Escapades at Machickanee
BY RICH PALZEWIC
Sometimes what you read on the internet isn’t true, but in this case, I should have listened to the advice heeded.
The northeastern Wisconsin area received about 5 inches of snow in mid-January, which finally opened the area cross country ski trails.
The trails had been open a few days here and there earlier in the season, but I didn’t ski for the first time until Jan. 20 at the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve in Suamico, a northern suburb of Green Bay.
Reading the trail reports for the Machickanee Ski Trails in Oconto County the weekend prior to my first ski, it said, “The trails are groomed, but the parking lot is not plowed – bring a shovel just in case you get stuck.”
I didn’t think much of the comment, but I should have, especially considering I would be using a vehicle that didn’t have four-wheel drive.
Driving north on Highway 41/141 from Green Bay about 25 miles, plenty of signage directed me to the trails.
I wasn’t quite sure where to go, so I pulled off on a road near the trails that wasn’t plowed very well but had other vehicle tracks.
Long story short, I got stuck – not bad but enough to derail my plans.
I scraped the snow away as best I could, but it was to no avail.
I even tried rocking the car myself and got the back wheels close to the pavement.
I knew I was only a small push away from being back in action, and I was happy when an approaching truck stopped to help.
My enthusiasm turned to disappointment when the elderly man said, “I’d love to help, but I have a doctor’s appointment I need to get to.”
I explained it would only take 30 seconds, but he was gone faster than my car got stuck.
Frustrated, another vehicle stopped five minutes later and pushed me out.
I was correct – it only took one heave and about 30 seconds.
Turning around, I saw a parking lot I had passed up that had more vehicle tracks entering.
I sat there for a good minute thinking to myself, “Can I get in there, turn the vehicle around, ski and get out without getting stuck?”
Being the stubborn person I am, I went for it … and promptly got stuck again.
I was able to ease myself out of the lot and felt lucky to be in one piece.
I stopped at Barkhausen on my drive home and skied for about an hour at a nice easy pace – it was a wonderful time to be on the trails. I didn’t see another skier that day.
I also went back to Barkhausen the following day, skied some new trails and saw only one other skier during the time I was there.
I will definitely go back to Machickanee soon with the four-wheel-drive pickup truck and have a great ski – and not get stuck!
Machickanee is a classic-only trail and has about 12 kilometers of marked trails.
According to the trail’s website, skimachickanee.org, the trails lead through a series of forest types, including red pine plantations, coniferous swamps, oak ridges and birch and aspen stands.
They undulate through topography ranging from creek bottoms to ridge tops.
Numerous hills and curves of various slopes and lengths make this course a challenge for the intermediate to advanced skiers.
The trails also include a beginner loop that can be enjoyed by skiers of all ability levels.
The day before my first ski of the season, I took my daughter Francesca to a local disc golf course and met my brother-in-law Kevin for some snowshoeing.
We opted for the disc golf course instead of Barkhausen because we wanted fresh snow to tromp through. Barkhausen is heavily used for snowshoeing during/directly after a snowstorm and gets tramped down.
Our plan was to walk all 18 holes, touching each disc golf cage upon completion of the hole.
Most of the course is wide open, so we had deep snow for most of the trek.
I compare snowshoeing to a slow jog – more aerobic than walking but not running.
About halfway through, we took a break to relax and catch our breath before continuing.
Toward the end, Francesca showed her strength by running ahead – oh to be young again!
I plan to cross country ski as much as I can to make use of my $40 yearly pass for the Brown County Ski Trails, but I’m guessing by the time you read this, I’ll be on the road biking with the warmer weather.