Born to be Wild (in the snow) by
200
(282 Stories)

Prompted By Something Wild

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First published on Sept. 13, 2016 on the prompt “Something Wild”

This story was originally written for the prompt "Something Wild."

I have always been a city girl. I am not much of a hiker or camper. Oh I have done my share of both, but neither one is something I would choose if I were picking the activity. Even though I can appreciate the beauty of a wild or dramatic panorama, if I have to hike a long way to get there, and, even worse, hike that same long way to get back, it isn’t worth it to me. I have been known to lie down on a trail and say to my companions “Just leave me here to die. I can’t go a single step farther.” Of course they never do, they coax and cajole until I finally limp my way slowly back to the end of the trail, moaning and complaining the entire time.

But cross-country skiing is another story. Whooshing along through glorious clean white snow is like heaven to me. In the years after law school and before kids — 1978 to 1984 to be precise — I was part of a group of friends who rented a house at Lake Tahoe one weekend a month every winter. We got a really sweet deal on it, because it was owned by the parents of another woman from our law school who was friends with some of my friends. We would always choose a 3-day weekend in January and February. March doesn’t have any holidays, so that would be just a regular weekend. But we made good use of every moment.

Everyone would get a meal assignment, and we would shop before we left home, bringing up bags and bags of food to make fabulous feasts every morning and evening. After breakfast, some people would drive to one of the resorts to go downhill skiing. (I did that for a while, until I realized that my terror was so much greater than my enjoyment that it was simply not worth it.) Those of us who were cross-country skiing didn’t even need a car. We put our skis over our shoulders and walked up to the end of our street, where there was a path leading into a meadow and lots of woods.  One member of our group, Rob, who was a mountaineering type, would always lead the way, forging a trail through the unmarked snow. (For those who are keeping track, Rob would soon marry Janet, who figured prominently in my “So Much In Common” story.) We would ski all day, stopping to eat our sandwiches or trail mix when we got hungry, or just to rest and talk and enjoy the view. It was so beautiful, and so pristine. Occasionally the silence would be shattered by some snowmobilers coming through. We would glare at them until they went away. The rest of the time it was easy to believe that no one else but us had ever been there.

Sometimes sitting on a log, looking around at all that snowy beauty, tree branches heavy with snow and the sun making everything sparkle, I would feel so in tune with the wilderness that I never wanted to go back to civilization. But eventually the sun would go behind the trees, it would start to get colder, we would all get hungry, and we would whoosh our way back home to our cabin, often skiing right up to the door. Then it was time for hot chocolate, with maybe just a little brandy mixed in.

That’s the right amount of wildness for me.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: been there, funny, well written

Comments

  1. John Zussman says:

    I love this. After being downhill skiers since we were kids, Patti and I discovered cross-country skiing in our 40s. Your story truly captures its pristine beauty combined with the invigoration of a good winter workout. It makes me want to pack up and go to the mountains now! (But I guess I’ll wait until winter.)

    We tried snow-shoeing too. As if.

  2. Great ‘city-girl’ account of a wilderness expedition. You brought us into that snow-muffled stillness that I miss here in LA — birches white, dark green fir and pine. I also got a kick out of your unabashed fight against ‘roughing it.’ One minute you’re John Muir, the next, you’re pouring a double shot of brandy into your cocoa. My kind of wilderness! Thanks.

    • Suzy says:

      Thank you Charlie. I love the phrase “snow-muffled stillness,” wish I had thought of it. I do need to point out that you turned my “maybe just a little brandy” into a double shot – but yours is probably closer to the truth.

      • Your story would make a hilarious short film! The following lines would make a great scene full of character development for the protagonist[a]: “… if I have to hike a long way to get there, and, even worse, hike that same long way to get back, it isn’t worth it to me. I have been known to lie down on a trail and say to my companions “Just leave me here to die.” Come on! Too funny to bear!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Boy, we do have a lot in common. I, also don’t like hiking or climbing, and only did a little “green” trail skiing, having not grown up with it. But we got into cross-country skiing at a certain point, and though never proficient as you were, we really enjoyed it. It was great exercise and, like you, we could do it easily. Even on golf courses near-by. Love your enthusiasm.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    Great story — which I hadn’t seen when originally posted. I particularly liked the fact, as noted by others, that, while not a nature freak, you still found a true escape into it that (in the right amount) you could love. It helps that I am similarly ambivalent about going back to nature, but have much enjoyed cross country skiing and snow shoeing.

    And that last paragraph is perfect. It conveys both a sense of the beauty you experienced and internalized, and yet the ultimate lure of getting back to civilization (warmth and brandy-laced hot chocolate).

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your comments, John. It was fun for me to re-read my story this morning for the first time in almost two years. I think it describes me and my feelings about wilderness very well.

  5. I’m with you Suzy. I did some downhill skiing in my younger days, especially during my snowy year in Buffalo. There we’d go after work when the slopes were lit. But I hated the cold on the chair lift and looked forward to the hot chocolate back at the lodge!

    I also remember hiking exhausted in your CA Muir Woods and telling my son and husband to leave me there for dead!

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Still a great story, Suzy, particularly as I share your “like but don’t love” feelings about wilderness and, more particularly, tromping around in the snow. And, as you note near the end, perhaps the best part is still coming inside and getting warm — inside and out — afterwards.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Suzy, your hiking story could be me (or at least me 10+ years ago). I was always the one reminding everyone that we had to hike back. Wish I had tried cross country skiing. Sounds heavenly.

    • Suzy says:

      Laurie, you could still try cross-country skiing. There must be some nice flat places which would be perfect for people our age. I’ve heard of people skiing on golf courses in the winter.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    I used to ski both Alpine and Nordic.. It was fun but I never got good at either; practice opportunities were rare and expensive. Lift ticket prices became totally bonkers! Also, in the Northeast, the 80s were a “snow drought” time. But I remember that XC was a lovely experience, and the people I met doing it were generally far nicer than the DH crowd.

    Last time I went Cross-country skiing was around 1987 in Dixville Notch, NH. I had steel-edged backcountry skis. I fell, and one of the edges sliced right through the glove and through the pinky of my left hand. Cleanly; I had no idea I was cut until I looked around and saw patches of scarlet all over the snow. At first I thought a bird had dropped nesting materials! It was extremely cold; as we skiied back to the lodge, a blood stalactite developed on the bottom of the grip of my ski pole. Every “step” I took, a gobbet of blood hit the snow. By the time we got back to the room, it had stopped bleeding. I could see the tendons! I just washed it, bandaged it up and we went to dinner. The funny part was hearing the people at the next table marveling at the blood trail leading back to the hotel. I kept my bandaged finger hidden as best I could.

    Ever after, Gina and I have referred to that trip as the “Blut und Schnee Tour!”

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    Loved your description of being out In the snowy mountains. Snowshoeing is another good way to get out in the snow, but without the whoosh benefit. And if you ever get a chance to go on a dogsled, do it!!! Too much fun. I think the last time I was on cross country skis was a trip to Tahoe when we got a “Sierra dump” of over four FEET of snow—and needed the skis to get from the house to a store in town. The hot chocolate, or toddy, or whatever afterwards always a joy.

    • Suzy says:

      I went snowshoeing for the first time a couple of years ago. It was okay, but I did miss the whoosh aspect of being on skis. A dogsled sounds wonderful! Are those just in Alaska, or do they have them where you live? If the latter, I might have to come visit you some winter!

      • Khati Hendry says:

        Yes, they have dogsledding in Canada! I know they do near Whitehorse, in the Yukon, and who knows with COVID anymore, but we went at Sun Peaks, a fantastic ski complex outside of Kamloops—I think they are mostly associated with ski complexes. There are several great cross country places in the Okanagan, so if you venture north, let me know and I can fill you in.

  10. Jim Willis says:

    Takes me back, Suzy, to cross-country skiing in New Hampshire and Vermont. Thanks for this well-written retrospective!

  11. Jim Willis says:

    Thanks, Suzy. It’s fun hanging out virtually with you writers. I’m trying to get back into the publishing rotation here, now that I’m at least somewhat retired!

  12. Kathy Porter says:

    I do like this story and that you are also a cross-country skier. I used to ski a lot more when I was younger and really liked the silence and snowy beauty a lot too. Your descriptions of that are spot on.

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