Despite the extra snowy and extra cold winter in Boise, I have still been running. However, this past weekend I took the opportunity to cross train a bit by cross country skiing with a Varsity Scout team into the Stolle Meadows Forest Service cabin.
We left on Friday at about 4:30pm after the boys were out of school. There were six boys and three adults total. One of the boys was 11 (he was the son of one of the adults), but the rest were 14-15 years-old.
Unfortunately, our late departure resulted in a late arrival at what we thought was the trail head. The place we stopped had a nice plowed area for parking and a gate indicating a trail. Unfortunately again, it wasn’t the trail head! Michael (one of the adults with us) has a Yamaha Rhino (side-by-side) with snow treads instead of wheels. He brought that along for support. It took 20-30 minutes for everyone to get their gear and head out. The six boys went first, but as Doug (another leader) and I headed out to follow them, we saw them turning around. They had lost the trail.
At first we thought they just couldn’t navigate, but then we soon found we were at a dead-end camp site. Luckily there was a detailed map of the area in the camp site, and we soon realized that we were about a half mile from the actual trail/road that we were supposed to take. We debated continuing along the same direction until we met up with the road in a couple miles. From past experience, I knew that these ideas always sound better than they actually turn out to be. We were only ~1/3 mile from the highway, so we decided to turn around and head back.
In the meantime, the Rhino had gotten stuck a couple times due to the crazy deep, mostly unpacked snow (~4 feet deep). That was worrisome, but we were able to dig it out and move on.
When we were finally at the correct road and ready to go again it was 9pm. Nevertheless, with our headlamps on and a good attitude, we were skiing once again. A couple snowmobiles had been on the road, so the snow was a little packed and the Rhino did much better. Michael took the Rhino ahead to blaze the trail, take some gear, and prepare the cabin and a really late dinner.
The boys skied fairly well. Of course, some were faster than others. After a couple miles, four of the boys had distanced themselves out front. A couple boys and Doug and I followed in back. The road was six miles long, which is quite a distance if you haven’t skied in a while — or ever, as was the case with the slower boys. Even for me, cross country skiing was definitely working muscles I wasn’t used to.
I had to encourage the slowest boy quite a bit, although he did well. I had my Garmin on, so I knew exactly how far we’d come, but I didn’t always tell him as I didn’t want to discourage him with how far we had to go. It was cold outside — probably 10 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as we were moving it wasn’t bad, but when he wanted to take a break I would start freezing.
About two miles into the journey I felt some blisters developing on the back of my heels. There wasn’t much I could do. It was freezing, dark, and the snow was deep. It wasn’t worth stopping to me.
The last of us finally arrived at the cabin at 11:20pm or so. The cabin wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was warm and there was enough room for all of us, although there were only 4 beds so some had to sleep on the floor. The outhouse was a 20-yard walk through the snow. There was drinkable water from a pump outside. Drinkable, but not clean. It was yellowish and had some sediment in it. In fact, I was the last one to the cabin and they were melting snow when I got there. I knew the water was drinkable from the Forest Service website, so I went out and pumped for a few minutes to get it as clean as possible. Then we started using it. The cabin definitely has a cool, rustic feel. It’s not just a second house in the mountains as some cabins are.
Dinner was delicious and I was exhausted by the time I laid down at 1:30am.
We got up pretty late the next morning — about 8:15am. The cabin had stayed warm all night. The Forest Service keeps it well stocked with lumber. We didn’t even need to add any during the night though.
A couple of boys made breakfast after some encouragement from me to get going, and we ate scrumptious breakfast burritos. Otherwise we didn’t do much in the morning — we cleaned up the cabin and headed back.
My blisters were huge. I put some duct tape on them and tied my boots extra tight before heading out. [Update: it took them about 2.5 weeks before they no longer bled when I ran. Ouch.]
The scenery was pretty spectacular as we made our way the six miles back. It was just us and the snow covered mountains and trees. There were a couple hot springs we noticed on the creek where the snow was melted more. Everything was brilliant white, and we even had some snow fall.
I had asked Michael to double back with the Rhino after he made it to the cars and unloaded. That way he was able to pick up a couple of the slower boys that were struggling on the way back.
I was surprised at how much I struggled. I made it back, but the last two miles were a slog. I could run 10-15 miles a few days a week with no problem, but skiing 6 miles was a different matter. It worked my leg muscles differently than I was used to. Plus, my skis are a little small for me and I didn’t glide very well, so it was kind of like hiking with skis on. My slow speed meant I was skiing for ~2 hours on Friday night and then another 2 hours on Saturday morning. I have to run ~15-16 miles to be on my feet that long.
We all made it back safely though. We didn’t have any injuries or big mishaps. Three of the six boys did the whole 12 miles (6 miles out and back), and two more would have if we had been more patient.