Biskey Ponds Entrance

Biskey Ponds Entrance

Anita Anderson, an energetic and youthful daughter-in-law of friends, had posited the question to me more than once as our paths crossed in Fredenberg Township, the little slice of heaven we both call home:

“Have you skied Biskey Ponds yet?”

My answer has always been the same: a very sheepish “no”. Sheepish because, as a cross country skier, it seems only natural that, given that I knew Ellen Biskey (a Fredenberger who welcomed our family to the township but passed away too young) and given that I have lived “in the neighborhood” for over thirty years, I would’ve checked out the trails before now. But I hadn’t made it over to the Biskey trailhead on Fish Lake before this past Sunday. Too bad. I’ve shorted myself on some pretty awesome skiing and sightseeing.

White Pine Alley

White Pine Alley

I couldn’t have picked a better day to check out Biskey. It was sunny and clear. The temperature hovered in the teens. There was only one other vehicle in the muddy parking lot as I pulled in, my spirit engaged after a good morning sermon from Pastor Phil at Grace Lutheran; my belly full of pancakes, hot coffee, and sausages cooked up and served by the youth of the church to raise money. Turns out, the van that was already at Biskey had been full of young women and their mothers, all of whom were enjoying the bright sunshine and brisk air on skinny skis. I encountered two of the young ladies as I crashed on my ass at the bottom of a big hill, my skis caught in the icy track, the speed too much for my old legs to handle. The condition of the track was the only downside to a perfect day: due to forty degree weather this past week, the track was rutted ice, making some of the long, steep downhill runs a bit more than even an experienced skier could handle. But at fifty-nine, crashing on cross country skis in front of two young women doesn’t carry with it the indignity that would have been present in my teens. Without so much as a blush, I picked myself up, said my hellos, dusted off my wool ski pants, and kept on moving.

Biskey’s terrain makes for a very engaging and bountiful ski. There are plenty of steeps, both up and down, as one winds his or her way west, from the parking lot, to the Eagle Ridge Loop and back. There are small alluvial ponds dotting the landscape, resting in hollows below the narrow spines of hogsback ridges, the ridges being where the designers of Biskey Ponds ski trails placed the narrow tracks of the trail system. There are towering red and white pine plantations. There are clear cut tracts where new birch, seemingly unaffected by the disease that has decimated mature birch trees over much of the surrounding terrain, have sprouted reminiscent of  the plantings by the French forester in the great novella, The Man Who Planted Trees. And of course, there are clumps of ever-present aspen that have emerged in the cut overs, their slender trunks crowding the landscape like so many green hairs awaiting a barber.

Groomed Trail

Groomed Trail

Red Pines, Eagle Ridge Loop

Red Pines, Eagle Ridge Loop

 

After stopping mid-point in my hour long ski to re-wax (the crusty snow tore off wax as fast as I could apply it), I encountered another couple, the wife or girlfriend in the lead, the male partner of the equation huffing and puffing behind his beloved, moving towards me as I merged onto Wolf Run, the most modest grade in the trail system. I’d over dressed for the day and was sweating like a hog when I vacated the track to let the couple pass. A few more strides and I arrived at the base of a steep hill. I herringboned up the incline, claimed the flats, skied a few more meters, and then, much too soon, my first visit to Biskey Ponds was over.

Noted outdoor writer and educator, Andrew Slade recently discovered Biskey and experienced an epiphany similar to mine:

“I can’t believe I waited so long to check it out. I want to go back and see what I missed.”

(http://bestnorthshore.com/biskey-ponds-ski-trail)

Of course, Slade has a better excuse than I do for procrastinating. He isn’t a Fredenberger who has been invited countless times by Keith and Anita Anderson, two youthful neighbors (and founders of the trail system) to check out Biskey Ponds. I really have no excuses to offer as to why it took so long for me to drive the five minutes from my house on the Cloquet River to Biskey. The fact that I can get up, strap on my skinny skis, and ski through the thick aspen, balsam, and maple forest out my back door on a trail I cut twenty years ago doesn’t really address why I ignored my neighbors’ invitations. But, after battling a sore neck and shoulder for the past two weeks, conditions that kept me from my morning exercise routine and allowed malaise to set in, I needed to do something active and energetic. My time on Biskey Ponds’ trails was just the medicine I needed. My ardor wasn’t dampened by the the three spills I endured or the poor snow conditions on the trail. Breathing clean air and gliding through the last of winter’s quiet in such a bucolic setting was tonic for this old man despite the aches and pains I’m feeling today.

Trail Map

Trail Map

You can find Biskey Ponds by logging onto: http://www.skinnyski.com/trails/traildetail.asp?Id=641 and using the map feature on the site to locate the trails. No state ski pass is required to visit Biskey but you should leave a donation (suggested amount between $5 and $10) in the donation box provided at the trailhead. Given they are predicting another snowstorm for the Cloquet River Valley, there’s still plenty of time to give this local gem a try.

Peace.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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