Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wandering in the White Mountains.

A few years ago I never would have dreamed that this would be my version of an ideal New Year's eve: an unheated cabin with no electricity or modern conveniences and a woodstove for warmth, sitting with both strangers and friends, sipping caretaker hot toddies (whiskey and herbal tea) and talking about poop (caretakers love talking shit - literally). We ate and we drank and everyone was happy to share even after slogging 4 miles uphill with packs full of said food and booze; hikers don't believe in leftovers, they're way too heavy. It was wonderful and made me so much happier than drinking at an overpriced bar with a bunch of strangers who would fail to comprehend that occasionally my job requires me to shovel shit... and I actually enjoy it.

And you know what? The next day was even better. We had hiked up in a bit of a cloud and the forecast had mentioned the possibility of freezing rain, there was ice on the trails and no stars in our New Year's eve night sky; yet we woke up to one of the most beautiful winter mountain mornings I have ever seen, all twenty of us crammed in an old cabin that sleeps fifteen and perches on the side of a mountain right below treeline. So in spite of lack of sleep and a bit of a hangover we had to hike; there was no other option.

Clouds wrapped us and the rocks in hazy shrouds before quickly and politely drifting on so that we could continue to enjoy blue skies and sunshine and warmth. The slippery ice that had made the trail so treacherous throughout the woods vanished above treeline. The snow was packed so firm that footing was sure enough to run just for the sheer joy of it, sprinting from one curving slope between boulder piles to the next. The snow was also hard enough enough for us to do some butt sledding! As I walked I watched friends off in the distance pick their way through jumbles of rock towards the summit, black silhouettes against white snow, and I listened to the tinkling of rime ice as it fell off rocks warmed by sun, the crystalline noise of spindrift blowing across the surface of the snow, and the roar of wind as it whipped past me. I could not stop taking pictures and I could not stop smiling.

It was the best, most beautiful start to a new year that I have ever had.

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