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Winter came to a sudden halt in northern Wisconsin at the Blue Hills Trail

28 Feb

The roller coaster winter of 2016-17 came to a very early end during the last two weeks of February. Preceded by fluctuating cycles of cold/warm temperatures and snow/rain precipitation, this winter included three major warm rain events that took their toll on the cross country ski trails. When considering the overall snow total was very low, it’s amazing that the skiing was often very good during December-January-February.

Our last day of serious grooming was February 19 when conditions were still bordering on excellent despite a very thin base. Skiers were giddy with excitement after enjoying the fun skate skiing conditions over the previous several days. The next day it rained 1″ and along with several days of warm temperatures, this destroyed the thin base on the trails.

A 2.5″ damp snowfall on February 24 (the day prior to the Birkie) allowed one last attempt at grooming – but there wasn’t enough residual base to make the attempted grooming worthwhile. Up in Hayward, the Birkie was canceled and switched to a short foot race. Here at the Blue Hills Trail, we enjoyed some residual skiing on rock skis, then switched to use of the snowshoe trails to enjoy the little bit of winter that hung around.

This was the earliest end to winter that we recall since our organization started in 1987. We hope next winter repays us with snow and persistent cold, good skiing and snowshoeing.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Cameron, Holmen, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Ladysmith, Madison, Milwaukee, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake), Michigan (Marquette), Minnesota (Duluth) …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Snow drought, endangered wood turtle, another heat wave: the Blue Hills Trail provides great cross country skiing despite many obstacles.

15 Feb

Hats off to our groomers. The first half of February 2017 continued to provide excellent skiing at the Blue Hills Trail despite several major challenges:

  • Logging of an Eastside timber sale removed access to the nicest part of the core loop. This timber sale could only be logged in the winter while the endangered wood turtle is asleep. Skiers begrudgingly found other trails to their liking. This disruption of the trail system actually introduced many skiers to several very nice trails they would have otherwise overlooked.
  • Seasonal temperatures were accompanied by a snow drought. There was no significant snowfall between February 1st and the middle of the month, with none in the immediate forecast.
  • The weather forecast for the week preceding the American Birkebeiner ski race on February 25 was disturbing — with almost a solid week of temperatures in the 50’s and a day with significant rain forecast. Recognizing this meant a serious meltdown, groomers worked almost daily to generate fresh corduroy from an icy crusty surface. Amazingly fun fast controllable skate skiing was the result.

A highlight of the winter took place on Friday, February 10th when a full moon potluck event drew skiers and snowshoers to the warming house. They enjoyed good food, a warm camp fire, temps near 30 degrees F, and a near cloudless evening sky while viewing the full moon, a penumbral lunar eclipse, a brilliant shooting star, and many visible constellations (despite the bright moon). Many thanks to Dan Bjugstad for guiding a snowshoe outing on the newly opened trail that joins the other two snowshoe trails developed by Dan B and John Kann. These trails start close to the warming house.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Chetek, Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Ladysmith, Milwaukee, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake), Minnesota (Minneapolis, Owatanna), Illinois (Blue Island), Washington (Sumner), Switzerland …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

January thaw? More like a January heat wave! The Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin withstood the onslaught.

31 Jan

Beginning January 18, when it should have been the coldest week of the winter, the temperatures remained above freezing for one week. During that week, 0.6″ of rain saturated the ski trails on January 20/21. Skiers kindly stayed off the trails when they were soft, and sub-freezing temperatures returned on the 26th. After receiving several inches of new snow at the end of the month, grooming resumed and cross country skiers again enjoyed excellent conditions on the Blue Hills Trail.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Chetek, Cumberland, Ladysmith, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

A bit of snow, a bit of cold, good cross country skiing on the Blue Hills Trail.

15 Jan

Temps the first half of January 2017 have been somewhat mild, and snowfall has been decent. As a result, cross country skiing has been excellent at the Blue Hills Trail in Rusk County. The photos below tell it all.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Eau Claire, Ladysmith, Madison, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake, Two Rivers, Weyerhaeuser), Minnesota (Apple Valley, Minneapolis), Iowa (Clive), Michigan (Grosse Point)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Winter is here, early season cross country skiing conditions are very good on the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin.

31 Dec

This is it! This is what we work for during summer trail maintenance, and wait for as we watch the weather forecasts in November and December. The weather changed in late November, colder temps finally arrived and the very wet trails began freezing as we began grooming in early December.  We started skiing December 10th after grooming some of the trails closest to the warming house. By mid December, cold weather allowed more grooming and we’ve enjoyed surprisingly good skiing for this early in the season.

The weekend of December 23-26 (and the following week) became a groomer’s challenge. We were all set to groom late the evening of December 23rd. That evening the Hills received 2″ of very sticky snow, and the forecast called for lots of rain on December 25th. By group consensus, we decided to avoid grooming the December 23rd snowfall, let it sit and hope it would absorb the forecast rain. Mild temps all that weekend culminated in 0.7″ rain the evening of Christmas Day, followed by falling temps and A MAJOR WINDSTORM on December 26th.

We’re glad we allowed the December 23rd snowfall to rest without grooming. It magically absorbed the December 25th rainfall. After the December 26th windstorm, temps fell the week of December 26th, and our groomers spent loads of hours clearing tree-falls and branches. And skiers helped by flicking and flicking and flicking the sticks. As the New Years weekend approached the trails were in good shape, and skiers from near and far marveled at the quality of the skiing in the Hills.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Eau Claire, Exeland, Hudson, Ladysmith, Milwaukee, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake, Two Rivers), Minnesota (Apple Valley, Minneapolis), Des Moines (Iowa), Missoula (Montana)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

The Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin – March through November 2016 – comments from visitors

2 Dec

From March to December, volunteers of the Blue Hills Trail Association keep busy with trail maintenance in preparation for their favorite time of the year: winter! Visitors to this 20-mile system of non-motorized trails enjoyed a rare bug free spring/summer/fall and shared their experiences with comments in our guestbook.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Augusta, Bruce, Cadott, Chetek, Eau Claire, Hawkins, Ladysmith, Madison, Milwaukee, Phillips, Rice Lake), Minnesota (Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, St. Paul, Zumbrota), Indiana (Indianapolis), Michigan (Traverse City)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

28th Annual Fundraising Banquet for the Blue Hills Trail located in northwest Wisconsin

8 Nov

The annual fall banquet for the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. (BHTA) was held Saturday, November 5th at Lehman’s Supper Club in Rice Lake. While bidding on the numerous silent auction items, this group of silent sports enthusiasts enjoyed camaraderie, libations, great food, and laughter. Storytelling by author/humorist Michael Perry created outlandishly funny images that had us howling.

After a delicious buffet meal, master of ceremonies (Patty McGown) turned the floor over to BHTA president Ron Jasperson who summarized the many significant events impacting the Blue Hills Trail this past year, including: an amazing amount of erosion following a May 31st deluge; the huge number of volunteers helping throughout the year; the tremendous all-season usefulness of the 2014 John Deere Gator with Camoplast tracks purchased spring of 2014; and a good (but short) ski season during the winter of 2015-16 despite a strong El Nino event. Ron reported the trails are in good shape as we head toward winter, and noted that fundraising this fall has been very successful. He was pleased to note that the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. remains financially solid. Follow this link to read the full text of this year’s State of the Trails.

To honor a few of our many volunteers, three special awards were presented: Jonathan Stanley accepted the “2 BZ 2 Pee” traveling trophy (a porcelain urinal) honoring his numerous contributions of time and energy to many area organizations, ours included. Then beer connoisseur Ron Jasperson was honored for his many years working on the trails – he received a growler with glasses emblazoned with the logo “Got Trails?” And to recognize his incredible sleuthing skills and ability to explore issues fully, Ron received a special trench coat and cuban cigar and was publicly honored as our own Columbo (he does bear a striking resemblance to Peter Falk).

Following Michael Perry’s presentation, prizes valued at more than $5000 were distributed to the attendees — including Jim Cargill winning the raffle for the Spring Street Sports $250 gift card, and Bob Peterson winning the raffle for the New Moon $250 gift card.  Our many donors graciously give back to their communities — when the opportunity arises, be sure to offer them a sincere thank you. Colder weather’s overdue, get your skis ready!

Bridge and culvert repair on the Blue Hills Trail

2 Oct

The Blue Hills Trail — entirely non-motorized — has more than 20 miles of trails that require year round maintenance. Our most important bridge was heavily damaged in a late May deluge, then dismantled in August while staging the repair. Every picture tells a story: the attached photos first show the damaged bridge; then show the workers on the 14th of September when the bridge was rebuilt (bridge building photos courtesy of Dan Bjugstad); and some modifications from the workday on October 1st. Thanks to these guys for rebuilding the bridge: Dan Bjugstad, Mike Cragg, Ron Jasperson, Frank Lowry, & John Waldron. Thanks to Lamperts of Ladysmith for donating the lumber for the stringers.

This bridge (as well as another bridge and several culverts) received quite a bit of attention during the annual work day on October 1st. The trails are shaping up now as we enjoy fall and look forward to winter skiing.

Many many thanks to our numerous volunteers!

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Summer at the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin. What have we been up to?

24 Aug

What have we been up to? Read on…

Our volunteers have dodged the rain while mowing and working on erosion control this summer. All the trails have been mowed and are in good shape for hiking. Erosion control has been a huge challenge this year: major culverts were blown out in a deluge on May 31st, and one of our most important bridges was taken out of commission that day.

A lot of erosion has been repaired thanks to assistance from the Rusk County Forestry Department, dozing from the Wisconsin DNR, and handwork from our volunteers. A major revision of the Eastside trail (30-30A) should be a joy to ski.

The series of photos (see below) show the blown out culvert, and the results of the repair including the rock riprap on the culvert and the new growth of seeded grass. Additional photos show some of the dozing at the 30A intersection.

To finish off the summer, we’re now in the process of preparing for a major bridge repair.

Many many thanks to the numerous volunteers that helped with mowing and trail work this summer!

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Cross country skiing in northern Wisconsin – the Blue Hills trail made the most of a short winter.

12 Mar

Winter 2015-16 arrived late, detained by a strong El Nino event. We had two months of good skiing, shared by many fun visitors to the trails. Unfortunately, mother nature brought the ski season to an abrupt end in early March. Many thanks to all our supporters and volunteers that make this trail system so special.

Here’s a bit of a recap:

  • A very wet summer/fall 2015 made for difficult trail mowing; and created significant challenges due to trail erosion. In October this included one heavily damaged bridge that was successfully repaired; and abandoning another damaged bridge by rerouting a trail section (this trail revision necessitated bulldozing and hand labor). Twice we also repaired extensive trail damage from illicit off road truck traffic.
  • After a discouraging warm, rainy December 2015, the trails finally received a couple inches of snow on December 24th. Another 2″ of snow on December 28th allowed our groomers to start working.
  • As cold weather arrived in early January, wet spots began freezing. Careful, meticulous grooming then created good skiing throughout January despite minimal snowfall. By the middle of January, conditions were mostly very good to excellent even though the base was thin. A heavy snowfall on February 2nd allowed grooming of the entire trail system and provided excellent conditions until icy trails developed following a record warm day on February 27th.
  • This year’s “Blue Hills Trail Fun Day” was loads of fun: a potluck full moon party on Saturday January 23rd that was very well attended. We enjoyed temps in the 20s, a roaring campfire, drum circle rhythm, great food, and good skiing conditions despite the moon hiding behind an overcast sky.
  • On a warm February 19th, it rained more than half an inch; and on the 20th the trails were saturated wet and very soft after two days with temps above freezing. A skier injury on February 20th led to a local fire department rescue that required the use of a tracked ATV. The rescue was successful, but unfortunately the equipment left deep ruts that closed down about 2 miles of the groomed trails. After repairing one limited portion of the damage, we were able to use a detour of the core loop that kept everyone happy.
  • With temps predicted to skyrocket beginning March 5th, we looked at the weather forecast and then groomed one last time on March 1st. Grooming equipment went to summer storage on Friday March 4th, we skied that weekend and then enjoyed one last morning of good classic skiing on March 7th as temperatures pushed 60 degrees later that afternoon.
  • From December 24th through February 23rd, we received only 24 inches of snow; by early March the total for the season was only 30 inches, easily the lowest seasonal snow total since we’ve kept records beginning in 1999.
  • We groomed a total of 36 times – and felt lucky we had enough cold weather to enjoy ourselves.
  • This winter of 2015-16, we’ve once again enjoyed sharing the Blue Hills Trail with visitors from near and far. Thanks to everybody that helps spread the word regarding the beauty of this trail system.

A huge ‘shout out’ to our groomers. Equipment break downs and mechanical problems were handled efficiently & never compromised the grooming. Thank you to our primary grooming team (Steve Gest, Adam Brockman, & Jesse Wimer) – and to our occasional groomers (Mike Cragg, Ron Jasperson, Tom Paulsen, Steve Porn, and Dave Putnam) – for creating great memories the winter of 2015-16!

A sincere thank you to our diverse group of members, volunteers and supporters – you’re the best.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Ladysmith, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake, Madison, Milwaukee, Exeland, Bruce, Racine, Eau Claire), Minnesota (Apple Valley, Maple Grove, Grand Rapids, Lindstrom, Afton, Minneapolis, Richfield), Europe (Catalonia/Andorra, Austria)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Cross country skiing on the Blue Hills Trail – big snowfall provides lots of work for groomers – resultant conditions are superb!

14 Feb

A big snowfall on February 2nd (8 inches measured at the warming house – estimates of 10-12 inches on many trails) meant several days of long hours grooming for double shifts of groomers. Within a few days, the results were good – within a week, the results were breathtaking.

Wide smooth trails, firm skate lane and firm pole plants, rock solid classic track. All highlighted by the return of cold temps and sunny days. Winter’s best.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Cameron, Ladysmith, Eau Claire, Rice Lake, Bruce, Tony, Appleton), Illinois (Blue Island), Minnesota (Apple Valley, Maple Grove), Switzerland …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Great cross country skate skiing, classic skiing, snowshoeing, moonlight skiing. The Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin had it all in late January.

31 Jan

By the end of January 2016, cross country skiing on the Blue Hills Trail was offering excellent conditions despite a realistic snowfall of only 11.5 inches. How the groomers were able to cover most of the rough spots was everybody’s question. As the word spread, the Hills received more and more skier traffic. That’s the kind of traffic that makes our groomers happy.

Visitors were hungry for winter in more ways than one. The oft improved snowshoe trail(s) received their share of traffic. Many thanks to the nearby Christie Mountain downhill ski area for donating rope used on multiple locations on the snowshoe trail, thus offering its own unique form of a human rope tow.

And hungry were the folks that shared a well attended full moon potluck / drum circle / moonlight ski event on Saturday, January 23rd. What a fun gathering!

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Hudson, Ladysmith, Rice Lake, Madison, Eau Claire, Shell Lake, Cameron, Weyerhaeuser, Chippewa Falls, Somerset, Cumberland), Minnesota (Apple Valley, St. Paul) …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

With only 9 inches of snow, groomers work their magic on the Blue Hills Trail

16 Jan

Cold weather and occasional small snowfalls helped groomers create very good cross country skiing conditions during the first half of January 2016. With only 9 inches of snowfall to work with, skiers were uniformly amazed at the groomers’ ability to create a wide mostly smooth skate lane and the presence of quite a bit of classic track. Despite the unusually low snowfall, dirt spots were infrequent, and most skiers were comfortable using their good skis.

With careful, judicious grooming, more and more trails were opened up and 90% of the trail system was available by mid January.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Cameron, Ladysmith, Rice Lake, Mt. Horeb, Bruce), Minnesota (Apple Valley) …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Finally – El Nino loses its grip and winter begins on the Blue Hills Trail of northwest Wisconsin

2 Jan

Reports of a record breaking El Nino worried cross country skiers the last half of 2015 – and the incredibly warm wet weather lasted until the end of December. A sampling of snow allowed skiing during the early days of December, but rains and near record warmth during most of December were very discouraging. The ground was still bare and unfrozen at Christmas time. Folks were biking and hiking instead of waxing their skis.

Finally, the weather began turning around and wintry weather started moving in on Christmas Eve. Despite only 4 inches of snow to use for grooming, careful well-timed grooming was able to produce surprisingly good cross country skiing conditions by New Year’s Day.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Weyerhaeuser, Ladysmith, Bruce, Osceola, Rice Lake), Minnesota (Minneapolis, St. Paul), Michigan (Traverse City), Illinois …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

News regarding the snowshoe trail(s) at the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin

13 Dec

John Kann and Dan Bjugstad (two of our hard working members) have spent many hours clearing, brushing, defining and refining the snowshoe trail(s) this fall.

The ‘Nordic Pines Trail’ starts just behind the warming house. It measures 1.45 km and is considered an intermediate challenge. The ‘Rolling Oaks Trail’ is an easy loop that measures 1.13 km and starts just east of the warming house, just inside the green gate.

For those of you that like to know where you’re headed, GPS mapping of these trails has been superimposed on our existing maps, and bright yellow trail markers help you follow the trail. In the pictures below, take a look at the Nordic Pines Trail Map and the Rolling Oaks Trail Map.

John and Dan are also developing a longer and more challenging snowshoe trail to the east of #22. We’ll let you know when it’s ready to go. Many thanks for their efforts on behalf of the snowshoe community!

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.