Betty Lake, Nordic Ski

January 22, 1984

Planned: Eagles Rest Ridge-Nordic Ski Trip; Executed: Waldo Wilderness Trip. Assuming for the first time leadership for an Obsidian outing, I gained some unforgettable experiences. There were the conflicts with the choice of the trail. I shun long drives and like to explore recreational possibilities close to Eugene—on the other hand there is probably not much enthusiasm for bare pavement crosscountry skiing at lower elevations. So I had frequently to consult with weather prophets and plan alternatives. For truly political reasons I finally decided to join forces with Mariner Orum’s Sierra Club group and ski into the Waldo Lake Wilderness in order to show Obsidian support for the wilderness additions.

By Saturday afternoon this support consisted of one sign-up by an old friend who probably felt pity for me. But Obsidian group dynamics work in wondrous ways: the phone nearly rang off the hook all Saturday night with requests for further details and sign-ups. The phone started ringing again Sunday morning at 6:45 with cancellations.

At the SEHS parking lot I saw Mary Ellen West and her group setting out in the rain to hike “my” skiing trail. We headed further up the mountains in pouring rain. As usual, at the Salt Creek Falls tunnel, the rain turned into wet, thick snow flakes and soon the seven of us trailed the large Sierra Club crowd down the slushy Gold Lake Trail in fog and drifting snow. Soon smaller groups formed, obscuring the distinction between the Sierras and the Obsies. The separation occurred more and more between the “waxers” and “no-waxers” with the former trailing hopelessly behind in the wet snow. It must be miserable to fall miles behind despite redoubled efforts, but my good friend and moral supporter kept his still upper lip. He had the consolation of making good use of a bargain he bought about 20 years ago: genuine Norwegian wooden “birke-beiner” and all the accessories at a price that makes one gasp today—but now he did mostly the gasping.

After Gold Lake we fell from one tree-well into the other on our way up and over towards the Waldo Lake Road. We continued on its gentle windings upward for 2-3 miles to the Betty Lake trailhead. The snow became powdery, thanks to the cold and blustery wind. A few hardy souls skied the ½ mile over to the lake and found a forbidding view of an untouched large space of whiteness surrounded by tall, dark mountain hemlock powdered with fresh snow. The dense low clouds provided a somber illumination and the far shores of the lake were shrouded in mist and drifting snow—a magnificent picture of desolation and unspoiled wilderness. This experience was so different from that of glorious late summer days in the Waldo Country from previous years.

Everybody turned quickly around and enjoyed in partial sunny weather the gentle downhill glide on the road furrowed by snowmobiles. If only one could modify these abominations into something making nice tracks without the stench and noise. Without these latter attributes there is no recreation for some people—at least what they consider recreation (actually the opposite is achieved).

At the Gold Lake Shelter we had a short rest to give the “waxers” a chance to catch up and go ahead. And suddenly there was a German gathering since several of my former countrymen (either sex) appeared out of the woods (One cannot escape them, at least not in remote areas).

To my surprise everybody made it back to the car in time and the Sierra Club crowd seemed to be complete as well, which I gathered from Marriner’s surprised and relieved smile.

That seemed to be the end of an uneventful trip—until the real adventure started on the drive back, when we stopped at dusk at Salt Creek Falls to show our students from near and far the splendor of the half frozen falls and I lost the car keys in a snow bank. How we finally got home is another story.

I think this report is long enough. If anybody finds a VW key at the Salt Creek Falls parking lot—it’s mine! Members of the ski trip were Velma Shirk, Hank Plant, Tina Buikat, Ute Koczy, Ann Widmer, Philip and Hans Tschersich, leader.

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