leg of the Ski to Sea Relay in under 30 minutes.”  I want to get into Wave 3 in the American Birkebeiner.”  “I want to beat Jim, Bob, Sue, or Linda in the Gunnar Hagen 30k race this season.”

5.     Finally, could it be something EXISTENTIAL about why I like skiing?  Here you find that nothing soothes your soul better that a long, quiet, two-hour ski trip.  You appreciate being away from the daily routine.  You can think, plan, and summarize the recent days in your mind and you arrive back at the car feeling much better than when you started.  The ski time gave you serenity, peace, and mental balance.  Some have suggested that they like the person they become when they get away and ski.

Gundersen spent the winter two years ago skiing and talking to well known skiers about their motivations to ski.  It is clear that no one gave only one source of motivation, since we can all see ourselves in any of these factors.  During his rounds and interviews he carried with him five index cards with one motivation on each card, and he asked people to put them in order of importance.

Some Results:
Petter Northug
1.     Competition
2.     The physical
3.     The esthetic
4.     Nature
5.     The existential

Vegard Ulvang
1.     The existential
2.     The physical
3.     Nature
4.     The esthetic
5.     Competition

Anders Aukland
1.     The physical
2.     Nature
3.     The esthetic
4.     The existential
5.     Competition

Ragnhild Amlie (A serious citizen racer from Oslo, in her 30s, mother of three pre-school children who has qualified to start in the Elite Women’s wave in both the Norwegian Birkebeiner and Holmenkollmarsjen.  She is no slouch.)
1.     The existential
2.     Nature and the physical (tied)
3.     The esthetics
4.     Competition

The majority of the book deals with Gundersen’s ski experiences during that winter in Oslo, the frustrations of no snow until after Christmas, mediocre race results, lots of training sessions squeezed into a couple of weeks mid-winter and some of the long tour races in February and March.

The author reveals the depths of his passion for skiing in interesting connections.  It seems clear that, if there is early season skiing in the woods around Oslo with groomed tracks, nothing else matters to him.  He will miss some work, not attend his daughter’s junior hockey game, be late for appointments, and miss dinner with his family.

His passion is also revealed in another way.  He describes a near love affair with a small pond in the woods near his home where he likes to ski.  He describes a visit there in early March, under perfect conditions, on a Thursday morning.  The lake was still solidly frozen and there was a hard crust on the snow and a 2 cm layer of new powder on top.  The sun was bright and the temperatures were right below freezing.  He hurried to his “secret lover” the lake called Nordskogtjernet, and spent a delirious hour skating back and forth on the crust, with no ambition other than to enjoy himself, with no training goals, no intervals to push through, and no distance requirements to be met.  He could think of nothing more important to do except to dance around on the lake without rhyme or reason.  To him that was poetry in motion.  At the end of the session he bowed and thanked the lake for the dance.  Then he went to work.

Gundersen comes across as a seriously dedicated skier, who trains hard and competes intensely, is passionately in love with one sport, and has also found endless rewards in it.

Per Johnsen

PS.  It might be fun to conduct a short survey among Kongsberger members and see how we differ.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer Adventure: Mountain Biking the Desert

Have you ever wondered what the Iron Horse trail looks like once you get past Easton?  I sure have, so I was happy to get a report from Elizabeth about her and Jim's mountain biking adventure on the other side of the pass.  All the details are below; thanks for sharing, Elizabeth!

Mountain bikes on the John Wayne Trail: Renslow to Beverly

On Sunday, July 24, Jim and I explored the John Wayne Trail from east of Kittitas to near the Columbia River. This section of the John Wayne Trail runs through the Yakima Training Center. People are permitted to use the trail, but they must stay on it and not wander into the military reservation. For those concerned about the proximity of the Training Center, the artillery impact area is well south of the John Wayne Trail, so there’s no need to worry.

This railroad grade was built in the early 1900s. Thousands of cubic yards of rock and sand were moved to dig out the cuts and tunnel and to fill in the ravines for a level surface. The remains of electric power stanchions used to power the trains are still evident along the route.

We started the ride at 8:00 a.m. from a trailhead about 10 miles east of Ellensburg, near the intersection of Boylston Road and Stevens Road. There’s a parking lot equipped with a vault toilet but no source of water. West of this point is the Renslow trestle—currently closed—that passes over Interstate 90. There are ways around the trestle, but the Stevens Road trailhead is a practical starting point for this leg of the John Wayne Trail.

From the parking lot, we rode up a gravel road past a “no vehicles permitted” sign to reach the trail. From this point to the entrance of the Boylston tunnel, a distance of approximately four miles, the trail was soft, which would make excellent going for horses, but more difficult for our mountain bikes. It was also a gentle uphill—easy if the trail were firm, but challenging in the deep sand. As we neared the west portal of the tunnel, we saw that the approach was marred by many rocks and boulders fallen from the surrounding basalt formation. These caused me some anxiety as I looked up at the rocks still beetling above, wondering when the next one would fall. I was glad to enter the tunnel, which seemed safer than the trail just outside.

The tunnel was cool but not cold, and water trickled down on us from only one place. It’s 2000 feet long, so a good light is necessary, especially near the middle of the tunnel, where we encountered rocks again. Not wanting to be there when another rock fell, we scooted through the rocky area as quickly as possible and found the trail clear again near the tunnel’s east portal. After exiting the tunnel, however, basalt rocks again littered the trail. Next we encountered a wet area—the only water we saw on or near the trail that day—that fostered growth of a stand of willows. We dismounted and pushed our bikes through the thicket, and walked through wet sand and mud.

From the tunnel, the trail meanders through hilly, dry country. It alternately crosses ravines on elevated fills and cuts through hills containing bones of basalt. Otherwise, the trail is smooth and bare, trending gradually downhill, with vistas that go for miles. The trail is firmer than west of the tunnel, but there are places where soft, coarse sand made the going difficult again. Riders should watch for these places—the sand is grayer than the surrounding landscape, so it’s easy to spot. We had the trail entirely to ourselves: not another soul was riding it that day. West of the Boylston tunnel we saw tracks of horses and two sets of bicycle tire tracks. East of the tunnel, the hoof prints disappeared but the tire tracks continued all the way to where we left the trail.

The basalt cuts were both a gift and a menace. They offered a chance for a close look at columnar basalt, and among the solid, dense basalt formations were deposits of browner, crumbly rock that hosted nodules of what we think is chert in hues of white, caramel, green, and yellow. Bits of the chert rock—some the size of my thumb, some the size of my head—lay on the trail, and we could see nodules still embedded in the deposits. 

But everywhere through these areas, rocks and boulders littered the trail, and near the Cheviot waypoint I had a run-in with one of them. I failed to adequately dodge one and went down hard on the sharp rocks, cutting my right knee and shin in multiple places and raising a big contusion.

Though my enjoyment of the ride was compromised, we continued on because we couldn’t leave the trail; we were about halfway along the route, and we had arranged for Jim’s dad to pick us up at the end. We walked the bikes through the basalt cuts to avoid any further falls. I enjoyed the long views and the stark barrenness of the place. We saw little wildlife: a few birds that flew past too quickly for us to identify and a single mammal, a squirrel of some kind, inside the east end of the Boylston tunnel and making haste for its burrow. Perhaps the heat and the sun had driven the wildlife to shelter.

Just past the Doris waypoint, we had a view of the Wanapum Dam. Even the sight of water offered relief after hours of scorched landscape. 

Past the Huntzinger Road, the trail continues a short distance to the river in even poorer shape than the 25 miles we had just ridden.The Beverly trestle across the river is closed. So at that point, Jim called his dad to come collect us, and we pedaled on the Huntzinger Road toward Vantage. We met him just as Vantage came into view, and pulled off to load the bikes onto the car.

I would like to recommend this ride to others because of the harsh beauty of the hills and ravines, but I hesitate to do so because of the condition of the trail. If the rocks could be cleared and the soft areas made firmer, I would recommend it, but not in 90-degree heat. Save it for spring or fall. Washington State Parks Department has devoted a web page to plans for the John Wayne Trail here: It may be valuable for us to add our voices in support of the trail completion and offer some volunteer hours for maintenance. There’s also a citizen group trying to raise awareness and money to help protect the trail. Here’s their website: 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

WRAC Meeting

Let's review: the Winter Recreation Advisory Committee is the group of people -- representatives from all the snow-park districts in the State along with a motorized recreation representative and a couple of State Parks employees -- who decide how the revenues from last winter's snow-park permits will be spent the next winter.  The committee is largely invisible to the average skier or snowshoer, but it's hugely important if you're into nonmotorized winter recreation, which, who isn't.  They meet twice a year, and this weekend was the meeting where they considered funding requests for next year.

Kongsbergers had submitted two requests on behalf of the Cabin Creek snow-park: one to continue the base level of grooming at Cabin Creek, five days a week, and one to add an additional $15,000 to the grooming budget to cover the increased labor costs that are likely to come with wacky and unexpected weather conditions next year and still allow all the trails at Cabin Creek to be groomed every day (five days).  This last winter, for example, with its amazing snowfalls knocking 250 (250!!) trees down across the trails just at Cabin Creek, the Cabin Creek groomer went $20,000 into the red (not covered by the WRAC) trying to deal with mother nature's whims and still provide a top-quality grooming experience for the huge numbers of skiers that gridlocked all the I-90 snow-parks.  We felt that it was important that Nick be able to provide the full package of services and get paid for it all -- after all, a good skiing experience next year means more people will come skiing, which means more snow-park permit revenues for the following year -- so we were hoping the committee would find enough money in the snow-park permit pot to cover our request.

Alas, it was not to be.  The committee received 27 funding requests this year, on top of the annual sustaining costs of grooming, snow removal, enforcement, equipment replacement, and sanitation.  There were a lot of good requests, a number of which would benefit all I-90 users -- increased parking capacity at Hyak and Crystal Springs, increased grooming at various locations, warming huts at different trails across the State -- but the supplemental Cabin Creek request did not make the cut.

The good news was that there was enough money in the budget to increase all the standing budget items by 10%, so there will be an additional amount added to the regular Cabin Creek grooming budget.  We are very grateful for that!  Everyone on the committee was very aware of the incredible conditions at the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass snow-parks: heavy heavy snowfalls and gridlocked parking lots.  One committee member suggested that Cabin Creek needed a double-decker parking lot!  But there is only so much that can be done, given that the Snoqualmie Pass area draws a skier population from the largest metropolitan area in the State, and one whose population is booming, and the physical limitations of the parking areas.  As Nick said, the next decade will be interesting.

A few notes on our supplemental request: Rune had already submitted the official application for funding, and at the meeting, I had only three minutes to try to make our case.  Anyone who knows me knows I like to talk, and in three minutes, I'm only just warming up, but I tried to hit on the important points.  One of the committee members asked why volunteers from the skiing community had not helped Nick deal with all the down trees.  The fact is, a number of Kongsbergers had tried to help, but as it turned out, we didn't do it right and actually made things worse for Nick, so that he damaged his equipment.  So we backed off from "helping" unless he specifically put out a call for assistance -- in fact, no volunteers are allowed to do any work on the trails during the grooming season unless he asks us to -- and we reimbursed him for his damaged equipment.

Then another committee member asked, since the trails are on forest service land, why the forest service didn't help clear the trees.  The two rangers who manage this district were at the meeting, and they described how extremely understaffed and thinly spread they are; there was literally no manpower available to deal with the trees.  The good news was that they expressed willingness to work more closely with local volunteers and organizations in the future, so that will be good for everyone.  Incidentally, they also pointed out that no one should be using chain saws on forest service land without being certified by the forest service, which involves eight hours of classroom instruction and two days of in-the-field training.  I told them I was sure a couple of chainsaw-loving volunteers would be willing to be certified!

But maybe the most interesting part of the day was the presentation just before the lunch break.  We had seen four items on the wish list for four of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass snow-parks, including Cabin Creek, each for $56,000, to install fancy permanent CXT outhouses, like the ones you see along the Iron Horse trail, and to increase trash removal.  The request was from the Kittitas County Parks and Recreation Department; I was so intrigued and curious about this request that we asked John, the applicant, to have lunch with us so we could talk more.  Over sandwiches at a cute little shop in downtown Wenatchee, we grilled him.

It turns out that Parks and Rec had surveyed the property owners near the snow-parks on the I-90 corridor -- for Cabin Creek, that would be, for example, the people who live down the U-Fish road -- and discovered that they really really do not like the snow-parks.  Do. not. like.  They don't like the crowded access roads and they do not like all the trash left behind.  As someone who participates every year in the annual snow-park clean-up, I know what they're talking about, and John said to imagine what it would be like for you if, every weekend, a ton of cars parked in front of your house and clogged your road so you couldn't get in your driveway and threw their beer bottles and dirty diapers on your lawn.  That's how these people feel, and some of them would like the State to declare the snow-parks an "attractive nuisance."  That's not "attractive" as in "pretty," but something that attracts a bad element.  That could mean closing snow-parks, limiting access, or other things, none of which are what we as skiers want to see.  I told John about our annual snow-park clean-up and he respectfully suggested more than one per year might be helpful.  I have often thought we should do it again in the fall, to clean up the summer's worth of yuck before the snow comes, and in the renewed spirit of cooperation with the forest service, perhaps we can make this happen.  It would go at least a little way toward showing the property owners we want to be friends.  John also thought we might move those concrete blocks in the parking lot to block access to everything but the through-road, to discourage whoever it is that hangs out there and throws their party leftovers on the ground.  Did I already say yuck?

As we walked back toward the meeting after lunch, John told me something else that really caught my attention.  I had heard that Plum Creek had sold their large swath of land in northern Kittitas County -- this would include the area along Amabilis road at Cabin Creek -- to the Nature Conservancy, and I had assumed that was good news; the land would be safe from development and maybe we could make friends with them and get some trails put in there.  But John said the NC had plans to sell off the land to developers and use the proceeds to fund other conservation projects in the State.  Because the NC is a private organization and any developer would be private, the transaction would not require any kind of public notice or comment period or an EIS.  And as John pointed out, if a developer buys the land between Amabilis road and the forest service road that is one of Cabin Creek's main ski trails and builds cabins, those cabin owners will expect the roads to be plowed, and that would be the end of the ski trail.

So ... lots to think about, and I drove home with thoughts swirling in my brain.  As Nick said, the next decade is going to be interesting.

P.S. Disclaimer: Everything I've written here came right out of my memory, so any mistakes or misrepresentations are, while unintentional, my own fault.