I've been happy to be able to spend so much time outdoors so far this spring and summer. Though a lot of my outdoor time has been spent walking or playing with the girls, or commuting on my bike, virtually all my workout time has been spent in one of two places: the excellent rollerski loop on the roads near my house east of Northfield, or the wonderful trails of the Carleton Arb. Forthwith, a comparison.
In the Arb, I run or do a running version of "nordic walking"
; on the rollerski route I either skate or double-pole. The Arb paths are rolling, curvy dirt paths which have numerous but not too-steep climbs; my favorite rollerski routes are on straight and level asphalt roads which ascend eight hills, three of which are rather steep (especially when descending them without brakes). Out in the savannah, prairie, and floodplain of the Arb, I see oak trees, grasses, and a few pines; on the farmland roads, I see corn, soybeans, ditch weeds, and more dandelions than I can shake a ski pole at. I share the Arb with lots of pheasant and other birds, a few squirrels and frogs, and the odd deer, while the ski route includes zillions of red-winged blackbirds as well as livestock like sheep, horses, and cows.
Human beings aren't absent in either place, though in the Arb I only rarely encounter anyone (usually a runner or walker, and pretty often townies smoking weed and fishing) and on the roads my fellow men are usually aboard cars, pickup trucks, the occasional lawnmower or tractor, and the rare bicycle. The jetsam I typically encounter in the Arb includes pinecones, fallen logs, animal tracks, mysterious numbered signs (actually points for the fantastic new "Interpretive Guide to the Arb", and a tick on my forearm. Out on the roads, I find stuff like empty Mountain Dew bottles, McDonalds wrappers, an empty pesticide container, and a rain-soaked copy of Hustler. The most imposing sights I've had have been a male pheasant, staring me down from his spot on a path in the Arb (I waited until he deigned to move), and the Carleton wind turbine, the majestic point around which my rollerski route seems to pivot.