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The second time around Glasgow's Loop was much better

The second time around was definitely better.

The snow was great, fresh and untraveled by other cross-country skiers or snowshoers. Because of the pristine conditions, our original plans to ski another of the several choices from the Pederson Sno-Park on Dead Indian Memorial Highway were scuttled. Instead, we headed north along the fresh, several-inches-deep snow along the Pacific Crest Trail. Our revised goal was to continue on the PCT past the cozy Brown Mountain Shelter and then ski the five-mile long Glasgow’s Loop.

Geoff LeGault led the way, breaking trail in the fresh layer of powder.

“Geoff’s an animal. That’s why I always invite him,” Niel Barrett laughingly explained. He wasn’t kidding. Over the next several hours, Geoff bombed ahead, periodically doubling back to check on us, a group that included Barb Hanson, Richard Vanderwyst and Marc Heller.

After skiing two-plus miles to and past the cabin — a distance made far more beautiful when its ocean of trees is dappled under coverings of fresh snow — a sign at the PCT’s intersection with Forest Service Road 3720 showed the PCT continuing north, which is also the beginning of Glasgow’s Loop.

The loop is a beautiful ski, continuing through thick forests as the narrow trail weaves through a towering old-growth forest dominated by tall Douglas fir and pockets of incense cedar.

Some of the trees have circumferences so broad that several of us could stand hand-in-hand and still not completely circle the giants. It’s an area that’s been untouched by logging.

Niel, who’s skied Glasgow’s several times, deliberately stopped at some of his favorite trees to take photos, urging Richard and Marc to stand alongside to provide a sense of size.

The 2-plus miles on the PCT-Glasgow’s to a junction with the Brown Mountain trail went quickly despite the ooooh and ahhhh stops. From the junction, which doesn’t have a sign indicating it is the continuation of Glasgow’s, we worked our way northeast, the uphill climb made easier by Geoff’s fresh tracks. At one point, the trail goes through an opening created when trail crews sliced off a chunk of a fallen Ponderosa that, on its side, is nearly taller than Barb. Near the high point, Geoff was waiting, ready to do some downhill zipping on our human-groomed trail.

At another unsigned junction Niel led the way south along an obvious route through more stands of trees cozily tucked alongside the trail. Near what Niel estimated was the halfway mark, we stomped snow to create seats so we could munch lunches. After lunch, we clambered around two fallen trail-blocking trees.

Our forested trail ended at a junction with Forest Road 3720. From there it was three-quarters of mile on the snow-covered road back to the PCT junction to the shelter and, farther on, the Pederson Sno-Park.

So, why was the second time around better?

A few weeks earlier I’d joined Niel, Geoff and another friend for a similar but much different ski. From Pederson we skied the PCT to FR 3720, where we’d gone north to the other junction with Glasgow’s. Because of scant snow and icy conditions, we headed north on Glasgow’s before turning around and reversing back to Pederson.

It was a very different outing because when Niel offered to give me a ride from his house, I’d transferred my skis and poles but, oops, not my ski boots.

No problem. When we got to Pederson, Geoff pulled out a second pair of ski boots. They were a size and half too big, but I could make do. It became a problem because his skis didn’t snap onto my ski bindings. No problem. Geoff, who is considerably taller than me (most everyone is), had a second set of skis — long, narrow racing skis.

I spent the following hours trying to keep my feet from popping out of the oversized boots. And trying to slow the lengthy skis from zipping too quickly downhill, especially on sections where the trail does Chubby Checker-like twists and turns. Once, nearly overtaking the skier ahead of me, I did what I learned is called a “sympathy fall” to avoid a potential collision. But several other unintended tumbles gained me no sympathy.

The biggest crash was the last. It happened on FR 3720, which had earlier been groomed, carved into erratic patterns by snowmobiles, and then iced over. The uphill on the way to Glasgow’s hadn’t been a problem. But on the return, the steepest downhill section had a layer of now much firmer, hard-packed ice. There was no still snowy escape route. I aimed the skis, tucked and took off, way too quickly accelerating out-of-control. Just when it seemed I’d made it safely down, the skis caught in some of the frozen snowmobile ruts. Before I could react — Wham! Bam! Slam! — I crashed, landing head first, thankfully uninjured, with my face planted in the frozen snow.

Yes, the second time around on Glasgow’s Loop the snow conditions were much improved. And the second time around I had my own, well-fitting gear. Since then, and hopefully in the future, I’ll double- and triple-check to make sure I’ve got my own boots.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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How the Glasgow’s Loop Trail got its name

Kenneth Glascgow, a long-time recreation volunteer on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest’s former Ashland Ranger District, died in 2012 in Ashland at age 90.

A World War II veteran, he spent 15 years as a merchant marine and taught math and science for another 15 years. After retiring to the Rogue Valley, he taught, had an organic farm and backpacked. An advocate for wilderness preservation and outdoor recreation, he was active with outdoor and conservation groups, including the Southern Oregon Nordic Club. He led ski trips, built trails and volunteered for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

“A couple of us along with Ken came up with the idea for the trail,” said Steve Johnson, a former Forest Service recreation specialist. “Ken was instrumental in establishing the trail,” which was originally called the Pederson Nordic Trail when it was created in the early 1990s.

Johnson decided to rename the trail in Glasgow’s honor in the late 1990s. During a meeting of the High Lakes Group, which included Nordic skiers and snowmobilers, “I surprised Ken with a blue Fiberglas ‘Glasgow’s Loop’ trail sign. He was really appreciative and shocked. He was a wonderful ambassador for the Forest Service and he had a great sense of humor.”

Johnson was reprimanded by another Forest Service employee “because names should not be given in honor of those who are still alive.”

Phooey. Sometimes it is appropriate to buck the system.

Marc Heller skis through the trees on Glasgow's Loop Trail. Photo by Lee Juillerat
The girth of a fallen tree is nearly as tall as Barb Hanson. Photo by Lee Juillerat