Category Archives: Skiing

Cross Country Skiing out to Elk Meadows – Saturday, 19-Dec-2020

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Saturday, 19-Dec-2020



Elk Meadows really is my go-to destination for the second half of this year, isn’t it?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it does make quite a bit of sense, if you think about it… It’s quite close to home (compared to most other things), it’s fairly empty, and it’s not too long… with quite nice views at the top. It’s also nicely segmented – there’s the flat starting section, then the river crossing, then the steep section, and then the final flat section.

It’s exactly what I want these days – simplicity, consistency, and meeting expectations.

As always, Elk Meadows provided.



The hike started out a bit late, and a bit non-standard… the usual parking lot was snowed in, and so I had to park at the Mt. Hood Nordic Ski Center… not a bad thing, since it was mostly plowed, but it did lead to a slightly different start to the trail. It was a small variation though, and added a bit of interesting spice to the hike – so totally acceptable in my book.

The rest of the trail cruised by pretty much as normal – I skied the flat bits, carried them for the steeper bits, and took them completely off once I crossed the river and started up the really steep bit.

About a year ago I had bought a new pair of cross country ski boots… which is a weird thing to add to a blog, but bear with me. They were a bit more expensive than I’d planned, but they had the huge advantage that they were really hiking boots with ski clips. They were comfortable, warm, and had connection points for crampons, which is exactly what I needed for this hike.

Once I was over the river, the skis were strapped to my backpack, the crampons strapped to my feet, and up, up, up I went through the switchbacks. It went fairly quickly… but I’ll freely admit that it was much harder than I was expecting. The snow was a little deeper than usual, sure, but the real challenge was having these massive, six and a half foot long skis strapped to my back. I kept kicking them, or catching them on trees, and they’re heavier than you’d expect… at least heavier than I expected.

But it went. Slowly but surely, grinding up the trail ’till I made it to the last flat section.

Which turns out not to be flat, but to be slightly downhill… and thankfully, exactly the right amount of downhill that I was able to safely and happily slide my way nearly the whole way onto the Elk Meadows boundary trail. That’s where the beaten path ended, and the “normal” people would simply walk through the wood into a small part of the meadows, take a picture, and then go home. At least, or so the tracks showed me.

Which was awesome, because it meant I had completely untouched snow to ski on!

It was beautiful.

The snow had a nice crust of ice on top – not enough to be annoying or unpleasant, but just enough to help keep me from sinking completely into the powder below. It rasped beautifully; not loud enough to be frustrating, but just enough that it kept that excellent feel of winter exploration going.

I cruised through the meadow, stopping constantly to take pictures and say hi to my little feathered friends that I’ve gotten to know over the course of the year. They were as inquisitive (read: hungry) as always, and even came by to perch on my hand and ice axe a few times. They didn’t really ride along with me, unfortunately, but they were still awesome and fun to spend some time with.


I took a short break at the Elk Meadows shelter, which looked like it had been pulled straight out of a painting, and read a bit as the sun started dipping below the horizon. I enjoyed the quiet, relaxed, and got myself ready for the return trip…

When I forged out from the shelter the snow and wind had started whipping up and the sky was getting darker. It was gorgeous, and the falling snow gave the whole meadow an amazing arctic feeling. That sense was what I had ventured out looking for – the feeling of exploration, and of driving snow hammering down around me.

It was perfect, and the ski / hike out back to the car was exactly what I had been hoping for, and exactly what I needed to help me get myself psyched up for the week ahead.

Sunday, 27-Jan-2019 – Cross Country Skiing at Pocket Creek, on Mt. Hood!

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Sunday, 27-Jan-2019

Pocket Creek trail.

Mount Hood.

Oregon.

United States of America.

This day and location shall live on in legend, as the first day that Ben and Sarah put on skiis after breaking their respective knees. The first time that they, either individually or together, faced the fear of re-injury and got back into something similar to a saddle. The first time, since each suffered through healing and recovery, that Sarah and Ben skiied up a mountain.

I mean, it’s sort of a mountain, right?

Okay, fine, we weren’t ON Mt. Hood. We were across the road, in the Mt. Hood national park. In a small, lightly graded snowpark.

Know what? Being safe is important, and discretion is the better part of valor, and live to fight another day, and fifteen different other idioms that mean we made a good decision and were safe, and had a great time with excellent views. And, just as important, the trail was dog friendly (but not snowmobile friendly), so Ollie could come along too, and help pull us up the steep bits.

We drove out, geared up, and headed in. Sarah had her alpine touring kit, complete with skins, and I had my cross country kit – complete with gifted skiis, consignment boots, and hiking poles. I’m still scared of skiing, okay? I don’t want to buy a nice kit before being confident that I’d be willing to ski again.  Both options worked, too!  Sarah’s was a bit more efficient, especially on the downhill parts (I took off my skiis and walked, after my first attempt as downhill cross country ended in white-knuckled terror), but both our setups were pleasant and carried us through.

There really isn’t that much more to say, to be honest.  It was fun, and we had a good time.  Look at the pretty pictures!

Adventures without a leg

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Adventures without a leg

March & April, 2017

 

 

As the other posts may have mentioned, I broke my leg.

 

I didn’t tear my ACL… but I did break the bone around it, and stretched the ACL enough that it can’t support me anymore. We think, at least. The surgeons and physical therapists, all four of them, still aren’t sure. So I may need surgery, or I may not. We’re not sure.

What I am sure of, is that this is another learning experience.

I broke my arm and tore my tendon back at the very end of 2009. I wasn’t able to climb again until May of 2010, and I wasn’t back at reasonable strength until July or so. This time, it looks to be an even longer recovery; 7 months post-surgery is an optimistic outlook… and I still don’t even have a scheduled date for a surgery.

 

So I’m taking it slow; slowing myself and my expectations down to match my new reality.

Sarah’s doing the same; she’s slowing down her expectations for our coming year, and tempering her own goals now that her partner can’t support her through those goals (belaying through Smith and Vantage, climbing Hood and Reiner, learning to AT ski).

 

It’s been really hard, but I’m making progress and slowly bringing myself back up to my natural mental state. Finding the ways to do that has been a challenge, but it’s also reconnecting me with some of my old self.

I’ve picked up some old video games that I’ve been meaning to play, and I finally got the time to read that new Neil Gaiman novel that came out a while back. I’ve got a backlog for both too; a few games that I want to play or replay, and two other books that I’ve been meaning to read. It’s good to remember the other things that make me happy, aside from adventures and outdoor exploits.

 

But it’s still hard. Carrying things wasn’t really an option for a long time. I had to either ask for help, or use a wheelchair if I wanted to bring anything not in a container from one spot to another. It took cooking away from me, and it complicated even having coffee or tea at work, by requiring a special thermos that could seal well. If I forgot it at home… well, time to ask a coworker to carry my coffee the 15ft to my desk.

So. This isn’t supposed to be a doom and gloom post. Instead, it’s positive! Or… at least neutral. So how do we get back to positive? That’s been the challenge.

 

First; I’ve thrown myself into Physical Therapy. I do as much of it as I can, within bounds of what the PT recommends. I honestly could do more… and half the time I feel like I’m slacking off, but I’ve noticed a huge improvement. Sticking to the simple motions that I’m prescribed helps – I’m slowly building confidence, while making sure I don’t hurt myself more. I’m also focusing on working the muscles that I can work safely; upper body machines, arm bikes, really anything that doesn’t engage the legs.

Second; Sedentary activities. It sucks, and it’s kind of the antithesis to who I’ve been in the last year or two, but I’m enjoying video games and books. I used to love them; in Cambridge, I’d generally carve two days a week out to just relax, eat something fun, and game. Probably why I’m not in the excellent shape that my activity level would normally give… but it’s definitely why I’m sane. So, it’s a good trade.

Lastly; Forcing myself to keep doing things. I can’t do a lot, but what I can do… well, I do that as much as I can. Now that I can hobble with one crutch, I’m cooking a lot more – I’ve even started grilling again. I’m also doing dishes, and taking back some of the chore load that Sarah’s been shouldering. Normally, chores are just that – a chore. But when I haven’t been able to do them in two months… you know, they’re not the worst thing.

 

And as an extra, I’m focusing more on meditation. I’ve been reading happy poems, tying back to the meditation practices that I had before, and finding quiet places where I can. Having both of us tied to a single car has cut down on my alone time significantly (work does not even remotely count), so being able to unplug every once in a while has been a major source of relaxation for me.

 

Staying positive and staying active is the name of the game. We’ll see how it goes from here.