So I'm trying to get back in shape. Really, really trying.
While in Waterville, IA for a photo shoot, I decide to detour east a smidge and check out Yellow River State Forest. I do a little research and email back and forth with the DNR to find out that the Luster Heights Unit has trails "groomed for cross country skiing". I make sure to toss my skis in the photo van before heading out.
It's been hard to find good skiing this year and I am excited to maybe find a new place to get some on-snow time. I follow the GPS, paired with my downloaded PDF of parks maps to the Luster Heights entrance. From there I just follow the signs to the public parking. The park is beautiful and covered in snow. Yes! I will ski today.
The public parking is plowed with room for only one vehicle to park, and I am in a giant van, so I continue on to see if there is another place around the bend. That's when it gets weird.
The forest road ends at a cluster of small buildings with a sign: "Authorized Vehicles Only". But just beyond that, I can see "Visitor Parking", and a building labeled "Office". The park ranger's office, I think. Excellent, I think- I can ask where the trailhead is.
I park in "Visitor Parking" and am starting up the walk to the "Office" when a uniformed gaurd comes out. I take notice of his sidearm and accompanying taser. The "Authorized Vehicles Only" sign registers in my mind; I realize now that I have breached some sort of security with a three-quarter ton cargo van. Nice work.
Gaurd: "Can I help you with something?"
Me: "I'm confused. I was told there are cross country ski trails here?"
Gaurd: "They're back by the public parking. Go back the way you came."
Me (indicating buildings): "What is this?"
Gaurd: "This is a prison."
Me: "Am I safe here?"
Gaurd: "Well, it's minimum security, so the guys aren't really dangerous. And the trails are outside the perimeter."
Me: "Okay. So, you said the trails are this way? And they go that direction? Great. Thanks."
As I'm walking back to the van, I realize that this is the point where most people decide that maybe a ski isn't on the agenda today. Maybe a swift drive back to civilization sounds more like a solid plan.
I've never claimed to be like most people. I will ski today.
I park in the lone "public" parking spot and get suited up to ski. I can see the service road that leads to the trails. Someone has already skied on it. It looks like they might only groom for classic skiing, and of course I'm a skater, but the trail looks wide enough to kind of bushwack it, and there's plenty of snow.
I put on my skis and start the double-pole coast down the side of the service road towards the trail. I've got a bit of speed going when my right ski stops dead and slams my knee (followed quickly by the rest of my body) to the ground. There is one itty bitty patch of exposed gravel- just enough to, well, stop a ski.
Again, it occurs to me that this might be a good opportunity to bail on this particular adventure. But now I'm on a mission; I'll be damned if I'm gonna drive to BFE Prison and be stopped by a little crash. I WILL ski today!
I continue on and find the proper ski trail, and they have only groomed for classic. That's alright, I'll freaking double-pole all day if I have to. I will ski today!
The first section of trail goes gradually downhill with a few nice flat sections. The snow is heavy and loose, so no skating for me. The second section goes quickly downhill, ending at a sharp right turn where the tracks are completely demolished by the number of crashes here. Seriously, I'm talking a 100% failure rate. It looks like a garbage chute. I obviously crash here as well, but softly in about two feet of snow.
I stand, brush myself off, and consider my situation. It's bit ridiculous at this point, forcing it like this to ski horribly in bad snow. I decide to bag it; I have to pee anyways. I will not ski today.
When I make it back to the van I glance at the base of my skis. The right ski has a number of new gouges, including one that has ripped away some of the base material. Beautiful. I officially own rock skis now.
It really needs to snow, soon. Hard.