Saturday, March 1, 2014

American Birkebeiner 2014

It was another great Birkie Week with my fellow skiers, Tim, Mike, and Joel from February 14th through February 23rd. Tim and I started going to the American Birkebeiner in 1986 and Mike joined us a couple of years later. Joel has been coming up from Traverse City, Michigan with Mike for the last two years.

We have stayed at a number of locations in and around the Birkie Trail over the years. 14 Years at the Pilot Fish Inn, I believe 5 years in a cabin on Lake Namakagon, 3 years in a cabin on Clam Lake, and now a beautiful house that sits between Diamond and Crystal Lakes. We have found as we have aged that we wanted more creature comforts including additional bathrooms, a washing machine and dryer, a designated area to wax skis, and now a sauna!

This is the view of our house that we are calling our Diamond Lake House. While it is about 25 minutes northeast of Cable, it is well worth the drive to both get to the North Trail Head and the Birkie Start at the Cable Airport.

Tim and Joel also especially liked the massive fire place that is available on all three levels of the house. The kitchen was also massive and we have found over the years that we enjoy cooking more and going out for dinner much less. We all bring food and then shop at the grocery stores available in Hayward and Cable.

The picture to the left shows the fire place in the main living area, kitchen, and one of the bedrooms upstairs. The picture on the right shows the view of Diamond Lake from the upper level out the main window.

The nice thing about going up for the week is that we are able to get in a lot of relaxed fun type skiing in on the Birkie Trail, which is usually also in fantastic condition. This year was no exception. While we did not go out for long skis we do explore many parts of the trail. This year we skied on the Kordelopet Trail and both the Birkie Classic and Skate trails from the North End Trail Head to Highway Double OO in Seeley. On Thursday before the race I also skied south on the trail toward Hayward from Double OO.

The picture to the left is after our first day of skiing from the North Trail Head. The pictures below are when we skied on the Kordelopet Trail to the Telemark Lodge. Unfortunately the Lodge has been closed for a few years now. At one time this was the center of activities for the Birkie race.

This year we took a day off from skiing and went up to Lake Superior near Conucopia, Wisconsin to see the Ice Caves. Not since 2009 has the lake been frozen enough to walk out on the ice to see the caves. It was especially interesting to me because I had gone on a sailing trip around the Apostle Islands in August and had pictures of the caves from then. This is also a big area for kayaking where you can go into the caves that have been formed from wave action. In the winter they are just incredible as the pictures below show.

Another part of the annual experience of the Birkie is picking up our bibs and exploring all the booths at the expo. This used to be at the Telemark Lodge and now for the past several years is located at the Hayward Middle School in Hayward. I also like taking pictures of all the vendor booths and then compare from year to year. The pictures below are a sampling of the pictures I took this year.

For more pictures go to the Birkie Web Today Facebook page.

I am a board member and in charge of social media for the Birchleggings Club, which is for all Birkie skiers that have skied 20 or more Birkie races. On the Sunday after the Birkie there is an awards dinner in Hayward where all 20 year skiers are presented with their plagues. Now that we have many skiers completing 30 years there is also a plague presented for these skiers. We also have a few skiers that have completed 40 years, and just one that has completed all 41 years, Ernie St. Germaine. John Kotar is the founder of the Birchleggings Club and our current President is Gale Otterholt. For more information and pictures go to the Birchleggings website. Below are a few pictures from the awards banquet.

Below is a picture of me out on the trail during the race on February 22, 2014 taken by the official Birkie photographers.

While we had a very nice warm week the day before the race we had 18 inches of snow with 50mph winds. This caused havoc with the race as both the warming hut at the start area in Cable and the changing tents at the end in Hayward blew over.

Additionally with the snow it made it difficult for parking and for the buses to get skiers to the start on time. Many skiers were late for their waves, including Tim and I. We got off nearly a full wave behind, so the official times were off quite a bit for many skiers. To compensate next year, the race is going to accept times from the last 4 years rather than the usual 3 for wave seeding purposes. Unfortunately, the race took away the individual start chip timing and instead went to wave starts. Not a good year to do this and I am sure it will be put back for all races in the future. All in all, however, the Birkie Foundation and all the volunteers did a fantastic job given nature's curve mall the day before. Thank you staff and volunteers!

Because of the difficult conditions at the start, with a temperature of 0F and a 15mph wind, many skiers either did not show up or dropped out. It was one of the slowest years for me but I mentally just get into the joy of the race, the sunny day, and that I had my skis waxed well. The upload from my Suunto can be found at this link on the Moves Count website. The Birkie has also been a spiritual experience for me as I just love the trail and the silence of the north woods. It is truly a national treasure. This was my 27th Birkie!

Over the years I have been able to meet skiers that do the Birkie in every place I have lived from the Washington, DC area; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Durham, North Carolina, Kansas City, La Crosse, and now the Twin Cities. One of my friends, David Mathews, from Kansas City wrote a very nice piece on all the skiers from the Kansas City area that completed the Birkie this year. I asked him for permission to include it in my post, which he has graciously agreed to. Thanks for including me in the write-up David!