Wildcat: Opening Day of the Season

Mount Washington from Upper Lynx

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.

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Jay: Endings & Beginnings

Jay

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.

Tuckerman Ravine: Because I Need To

Baby Sluice

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.

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Sandwich Sunday

Waterville Valley from Jennings Peak

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.

Steve Near Noon Peak

Hiking at Dusk: Morgan & Percival

Steve on Mount Percival Summit

It was never supposed to be like this.

Nine years ago, I fled Massachusetts to take a job in Vermont. I choose to leave the city, my friends, and my family behind to pursue outdoor recreation sans traffic, attitudes, pollution, and suburbia. I was running towards something, not away from something.

And it was amazing. There is something to be said for radical change. Dreaming up an idea and taking a risk. It is nice to have the freedom to do so rather than feeling trapped, without a dream to pursue — the locked down oppressive feeling I have come to know so well.

Seven years ago, I moved to central New Hampshire, sandwiched between the lakes and the mountains. Two hours or less from almost every ski area that I cared to ski, forty minutes from my favorite mountain. A perfect location. I once dreamily stated that it would be great if this specific position in this specific location opened up and I could get the job. And I did.

It was the last time that I could rely on haphazard circumstance to determine my direction. Which was fine for a few years. What was once endless enthusiasm for my work and my play carried me through four great years. But the last three years have been a grind professionally and personally — a grind that has had serious effects on my health.

But I think I am on the mend.

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