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I love our dog, Bear.

You’ve seen him and read about him accompanying me on Nordic ski outings and playing on the ice shavings mound behind the Gens Falls hockey rink on Fire Road on our walks.

But one major pitfall in my life since his arrival is my disconnect with Cole’s Woods in the winter (and I still struggle with the fact that he’s a dog and I can often be seen walking or skiing with a green bag full of his poop in my hand).

He needs walking or skiing daily — and dogs aren’t allowed in there, which I understand.

So to ski, I go to Bay Meadows Golf Course, not Cole’s Woods anymore.

But Monday was different.

He got his walk in the afternoon, and my oldest daughter and I hit the Cole’s Woods trails — under the lights — later that evening.

Last week’s insane rain left the trails a little shallow; too shallow to retain the grooved traditional tracks. But the terrain was just how I like it, hard-packed and fast. Our edgeless skis slid out a little bit without the tracks, but the terrain allowed for some great gliding and speedy downhills.

The trails were littered in spots with pine cones and pieces of pine cones, dissected by some of the million squirrels in there, but it felt so good to be back out there under the lights.

Bill Blood, president of Friends of Cole’s Woods, lamented the pine cones — and squirrels too — and said volunteers have been essentially adopting stretches of the trail system and raking the cones to the side.

“We don’t have enough people to cover the whole course, but it’s an interesting concept. Makes a huge difference,” he said. “And I don’t know which is worse, the whole pine cones or the debris left by the squirrels after they get done with them.”

The group is also struggling with malfunctioning lights on a stretch of terrain headed up from the YMCA toward Aviation Mall, he said.

“There’s a short in the wires we’re trying to find,” he said.

But shorted wires, squirrels and pine cones aside, Blood said the trails are in solid shape, and I wholeheartedly agree. The recent rain and subsequent cold snap made a hard base that he said is perfect for future snow, like the few inches we got yesterday.

“So far, we’ve really been blessed with some old-time snow,” Blood said. “Although we had that crazy warmup, we now have a bulletproof base. That’s the good news.”

And people are flocking to use the trails, he said.

Wednesday night’s 6 p.m. learn-to-ski programs for kids and adults have flourished, with upwards of 50 kids attending — and many of their parents choosing to ski rather than wait around for the kids to be done, Blood said.

“It’s been really neat to see them out there,” he said.

A local business recently did a staff bonding night skiing in the woods, with guidance from Friends of Cole’s Woods volunteers, Blood said. Many stayed long after the tutorial was over, and some commented about how surprised they were that the system was so extensive.

“The feedback we got was ‘Gee, we’re really interested in acquiring skis,’ “ he said. “It’s nice to have an excuse to go show off the trails.”

It was nice on Monday night for me to be back in there too. Again, I love that dog, but I’m really fond of those beautiful, free, lit trails too.


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