Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hard lessons learned
It had been in the planning stages for several weeks, with a bunch of emails going back and forth, much hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing over the warm weather, but things worked out in the end, and on Saturday morning I took off with a bunch of folks to do some back-country skiing down in Vermont.
The plan was to meet up at a trail-head on some rural road, all crowd in to two cars, and then drive around the mountain, where we ski back to the two other cars. Now, for anyone who's seen the Amazing Race (I may have mentioned it once or twice), would certainly empathise with 10 adults squeezed into two cars packed with skis and backpacks, trying to find another trailhead with maps downloaded from a fifth-grade geography book (or so it seemed). After an hour of travelling through back roads, admiring the architecture of Vermont (and some of it is truly outstanding; round churches, who knew?), driving up wrong roads, getting out of and unloading the cars only to realise we weren't at the right spot, getting back in, we finally found the trailhead. Everyone jumps out, half of us running to the woods to relieve our bladders.
We start to wax up our skis, I'm looking around, realising that, gosh, my groomed-trail x-country skis stand out next to everyone else's gear, which happen to be more solidly built back-country stuff. Whatever, I think, I'll just glide faster. Yeah, I'm an idiot.
We all take off on the trail, and after a couple hours I realise that I'm not bringing up the back because I want to, but simply because, damn!, these people are fit. And, hell, fresh snow is lovely, but wow does it ever take a lot to ski through it. Especially on x-country gear. Which I was on. Have I mentioned that?
We break for lunch about mid-afternoon, and I figure I'm done for the day. I still have about 7 km back to the trailhead, so I split off from the group. Come across an abandoned bus, parked in the middle of the woods. Next to an RV trailer. I have no idea how they got up there.
Meet up with the rest of the group a few hours later (they skied to the original trailhead to pick up the cars), and off we go driving again, looking for this massive yurt we had rented for the weekend. Which is only about a kilometer from the road, meaning shouldering all our bags, our food, our beer, and trudging through all the fresh snow that fell at the end of last week. We all pile into the yurt, which is outfitted with bunkbeds and a small woodburning stove. For some reason that my brain decided not to share with the rest of my body, I choose a top bunk. Which was really difficult to get in and out of. Especially at 5 in the morning, when my bladder was full, it was dark out, it was cold out, and it was snowy out. I swear I stepped on someone's head.
Anyhow, the yurt was nice, the folks were nice, and I think it would have taken only a few more sips of alcohol before we all joined in a group hug to ward off the cold that our tiny stove could not overcome.
After breakfast on Sunday morning, repack our stuff and step out to an unforgettable scene: about 20 cm of fresh snow fallen on the fields, the woods, the mountains surrounding us. I didn't bother taking a picture, I couldn't have done it justice. I'm elected, and I don't know how I got suckered into this, to break trail on the walk out. Thanks, ya bastards. Pile back into the cars, head to a nordic centre. The rest of the group decides to hit the real back country, I see that they have groomed trails that are still demanding so decide to stick with that. Beautiful, just beautiful day. Just gliding through the woods, clumps of snow becoming detached from the branches and floating down to the ground, almost defying the laws of gravity. Meet up with everyone at the end of the day, and all head back to Montreal. Where I guess it snowed as well, because as I got to my place, I was overjoyed to find that my car had been towed to the other side of the street, with a lovely ticket stuck to the windshield.
Never leave your car on the street when it's snowing and you won't be around for a few days. But everyone knows that, right?


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