Finally braved my complete lack of XC ski experience and headed out on some skinny skis this fine winter day, courtesy Pete G. (thanks!). Living adjacent to a recently cleared and slowly improving rail trail makes for a perfect beginner-friendly attempt at this sort of adventure. With all the fresh snow recently I hoped there'd be some tracks to follow, and thankfully there was along a lot of the route I headed out on. Super skinny "classic" style XC skis are not the best in deep, fresh powder - but held there own just fine. Much smoother / faster than snowshoes with at least as much 'float'. Now I totally understand the desire to ski on "groomed" XC ski trails, as on my return trip (out and back style run) it took a lot less effort to move a good bit quicker and smoother. A few more runs will pack the track in nicely and make for a speedy workout.
Anyhow - from Topsfield I headed south-ish, towards Wenham and Danvers. What a fantastic trail! Over and along the Ipswich River, through some wetlands, and into some deep woods - there were all sorts of animal tracks and perfect, sparkly snow everywhere. The middle third of the trip was all fresh, untracked snow which slowed the pace enough to really make me take a look around. As I neared the apex of the trip, making ready to turn around and shoosh back, I stopped for a Clif Bar and some water. Amazing how much energy it takes to smoothly propel oneself on skis, actually using ones arms to aid in the motive effort; glad I had a snack, as I got hungry fast!
I can easily imagine the day when the trail - all the way from Peabody to Newburyport and beyond - across the Merrimack River and into NH - is complete, and the idea of grooming it for XC skiing is floated. I'd happily be out at 430am after a fresh snow driving whatever rig it took - snowmobile towed groomer, or a full-blown tracked vehicle ala the fancier trail systems. In the meantime I'll continue helping out with the trail's development as much as I can - as the volunteer group is great, and highly motivated. For sure, in the early spring - I'll be out with the big loppers / pruners and trying to cut back the veritable jungle out there on parts of the trail. But while there is snow - I'll keep practicing my kick and glide technique.