Anthony Lakes adventure

From a furry friend in the restroom to flopping on the snow, a Nordic ski trip to Anthony Lakes is fraught with frustration.

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Cross-country skiers wear a variety of clothing to protect against cold weather.

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A hiker prepares to climb an ice-covered cliff high on Gunsight Mountain.

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Snow on Anthony Lake stretches below Gunsight Mountain.

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Skiers warm up for cross country lessons at the Nordic Center.

In less than an hour at the Anthony Lakes Nordic trails, I felt like going home.

After the 131-mile Saturday drive from Walla Walla, I spent 12 excruciating minutes at the only one-holer in sight. I shifted from foot to foot, clinched my jaws and willed for the inhabitant to move.

Preoccupied, I merely nodded when she did.

Then, gearing up to ski, I found my daypack containing ski pants, down vest and Capuche soaked with 91 ounces of ice water that seeped from the 100-ounce CamelBak hydration pack because I failed to tighten the lid properly.

Drat! After 29 minutes, including a stop at the Nordic Center to get a binding tightened, and wearing jeans and a hooded fleece sweater over my long johns and wool shirt, I edged down a bank to reach the snow-covered lake.

I wanted a photo of the dramatically looming Gunsight Mountain.

Halfway down, one ski shot forward. One shot backwards. Spread apart like a snapped turkey wishbone, I flopped onto my back.

I writhed about for another lengthy period, straining ligaments, tendons and muscles while working up a sweat.

Unable to pull the skis back into position, I eventually unsnapped them, rolled against a pine tree, hugged it and gained my feet.

You see my point? No way to begin a day on the Nordic trails.

Perspiration cooled my face and dampened my arms and chest.

So, already I felt like calling it a day.

I didn't, however.

With a $5 senior ski pass flapping from my camera bag, I spent another three-plus hours tooling along the well-groomed loops around Anthony Lake, Black Lake and Lily Pad Lake.

The trails have two narrow tracks on one side for kick-and-glide skiing and an 8-or-10-foot wide swath for skating.

I use backcountry skis with edges so I kick and glide, after a fashion.

With such good snow conditions, however, I often practiced a rough form of skating, at a molasses-in-February pace. More than once a real skater flew past me without slowing down, even on the gentle hills.

And twice, one of the ski instructors left me in puffs of snow crystals as she kicked and glided past me.

Tracks indicated that some people crossed the trail on snowshoes, which are not allowed on the groomed trails but are allowed on a route around the lake and in the back country.

I spotted three men who climbed half a mile up Gunsight on snowshoes and set up operations for climbing the ice that clung to a cliff.

A man in the Nordic Center, who tightened the loose ski binding for me, said I visited on one of their busiest days of the season.

He said 22 people bought trail passes, eight used season tickets, 12 Special Olympians took lessons, and 80 members of a Rotary Club dispersed at the downhill slopes and the Nordic trails.

Anyway, after the 3 3/4 hours and six-plus of the area's 29 miles, my legs and arms ached and thirst took a toll. At the wagon, I swigged the last dregs from the CamelBak and removed the gaiters.

I felt the day's early frustrations fade, so I sat on the bumper, dropped my hiking boots on the snow, one beside each foot.

I removed my left ski boot, slipped my foot into my hiking boot and tied the laces. I did the same on the right side. I stood to put the skis and poles away in the wagon.

I almost fell.

I had tied the left-side ski-boot laces to my hiking boot.

Geeezzz!

From there, I drove home without further incident. I did, however, pause briefly near North Powder to photograph the snow-covered Eagle Cap Mountains that gleamed across the valley in the afternoon sun.

I stopped for coffee in North Powder and decided that it turned out to be an excellent day.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com.

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