Trail Ramblings: Melt May Be Good, Black Ice Is Not.

This is Nebraska weather in the winter. We don’t just get cold and stay there. We freeze, have a thaw, and repeat. That may be fine for variety, but creates interesting trail conditions. It was nice not to have to use my half-face mask, ski goggles, Bar Mitts, and to take out my commuter bike rather than my winter beast, as the trails are nearly entirely clear in the city by now.

hdden ice on jd
Protected areas hold snow pack longer like here on the John Dietrich.

The tricky part will now be morning commuting in low light after the snow melt has frozen overnight on the trails and streets. It keeps a rider vigilant. It already got me once this winter, in November when I cracked my helmet on it. Last winter I went down hard once on black ice as well. Below bridges, such as under O St. on the Salt Creek Levee trail, is a place where melting snow commonly runs across the trail, refreezing in the shadow of the bridge, where it takes much longer to disappear. I’m in the habit of giving it a wide berth, but one day the icy area had grown so that there was no way around it, and down I went. One of the tipsy regulars was crossing the bridge above and called down to see if I was alright. I was, though my phone had skittered away. Transients as trail guardians?

snowy bridge wp
Not difficult to cross, but slow to melt on the Jamaica.

Bridges are often a challenge above as well as below. One of my pet peeves is that protected bridge crossings for pedestrians and bikes to the side of motor traffic are often not cleared of snow like the path/sidewalk usually is leading up to them. They also freeze first, holding the trampled snow pack longer, making for unpleasant and even dangerous crossings. Being forced into slick streets in those conditions with no shoulder isn’t a good option either. That is why I was so surprised and happy to see that this same side path I’d struggled over so many times in the past was clean and clear after this last snow. I think maybe some of the saltwater spray being applied to the street surface to prevent freezing had also been applied to the side path. What ever it was, I hope it continues and becomes common practice.

Ice coming up to 136th St.

This won’t be happening on the limestone trails, however. We just have to deal with it. The bridge east of Walton and trail up to the tunnel under 136th last week were especially iced over with well trampled snow pack, leaving me a scant foot of space at the edge to carefully make my way across. Others haven’t been and bad as fresh snow on top helps, but if in doubt a planned dismount is better than an unplanned one any day.