First things first: packed powder conditions, skiing is great, especially in the classic track set this past weekend; and on the skate deck where touch up grooming was performed Tuesday evening (January 28th). Don't let the East Side logging operation scare you away. We are currently grooming 17 km of trails on the East Side, 9.6 km on the West Side. As an example, if you ski all the trails on the West Side, it'll add up to 14 km by the time you're done.
Here's our latest 'Gator Tale'. A true example of rolling with the punches...
A few days ago we performed scheduled maintenance on our Gator. Oil change, check fluids, lube the Camoplast tracks, and check tightness of the hub bolts that secure the bearings and hold the tracks in place.
Three of the four hub bearing bolts were a bit loose (that's why we check them). We removed and replaced two bolts.
Shockingly, when removing the third bolt it snapped off. Now what??? (photos below show a partially removed bolt and washer on the left; snapped off bolt is shown on the right).
We had access to the tools needed to extract the broken bolt. But we decided to enlist the help of a professional machinist from CPH Enterprises on County Hwy O, located just 3 miles away. With a bit of begging, one of their pros came out to the trailhead to help us out.
These bolts are held in place using red Loctite. Removal of the broken bolt required drilling a hole in the center of the bolt, inserting an extractor (a special tool), and repeatedly heating the bolt with a torch while trying to extract it. The heat helps loosen the Loctite.
After many attempts, the broken bolt seemed to move slightly - but at that point the extractor snapped off. Another 'Now What???' moment. Those might not have been the exact words we used.
Next step? We were stuck. Late afternoon on Tuesday. Next step would require the use of a generator to weld a nut on the end of the broken bolt and use that nut to back out the bolt. This was set up for Wednesday morning.
When cautiously trying to move the Gator from the shed to the parking lot on Wednesday morning, the bearing mechanism on the right rear track started shifting - which meant the entire hub assembly and track could fall off - with possible serious mechanical damage to various components.
The crew of two that was working on the Gator on Wednesday was able to use several ratchet straps to secure the Camoplast track enough that it was moved to the parking lot.
A nut was welded onto the end of the broken bolt; then with difficulty, the bolt was removed and replaced with new parts.
The last challenge? Prior to the welding operation, the Gator battery needed to be disconnected by removing the positive lead. When doing that, the battery terminal broke off (a bit rusted). This meant a trip to Ladysmith to buy a new battery terminal (connector), then returning to the trailhead to repair the positive battery lead and tuck the Gator in the shed.
All set for some Friday evening grooming of the skate lane if all goes as planned. Should be a great weekend in the Hills!
A reminder.... When you're out enjoying a groomed ski trail, give special thanks to the groomers and volunteers that are so integral to cross country skiing on groomed trails.
Every other year our volunteers replace all the intersection maps. That’s 60 maps, but who’s counting? Combined with excellent signage, it makes it easy to get your bearings on the Blue Hills Trail. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailvolunteers #xcskitrails #foresttherapy #findyourselfoutside
Good hiking in early December. Frost is entering the ground, the ski trails are ready for snow. Photos show the biggest oak tree in the County Forest; hiking on the ‘Far East’ trail; and our Gator doing some trail work on the West Side trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailwork #hikingwisconsin #weneedsnow
Big News! Wisconsin's Blue Hills Trail has revised its website, its maps, its blog - and added an Instagram account. Spread the word. VISIT THE BLOG for details – link in bio ⬆️
#bluehillstrailwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #skinnyski #ruskcountywi #ricelakewi #travelwisconsin #tomterrifik
1.5” big fluffy parachute snowflakes today. Might actually be able to ski on some of our trails — even though the underlying ground isn’t yet frozen. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #winterinwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #xcskiing
After unseasonably warm weather in the first week of November, more wintry weather will start to freeze the trails. Hopefully x-country skiing is just around the corner. This photo was taken on the East Side trails - it shows one of our most important bridges.