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The getting is finally good

Finally. After months of wishing and hoping, enough snow has been falling in recent weeks to get out the cross-country skis and, well, get out.

The getting is good. The Pacific Crest Trail that heads north from the Pedersen Sno-Park — a section of trail that a group of us hiked in snow-free conditions in late February — is now great for Nordic skiing. Areas off Clover Creek Road, including access to the Mountain Lakes Wilderness Area, are piled with snow.

One day last week storms finally dumped snow at Crater Lake National Park, upping the snowpack at Rim Village to 100 inches.

But some of my favorite cross-country ski trails are those near Lake of the Woods, off Highway 140. Some begin at Lake of the Woods Resort, and others start at several plowed sno-park pullouts along the highway that lead toward the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area and Fourmile Lake.

An all-season launching point, the Great Meadow Sno-Park off Highway 140 between the turnoff for Lake of the Woods Resort and Dead Indian Memorial Highway, is lesser used but convenient. Sometimes informally called "P park" — because its bathrooms are popular with highway travelers — it's a convenient access point for the High Lakes Trail, which goes to Lake of the Woods, the resort and Fish Lake, a one-way distance of 9.3 sometimes hilly miles. When the path is clear, it's a fun mountain bike ride. In winter it's perfect for cross-country skiing.

The trail follows alongside the shores of the Great Meadow, a sometimes favorite spot for snowmobilers. No motor vehicles are allowed on the trail. Between the sno-park and Lake of the Woods, the trail has several viewpoints with interpretive signs explaining the area history, wildlife, plants and types of trees — western white pine, Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, white fir and cedars.

Those trees were part of the fun during our ski outing. With warming conditions, snow-laden branches frequently collapsed, dumping mounds of snow and causing temporary whiteouts. We learned to recognize the sound of creaking branches and, in one case, the haunting screech as limbs were torn off. What looked like marks where skiers had fallen were places where tree-released snow had pounded the on-ground snow.

While the main trail goes about 1.5 miles to Lake of the Woods Resort, the Family Loop Trail adds more possibilities. Like the main trail, it connects with the Aspen Point Campground on its way toward Fish Lake, and with the Rainbow Bay Picnic Area.

Our path was made easier when we greeted skiers traveling from the resort and Rainbow Bay toward the Great Meadow. Instead of pounding through deep, powdery snow, we followed their fresh tracks, actually kicking and gliding. From Rainbow Bay, other older, sometimes snowed-over tracks wove through trees alongside the lakeshore to Sunset Camp Campground.

Depending on snow conditions, it's possible to ski on trails from the resort area to Aspen Point to connect with the High Lakes or other trails. We're saving that for another day — and hopeful the snow keeps falling.

The Southern Oregon Nordic Club operates a Facebook page where members post lots of photos and trail reports. See it at www.facebook.com/search/top/?q="southern oregon nordic club"

Check the club's website for trail maps, grooming information and a schedule of group outings, at http://onc.org/sonc/.

For information about Fremont Winema National Forest cross-country and snowmobile trails, contact the various district offices or sign-up for periodic grooming reports by emailing abenedetti@fs.fed.us.

According to the most recent report from Anthony Benedetti, the Forest recreation officer, the cross-country ski trail from the Walt Haring Sno-Park near Chemult was done earlier this week. Open trails include the 2.1-mile Runner Loop, 1.1-mile Twisted Pine, 2.2-mile Twinkle Loop and 0.6-mile Pine Knob.

— Reach freelance reporter Lee Juillerat at juilleratlee1@gmail.com or 541-880-4139.

Cross-country skiers make their way along the High Lakes Trail that extends from the Great Meadow Sno-Park to Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake. [Photo by Lee Juillerat]