Feb 17 2011

Along The Trail

An obvious stillness encompasses my being as I stand in the middle of the trail staring down at the distinct tracks left behind by ski’s, dog sleds, and snow machines. Each track tells a story, some funny, others dry and expected such as the direct and predictable movement of snow machines. A skiers tracks seem casual, controlled, and practiced when a distinct disruption in the snow tells a humorous story of a skier falling and then tumbling to the snow, but a closer look tells a different story. The skier was on skate ski’s and was skijoring with an unknown count of pulling dogs, skiing along casually in the skate ski pattern when the skier caught an edge on something invisible and was flung to the snow on the side of the trail and then dragged along by the skiers dog’s for about thirty feet.


The silence around me is unnerving and I find myself stepping side to side to create some type of movement, nothing was moving and it was freaking me out even Equinox seemed transfixed in a statuesque pose, the pose labs make when they know a camera is pointed at them, legs are straight and staggered, tail hangs purposefully and he seems to stare off in the distance at an odd angle. He always makes this pose when I try to take a spontaneous picture of him, silly smart dog. 


So I stand there in the -26 degree air and waited silently until Equinox attention span would cause him to turn, move, shuffle, cough, something! Then he moved turning to a sound or smell that he could only hear or sense and then my picture was complete, but he would still win because there was some sort of frozen moisture on the lens of my trusty camera phone that I use when I ski and it ruined the moment for me a couple of hours later. 

As I turn in to the sun and begin skiing Equinox bolts down the trail happy that I finally began moving again so he could generate some body heat and thus sprint down the trail. Tracks abound on this trail, moose and what look like caribou or deer tracks or some other hoofed creature that I never see but they always leave these wonderful prints fresh and new every time I turn around. Arctic fox tracks are wonderful and more like dog tracks than fox so they track erratically down the trail stopping here and there to smell the scent left behind from the previous wanderers along this trail.

Crap! No really, crap is smeared all along the trail, sled dogs relieve themselves on the fly, no time to slow until the rest stop but here they were flying and the poop never lies. One dog has the runs, poor guy, another is apprehensive and his trail is a pattern of start and stop and start, they go when they go at the last possible moment and their mood can be seen in their “on the fly” release. 


Dodging the frozen refuse is a dance I’ve grown accustomed to it is a part of the personality of the trail I am endeared to. Rhythm falls upon me as I speed past the evidence of humans passing, then the trees take their place again. The trees always force their authority upon me blending and melting, they become one great thing, until the sun breaks through and settles matters. Some trees filter the light differently than other trees, the scene begins to change and the personality of the woods shines through again. Flattened, torn up snow greet me, evenly spaced hallows of snow line the sides of the trail, a multitude of piss holes and stains and up turned snow and reeds are all signs of a dog sled teams rest spot. 


Like a thing alive the personality of the trail changes, no more snow machines, no more ski tracks, no more animal tracks, just dog sled tracks work the trail, the trees seem foreign, the woods seem victimized and I feel all at once like an intruder. The gliding is good and the snow is warm so I continue on, and on with the tracks of the sled before me trusting that whoever the driver was knew where they were headed and that they also knew this trail. The trail changes with the ground beneath it, adjusting and moving above the frozen soil, the give and go is a change I don’t really enjoy since I’m not allowed to get a rhythm started and any speed created. Slipping to the left, to the right just to be pushed to and fro by the whims of the trails altering wants.

Each moment that I am allowed to witness on the snow, blanketed by the trees creates moments that I reflect on for years after having experienced the event. Something special has occurred during that time on the trail, why else spend so much time contemplating the experience? Each moment that the trail allows me to witness is an experience to treasure and revel in, and the dog that travels with me in all his knowing knows more than I with knowing everything and yet knowing nothing he doesn’t think about the snow, the trees, the cold. He only enjoys the present, the experience in front of him. He takes nothing of the moment for granted, stopping to taste, smell, pee on, poop on, and burrow into in a glee that I feel rarely and treasure even more. 







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Jan 18 2011


Slipping and sliding along the line of the trail, trees pass by moving gracefully to the rear of my vision. I see the trees pass turning my head occasionally as one branch or the shape of a certain tree catches my eye and stimulates my curiosity just to be lost to my inattentive nature of the time. Nature of the snow prevents the trail to be even, pounded relentlessly by various users mostly the sleds and dogs pulling the musher along, the sleds runners seeking purchase along the lowest point sliding to and fro’ shaping the trail and producing a personality to the way of it. 

Along the way my ski’s slide seemingly uncontrolled this way and that, yet as the way it is the trail guides my ski’s to where they’re suppose to be and not where I want them. I learned early enough not to fight the trail, that cold, hard bitch wins every time. The best I can do is allow myself to be led down the trail like a child held by the hand by mother showing me the right and wrong way of things. 

I can feel my ski’s warping and bending to the contour of the trail, dipping, hitting bumps, turning a corner, bouncing over the frozen defecation of passing sled dogs. All of a sudden I’ve entered a straight flat section of trail, neither climbing nor descending, pure and level. I start gliding longer, I begin kicking harder pushing off with my ski’s, I thrust my poles into the trail violently stabbing the snow with all I can and I am flying along the trail. Everything has gone from recognizable scenery to a tunnel of white and green, the steady forward motion and pleasure outweighs the slowly encroaching fatigue that is just waiting for my mind to consider. 

As swiftly as the high-speed run down the trail began so did the rapid end fall upon me as I change course and turn to follow a new trail with tracks left days ago after a snow. Moose are always present here, a moose cow that inhabits the area has a thing for stomping trespassers that wander into her world so I tread carefully through the next mile of thick Alders and low black spruce. 

The shadow of the hills darkens the valley floor for most of the day until the low laying sun makes its gradual appearance on the horizon and graces the surrounding land with a soft pink orange glow that sends the tops of the hills on fire in a yellow and red blaze. Cooling air from the coming night begins hardening the snow on the trail turning the ice crystals into a friction that feels like sandpaper and slows down the travel. Fresh urine markings dot the side of the trail from animal tracks that lead back into the woods, my dog turns off to follow the donor. Left alone for the time, silence again sweeps the narrow trail clean of all disturbance and falling back into a cadence I drift off in a rhythmic cycle of skiing and breathing, I’ve become more of an addition to the wilderness around me than merely another visitor, I’m more comfortable here now than I ever thought I could. 

Considering my world and the diverse land laid out for me to live out my days I’m never left to wonder what it would be like to be anywhere else…….. 

wait, what was the question? 

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Oct 27 2010

And So It Begins

It was just a matter of time before I began writing about my skiing exploits, and here we are. The snow I had called on came and laid down a soft blanket of love across the landscape of my consciousness. I know that this snow is only temporary and will soon be gone, so in the last week I haven’t missed an opportunity to get out on the trail and get some skiing in. I was up early going through the process of waxing my ski’s and an hour and a half later I was standing at the trailhead into my bindings wondering just how sore I was going to be by the end of the day.
I had forgotten how good it felt to get on the ski’s. how amazing it is to glide along the trail.

Everything is so clear and the senses are heightened, the smell even changes when I’m skiing. It is amazing how we perceive things from moment to moment, even something like snow that has a specific odor while standing on it, changes when you’re involved in an activity breathing it in on that same snow and in the same environment.
Everything changes when you include yourself in a place, you see things differently, smell things, taste things all differently.
I expected that I would need to rest due to lack of conditioning, but as it was the only thing I was having trouble doing was wiping the smile off of my face.
Every kick and every glide was as invigorating as if I had been locked in a cell for the last seven months and have been finally released.

As I got to the turn-around I stopped an stared at everything, I mean everything, the trees, snow, the trail that leads down the hill to the Dunbar Trail a quarter of a mile away. Reluctant blades of grass and the occasional leaf poke out of the snow, tree branches are heavy from the fresh snow and bow down forcing me to duck and avoid a cool dowsing of snow.
I love how calm it is, it always seems calm out on the trail even my dog seems to be drinking in the serenity out here.
For the last several days I have been revelling in the pleasant sun and welcoming snow. Skiing on the Parks Ridge Run Trail and the MDR Trail have been wonderful, a massive release to all the pent-up energy that has been built up inside me over the last month.
It always seems that one of the most amazing moments occurs during the turnarounds and this was no different. I was coming to a stop on the Parks Ridge Run Trail at the quarry when I looked out across the horizon and the most amazing view of Denali appeared before me. The mountain seems so close I felt I could reach out and touch it. I stood there for a time staring at the wonder in front of me. Every time I’m on the trail this world shows me something unexpected and surprising.

The snow is thin and just covers the soil allowing me to get out early this year and I have been taking full advantage of it. Over the last week I have skied every moment I could and each day the snow has become less and less as the snow is melting away. In a couple more days the few trails that have had enough snow on them will no longer be skiable, and my ski crazy friends and I will have to put our ski’s away for a short time and be patient just a bit longer for more consistent skiing.
The sun is out and there isn’t a cloud in the sky, warm and pleasant, I can watch the snow recede from the trails exposing more and more rock and soil.
In a week or two we should see more snow arriving and the trails will receive better coverage and everybody will be happy, and as it is now that I have gotten enough of an appetizer to sideline my hunger for a bit, I can wait for a while longer for more snow to cascade own on my world.

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