Saturday, January 21, 2012

Breaking Trail in 4 Feet of Powder!

"Max shoulder deep" and getting deeper. Time to switch to
single file skijoring and take turns breaking trail.
Max, Zorro & I were breaking trail today in snow from 20 to 48 inches in depth for about 2 miles straight!

I marked the deepest point (midway up my chest) and then measured to discover we were in 48 inches of untouched powder at our deepest point. Breaking trail in 4 feet of snow - wow.

As is our usual pattern, when the snow gets too deep (over 20 inches), we switch into "single file" skijoring mode with Max and his snow stilts (long legs) breaking trail in the front. Zorro happily drops in behind Max and lets him plow the way. But, we cannot ask Max to do this much  work for 2 miles straight. So, when I see Max tiring, I move Zorro to the front to break trail (Max will accept this as he needs a break). When I see Zorro tiring, I move myself to the front and break trail for the 2 of them. The fun thing is, as soon as Max gets his wind back, he'll come right up behind me and head butt my legs in a statement of, "Ok slowpoke, I got my rest, now move out of the way so we can make some real progress again!" I'll let Max then move to the front and we start the cycle over again - rotating Zorro and myself to the front when Max needs a break. All in, when we are breaking trail in 20+ inches for long distances, Max will typically lead the way 65% of the time, Zorro 20% of the time, and the slow human 15% of the way. I was in the front when we hit 48 inches deep today - smart Max & Zorro saying, "Go ahead dad, you take this section!"

Today's route was a true example of extreme ends of the spectrum in conditions:

(1) The first 2.5 miles was an established trail going straight up a 900 foot incline in 3-6 inches of new, fresh powder.

(2) The next 2 miles was our attempt to connect the ghost town of Dysersville down to Indiana Creek. There is a jeep road for this connection in the summertime. But, this route is clearly unused in the winter as the snow was untouched and, thus, 20-48 inches deep the entire 2 mile stretch!

(3) Once connecting with the frequently used Indiana Creek trail, we were on a packed sprint track with only 1-3 inches of new powder the final 2 miles. We hit a top speed of 23 MPH on this section.

What a day: from breaking trail in 48 inches to sprinting at 23 MPH!

Vital Stats: 6.5 miles; 105m total time; 85m skijoring time (10ish minutes of stopped time to catch our breath in the deep snow; 10ish minutes of stopped time to wait for the 5 loose & misbehaving dogs to get semi-collected by their bad owners); 23 MPH top speed; 900 feet of elevation gain. Not a particularly fast outing - but you try breaking trail in 20-48 inches for 2 miles!!!

Video of our final approach to the Indiana Creek trailhead. Contrast
this heavily used (thus heavily packed) fast track with our 20+ inches
of trail breaking on the unused section of the backcountry!
video

A fun "action shot" - Max is airborne as jumping to make progress in the deep snow!
Good picture of the deep snow as we began to connect from Dyersville to Indiana
Creek. It got deeper & deeper for the next 2 miles!

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