It's easy to moan about having to take James, my 13-year old to an out of town hockey tournament, it's just as easy to make lemonade when life hands you lemons. I had done a little prep work to see what would be out here and I had found some promising opportunities: Tower Ridge Ski Trails outside of Eau Claire. WI and Hickory Ridge Trail, near Bloomer, WI.
I decided to do Tower Ridge first, because it was nearby. James also requested a skate sharpening, it turned out that Play-it-Again had a franchise at the same side of town, too. Thus two birds with one stone. While paying the park fees at the warm house, I chatted with a local skier. He was praising the fresh grooming, the nice weather and the lack of skiers. This is Birkebeiner weekend and a lot of skiers are congregating there, which means less pressure on other trails. I asked him if he knew Hickory Ridge, and indeed he did. He said that the scenery is gorgeous and that the area benefits from a micro-climate that retains the snow longer than in surrounding areas. He gave me some good directions, too. I had decided that I would try to make it to Hickory Ridge on Sunday, hockey schedule permitting. But first Tower Ridge.
The friendly local guy was right, a freshly groomed trail welcomed me, it had received very little use before my arrival. Initially, the trail followed the road N and then turned east, meandering through hardwood forest. I kept going along the outside edge of the ski area, trying to maximize distance without having to think too much about where I needed to go next. Very little leaves and debris on the trail and few other skiers. The terrain was mostly level, giving me an opportunity to work on switching my poling leg. Along the east side of the trail system I had a few welcome opportunities to work in some hills, as several loops left the main trail for the bottom of the Eau Claire River Valley. The first two climbs were quite challenging. Before I descended into the valley a second time, I met to women, volunteers at the ski area and another skier. I complimented them on their beautiful trail system. They pointed out where the trail would descend a third time into the valley and would stay there for quite a distance. I followed their advice and included this loop as well. Well worth it, the terrain is much more varied here. I logged 10.86 km in 47 minutes. A beautiful morning out!
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