A few Tuesday's ago in March, deep in the soul-less darkness of a late-night Council meeting, a friend said to me, "Come snow camping with us this weekend!" I thought I heard her say, "only a couple of miles to hike in," and "curl up around the wood burning stove." It was late; I had a brutal cold; I was disoriented; I was unclear on the actual intersection of the concepts of "snow" and "camping." So, I said "Yes." ~~~ I thought the weekend would look something like this:
The actual weekend was something like that photo ~ except without the cozy.....or the warmth. Because it actually started and ended with hours of this:
Snow camping, it occurred to me too late, involves hours of trekking in the snow and wind to actually reach the mythical snow hut, where you imagine a cozy wood burning stove and plush pillows are waiting for you. ~ But I am getting way ahead of myself ~ I need to back up, to explain how in the heck I found myself trekking through snow and wind and sleet and ice, on legs that felt like wet noodles after a few hours, wearing the most ridiculous outfit known to woman-kind.
So my two friends, who shall be known here as Mama Bear (MB) and Papa Bear (PB) (because they were so good to me), are really great outdoor enthusiasts. PB, in fact, is an extreme climber, skier, hiker, biker, and all around scaler of tall mountains. So I should have known that when he said, "Oh it's just a few miles," that what he really meant was, "You will experience many Into-Thin-Air moments and you will feel like you are near death for most of the trip." He and his friends call this "Type-2" fun ~ you know, not real hilarious "Type-1" fun but the kind of fun that you don't know is fun, until well after the shock has worn off and you realized you survived; then, it's fun. But I didn't remember all this when I said, "YES!" to their invitation. I figured they said snow trekking, in snow shoes, not skiing ~ anyone can do THAT! I was glad we weren't going to ski up the trail to the hut.
Because you see, I have really only been skiing once. Years ago. I was too cheap to pay for a lesson, so a friend, an expert skier, gave me a few tips, which mostly involved his shouting "just go pigeon-toed!" I didn't fall too much during the quote-unquote lesson, so I put on a brave face and said, "Let's do it! Let's hit my first run!" . . . . the bunny slope. Woo-Hoo!
It was my first time on a ski lift ~ and you know, those damn things move WAY too fast! And how are you supposed to gracefully jump/slide/fall/slip off the lift at the summit? I thought of all this as we went up, up, up the slope (OK, well, not too far up ~ it was the bunny slope after all). On cue, I fell off the lift at the top of the bunny slope and ducked just in time before the chair bashed my head in. Then, I tried to stand up boldly, as if I totally and completely meant to perform that acrobatic feat off the lift, but I had fallen down too close to the path of the lift ~ where it was pure ice, not snow. Again, on cue, because I'm good for that, I started sliding, I mean skiing, down that run. I was frantically waving my poles around, unsure how the hell to steer the damn skis. I tried to avoid, and then purposefully hit, the perfect kids who were slaloming down the damn run. I started gaining speed ~ TOO much speed ~ I got scared ~ I remembered that my friend told me that if I wasn't sure how to stop, that I should just DROP, just FALL into the gentle, soft, welcoming snow that will cushion your gentle descent.
So, I did that ~ except (a) you should never really just FALL OVER when you're racing down the run at an ungodly speed, and (b) my skis DID NOT POP OFF. Skis are supposed to pop off. They are supposed to do that so they are not in your way when you fall, and perhaps start rolling. Mine stayed on. Which means that as I tumbled down the bunny slope, I looked like a shambles of a tumbleweed as the skis pummeled me while I rolled down the mountain, I mean, bunny slope. And, because this was the bunny slope, and I was near the bottom, the chair lift was very close up above. So, I could hear people, literally, shouting, "OOOOH!" and "OUCHHHH!" and "UGHHH!" as they watched me. Roll. Down. A Bunny Slope.
And then I came to a full stop. At the bottom of the bunny slope. Face down. In the snow. With my skis still on. And little kids zipped past me wearing ski outfits that cost more than my car.
So, that was the only time I have ever been skiing. Remember this, OK?
Now back to the story. We drove to Lake Tahoe Friday night, to stay with friends and get a little acclimated to the altitude, since we would be climbing so much the next day. The next morning, it finally occurred to me to ask what the plan was for hiking in ~ by then, at least I knew the hike in was *6* miles, not 2. But I can do 6 miles, so I wasn't too worried. I just wanted to know what trail we would take in.
"Well, you see," started PB ~ "here's the beauty of my plan: we are going to shave off the first two miles of the hike!" GREAT, I thought. Four miles will be NO problem! What do we have to do? So PB begins to explain: "Well you see, we're going to take the Mt. Lincoln Express to the summit behind Sugar Bowl...."
"Wait, the what?" I asked. "What's the Lincoln Express?"
"The ski lift! That way, the LIFT takes us up the first two miles! Brilliant, right?!" . . . . I stared in silence.
Then he says, "Oh, but wait, there is just ONE CATCH." . . . . My silence gets louder.
"You see, you have to actually have skis or a snow board to get on the lift ~ they don't want people snowshoeing up there behind the closed area, so we do have to take boards and skis with us."
I disregarded momentarily the phrase, "closed area," and asked, "Wait; skis and boards AND snow shoes? Where do we put all that?"
"Oh! We're just going to strap you into my snow board, and we'll tie the snow shoes to your back pack. We'll take the lift, jump off at the summit, trek in a bit, and leave the snow boards under a tree somewhere until we return."
Seriously. PB said all this with a straight face as he sipped coffee and munched on wheat toast with jelly.
All I could say was, "OK ~ I'm just a passenger on this bullet train to hell anyway." And then we took off to Sugar Bowl. Here I should note that I did not have snow boots ~ I had waterproof HIKING boots. "No problem!" smiled PB ~ "we'll strap you in tight to the board." I admitted I've never been on a snow board. "Haven't you been on a skateboard? It's the same thing!" ~ This did not help.
We arrived at Sugar Bowl, bought our lift tickets, and meandered up to the Mt. Lincoln Express lift. I tried to delay strapping into the snow board as long as I could. At the end of the line, with little old ladies and toddlers speeding past me doing handstands on their snow boards, PB and MB strapped me in, one foot only, and then instructed me to SHIMMY or SLIDE forward, kinda sideways. LIKE A CRAB. With snow shoes strapped to my backpack! Oh yes people ~ this is as sexy as it gets.
When we reached the front of the line, we saw HOW FAST the lift was swinging towards us. "OH!" I thought ~ "THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT THE MT. LINCOLN EXPRESS!" Oh yes, the altitude had made me slow, too.
For now, let me show you the "Before" and "After" picture of preparing for the hike in ~ that is, Before having to suit up for the trek, and After shimmying into several layers of ninja-black fleece:
BEFORE ~ fresh-faced, naïve, unaware of what lay ahead.
AFTER ~ scared to death, I mean, ready to kick snow's ass.
TO BE CONTINUED ~ . . . . . .