Blue Hills Trail CONDITIONS
Tuesday - morning update
Click here for helpful maps that show our open trails.
Spring is here, there's lots of snow remaining.
Yesterday morning (Monday), the classic track was fairly well defined, with a mild-moderate amount of litter deposited by brisk winds over the weekend. Good classic skiing if you can tolerate the trail litter. As a spur-of-the-moment decision, the skate lane on the modified East Side Core Loop was touched up early Monday morning and provided good skate skiing. The side trails on the East Side (and Excelsior Road on the West Side) also had good skate skiing Monday. Beautiful first day of Spring with temps reaching the upper 30s.
A very destructive mid December ice storm (visit our blog for photos etc) shut down our trails for a short time. Fortunately we've been able to open 60% of our East Side trails, and Excelsior Road is open on the West Side.
Snowshoers: the Ridges Snowshoe Trail is cleared of tree damage, we prefer you use that as your first option. If snowshoeing on the groomed ski trail, please snowshoe well to the side. Click here for a blog post regarding the new 'Highland Loop'.
Autumn 2022, loggers cut a large timber sale on the East Side in the vicinity of the Otter Slide and Far East trails (those trails are the furthest 'east' trails). This winter loggers are hauling those logs to market using a route to the east and mostly separate from the ski trails. Click here for a map showing the involved trails.
March 17: 1" from blustery snow showers in the evening
March 16: 1/4" rain, then 1" windblown snow
grooming & MOWING
Grooming Report / Plans: Click here to see maps of the open trails
March 20 (Monday morning): touched up the skate lane on the modified East Side Core Loop.
March 17 (Friday evening): groomed the skate deck on all the open trails, and set classic track on the frequently traveled trails.
We started our summer trail mowing on June 22nd. The map (below) shows the trails mowed as of July 8th. Mowing is accomplished in stages during the months of June/July/August. For an updated mowing report and map, visit our website and click on the 'Trail Conditions' link at the top of the page.
- We have 22+ miles of trail that need mowing.
- Our crew of mowing volunteers usually mows a total of about 50 hours each summer.
- Prior to 2003, the Rusk County Forestry Department mowed the entire trail system. They were using a tractor with a deck mower -- and the tractor often created deep ruts that negatively impacted the goal of a smooth trail surface.
- In 2003, we (BHTA) purchased a trail mower to be towed behind an ATV so we could mow the softer trail segments. Even that was less than ideal, still leaving tire ruts that later needed repair.
- In 2014, we switched to mowing using a John Deere Gator on tracks. That's when we organized a trail crew to handle the mowing. Using tracks on the soft trail segments has greatly improved the trail surface when it's time to start wintertime grooming.
- At this time, the Rusk County Forestry Department mows the driest trail segments with their heavier equipment, this amounts to about 1/4 of the trails.
- The Blue Hills Trail Assn mows the remaining 3/4 of the trails using our 2020 Honda Pioneer (with tracks) pulling our AcrEase Trail Mower that cuts a 57" width.
- The 2003 mower was replaced in 2012 with an updated model; and last year we replaced the 2012 engine with an upgraded Briggs & Stratton engine that is working well.
- Mowing typically begins in late June, and the bulk of the mowing is completed by mid August.
The Blue Hills Trail Association Inc pursued an aggressive agenda for trail work this summer. Now in mid August, we feel we've reached most of our goals. Many thanks to the Rusk County Forestry Department, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Rusk County Wildlife Restoration Association (WRA) for their help.
When enjoying these trails while hiking/hunting/skiing this fall and winter, take a moment to consider the work that goes into taming mother nature. The past couple days I gained a new appreciation of the difficult task of mowing our trail system. Club member Steve Porn operated the skidsteer-mower donated by the WRA, and I cleared debris ahead of him while scouting for hidden rocks. A few hours after starting the mowing, Steve's skidsteer slipped off a steep embankment and was stuck in a perilous spot. After Steve cautiously exited the machine, we phoned for help and were rescued by one of our highly skilled local DNR dozer operators. Three hours after the skidsteer left the trail, we were back in action.
Mowing continued into the next day. Thanks to the drying conditions this summer, we felt fortunate to reach our goal of negotiating and mowing about ten typically soft muddy wet sections on the most distant trails of the Eastside. As we were completing the final hour of mowing operations, we found one of the many hidden rocks the Blue Hills has to offer. The head of the bolt securing the mower blade was sheared off, the blade went flying like a piece of shrapnel -- and fortunately humans and equipment survived without significant injury. Hard work, but enjoyable time in the Hills.
As stated earlier, I have a much greater appreciation for those that have mowed these trails the past 30 years. And I'm excited about the other trail work that was accomplished this summer. A lot of dozing of eroded areas was performed in July, then seeded within the past couple weeks. Grass has sprouted, those newly greened trail sections look inviting, and should provide good bird hunting habitat in addition to improvements that will enhance our winter cross country skiing.Thanks to the following for help with summer trail maintenance/improvement:
- Rusk County Forestry - major culvert planning, provision of the culvert, tree clearing in anticipation of mowing, mowing of the Westside trails and portions of the Eastside trails, and provision of grass seed.
- DNR (Ladysmith Center) - planning and dozing of multiple trail segments to enhance erosion control, dozing for insertion of the culvert, guidance with placement of the culvert silt fence, and rescue operation of the immobilized skidsteer mower.
- Blue Hills Trail Assn Inc. - $300 fee for DNR culvert permit, gas for mowing operations.
- Rands Trucking (Ladysmith) - two rolls of silt fence (donated).
- BHTA members Frank Lowry, Jan Paulsen and Tom Paulsen (bridge repair); Tom Paulsen and Jonathan Stanley (trail inspection); John Carr, Tom Paulsen, Jerry Schneider (install silt fence around new culvert and spread grass seed); Dan Bale and Tom Paulsen (spread grass seed); John Ziemer (donated use of his ATV); Dan Bale (use of his truck); Steve Porn and Tom Paulsen (mowing); Steve Porn and Jerry Schneider (clearing of the Westside Trails); Dan Bartels (mowing).
- Ladysmith Driftbusters Snowmobile Club member Tom Haasl - instructions in use of the WRA skidsteer mower.
Blue Hills Trail
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