February 16, 2009
I see a sign ahead. It reads Paulina Lake Lodge – 1 ¼ miles. I take a deep sight of relief; I can do this. It is Saturday afternoon; the morning was spent at Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center, teaching lessons followed by a 2+ hour skate ski around the middle and lower trails.
I am still in my skate boots, it is 4:00pm, on my back is a pack that must weight close to 30 pounds. It didn’t feel that heavy when I loaded it into the car this morning. I am skating up the snowmobile “groomed” road that leaves 10 miles sno-park toward Paulina Lake Resort. Ben and a group of friends have been there since Friday night. They offered to pick me up at the parking lot at 5pm and take me into the cabin on a snow-mobile. I choose to skate. I question my decision briefly and then the quiet tranquility is suddenly interrupted by the 4th or 5th group of engine revving snowmobiles I have encountered thus far. Skating was the right decision; I don’t like riding on those things.
I make it to the cabin and smile to myself… I have successfully worn myself out. I open the door to feel the warm, woodstove air touch my face. The sense of warmth envelopes my whole body as I step inside.
I have been looking forward to this weekend for some time now; a trip out of town, no phone, no computer, no work, just friends, and snow; a full moon and perhaps some whiskey.
As the moon rose we ventured out on the frozen lake laying just out side of cabin door. The Nordic boots went back on and we skied out onto the fresh, untracked snow. The moon was so bright there was no need for artificial light. We stopped on occasion to take a sip from the flask, warming ourselves from the inside out.
We slept well that night, waking to brilliant sun and blue sky. French toast and real maple syrup fuels us for a day of backcountry skiing. Skinning out to the far left bowls below the towering cathedral of Paulina Peak, we found only wind-effected snow. We skied anyway. Along the ridges we found ice and exposed rock, we skied down through the trees instead.
The sun slipped behind a cloud, the breeze picked up and I zipped my jacket. We made our way back to the cabin, only to pack up the last of our things and head back down the road to where our cars awaited. A few snowmobiles provided transport for the majority of our stuff (they come in handy once in awhile) and we again adorned the Nordic gear for the ski out.
At the cars we hugged each other, already marking our calendars for next year, same weekend. The snow had been rotten, the skiing less than excellent, but as we drove home and reveled in the laughter we had all shared, I realized it wasn’t about the snow, or the skiing, or what line you took down from the top. It was about friends and freedom and the celebration of just how lucky we are.