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My first back-country ski trip.

Excessive foolishness is very tiring.  I have a sort of innate aptitude for intrepidness which gets me into trouble. Yesterday I went cross country skiing with a couple of guys who are very gung-ho about cross country skiing.  What was I thinking?  I mean, these guys do things like running five miles a day and skiing across vast expanses of hazard-infested wilderness for weeks at a time. I, on the other hand, have skied exactly five times in my life including yesterday.

Nevertheless, there I was, with a pack on my back, tromping up hill and skitting over dale on twenty year-old skis and boots that look an awful lot like bowling shoes.  What, I ask again, was I thinking? I’ll tell you what I thought I was thinking. I was thinking of showing these guys a new trail, and trying out the skis one of the guys gave me(read: free!) so that I could experience the joys of back-country skiing. I await that particular pleasure with bated breath.

It all started out so innocently. Here we go, off on an adventure, with our skis on our backs, planning to snowshoe up Johnston Creek  to the top of the hill, where we’d hang a left and then scoot down this other drainage.  So all we’d need to do was break trail from the top to where I’d already packed a trail.  Maybe five or six miles total. Easy! Right?

It was, until we were trying to figure out where it is that we should scoot into this other drainage, called Shorty Creek.  My snowmobiling friend had explained to me where to scoot, and I pointed this out, but Wayne (the ski-across-vast-wilderness-fellow) just had to follow the map, which is just fine and dandy if you happen to be hopelessly lost, but when you have good advice from an expert, I, for one, rank maps second.  But I’m one of those people who can barely find my way home from the grocery store and Wayne is a directional genius, so I deferred to his greatness. Mind you, I’m now safely home so Wayne is forgiven, but for a time there yesterday afternoon I would have shot him with a large-caliber, semi-automatic for two cents.

It doesn’t sound so bad, but when you find yourself tumbling into the deep snow for the nth time, picking yourself up out of hopelessly deep drifts, plucking the ski tips out of your ears, threading the poles out of gawd-knows-what and shaking the snow out of your underclothes…there is no fun left in it.  Even the first time I performed an unexpected triple front axle in full pike position into the snow I couldn’t help but to shout at Tom – the five-miles-a-day-guy – “you call this FUN?!”  Thankfully he was out of earshot by the time I performed my next unexpected gymnastic maneuver while trying to negotiate a seemingly simple rise, because I cursed like a sailor.  Mind you; I have absolutely no sailing experience, but still, I let out an astoundingly masterful string of curses considering that all I had done was fall down.

Even my dog Allie was impressed, or would have been if she had been able to catch her breath.  she wasn’t out of breath from laughing – though she could have been –  but from swimming through the snow.  Her poor little legs didn’t even reach half way through the snow pack, and the snow was of a light, dry, sugary variety, which made it hard for all of us to stay on top of it.  She was high-centered.  So I used her as an excuse to slow way down.  Somewhere along the line I gave up even pretending to have a good time, realizing that the experience I was having was about as distant from any description of “enjoyable” as Jupiter is from, say, Newark.  I  put my snowshoes  back on and strapped the skis to by back.  This didn’t help much, since they sank deeper in the snow than the skis, but at least it was misery I was familiar with.  But then I had to pretend that it was a LOT easier because I had just finished telling Tom how much easier snowshoeing is than skiing.

The real issue here is the difference between men and women.  Women, on the whole, prefer to go out into nature, stroll about, see the scenery, get a little exercise and go home to a nice fire and a glass of wine. Men have to conquer something before they’re happy.  They measure time in “mislesecs” which stands for seconds of misery.  If they haven’t been miserable, they aren’t happy.  For a while there I would’ve traded my skiing experience gladly for being alone in front of a raging lion on the Serengeti, but once we found the civilization represented by my old snowshoe trail halfway down, the feeling passed. It turns out that it was a pretty day, with the sun glinting on the glossy pines, looking like a little silver flame, dripping from branch to branch. You just can’t beat the clean, cold quiet of the back country in winter.  Men always say women are moody, don’t they? Well, I guess they’re right.


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