Blue Hills Trail CONDITIONS
6+ inches of new snow (dense sticky snow) on Tuesday, November 29th. We let that sit so it could dry out, this left a 3"-4.5" topping of dry snow on the trails. First grooming of the season was Saturday, December 3 (see Grooming Report below). Check it out, but definitely use your rock skis. Feel free to bushwhack or snowshoe the ungroomed trails.
We will continue to share the East Side 'Gravel Road' with deer hunters driving that road this next week (trail segments 1-2-3-4). After the deer hunt finishes December 11, we plan on closing off the 'Gravel Road' for skiing only.
We hope to start grooming the West Side trails within a few days.
Hiking: please avoid hiking the trails now. Instead, ski or snowshoe the trails.
Earlier this fall, 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). They will be hauling those logs to market using a route to the east of the ski trails. Click here for a map showing trails the loggers may be using.
December 2: wet snow showers left a heavy dusting
November 29: 6 inches of dense sticky snow
grooming & MOWING
December 3: First grooming of the season. Rolled (packed) many East Side trails. This included a modified version of the Core Loop (because of some residual logging activity between 17-18-19, we'll hold off on grooming that segment for a while). The modified Core Loop uses the Washout Trail from 15-20 as a bypass. We also groomed the Whitetail, Rollercoaster, and Roundabout trails - plus a few more trails on the Ridgeline. If skiing any of these trails, rock skis are a must - use maximum caution on downhills to avoid any hidden rocks.
Further grooming is a matter of juggling the snow conditions, respect for deer hunters, and logging activity.
The year that was (2021-22):
- December 2021 early snowfalls were encouraging, then we received a near-record 14-inch snowfall on December 10th. We spent about $400 grooming that snowfall, skiers enjoyed it for a few days, then the weather gods were cruel enough to give us rain, tornadic winds, and a major meltdown. The weather shifted in our favor just after Christmas, and by late December we again were busy grooming. January and February were cold, and during those two months we received about 20 inches of snow, with 7 of those inches on Tuesday February 22nd just prior to the Birkie. The overall snowfall for the winter measured 67 inches, but only 26 inches fell when we could use it. Much of the grooming this past winter was done in the evening – producing nice firm trails to start the day – and skiers were uniformly happy throughout the winter. Logging of the West Side ‘Lollipop Timber Sale’ in the late fall necessitated removal of those logs after the ground froze. As a result, the logs were hauled on the ski trails up until mid January. We weren’t really able to ski those involved trails until late January after enough snow accumulated. On the East Side, a small logging operation near the warming house in late February was minimally disruptive thanks to a cooperative effort to minimize equipment crossing the ski trail. The trails were in great shape at Birkie time. Warm weather moved in a week after the Birkie, including ice and rain on March 5th (actually the first rain since late December). The last grooming was March 19, but cold weather allowed skiing until late March. We groomed a total of 49 times this past winter: 13 times in December, 16 times in January, 17 times in February, and 3 times in March. There still was ‘skiable’ snow in early April.
- Our “Blue Hills Trail Fun Day” never materialized this past winter due to cntinuing COVID precautions.
- Each summer, one of Wisconsin's 30 County Forests hosts the annual WCFA Summer Tour. It's a unique opportunity for one county to share the best of its forest lands. This year was Rusk County's turn to host the Summer Tour, and the Rusk County Forestry Department invited the Blue Hills Trail Association (BHTA) to show what we have to offer. In late June, three busloads of foresters pulled into the parking lot by the warming house, 100+ attendees piled out of the buses (this included members of the Rusk County Forestry Committee and the Rusk County Board), then listened to brief presentations from the Forestry Department and from the Blue Hills Trail Association. One point emphasized was the many benefits to the ski trails that result from the good working relationship between BHTA and Rusk County Forestry.
- A round of applause please for everyone that provided volunteer help this past year. Our volunteers, members & donors are very giving – THANK YOU!!!
Here are some specific thank you notes…
- Thanks to last year’s grooming team for creating great skiing conditions. They groomed a lot, we skied a lot – and groomers never complained about the need to use their winches to pull themselves out of deep snow.
- Thanks to John Waldron for serving as emcee at our November 5th banquet!
- Thanks to Jan Paulsen and Vickie Waters for decorating the banquet site.
- Big thank you to John Kann & Dan Bjugstad who continue maintaining our network of dedicated snowshoe trails – they’ve got their work cut out to reestablish the trails through the areas that were logged this past year. Watch for email messages if they request help removing the logging slash.
- The entire trail system was mowed this summer, thanks to our volunteers for removing downed trees & their 50+ hours of mowing.
- Thank you to the volunteers at this year’s fall work day. We brushed out most of the trails, and tidied up the warming house and trailhead.
- Thanks to the Rusk County Forestry Department and the Wisconsin DNR for bulldozing, culverting, and grass seeding the new West Side trail (between Letters Y and Z). This trail will be loads of fun to ski (it climbs, rolls and dips) as it provides a new loop for your enjoyment.
- Thanks to Bob Wieckowicz for his clever welding jobs on our Honda Pioneer (he added solid support for the extended hitch, and creatively modified the aftermarket bed rails to fit).
- Thanks to a dry summer, erosion problems have been limited this year.
- The distant loop on the West Side (C-D-F-G-H-I) remains beaver territory. For now, we’d like to coexist and avoid removing the beavers. In fact, their two active dams undoubtedly help control runoff during heavy rain events – thus minimizing erosion of the ski trail.
- There are two timber sales on the East Side that have been logged this fall. Details are on maps below.
- Remember, the entire trail system is non-motorized. If you find motorized vehicles on the trails, educate their operators to the contrary. And consider reporting this to the Rusk County Sheriff’s department.
Equipment and Monies:
Our equipment is valued at close to $90,000 – 2020 Honda Pioneer with Mattracks tracks, 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat Groomers Special snowmobile, 2 rollers, 3 Tidd Tech implements, an ABR trail compactor, & various state of the art attachments. Thanks for your financial support that helps keep the equipment running well.
- Our 2020 Honda Pioneer 1000 with Mattracks & enclosed cab (cost of $41,000 when purchased April 2021) is a great asset – thanks again for everyone’s financial support in helping us afford the Pioneer. This summer, the Pioneer transmission acted up and required two trips to the dealership in Chippewa Falls before repairs were completed to our satisfaction. Thankfully we had purchased an extended warranty that covered the repairs.
- Our 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat Groomers’ Special snowmobile is a big workhorse, powerful and maneuverable. It nicely complements the Honda Pioneer. Unfortunately, it overheated on multiple occasions this past winter, presenting a diagnostic challenge that took two months to figure out. We’re pretty sure it’s good to go.
- Our AcrEase trail mower gets plenty of use each summer. It was purchased 2012, and the engine was replaced spring of 2021. This summer we replaced all the wheel bearings (8 wheels, 16 bearings total). It does a great job handling the tall grasses.
- For working the snow surface, our Tidd Tech implements (called “G2s”) do most of the work. They measure 6, 8 & 9 feet wide with the outside flaps extended, & each works well in different snow conditions.
- The donation pole in the parking lot last winter added $3900 in revenue – thanks for spreading the word about the Blue Hills Trail – please remind visitors to plug that donation pole!
- This fall’s membership & fundraising drive has already generated more than $19,000 ($5200 from business donors, $5000 from individual donors, $6700 in membership fees, $1300 from raffle tickets) – that’s about 75% of our budget – and your generosity with this year’s auction will hopefully raise another $2000+ – thank you!!! Whenever you can, please thank the many businesses and individuals that support the Blue Hills Trail Association Inc.
This map shows the new West Side trail that was bulldozed and seeded in August 2022. It runs from Y to Z.
Status of active timber sales as of late October 2022:
Refer to the first map below...
1. North of warming house – this was a select cut of red pine. The cutting is done, almost all the logs have been hauled out, and bulldozer repair of the ski trails is happening now. Our volunteers are in the process of reestablishing the ‘Nordic Pines’ snowshoe trail. One big plus: the ski trail that provides access to our trailhead storage has been greatly improved (ditched & culverted) to now allow heavy traffic to reach our storage sheds.
2. To the Far East – this very large sale (174 acres of a hardwood select cut) was cut in ‘record’ time this fall. Currently, the involved trails are rutted and muddy – and have an amazing amount of wood piled up waiting to be hauled to market. If the weather cooperates for the loggers (frozen ground before snow accumulates), the logs will be hauled to the west (down Rut Road to the Firelane Road), then the trails will be dozed in time for skiing. If the weather doesn’t cooperate and that plan doesn’t materialize, then the affected trails on the Core Loop will be repaired in time for ski season – and the logs will be hauled to the east using a route that doesn’t involve the Core Loop (refer to the second map below). We probably should anticipate a good portion of the Far East trails will be unavailable this winter. But they should be repaired and ready for skiing next winter. PLUS – we have a great new trail planned for the Far East that will be our payback for disruption of those trails.
Pink Line = East Side Core Loop
Aqua = water flow
The annual fall banquet for the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. (BHTA) was held Saturday, November 7th at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake. While bidding on the numerous silent auction items, this group of silent sports enthusiasts enjoyed camaraderie, libations, great food, and Dr. Bob Inman's dynamic slide show presentation ("Wolverine Biology and Conservation") describing ground-breaking work applying GPS tracking in the study of wolverines. The GPS technology that Dr. Inman and his wife applied for the first time to wolverines revealed the amazing capacity of the species to move through rugged terrain and the vast multi-state scale over which conservation of wolverines must occur. After a delicious buffet meal, master of ceremonies (Patty McGown) turned the floor over to BHTA vice president Ron Jasperson who summarized the many significant events impacting the Blue Hills Trail this past year, including: the huge number of volunteers helping throughout the year; the tremendous all-season usefulness of the 2014 John Deere Gator with Camoplast tracks purchased spring of 2014; and a very good ski season during the winter of 2014-15 that attracted more 'out-of-the-area' skiers than ever. Ron reported the trails are in good shape as we head toward winter, and noted that fundraising this fall has been very successful. He was pleased to note that the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. remains financially solid. To honor a few of our many volunteers, two special awards were presented: Patty McGown and Nels Curnow accepted the "2 Busy 2 Pee" traveling trophy (a porcelain urinal) honoring their numerous contributions of time and energy. Then Dave Olsen was honored for his many years maintaining the pit toilets - he received the golden clothespin award. Following Dr. Inman's presentation, prizes valued at more than $5000 were distributed to the attendees -- including Mark Bittner winning the raffle for the Spring Street Sports $250 gift card, and Erik Ostenso winning the raffle for the New Moon $250 gift card. Our many donors graciously give back to their communities -- when the opportunity arises, be sure to offer them a sincere thank you. Colder weather's overdue, get your skis ready!
The annual fall banquet for the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. (BHTA) was held Saturday, November 2nd at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake. While bidding on the numerous silent auction items, the enthusiastic attendees enjoyed libations, great food, camaraderie, and a captivating wildlife presentation by DNR Naturalist - Chris Cold.
After a delicious buffet meal, master of ceremonies (Jerry Wilkes) turned the floor over to outgoing BHTA president Dick Pebler who summarized the many significant events impacting the Blue Hills Trail this past year, reporting the trails are in great shape as we head toward winter; and noting that fundraising this fall has been very successful. He was pleased to note that the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. remains financially solid. To honor just a few of our many volunteers, a special award was presented: Dick Pebler humbly passed along the "2 Busy 2 Pee" traveling trophy (a porcelain urinal) to Dave Olsen - honoring Dave's busy lifestyle. At that point, prizes valued at close to $7000 were distributed to the attendees -- including Dick Pebler winning the raffle for the Spring Street Sports $250 gift card, and Jeff Sirek winning the raffle for the New Moon $250 gift card. Our many donors graciously give back to their communities -- when the opportunity presents, be sure to offer them a sincere thank you. Pretty soon now, it'll be time to wax our skis!
Blue Hills Trail
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