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Solo Backcountry Ski Adventure on North Fork Mountain

first_imgThe drifts are unexpected. There’s easily six feet of snow, piled high in velvety waves, just a few feet shy of the cliffed-out mountain rim. They roll one after the other, like an ocean swell, for as far as I can see into the forest ahead. I assume the trail is somewhere beneath the snow. I lost the blazes a half-mile back, but the ridgeline is so narrow (maybe 10 feet wide), there’s nowhere else for the singletrack to go but forward, beneath the undulating snow. Forward is the only choice I have, too, so I put my cross-country skis back on for the one thousandth time today and ski into the drifts, sinking to my knees under the weight of my backpack.This isn’t how my backcountry ski adventure trip was supposed to go. I was supposed to spend three days backpacking the glorious North Fork Mountain Trail, a 24-mile ridgeline path that hugs the cliffy North Fork Mountain as it splits two forks of the Potomac River in West Virginia. I brought my skis along on a whim, in case I had the chance to drop into nearby Canaan Valley and sample their sublime cross-country specific singletrack. Skiing was supposed to be a distraction, not my main mode of transportation through the wilderness, but a freak spring storm dumped two feet of fresh powder across West Virginia’s Highlands.When I originally drove over the North Fork Mountain, scouting the trail at the beginning of my trip, I took one good look at the icy, snow-covered cliffs and headed straight for Canaan Valley, thinking my notion of a meandering backpacking adventure was completely sunk.I parked my truck in a ski in/ski out campsite with electricity in Canaan Valley State Park and proceeded to spend the day skiing solo along the trickling creeks of the park while listening to The Police on my headphones. I raced half a dozen deer (the deer always won) and only once thought I was entering into a “To Build a Fire” moment because I was completely lost.I could have stayed in Canaan Valley for the remainder of my trip skiing fresh powder and eating chicken wings and drinking bottles of Miller High Life at the state park lounge. It would be a beautiful vacation, but not much of an adventure. So in a moment of hubris, I packed my truck and headed back to North Fork Mountain looking to redeem the original plan. If the trail was covered in snow, then I’d ski it.That’s the beauty of the solo trip, after all. You can do what you want, when you want. I came alone so that I could change my mind on a whim. So I could sandbag it or go full tilt with no one else to consider. So I could ski and eat chicken wings or embark on a backcountry ski adventure with my trusty PBJ’s. Don’t get me wrong—I love a good “bro” trip as much as the next dude, but every once in a while I think it’s important to set forth solo for a few days when you don’t have to compromise, and the only body odor making the tent toxic is your own. Three days in the woods being selfish—what’s not to love?The juxtaposition between the Valley and the knife-edge North Fork Mountain is stark. The snow I skied yesterday in the Valley was like cotton. Soft and pillowy. Up here, along the cliffs, it’s icy and underpinned by a layer of rock. The views are incredible, but the skiing is shit. Most people mountain bike the North Fork. Others backpack it. I know one guy who’s gunning for the trail running speed record. I’ve never heard of anyone skiing it, though, and I can see why.There’s no snow at the northern trailhead when I begin my hike south, so I strap my skis to my backpack and climb the monstrous 2,000-foot vertical slog in my cross country ski boots. The blisters come fast, but as soon as the trail levels out on the ridge, the snow begins to get thicker. Soon, I’m clicking into my skis and kicking slowly beneath a canopy of hardwoods. The snow is patchy for the first few miles, so I’m constantly having to take my skis off, then put them back on, then take them off…My pack weighs roughly 75 pounds even though I’m only going for a 12-mile, overnight jaunt. I blame the obscene number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and extra pairs of socks I felt compelled to pack.There are occasions of flow. Brief moments when the snow is deep enough and the terrain rolling enough for me to glide down a little hill, then kick-kick to another crest and glide down a little hill and repeat for maybe 100 yards. It’s unexpected and blissful. The kind of flow you get when mountain biking or cross country skiing, but never experience while backpacking. It feels like cheating, and I love it.I don’t bother making a fire when I set up camp six miles into the trail. I clear a square out of the snow big enough for my tent, then scramble to the top of a cliff to watch the sunset while eating three PBJ’s. I’ve never liked camping solo and I’m convinced every sound I hear throughout the night is a yeti. When I wake up, I see tracks surrounding my tent. I’m no Natty Bumppo, but I can tell they’re too small for a yeti. I figure something cute and furry came to visit, lured by the aroma of peanut butter wafting from my pack.The skiing is better as I hit the high point of the trail and find myself in the sea of snowdrifts, sinking to my knees with every step. Then the trail drops elevation through rhodo thickets and the snow gets thin and rocky again. I tell myself this is what I wanted. I eschewed deep powder and groomed trails for something more adventurous and difficult. This is the decision I made. I chose the harder option. This is the problem with traveling solo. Not only is there no one around to take your picture, there’s no one around to blame but yourself.Near the gravel road where I stashed my truck, the ridgeline broadens and the forest turns from rocky rhododendron fields into a canopy of tall pine trees. The grade is mellow and the forest is open without a hint of underbrush. Here, the skiing is good. Actually, it’s great. There’s a foot of untracked powder offering unlimited tree runs. You can make wide arcs through the pines for 100 yards to the bottom of the slope, then kick back up to the top and pick a different, fresh line. I drop my pack at the top of the slope, ready to ski laps until my legs turn to jelly, and look around.  There’s no one else around to claim the first tracks. It’s just me and the snow. Not exactly what I expected when I planned this trip, but exactly what I wanted.last_img read more


Publix Returning to Regular Hours, Ending Reserved Shopping Times

first_imgPublix announced Thursday that it is expanding its store hours, after operating on a reduced schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.Beginning Saturday, May 16, stores will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.The company is also suspending its reserved shopping hours, according to its website.We’re expanding our store hours. Starting Saturday, May 16, Publix stores will open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the pharmacy will return to regular operating hours. Learn more: https://t.co/Q4ZbAA0jI8 pic.twitter.com/pC3sl57SeN— Publix (@Publix) May 14, 2020 In addition, Publix pharmacies are also returning to their regular operating hours.“Thank you for your patience over the past several weeks while we’ve operated under reduced hours,” the company said in a statement.It adds, “We do understand some customers prefer to shop when the stores are less crowded. We encourage you to shop during the first hour of the day, when we can better accommodate that need.”last_img read more


New PFAS site confirmed in Oscoda Township

first_imgAddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to MoreAddThisOscoda Township, MI — The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has confirmed another PFAS contaminated site in Oscoda Township at the former dump.The site is located on Kings Corner Road between Loud Drive and Poor Farm Road.According to the EGLE, Oscoda Township was concerned that PFAS contaminated wastes were disposed of in the dump based upon a letter dated from 1968.The letter stated that waste from the Wurstsmith Air Force Base was being disposed of at the dump.In December of 2018 the EGLE collected 16 groundwater samples from the perimeter of the dump, and in early January the results confirmed PFAS in 14 of the samples – With three wells showing numbers higher than the standard.Nine residential wells were tested and none showed positive results for PFAS contaminants.106th District State Representative Sue Allor provided the following statement to WBKB following the EGLE’s report:“The discovery of more PFAS contamination in our region connected to activity at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base further punctuates the need for the EPA to act and the DOD to step up to its clean-up responsibilities. Every Michigan family deserves the peace of mind of knowing that when they hand a glass of water to their child it is safe. I am proud of our state’s work leading the way when it comes to PFAS detection and investigation. I will continue to support efforts to address this growing issue.”According to Oscoda Township Supervisor Aaron Weed, there is not much that can be done at this point until the EGLE meets with the township board.AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to MoreAddThisContinue ReadingPrevious Hinks Elementary hosts lemonade sale to teach financial literacyNext Help send Underwater Robotics Club to international competitionlast_img read more


Bully bylaw in Whitehorse raises concerns about free expression profiling

first_imgCritics are warning that a proposed bylaw targeting bullies in Whitehorse could lead to racial profiling and infringe on free expression rights.It’s a quandary that has plagued several jurisdictions that try to proactively stem bullying through legislation before the problem crosses a criminal line.Russell Knutson, chair of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, said the proposed bylaw appears to trample on both the Constitution and the Canadian Human Rights Act.“If a bully is defined too broadly and the powers of discretion that are in the hands of enforcement officers are too broad, then you set yourself up for the potential of conflict,” Knutson said.The first draft of the bylaw defined bullying behaviour as repeated behaviour intended to cause, or that should have been known to cause, fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other forms of harm to another person. It also included creating a negative environment and objectionable or inappropriate comments, but excluded “nuisance behaviours.”Beyond that, it grants an enforcement officer the power to require a person suspected of bullying to produce identification.Knutson said the practice of random identification checks, or “carding,” can lead to racial discrimination because visible minorities are often confronted more often by enforcement officers. Yukon’s large Indigenous population could be vulnerable to discrimination if the bylaw officer has a bias, he said.“The likelihood that they will be the primary target is very high, so in that sense, the carding or the racial profiling would probably develop just by sheer numbers,” Knutson said.Knutson said he has sympathy for any bus drivers and other city staff whose complaints must have led to the proposed legislation. But he said the fix should come from elsewhere.“You can’t deal with a bully through legislation. You need to rely on education and reform, because the roots of the problem are so deep,” Knutson.The staff report says groups like the Anti-Poverty Coalition and Bringing Youth Towards Equality felt the bylaw criminalized the bully. It also said those consulted supported an approach that treats both bully and victim, offering third-party programs and social services to address underlying issues.Myles Dolphin, manager of strategic communications for Whitehorse, said no city staff or council members were available to comment before the bylaw goes to council Monday.Other jurisdictions have also adopted, amended and dropped anti-bullying legislation.Sgt. Kelly Kokesch of Grand Prairie Enforcement Services said the broad definition of bullying in that Alberta town actually means officers enforce the bylaw less often.“It is a difficult bylaw to enforce, just because of the definition of bullying or what people consider to be bullying. It’s all up to interpretation, so it has to be a very blatant action,” he said.But he said the threat of a fine can be a useful tool in convincing someone to curb their bad behaviour.“We rarely use the legislation or charge anybody, but we do use it as leverage when we’re educating people and trying to diffuse a situation,” he said.Kokesch said he’s aware of one conviction under the bylaw, since it was adopted in 2003.Other communities in Alberta with bylaws that address bullying include Edmonton, Consort and Rocky Mountain House.In Regina, there were no convictions in the first nine years after a bully bylaw was introduced, until two high school students were charged in 2015 after taking a video of another student with Down syndrome while he was dressing for gym class.Councils in both Halifax and Saskatoon have considered adopting anti-bullying bylaws, but declined.last_img read more