Pole, Kick, Glide
You can cross-country ski on the 15 kilometers of trails at Macbride, located north of Iowa City off County Road F-28. The area, which borders Lake Macbride and the Coralville Reservoir, is owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and is managed by the University of Iowa Division of Recreational Services.
"We have one of the few areas in Iowa that offers groomed cross-country ski trails," says Wayne Fett, associate director of recreational services who manages the Macbride area. "Its centrally located between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. We also draw skiers from across Iowa and neighboring states; theres even a group from St. Louis, Missouri, that visits Macbride each year."
Fett says the record snowfall made conditions ideal for cross-country skiing in December. About 500 people visited Macbride on the three-day New Years Day weekend, filling parking lots to capacity.
Each week Bob Randall, the grounds-keeper at Macbride, grooms the trails with an iron rake pulled by a snowmobile. The spikes of this grooming machine loosen packed snow and make it more suitable for skiing. After a new snow, grooming provides a clear path, so skiers dont have trudge through fluffy snow.
"Bob grooms the trails better than I could ever do," Fett adds. "Hes an ex-farmer and can do about anything."
Macbride also offers a variety of scenic areas, ranging from narrower wooded trails along the lake leading to the boathouse or to the Bluestem Shelter, but also the wider Blue Bird Trail with views of the Coralville Reservoir. Its a great place to see deer, birds, and other wildlife; the Raptor Center is off one of the main trails. Snowshoeing is allowed off the main trails.
Macbrides trails are suitable for both the beginning and advanced skier and include wider trails for skate skiing, an advanced, speedier form of cross-country skiing resembling the movements used in ice skating. On any given weekend, skate skiers sporting colorful spandex suits can be seen gliding quickly up and down the trails.
The trails are also a regular haunt of the UI Cross-Country Ski Club, a 20-member group of UI staff, faculty, and graduate students, ranging in age from 20 to 70.
"This has been one of the best winters Ive seen for skiing," says club member Marilyn Dispensa, a computer consultant in ITS/Academic Technologies. "December was greatI went out every other day and every weekend." The club meets at Macbride and other local parks on an informal basis, and club activities include an annual trip to Colorado. They announce their outings via an e-mail list service.
In addition to Touch the Earth High Adventure Challenge Course and classes in cross-country skiing and canoeing for UI students, Macbride is also home to the
UI School of the Wild nature programs held during the academic year and Wildlife Camps held during the summer for elementary schoolchildren. The School of the Wild also conducted winter camps Dec. 26-29 for 64 students from the Iowa City area.
Subject to snow conditions, Recreational Services is offering a unique opportunity to ski Macbride at nighta moonlight/candlelight ski on Feb. 10, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For a map and more information about the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, see http://recserv.uiowa.edu/Macbride. For information on the moonlight ski, call Recreational Services at (33)5-9293.
by George McCrory