Monday, February 20, 2012

Step into Winter

So I broke my promise, but let's be honest. I'm ok with it, and so are you.

After one of my longest fun-droughts ever, getting a flat tire, and working full time at a real job, I was pretty sure the apocalypse was actually just around the corner.
When Burlington looks like this in February, the Himalaya probably look like this.
And we all know it just gets worse when John Cusack walks into the room...

Fortunately, friends decided that, snow or not, they were going skiing and snowboarder or not, I was coming with them. They probably just wanted to see how good I was at skootching.

They also needed a guide. Since I was the most experienced backcountry enthusiast of the group, and I'd been to the zone a handful of times before, I took the lead. Unfortunately, I also needed a guide, but we'll get to that later.

The view speeding by through the window was disheartening as we drove through the foothills of the green mountain spine, bare except for a few patches of white in the deepest shadows. Worse yet was passing several rivers entirely locked in with ice. Apparently it's been just cold enough to keep rivers from running, but warm enough that no snow will last. Definitely an apocalypse.

Despite these conditions, morale was high, and there was just enough snow to convince us to strap the skis and snowboard to our backs and begin hiking up. That's when we discovered we were way out of shape.
I don't care what it looks like, it felt like climbing Everest.
Fun-droughts will do that to you. At some point we started questioning whether the shredding would be worth the hike, and I think that's something we always do, but this time was way worse. We were hiking in t-shirts and still sweating, and the snow was crunchier than the girls in the Rubenstein School at UVM. Not a good sign...

Joe: Hey bros, I'm gonna grab some poutine, anyone want a snack?
Taylor: Nah bro, I heard Tom Wallisch doesn't eat that stuff anymore because
it's scientifically proven to make your toes get colder in ski boots.
Then again, maybe I was the only one focused enough on the snow to worry about the hiking.

After several breaks and much complaining, we reached the top, which isn't actually the top. An extra 5 minutes of hiking along the ridge followed before we finally switched over to descend mode. That's kind of like when Optimus Prime transforms, except less noisy, quickly, and not cool at all. After nearly descending into super dense spruce hell, we cut out into some open glades and had a generally fantastic time.

Since the slope was north facing, the snow was significantly less crunchy, and in some cases even powdery.
No, not that kind...
There was a heavy (if thin) base beneath the fluffy stuff that kept things covered well enough, and I didn't even fall. Well, not on my first lap. Stepping into the backcountry in uh, variable snow conditions is always a little sketchy, at least for me, since I'm not any of these people. I took a few diggers on the second lap, but nothing consequential.

After a long hike back to the top, we began hiking along the ridge towards our initial trail up, but soon realized we were very, very far away.

I'm not exactly sure how we did it, but things got very strange, very quickly
Taylor saved the day, spotting a nice cut line that we followed down straight to the cars. And by straight I mean traversing for a long ways and then kind of zig zagging for a while. The snow was super fast, crusty, and hard to carve into. There were also bare spots, which are not to be confused with bear spots.
"Guys, I spotted Bear Grylls and he's drinking his own..
Don't make eye contact!"
So overall, conditions weren't great, but I'm just glad I made it out this winter with some good friends.
(Even if my snowboard's base hates me for it)

Shred on my friends!
Sunday, February 5, 2012


Sometimes it's hard: to do the things we said we would, the things we promised we would, the things we want to do. First there are the other things we've been meaning to do, then the distractions, the excuses, the other-other things we've been meaning to do. Finding motivation can be a difficult task, especially with social-media-sharing so popular. That's why this essay is late.

Unfortunately, motivation is an elusive creature... more of a rock, really, because once found it's usually pretty hard to keep with you or shape into something meaningful. For that reason, I'd suggest searching for a goal first; they get passed around faster than your 80-year-old grandmother in her Model T Ford. Most goals are fleeting, but with some focus, you can stop reading for a second, find a pen and paper and write one or two down. If you're still struggling at this point, your goal should be to accomplish finding a goal... yes, that's it...write it down...

Goals can be big or small (like people, giraffes, and mistakes), but it's important to make them reasonable. If you "smoke weed erryday" you're definitely not going to outswim Michael Phelps in the... ok, that's a bad example, but you get the point. Shooting for the moon with the idea that at the worst, you'll end up with the stars is an awful idea. Do you know how much space there is in SPACE?

I dare you to try...
With a reasonable goal in mind, you have to move on to the difficult part: discovering a source of motivation. Some people pray, listen to '80s movie monologues, and spend lots of money on multiple self-help books. I usually choose to work a nightshift on an assembly line for a few nights to get my motivation really pumping; it makes me appreciate how easy it is to write that 6 page lab report. Ultimately though, that doesn't always do the trick. If you're having trouble thinking forward, try thinking backward.

I find this works particularly well in the context of sports or fitness. Anyone that has competed has achieved a peak experience where everything just seemed to happen the right way for them. For most, there's also been someone better or another level of competition that could be reached. These things weren't even on your radar then, you were tunnel-visioned on the win that day, but looking back, you know there was someway you could have done better, moved on to that next level, dropped that extra hundredth of a second. That's where I find my motivation: Within lost potential. No matter how you view the future, the past is gone, irrevocably passed. Are you willing to have another memory you later realize is steeped in squandered potential?

If you can't find the motivation you need after that, you may need to rethink your objective. Motivations  should drive us to our limits. It's there that we must begin our the difficult part.

Editor's Note: Although not in formal essay form, this does count towards my weekly essay promise, as it began in true essay form. The second to last paragraph is all that remains of said essay. I found the topic more interesting to approach with the perspective of humor as inspired by the Sum 41 video linked below. I really encourage clicking all the links...

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I am a freelance writer and photographer, collector of experiences, adventure lover, and outdoor goer.