Saturday, March 22, 2008

Great River Bluffs X-C Ski

Today I took an exploratory x-c skiing road trip down to Great River Bluffs State Park south of Winona. I found it on skinnyski.com, the local encyclopedia of x-c skiing, and it sounded promising. Mostly, I was just looking for a place near the river that has groomed skate skiing trails and GRBSP fit the bill. As you may know, I'm a huge fan of the river and always enjoy finding a new vantage on it.

The drive down was nice, but overcast and grey. Accompanying music is one of the fun parts of road-tripping to me and today it consisted of Calexico's "Hot Rail", My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless", "We'll Never Turn Back" by Mavis Staples, and Olivia Tremor Control's "Dust at Cubist Castle". Great albums all.

When I got there the little ranger shack was closed and it was pay on your honor, so I put my money in the envelope and headed on down the road. There was only one other car there so I pretty much had the run of the place. Unfortunately, the x-c ski trails were laden with 4" of fresh spring snow -- not groomed or anything. It quickly became clear that I wouldn't exactly be getting in the workout that I hoped, but more of a pleasant cruise through the woods (which was fine). I blazed trail for a few kilometers and found some nice scenic overlooks. It was peaceful and quiet and beautiful in the freshly snowed woods.

On the drive back I took the river road and stopped at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. It's a modest little place with educational opportunities and displays on eagles. The highlight is definitely the 4 bald eagles that they have in captivity for visitor viewing. They were all hit by cars and rehabbed at the University's Raptor Center, but are unable to fly. It was pretty cool to stand about 3 feet away from a gorgeous adult bald eagle. Lots of eagles winter around Wabasha because below Lake Pepin (birthplace of water skiing) is the northernmost place where the Mississippi is reliably ice free. A very nice day.

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