On the trail: Variety is the spice of Spring Gulch
CARBONDALE – It always amazes me to rediscover the diversity of the Spring Gulch cross-country ski area.
I went to the laid-back area southwest of Carbondale for the first time this season with a couple of friends Sunday. As soon as we got out of the car around 10:30 a.m., we knew we had scored. A classic skiing race was being held, so the trails on the route were freshly groomed and tracks set.
In the course of 90 minutes on the trails, we saw cross-country enthusiasts of all shapes, sizes and ages – racers in the latest gear and clothing, folks in duct-taped clothing and rickety old gear, families on leisurely cruises and individual skate skiers working on their personal best times around a course. The common bond was the love of being outdoors.
Many of the racers were in aerodynamic Lycra suits. They whooshed by with quick, methodical pumping motions. Soon after, we crossed paths with a young, fit guy skate skiing while pulling a sleeping child in a chariot on skis. We marveled at how fast the chariot puller would have been going sans the load. He was fast as it was.
While on the Finlandia trail, the uppermost traverse that follows an old railroad bed, we ran into a middle-aged couple walking on snowshoes accompanied by their dog. Both dogs and snowshoes are absolutely forbidden on the slopes of Spring Gulch. The couple apparently were unaware as they entered via a part of the railbed that extends northerly from Finlandia, outside the ski area. Signs forbidding snowshoes and dogs are posted at the base-level entry gate.
We greeted the snowshoers and their dog and didn’t bother telling them they were on restricted ground. We figured why ruin their fun and risk confrontation.
The next group we encountered was two adults and four kids, featuring one young aspiring X Gamer. The young feller was dashing a short ways up the lower slope of the Bulldogger trail, getting a full head of steam on the downhill and diving into the powder off the side of the trail. With the bravado that youngsters are so good at mustering, he complained of injury with each dive but kept going back for more.
Once down at the base, we crossed paths with an elderly gentleman who was out with a younger guy, possibly his son. The younger guy asked, “Ready for another round?” The older guy gamely accepted, and off they went.
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Officials are investigating the source of a loud explosion at Smuggler Mine on Saturday morning.