Sometimes I imagine Odin's adventures with us from his perspective: We go outside, head into the woods a ways, eat some snacks, and then head back to the car. "Why don't we just eat snacks at home?" he might wonder. But, I think if Odin could speak, he would share a sentiment similar to ours: It's not about the destination (or the snacks) - it's about the people we meet out there, the sights we get to see, and the fun of being outside in the woods on our skis, bikes, or feet. Today was no different from this: Moments in from the parking lot we met up with Abe (a friendly black lab) and his person Nick. We skied along together - the dogs playing, us chatting about our winter adventures. Odin, Tristan, and I were already in our groove. Then, something even more wonderful happened. Just up the trail we could make out two figures, lumbering along with tremendous packs. The dogs barked at them; this was unusual.
The first thing you do when you see someone with a tremendous pack such as this is ask them what they're up to. These two, a girl and a guy, were hiking the Long Trail. In winter! It had been great they told us, and then this snow changed everything. The day they woke up to it, it took them eight hours to move four miles. They didn't even make it to their planned stop for the night. Today, they were headed to town for food. We chatted with them awhile - I was so inspired from meeting them. What an amazing adventure! Before parting ways, we shared our favorite high-calorie trail snack with them: pre-packaged cookie mix with water and dried milk: More calories than you can imagine, a bit of protein from the milk, and sinful deliciousness (think chocolate chip cookie dough with walnuts added in, maybe some dried cranberries - yummmm). We told them they should have no trouble getting a ride. We could relate; food beckoned, and warmth, and maybe a shower. I remembered the feeling, but tried to imagine adding into that several treacherous days in thigh-deep snow and cold. Now I couldn't imagine the feeling.
We parted ways, us moving up the mountain and they moving down. And soon after, Nick parted ways, too - he was headed up to catch the first glade we passed, while we were heading another three miles in, up to the height of land: Lunch Rocks. After a few "nice meeting you's", we all skied on. Tristan and I skinned up and up, through the switchbacks, past the many glades we were looking forward to, and into the high mountain forest we love so much. Just before our destination, we met two couples, our parents' age, skiing down. Again, I felt inspired: I hope I am still doing this in 10 years, 20, 40.... I think I will be, if I can help it.
And then, there we were: Lunch Rocks (though, I had already come to calling this Cheeseburger Rocks because I could think of nothing more I wanted for lunch). I stepped up to the lookout; Tristan was already taking it all in, in peace. And then I saw it - in full panorama: The view was astonishing. And out there, in the distance, the wind mill on top of Bolton. I can see nothing but beauty upon the sight of a mountaintop pinwheel, weaving the wind. The expanse was amazing.
I was looking at my very favorite section of Long Trail, from Route 2 in Jonesville up and over Bolton Mountain, Mt. Mayo, and on to Mt. Mansfield. I remember the first time I walked these ridge lines, through damp, deep, dark forests. I was in love. We have continued to walk those lines; this is a section of the trail we have repeated over and over again. It feels desolate and wild out here; we've had moose walk up to our tent, we've passed them from feet away, the views of Mt. Mansfield from the back side of Bolton Mountain are unique - a vantage point you don't get from the valley roads, and the climb up the forehead, through the Needle's Eye, is unforgettable. And I remember the first time I saw the backcountry trails that cross paths with the Long Trail in the deep sag before the climb up Bolton Mountain to Puffer Shelter; I remember looking down Raven's Wind, a steep, narrow swath cut into the mountain side. "People ski that?!" Not yet being a skier, I asked myself this. "Hmm...looks cool." Onward. To Puffer Shelter, to Canada, back to the real world, to new jobs, to Montpelier, to our discovery of skis. Here I am again today, exploring these mountains I love so much, only this time I'm on skis. I stood there today, at Cheeseburger Rocks, and took in the view. A view like that can put everything into perspective. There's something about looking down on things that helps you understand exactly what's important, exactly what is cherished. I took it all in; we ate lunch (not cheeseburgers, unfortunately); and we headed back down, but not before I took one last look, and smiled from my heart.
We skied into the dense mountaintop woods, down through the fun narrow shoots of the Catamount Trail.This time we knew these turns, thanks to our recent Bolton to Nebraska Valley tour, and we zoomed down them with smiles. We ripped skins just above a sweet open glade and made our first turns into the deep powdered woods. Again, I smiled from my heart.
Oh, p.s., today also brought me hand-cut potato fries with bacon and blue cheese at the Res. Holy crap, I have found my reason for living! Seriously - you must try this apres ski snack. ( :