With lift ticket prices on the rise at Wildcat and Sunday River ($49 and $39 respectively) but neither area offering more than a single unique top to bottom route, the value was not sufficient to justify the expense. As with past seasons, I have made a commitment to tour more and ride the lifts less this season. So with low lift serviced value and high turn earning motivation in mind, I decided to skin and ski at Jay again despite no guarantee of natural snow turns.
En route to Sunday River for top to bottom turns on Locke, I received a message (thanks, Tim!) alerting me that Wildcat was opening on Sunday free of charge. I had checked their web page the night before but the notice wasn’t posted until nearly midnight. Top to bottom on Wildcat was definitely a better (and considerably closer) option than Sunday River. So in Gorham, I turned down Route 16 and made a donation at the Kitty for a free lift ticket.
Flash back to my last ski day on July 5th. Before my last run, I said to myself “this isn’t an ending, this is a beginning”. Rather than seeing an end to the season, I was seeing (or, trying to, at least) a beginning of possibilities.
But I had it all wrong. There is no ending, no beginning. There is just one infinite continuum. Our illusional consciousness perceives endings and beginnings. But that is just our personal narrative. We are all just carrying on. Sometimes pushing, sometimes not.
If we always pushed, if we were always mindful, if we always valued our surroundings and existence as we think we should, perhaps that would deaden the amazement and bafflement and wonder that we might otherwise experience.
Today wasn’t a special day. First day of the season? Last day of the season? Any day of the season? Any day at all? I just woke up and did something I find value in doing, something I prefer to do rather than not doing anything. I went to Jay without expectation, only knowing that I would hike up and ski down.
The natural accumulation was far less than expected. It was difficult to measure because the snow was held aloft by the grass. There was so little snow that the weight of it couldn’t fully press down blades of grass. I fought uphill against my out of shape body, against my out of shape mind. Deer crossed my path multiple times. Just another day.
Upon reaching the col between Montrealer and Vermonter, I deemed that the later didn’t have enough natural snow to justify the ascent. I continued onto the top of the Jet. I was content to ski down under the guns on man made. In a word, it sucked. In a word, it was wonderful.
The man made gave way to two inches on natural on lower Haynes where I “skied” out while managing not to end my “season” with an injury. Never before have I had as much fun with such shitty skiing.
The quality of the skiing didn’t matter. I’m sure, at some point this season, my assessment will change. Perceptions are constantly altered based on what we regularly experience. But for at least one run, it just mattered that I was out there, having an adventure. Just doing. Just being.
One month ago, I did not think this would be possible. I gave up. Late season Tuckerman Ravine turns were not going to happen. But inspiration struck and I had a goal. One more ski day. July turns. Something I had not experienced since 2011 due to two back to back poor snow years. I started hiking to test my legs. And I discovered that despite poor health, fatigue, and locomotion issues, I was still very capable of hiking. I determined that I would not be denied.
The saying “life’s a journey, not a destination” has always produced bile in my mouth. So condescending and trite. Yea, I get it. I get it like you’re smacking a brick against my temple. And you’re wrong.
Without a destination in mind, we are aimless and adrift, lacking in purpose or intent. We need something to overcome, we need to will ourselves towards something. And while the actual overcoming happens during the journey, that doesn’t happen until we draw a bead on something and identify it as important.
Haphazard circumstance is amazing when randomness configures a seemingly serendipitous plan. I get it — look no further than the origin of this web site’s name. But when you are adrift, there is no journey. Years blow by and nothing gets better, it keeps getting worse.
From Noon Peak’s cliffs, Jennings Peak, and Sandwich Dome, I spied my destination off in the distance. The journey made me aware that — I got this — despite my current condition. But locking into a destination and deciding to go for it got me putting one foot in front of the other.
Without one there isn’t the other.
A destination is powerful. Why go on a journey, any ways? Because it’s there? Because it’s still there? Because I love it? Perhaps. Or rather, because I need to. The journey is irrelevant as long as I am on one, as long as something is important enough to pursue.