Pine Baron; No Finer Trail for Winter’s First Ski
By Jim DuFresne
For my first Nordic outing of the season I want a trail that is easy but not so level that it’s boring, scenic but not overrun with other skiers. Let me take my first spills of the winter by myself, in peace and away from the crowds.
I want a trail that had several loops and lots of two-way crossover spurs so when those Nordic muscles that I haven’t used since last March begin to burn, I can easily bail out. And finally I want a trail near civilization so afterwards I could recuperate with a hot bowl of chili or a cold pint of beer.
Pine Baron Pathway has everything I need to start the cross country season.
It’s an easy ski in a gently rolling forest area that is less than three miles from Gaylord, a very civilized place.
“We have a lot of great ski trails in our area and Pine Baron Pathway is one of them,” said Paul Beachnau, executive director of the Gaylord Area Tourism Bureau and an avid Nordic skier. “That’s a good place to go when you’re looking for a quick workout.”
Pine Baron is a set of four loops that range in length from two to 2.5 miles and fan out from a parking area into a forest of hardwoods and pines. Named for the lumber barons who clear cut the land in the late 1800s, the pathway has five two-way spurs and is bisected by two-tracks so it’s easy to retreat after any loop. It also has a handful of benches positioned high enough so you can rest without taking your skis off, a nice amenity early in the season.
Best of all the pathway is located in the middle of a snowbelt and is groomed by the Department of Natural Resources for classic skiing. Thanks to its elevation of 1,385 feet, Gaylord averages almost 160 inches of snow.
The pathway is set up to ski in a counter-clockwise direction beginning with the 2.5-mile Highline Loop. The two-mile Relic Pine Loop is next and followed by the 2.25-mile Two Hemlock Loop. All three are flat runs through the woods and allowed me to ease into the kick-and-glide rhythm of classic skiing.
The fourth and final loop is the two-mile Whoopsy and that’s by design.
“It’s the only loop out there that I would consider to be a bit challenging,” said Beachnau.
Twin Hemlock Loop merges into Whoopsy at post No. 5 and just beyond it I enjoyed my first hill, a small slope easily negotiated. Two snow bowls followed and I entered each one with another gentle downhill run that would send me gliding into the open areas scattered with jack pine and century-old tree stumps.
Not once did I have to say “whoops.” Let the Nordic season begin!
More Information: Click on the MichiganTrailMaps.com Pine Baron Pathway page for more trail information. For snow conditions contact the Gaylord Area Tourism Bureau (800-345-8621; www.gaylordmichigan.net).