Sticks and Stones
Too much fall color is almost inconceivable. One does not easily tire of the vibrant hues of dying leaves. But when the flaming colors of fall disappeared one morning, I felt no sorrow. Upon stepping outside the cabin door, all I could see was white. Stepping carefully, I attempted to keep snow from spilling over the top of my shoes. I knew it was only late October, though, and I reminded myself that early season snow days have high disappointment potential. Cool nights often bring snow which warmer daytime temperatures cruelly dispatch. Contrary to my expectations, however, the snow persisted and even accumulated over the next few days. Fall had seemingly turned to winter. My eyes turned to the mountains. Time for a recognizance mission to examine higher elevation snow conditions. I took a pair of skis – just in case the snow needed to be tested out, or something like that.
Dane and I set off up a ski trail on Big Mountain. There was snow. I was excited to the point of insanity. Every twenty or so paces, Dane patiently reminded me that one could not ski on three inches of snow – especially when the ground was muddy underneath. Presently, we decided to leave the ski run and walk through the forest. We ended up hiking a quiet, seldom traveled part of the mountain. By and by, we reached the top of an antiquated chairlift. We sat on a chair and ate our bread and cheese. Fog descended around us. Snowflakes fell steadily.
Presently, we became cold. This pleased me. Cold meant snow would flourish and possibly accumulate. To warm up, we attempted a ski descent. Needless to say, there were an abundance of sticks and stones. Eight fluffy inches of snow had settled atop the mountain’s scruffy coat of beargrass and huckleberry bushes. Rocks nestled beneath the snow, like ticks on the mountain’s rough hide. In reality, though, thew would suck the life from my skis, not the mountain.
Since this had been but a recognizance mission, each of us took one ski and one boot. Overall, our packs were lighter this way. Coming down, one of us walked halfway while the other skied. Then we switched, trading footwear. The hiking boots made downhill travel faster and easier than the skis did. But the thrill factor just wasn’t there. On our respective turns skiing, we both bounced over stumps, lurched and scratched over large rocks, hit branches and bushes, and bit the dust repeatedly. To prove our foolhardiness, we documented our clumsiness on video.
This was a new kind of skiing. Because there was no base, our skis sunk down between the bushes. This made turning nearly impossible, because stems and sticks caught the sides of the skis, holding them on a straight course. We both spent some time learning how to turn. On the steeper slopes, jump turns proved moderately successful. This was not an option on milder terrain. The trip down was punctuated by frequent grunts of exertion and regular crashes.