Monday, February 21, 2011

first tracks

the snow began saturday morning in the wee hours, high atop the hills. here in the city we received rain, droplets that built into rivulets that expanded to rivers, coursing down my street. when the temperature dropped saturday evening, the rain was suddenly snow, wet and thick and magical.

by sunday morning it was intent on covering every available surface, from tree limb to asphalt road to steeply pitched roof. the mountains were shrouded, the hillside barely visible, our world once again returned on february 20th to winter.

by early afternoon the plows scraped the roads and warm air ate away at the accumulated depth, and I loaded my snowshoes in the boot of my car and headed up the canyon.

every time I drive up emigration I am mesmerized by the differences I see when speeding past at forty mph versus riding up at twelve. speed adds an unanticipated perspective. I vigilantly watched the bike lane, expecting at any moment to come upon a diehard cyclist refusing to buckle under the snowload. what little bike lane there was remained empty, and I motored all the way to the reservoir without seeing cyclist or runner.

I parked my little car and set off up the road behind the locked gate, heading up toward big mountain. nordic skiers, snowmobiles, and other large-treaded vehicles had already stamped down a wide path, so I stayed off the edge as much as possible, delighting in clomping my way through the thick virgin snow.

for a while.

and then I would merge with the tracks for a while to give my legs a rest, and gradually move back to untouched snow because I couldn't resist the thrill. after a mile and a half I took off up the hillside on the original mormon trail, throwing one foot in front of the other, sinking at times almost to my knees. where did all this snow come from? well, obviously, up above. it was so deep, so thick, I watched little ice blue spaces form in the crevasses I created and I grinned with pure pleasure.

sweat poured, blue sky hung pure behind drifts of wispy white cloud, the sun peaked occasionally through. there was no one there. there was me.

my tracks climbed up the hillside and I followed, the canyon pulling me. I'd only ever ridden the road here, never having ventured onto the mountain bike trail I was following. the road was across the creek, far to my right, hidden by scrub oak and pencil thin aspen and as far from me as home. silence, everywhere, but for my beating heart and labored breath.

first tracks.

there is nothing like it, whether on a bike, on skiis, in running shoes, or on snowshoes. it enables a connection with the natural world like no other, one electrical and magical and deeply powerful. it is a gift, one to be unwrapped gently and with reverence, in silence, with gratitude that runs as deep as ground water.

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