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December 5th ice storm damage has been cleared, grooming of the Blue Hills Trail has begun

15 Dec

After a nasty ice storm on December 5th, we started grooming the Blue Hills Trail (in northwest Wisconsin) for cross country skiing on Monday December 11 after the gun deer hunt ended. We waited to put the word out, because last week’s ice storm created plenty of extra labor to remove downed trees and leaning saplings. The pictures below don’t even show the big trees that were removed.

First pass grooming was with our rollers. Then we began pulling the G2 implements. We now have early season skating conditions that range from fair to good to very good on trails groomed daily since December 11. There’s a short section of nice classic track.

The base is about 2″ thick, firm and mostly surprisingly smooth — thanks to lot of summertime trail work! The occasional dirt spots, rocks and tufts of grass are mostly easily avoided. Bring rock skis as well as a pair of good skis — you decide.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Eau Claire, Ladysmith, Rice Lake), Minnesota (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.

The Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin is in good shape and ready for winter

3 Dec

The ‘Skier in the Tree’ (AKA Bunny) that hangs out at #29 on the Eastside trails is pleased to report the trails are in good shape, and ready for snow. The skier lives on, thanks to a fine job of cleaning out the bird and squirrel debris, and replacing the well worn garments.

The ground is currently bare, and although there’s no snow in the forecast, this may work to our advantage. We’d like a stretch of cold weather to freeze the wet spots and drive the frost into the ground. Then when snow arrives, it’ll be easier to groom the trails.

While waiting for winter to arrive, we’ve been fine tuning the equipment and removing more downed trees. We’ve also taken advantage of the bare woods to explore potential trail revisions (more on this in a future email message).

Photos below show a couple interesting critter hangouts. Look carefully at the last two photos — there’s a porcupine watching you.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Ladysmith, 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.

Summary of the annual fundraising banquet for the Blue Hills Trail Association Inc.

5 Nov

The Blue Hills Trail Association’s 29th annual fundraising banquet was Saturday, November 4th. This annual event provides a fun opportunity to renew acquaintances and share in anticipation of the upcoming winter cross country ski season.

We had a great turnout, fun times, and plenty of camaraderie at our November 4th banquet at Lehman’s Supper Club in Rice Lake, WI. A big thank you to Julie Buckles (author of Paddling to Winter) for providing the evening’s entertainment. A special round of applause for the many volunteers that maintain our 20+ miles of non-motorized trails, and the businesses and individuals that support the Blue Hills Trail.

Follow this link for photos from the banquet (this link will stay active for 6 months). DOUBLE CLICK ANY OF THE PHOTOS TO ENTER THE SLIDE SHOW. Recognize anyone?

Click here for the “State of the Trails” document that summarizes the past year on the Blue Hills Trail.

With the bulk of our fundraising completed, we’re ready for winter.
Ski the Hills!

Work day results at Wisconsin Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin

3 Oct

Whew! Our annual trail work day accomplished a lot. Over the first weekend in October (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) twelve volunteers each donated several hours of their time. With the goal of having safe clear passages for skiing, they…

  • Chainsawed about 25 trees for removal (a localized storm on September 22 produced fairly widespread damage to our trail system)
  • Removed fallen trees, limbs, and branches; and bothersome rocks
  • Brushed the trail margins to maintain wide passages for skiing
  • Shoveled to create a smooth ramp approach for the bridge at #31
  • Filled a section of eroded areas with ten straw bales that were separated, compacted and retwined
  • Shoveled to fill eroded segments adjacent to straw bales
  • Felled trees to serve as “corduroy” at a deep eroded trench
  • Moved lumber in anticipation of bridge repair
  • Placed reinforcement cable at our bridge that is undergoing repair
  • Broomed off the roof of the warming house

We’re very pleased to have that above list out of the way. Many thanks to the helpers this past weekend: Dan Bale, Mike Cragg, Ron Jasperson, Shane Klein, Peter Neal, Jan Paulsen, Tom Paulsen, Steve Porn, Jerry Schneider, Jason Sirek, John Waldron, and Jerry Wilkes.

And a huge thank you to all of you that have helped with the many tasks this past summer (mowing, tree removal, equipment repair, equipment storage, eradicating carpenter ants, fixing the doors of the warming house, etc). If we tried to list all your names, we’d miss some. Please know that your volunteer efforts are greatly appreciated!

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.

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!

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.

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.

27th Annual Fundraising Banquet for the Blue Hills Trail located in northwest Wisconsin

9 Nov

The annual fall banquet for the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. (BHTA) was held Saturday, November 7th 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 Dr. Bob Inman’s dynamic slide show presentation (“Wolverine Biology and Conservation”) describing ground-breaking work applying GPS tracking in the study of wolverines. The GPS technology that Dr. Inman and his wife applied for the first time to wolverines revealed the amazing capacity of the species to move through rugged terrain and the vast multi-state scale over which conservation of wolverines must occur.

After a delicious buffet meal, master of ceremonies (Patty McGown) turned the floor over to BHTA vice president Ron Jasperson who summarized the many significant events impacting the Blue Hills Trail this past year, including: 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 very good ski season during the winter of 2014-15 that attracted more ‘out-of-the-area’ skiers than ever. 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.

To honor a few of our many volunteers, two special awards were presented: Patty McGown and Nels Curnow accepted the “2 Busy 2 Pee” traveling trophy (a porcelain urinal) honoring their numerous contributions of time and energy. Then Dave Olsen was honored for his many years maintaining the pit toilets – he received the golden clothespin award.

Following Dr. Inman’s presentation, prizes valued at more than $5000 were distributed to the attendees — including Mark Bittner winning the raffle for the Spring Street Sports $250 gift card, and Erik Ostenso 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!

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.