Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sweet Solitude

If you've read my earlier posts, you know that I like to go out to ski at night a lot. There is something special about slinking about after dark in the wilderness that I really enjoy, and most of the time it is with a group. This winter has been pretty lean as far as snowfall is concerned, so when it started snowing today just before closing, my spirits perked up as I knew I would be skate-skiing tonight, Thursday night, all by and for myself. Looping out at dusk via Old Faithful Trail upon a velvet bed of fresh new powdery snow, it was clear that conditions underfoot were really nice. It was also obvious that the Johnsburg Ski Team was skiing hard in their training earlier this afternoon as their tracks were telltale -- wiiiide, long strokes of V-2 skating strides and chopped up snow from braking and turning where Bobcat Trail's downhill crosses Old Faithful eluded to the speed and intensity of their workout. But, tonight, it was just me and the trails and the falling snow. I proceeded to casual skate out and back on Andy's run and up Blue Jay Way, then back to my cottage to drop a layer and put on a headlamp -- I was inspired!

Looping out Old Faithful brought me to Bobcat again, and I descended that to Trapper down into Harvey's Tailings. In the dark, it was a kind of white-out as my powerful light illuminated the driving snow, blinding my progress. The falling snow was stinging my eyes as I picked up speed, and I had to really concentrate on the feel underfoot. Down in the Tailings I decided to ascend Lower Duffany's Run and take Lower Solitude toward the Sugarhouse trails. Gliding though Solitude's thick canopy of towering hemlock, birch and pine is such a beautiful thing; doing it by myself in the night always becomes a little eerie, however. There are noises down there, strange ones, real or imagined movements in the woods and energy that causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention. There are always tracks, and the occasional sets of eyes glowing from the woods, the yellow piercing sharp eyes of coyotes being the most startling. I know they are just watching, though...

Back to Trapper trail and the long climb back to the shop. The snow was blissful and invigorating, silently falling and muting the sound and softening the glide of my trusty old skis. Ascending Trapper is an exercise in form -- form maintains momentum, form leads to efficiency, a shadowy form moving not so far off in the periphery of my headlamp turning it's head and blinking reflective eyes! Stopping to listen to the soft sound of paws pattering through the snow, barely discernible over the sound of my heart thumping from exertion and excitement. Back to the task at hand and back up to Old Faithful, animal tracks crossing my tracks in the snow, strange noises from animals not seen calling out from not so far off in the dark. The woods are alive, and whole 'nother world all around here at night.

Skiing can be such a workout, but it is also such a great opportunity to commune with nature on so many levels. Tonight's motivation was driven purely by the elation brought on by the falling of new snow. From our youth through to adulthood, that magic never ceases -- it only gets more powerful! I just hope it continues to pile up through the night bringing some much deserved accumulation to us for the morning. We shall see. (Ed. Note: It did not last, alas we got rain...)

Come on up and make your own tracks -- we'll see you out on the trails.

Night skiing, snow falling.

Personal powder solitude on Lower Solitude.

Tracks in the powder that were not there when I'd passed earlier.
What could it be?

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