Monday, January 7, 2013

Free Your Heel And Your Mind Will Follow

Snow came fast to the Oregon Cascades this year. A major storm dropped 87" of snow in 10 days at Mt. Hood Meadows and by December 26th, I was skiing on a hundred inches of solid winter. Reports out of the High Sierras said the California mountains received more snow by early December than they did all of last year combined. A skier's dream, to be sure. But what of the hiker's? 

As I skied in deep snow through the trees, I wondered if my summer dream of hiking the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail was being buried alive beneath me. The PCT rises to over 7000 feet several times as it makes its way across the state. The shoulder of Tipsoo Peak claims the highest point on the Oregon section with an elevation of more than 7500 feet. I don't need a high snow year this winter; I need a clear trail this summer. I will not be able to walk the high peaks of the Pacific Crest Trail if they're covered in snow. I have neither the knowledge nor the experience. If nothing else gets it first, high snow levels in the mountains will surely kill my thru-hike of Oregon.

But you have to take what Mother N gives you, right? In the mountains, it's not only one day at a time, but one season at a time. So, I click into my bindings, strap on my snowshoes, and find some pretty moments out there between the snowflakes and the snow breaks. But the dream, the dream is out there too. I'm not someone who is fully in the moment. Never have been. I always have an eye on the horizon, wondering what else is out there for me to do, to try? I suppose that's why I have a trail of hobbies behind me. I also suppose it's why, or partly why, I've never excelled at any of them. I don't do things looking for excellence. I do things looking for experiences- as many as possible in this one and only life we're given.

Yesterday, I cross country skied on tracks laid down by somebody else. Soon I was in a rhythm with the sound of my skis gliding across the snow. I pushed them forward and back, forward and back, and then found myself in rhythm with winter. As I became more centered, I understood just how conflicted I'd been with the coldest season of the year. Although, because of all the snow, I'd already done more wintery things by the new year than all of last year, privately, I wished for less snow for fear of my summer hike being derailed. And to be clear, I never wish for less snow. But yesterday, finally, standing on a frozen lake, I welcomed winter. Bring it, I thought, just bring everything you've got. I will, too, come summer, and maybe, just maybe we'll meet again on a high peak somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail one late August afternoon. I looked down at my skis and remembered something from earlier: Free your heel and your mind will follow. If you're lucky, your dreams might too. 

I'm the one in the hat!


  1. Beautiful! Both the image and the sentiments. "Bring it on," indeed. I hope all goes well and helpfully as you plan your summer hike, but do enjoy that snow. Ours is melting melting, and right now I'm nostalgic for childhood memories of riding in a sled tethered to my father's waist as he cross-country skied across a frozen lake.

    1. Funny you wrote about your dad pulling you in a sled tethered to his waist because I saw a father doing exactly that while I was out there. He looked exhausted. Meanwhile, his kids were yelling, "Mush, Daddy, mush" as he pulled them around. They had no idea how hard he was working! So funny. You could tell they were all having a great time though.

  2. I'm glad you found the ability to embrace the winter and all it offers. I'm not quite there yet. :)
    Your Pacific Crest Trail hike will be an adventure, no matter what the weather, that's for sure.

  3. Constance, how's the embracing of winter going for you? Any luck? Do you ever find that by the time you embrace it it's spring?

  4. I don't embrace winter - I watch each day for the sun to set a little later, and knit up things to wear while I wait for the spring.