Skiing Cuyamaca Peak — Cougar Tracks

A year or so after the Good-X and I moved to San Diego (1984) we bought a 1972 VW camper van with a pop top. It was an awesome vehicle (until the block cracked) and we had a lot of fun with it. We also had moved our skis with us from Colorado. We had heard — though we wondered how it could be true — that the mountains east of San Diego sometimes got enough snow to X-country ski.

Sure enough.

The first time we went up there was with a couple with whom we were friends and from whom we rented an apartment. We went to the Laguna Mountains. Of course I had no idea at that time that the valley in which we skied that day (on 8 measly inches of snow!) would someday become as familiar to me as my hand, or that I would learn to regard those 6000 foot “hills” as mountains. I was, I admit it, a Colorado snob. Now I know.

From my high valley even the highest 14er rises only 7000 feet from the valley floor, no greater gain in elevation than the top of Cuyamaca Peak from San Diego. In fact, it’s just the same. I learned that a mountain is a mountain in relation to the land from which it rises, regardless of how a mountain is defined by geologists or geological surveys or Alpinists. I’m not a mountain snob any more. The Colorado fetish with 14ers now seems a little silly. If you want oxygen deprivation hold your breath. 😉 I’m joking. I know there’s a lot more to it than that.

Today when I look at Windy Mountain or Pintada from the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge I see snowcapped hills that rise 5000 feet from where I stand. Mountains, but…

There are two ranges outside San Diego, separated by one of the innumerable fault lines that criss-cross California. Between the two is a narrow valley with a fissure and a spring that, in time, I got to know well. The ranges are the Cuyamacas — in which I lived for eleven years, and, just 10 miles further east, the Lagunas, in which I hiked and skied. The Cuyamacas have a leash law. The Lagunas do not.

Sometimes you see photos of San Diego looking east from Coronado Island. You see ocean, town, bay, city and, behind everything, a snowy mountain. That mountain is Cuyamaca Peak.

Cuyamaca Peak with snow on it

The second time the Good X and I skied in San Diego County we headed to a trail head at Green Valley Falls (fantastic falls in spring and in a wet summer, idyllic with pools and slides to play in, drop down, swim in, wade). We parked, paid our $5 day use fee, strapped on our skis, and headed up a trail we knew nothing about. It wound around the north side of the mountain to the west where it looked down on San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. We climbed, and climbed and climbed until we got to where we could see San Diego, but that wasn’t all we saw. We also saw fresh cougar tracks.

I didn’t know anything about mountain lions then except that they are dangerous. I had no knowledge of that world yet and little curiosity. We high-tailed it down and headed home, stopping on the way to watch a movie and have dinner.

Twenty years later, I would live at the base of that mountain and see it on fire. Later, I would see that far western slope with fire weed blooming. I would hike the trails in the Laguna Mountains in all weather, and ski to the top of Garnet Peak against all sanity and all odds. I would see a mountain lion.

Garnet Peak (a fun hike in the Laguna Mountains) in the winter of 2003/2004 after the Cedar Fire, oil on canvas.

The skis in the featured photo are just like the skis I took with me in 1984 from Denver to San Diego. They are — were — wonderful back country skis. They needed to be waxed which I liked because I could control the “slide” depending on my adventure. I found these old skis three years ago in a thrift store here in Monte Vista. They aren’t my very skis, but when I saw them they seemed to call out, “Get us OUT of here!” I had not had my hip replacement (second one, different hip) yet and I wasn’t moving very well. I was with my friends. We’d gone for lunch but weren’t ready to go home, so we visited a new thrift store in town. Without thinking, I reached for those old skis and cradled them in my arms. Elizabeth said in a soft voice “Are you going to ski, Martha?” There was so much pity in her eyes that I set the skis back where they were and went back to shopping. I returned to the store alone a few days later, forked over $30, and brought them home. They stand in my studio along with many other very personal treasures from my life. In a way, that room is my “medicine bundle,” my little trove of talismans.

Looking back on my first forays into the San Diego mountains, it’s funny to realize all the things I didn’t know yet. Makes me wonder what else I don’t know yet.


P.S. I’m writing my ski stories because writing the stories is how I figure things out. Now that it seems I’ve reached the end of this moment in my life, I want to see it more clearly and understand it better. I hope it’s not too tedious. ❤

Molly and I Go Skiing

This Wasn’t the day in the story below, but this is Molly and this is me, 1991 Laguna Mountains, San Diego County, CA
“The first fall of snow is not only an event, but it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, then where is it to be found?” J.B. Priestley

~~~

Many of my dogs have been snow dogs — mostly Siberian Huskies, but Molly was an Australian Shepherd/Malamute mix. She was my first “snow dog,” and she was very special. I think many dog owners have experienced life with an extraordinary dog, and Molly was just such a one.

Around Valentine’s Day in 1989, I found her in a big cardboard box with her brothers and sisters at the El Cajon swap meet. Her mom was a Malamute. The people were very eager to get rid of the pups. It appeared that they’d hoped to breed Malamutes, but a licentious Aussie had gotten to her first. The pups were free, somewhere around 8 weeks old. 

It was, for me, love at first sight. Molly was patterned like a blue merle Aussie. Her eyes were brown and she had a little pink heart shape on her nose. She was born without a tail — just a little flap of fur where a tail would have been. I hadn’t thought of having two dogs, but Truffle had recently been spayed and maybe she would look at Molly as her own pup.

The very first day — that very afternoon — I took her to the Laguna Mountains with Truffle, hiking. She was far too small for that, but it gave me my first glimpse into her amazing mind. Tiny as she was, when she got hot and tired, she found a shady place and dug with her little feet until she found cool, damp earth and she laid down, flat on her belly, and looked up at me. 

I became very familiar with that look. It said, ”Surely you know better than this?” 

And she smiled.

I ended up carrying her out, realizing how dumb — and inadvertently cruel — I had been.

Her nickname became ”Smiler” for the way she had of curling back her lips when she was overjoyed happy to see the people she loved. With no tail to wag, she had to do something.

Molly didn’t bark; she “woo-woo”ed. She went to puppy school and dropped out. Once she felt she’d mastered a skill such as “sit” or “down” she just went to sleep. She did take the final exam and passed with flying colors. Throughout her life, she never walked well on a leash; neither of the breeds in her ancestry was exactly what you’d call ”submissive.” 

When tested with sheep, she showed no interest in herding, but she would keep my niece and her little friends in one corner of the backyard when she was tired of playing with them. Molly had intelligence and will, and, from her, I learned how a human and a dog can be partners, friends, equals. That particular balance became my goal in my relationship with all the dogs in my life. 

We lived together for nearly fifteen years. They were tumultuous years in my life, but Molly stayed the course with her particular fierce and light-hearted sense of how things should be. 

Most of all, we wanted to be together ALL THE TIME. We loved each other fiercely.

~~~

One March afternoon in 2000 I was at work and heard the news that more than 20 inches of snow had fallen in the Laguna Mountains and was expected to continue — at a slower rate — all night.

I wanted to ski, but I’d gotten rid of my skis in the GREAT PURGE when the Good X moved out. I found, to my great surprise, that there was a place in San Diego where I could rent X-country skis. I called and said, “I need skis, boots, and poles, whatever, for a woman 5’2” 160 pounds, 7.5 shoes. Can I come and get them this afternoon?”

“Yeah, sure. You know where we are?”

“Not really.” He gave me directions. I made my plans known to my bosses (who were also colleagues) that I would not be at school/work the next day, and that I would call in sick. I explained that I was going skiing with my dog. There in San Diego County I was going to have a “snow day.”

“Isn’t that dangerous? To ski alone like that in the back-country?”

A common question in my life. I knew people — friends — who did really dangerous things. I was just going to the nearby mountains to X-country ski with my best friend who happened to be a dog. In the Laguna Mountains, there was zero chance of an avalanche. There really was NOTHING dangerous about it unless I fell and broke something. I believed (on some level) that Molly was perfectly capable of rescuing me and driving home.

I walked in the shop and the guy behind the counter — the owner — looked up and said, “5’2” 160?” 

“Yep.”

“Here you go. Try on the boots.”

The boots were fine.

I was on fire with excitement. I was rapturous. I had not X-country skied in YEARS, almost a DECADE. I couldn’t wait. I was going skiing. Snow!!!! The next morning Molly and I were on the road loud music blasting out of the CD player.

I planned to park at the Meadows Information Station on the Sunrise Highway. I hoped the road wasn’t closed. I didn’t have chains. I figured if the road were closed I’d park where I could and just ski up the road with my dog on a leash, but on that holy day, we got lucky. Waaa—HOOO!

I had no plan, no route. I was just going to ski. I knew the snow would be great. Some of the best X-country skiing in my life was in Southern California, dense snow, receptive to skis, easy to break trail, easy to turn, and fast on hills.

I buckled on Molly’s pack so she could carry our water and granola bars, and we were off across the meadow and then down, down to Laguna Pond. 

About 50 feet above Laguna Pond the season changed to spring. The warmer air, coming from the ocean, laden with water, was here soft mist bending to the cool surface of the pond on its way to higher, colder elevations where it would turn to snow. In those mountains, the Lagunas, the seasons are often inches from each other. I have stood on a trail on the northeast side of the Lagunas, over the desert, arms outstretched, one hand in a winter storm and the other in sunshine, the climate created by the rain shadow. 

I turned and we skied back up to winter then down again to spring, and up and then, having enjoyed the phenomenon enough, I returned to winter to stay. There we climbed hills and skied down, and the snow fell. On the top of one hill above the meadow, Molly jumped up and landed on her back. She rolled around, making angels in the deep snow. I stepped out of my skis and got down beside her to made an angel of my own. When I finished, I looked over at my blissful, wet, snowy dog and saw her…

Smiling.

~~~

This is a chapter from my book My Everest.

Skaði…

I’m reading a book, and not under duress. I know, right? Years and years of reading student papers, researching for and then editing my own work, and now reading for a living (yes, I do that) kind of wore out my reading glands, so to speak, though once upon a time I was a voracious reader. In spite of this, I have always retained an interest in “adventure stories,” but they aren’t really stories at all. They are the adventures of real people told by the real people themselves.

One of my all time favorites is My Life at the Limit by Reinhold Messner. Another is Jon Krakauer’s book which begins with his narration of his failed attempt on the Eiger North Face, Eiger Dreams. One of my four “desert island books” is George Schaller’s Stones of Silence. But I would not have known of George Schaller (I got to hear him speak about China and pandas sometime in the late 80s!) if I hadn’t read Peter Mathiessin’s The Snow Leopard.

The very first book of this nature that I read sat on my little girl lap as I rode the train from Billings to Denver, sitting on the little porch on back of the train, watching June-green Wyoming swoosh by all around me. It was Seven League Boots by Richard Halliburton. It had come to me out of an old trunk in which my mom had stored her books. The trunk was then in my grandmother’s cellar, but now it’s in my bedroom. The book is on my shelf with the other adventure stories.

One of the best (of the few) books of this nature written by a woman I’ve found (until now) is West with the Night by Beryl Markham. It was splendid. The title of the book I’m about to recommend quotes Beryl Markham in its title, “I learned to wander I learned what every dreaming child needs to know–that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.”

As soon as I opened I, I knew immediately that this is a book I have been looking for all my life.

I’ve thought a lot about what stories would be like if they didn’t center on a boy and girl getting married and living happily ever after, but, instead, the female hero went off and did something, or lived a complex life on her own. I even thought of trying to write it, but realized that the normal happy story has an optimistic simplicity we all yearn for. I saw clearly that we all live complex lives, and the happy ending story is relaxing (I’m enjoying it now watching film versions of Jane Austen novels). At least in my generation, and before, women usually played supporting roles, and some of the active drama of our lives was going to be our struggle to BE in a world dominated by men.

I didn’t create the scenario that was, and in a way I never even believed it even though I was living it. Human society moves forward but not all at once and I get that. Still, I wondered what all my favorite stories would sound like if they were told by women because Camille Paglia (Sexual Personae) was right; men’s stories are straight lines. Women’s stories are more amorphous. George Mallory could say, “Because it is there.” That’s not a woman’s response to that question. A woman? “Well, there are a lot of reasons. Of course, because it’s there and it’s a mountain, but the experience itself is certain to test me and teach me. I believe I will learn lessons that I might be able to share with others when I come back. Of course, I might not come back, but a person needs to test herself to know who she really is. I deeply value the camaraderie between me and the team. I wouldn’t be anywhere without their enthusiasm — our shared enthusiasm. That means so much to me. That’s a reason right there to attempt this mountain. And you would not BELIEVE all we will see just getting there!”

You get the idea.

I saw a mention of No Horizon So Far somewhere and thought, “That’s my kind of book.” And there it was, a story like this told by women? Be still my heart. It’s beautifully constructed. Two women cross Antarctica by their own power (and wind if they’re lucky). Each woman tells her tale and the two voices are quietly narrated by their editor, Cheryl Dahle. From the very first page, I was in love with this book. I was thrilled when I learned that both of the adventurers are teachers and thought of their adventure not only as a cool thing to do, as a first for women, but as a way to inspire their students. It’s a major theme of both their expedition and their book. At one point Arnesen makes the point — while Bancroft is on the phone with CNN — that even though they were electronically connected to the whole world, if anything happened to them in the middle of the frozen waste, no one could come to help them.

Bancroft writes about her struggle to be an athlete in a world where women didn’t “do” sports. While she was in high school, Title IX was passed and she immediately began fighting for sports at her high school. I wept when I read that passage. Anyone who’s read my blog for any length of time knows of my struggle to become an REAL athlete. I had the potential, but not the permission. That didn’t stop me from running, and I think a lot of women like me just went on to do our thing, anyway. Arnesen, being from Norway, grew up in a culture with a different perspective regarding girls and athletics. Skadi, after all.

And then I read this. This echoes the feelings of my own heart.

P.S. Another migraine, so if there is some strange writing in here, let me know… I’ve learned that asthma triggers migraines. Cold air and weather changes trigger asthma. I had this situation the first year I lived here. OH well…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/12/rdp-saturday-write/

Winter Gets Legit, and Bear and I are So Happy

Bear and I have waited a LOOONNNGGGG time for what we like most: being outside in the snow. Not that any snow has fallen for about a month but it doesn’t matter as long as the temperatures never go above freezing, and they haven’t. It doesn’t look like they will, either.

Teddy — with whom I’ve decided to share my birthday because he was 6 months old when I got him last June — and I took off on Tuesday to celebrate and evaluate the packed trails. They were (and still are) beautiful

The nordic club grooms trails for walkers and skiers ❤

I finally skied (Langlaufed) the groomed trails yesterday and today Bear and I took a long snow ramble. The snow is at least 8 inches deep — fluffy, light, crystalline old snow. Perfect beautiful soft sweet I love it so much. Skiing yesterday was great except the stupid snow baskets came off my poles and weren’t cool about me putting them back. I dunno…

Finally, Martha.
I know, Bear.”

So today out there in boots with my best snow pal, I was able to evaluate the entire groomed course that I didn’t ski yesterday (having had to go back twice to retrieve snow baskets, grrr…) and make plans for tomorrow. My poles and their cheesy baskets will get a stern talking to in the morning, because I must seize the day. ❤

Roald Amundsen had nothing on me.



“Won’t you try a little bit harder, couldn’t you try just a little bit more”

Langlauf Update

Another beautiful day on skis. The snow was less great than the other day but the way I see it, the snow doesn’t owe me anything. If I’m going to engage with it, I’m the one who has to adapt. I have no problem AT ALL surrendering to the imperatives of snow. I’m honored to have the chance.

I had to break trail today and learned that my skis, which are named “back country,” seem to be mostly designed for groomed trails — but that could be my lack of skill at this moment. As I skied from snow to ice to some small patches of grass to deep drifts to the lanes I skied on Saturday, I thought about that a lot. I thought about all the skis I’ve owned and when, sometime back in the mists of time, I switched from “fish-scale” — waxless — to skis that needed to be waxed, I never looked back. Sometime I learned back then the advantage of skis whose grip I control.

Groomed trails are nice — you don’t slide sideways, you can predict the surface beneath your skis because it’s been packed and prepared. Breaking trail is often not skiing at all. I had forgotten that, even though in California when I had the chance to Langlauf, I always had to break trail — again, with different skis than I have now. Sometimes that was hilarious as it could mean navigating through low manzanita bushes. Once I skied up Mt. Palomar with the dream of seeing those beautiful white observatory domes in the snow. It’s a five mile trail, all uphill, and some of the trail is bushy and all of it is narrow. It was still fun. The reward came coming down the unplowed road, though. It was wide, snowy, steep — fun. As we whizzed past a family who’d driven there from LA to “Visit the snow” a kid yelled, “Mom, that’s what we should do!”

They’d gone to the snow with a beach umbrella, beach chairs and a cooler. They looked very disoriented. A boogie board would have been a good thing to bring, but they didn’t have that.

Langlauf tracks heading toward Garnet Peak in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego County, 2004. My painting. Not my tracks. 🙂 A fire came through that fall (The Cedar Fire) and burned down all the manzanita making a good trail for Langlauf.

Today I also thought how — last year — we didn’t get significant snow until January, and then we got A LOT. The San Juan Nordic Club went around grooming everything in sight — even the driving range! The temps stayed below freezing for a couple of months, so the groomed tracks stayed in nearly pristine condition — the only kicker (ha ha) was waiting until the highest sun of the day (1 pm or so) when any ice that had formed in the night would have surrendered.

It’s doubtful that I will switch back to waxable skis; it will depend how ambitious I end up being and how skillful. For now and maybe forever the waxless skis I own now are fine. It’s a poor workman who blames his tools, anyway.

The other “iffy” tool is “the foot,” but it held up again today, only mildly painful when we were in motion. The thing is, I realized, after nearly 3 months of not being asked to support my weight continually, it’s a little out of shape. It’s only been these last few weeks that I’ve expected it to hold me up for a whole day while I painted, or to keep me upright walking Bear as she checks her messages.

As I did my happy loop of the local golf course I thought, “The cool thing about this is I can get better, more skillful, stronger and as that happens, I will learn more and, I hope, take on a bigger challenge.” The golf course is — right now — all I can contend with. I’m so lucky to have it.

Now we just need another good snowfall. ❤

LANGLAUF!!!!

Here’s my jubilant little crooked lopsided bow-legged self out there in Blissland having NO problems skiing with my friend. (Yay foot!!!) We’ve talked about it for at least two years, but various problems kept it from happening. The snow was perfect — slick and fast. It’s been below freezing since it fell which means beautiful, perfect, snow. ❤

Replete, of course, by fox and rabbit tracks…

I have nothing more to say other than I’m VERY happy and looking forward to more adventures as the winter progresses, god willing and I’m not ambushed again by a perfectly flat harmless grassy trail.

Happy selfie

P.S. It seems that anyone who wants to know what my dad looked like can pretty much see from looking at me. Ah, DNA

Meandering Post about Writing

This is the first time I’ve been without a creative project in a VERY long time and it’s weird. Baby Duck consumed most of 2019 and the culmination was fantastic. The Price was finished at the end of 2018. Besides those projects, I had a personal project that I also finished, a little book for a tiny audience of me and two other people. Yesterday I cleaned up my “studio.” It was filled with Baby Duck stuff for the book launch. Now it’s ready for something, but I have no idea what. Painting is a sketchy (ha ha) thing for me. I have to really FEEL it to do it. No stories to tell at the moment, either, so my life feels like it’s in a holding pattern.

A huge curve in my life’s normal pattern is the injured foot. It hasn’t even been that long — five weeks, and I know a bad sprain can take much longer to heal.

So, in the meantime, the dogs have gotten used to not going on a walk every day — or at all. And I continue to ride the Bike To Nowhere because I can do that and it’s about the best training there is for Langlauf which is the purpose of life anyway. I discovered videos on Youtube with absolutely fantastic rides lasting an hour or more — sometimes I ride the whole time, sometimes just 10 miles of wind sprints, basically a chain of fifty yard dashes from the seat of my Airdyne. They are produced by “Ride the World.” Here’s my favorite so far. To get to this spot, you “ride” a narrow road of amazing hairpin turns…

Last week there was lots of exciting chatter after my front page spread and interview. The guy who runs the papers in the San Luis Valley asked if I would be interested in doing a column — weekly or monthly — and I said sure. He also asked if I had any ideas for such a thing and, honestly, I don’t, but I shared a couple of ideas. He wrote back saying we’d meet at the end of this week, but it’s Thursday afternoon and there has been no word. Once more it looks like my promising journalism career is nipped in the bud. It was nipped in the bud back in 1974 when I got my BA and went immediately to the Boulder Daily Camera and asked for a job. “Can you type 35 wpm?” as the guy at the desk.

“No,” I said.

“Sorry,” he said.

But I don’t really have anything to say in a column. People around me know this place better than I do. I’m not going to write about politics. I could write about writing or putting a self-published book together, but I’m not sure I’m even interested in that — or that anyone else is, either.

And what can you tell people about writing? After teaching it for more than thirty years, what I know about it comes down to only a handful of things. First, to write you have to write. Second, you have to keep writing, even if you have no reason to write and nothing to say. Third, you will, sooner or later, maybe, find yourself becoming interested in the words you use and the way you use them; but you might not. Fourth, you might start reading what you’ve written. This can go one of two ways — you can fall absolutely and uncritically in LOVE with it and, as we know, love is blind. OR you can think it’s such shit that you quit. Of the two, love is more dangerous BUT it will keep you going. And then…

Somewhere in there you’ll discover your voice. And you might discover your story, too, and after that? You have to stay true. Stories live apart from the writer. I think starting with a character is the easiest because, just like other people, characters carry a world with them and that gives you a lot of information you won’t have to figure out by yourself. A strong character will tell you a LOT about him/herself and where he/she is from and what he/she values in life, yet, in many ways, it’s like meeting a new person.

Since I write historical fiction, I have to do research to learn about the worlds in which my characters live because THEY take it for granted that I know already. Since it’s THEIR world, they think everything around them is normal and part of everyone else’s life. You can tell them, “Dude here’s the thing. I live in the future. I’ve never hitched a horse to a wagon,” but that guy is NOT going to believe you so you have to learn how he does it.

In a way, the same is true if you write about the future. That future guy is all, “Dude, you know about this, they’re all over the place,” and won’t believe you when you say, “No, I didn’t know you could use a Fardel Gambit to escape a Bastorian Jail!”

That part of writing a story is fun. It’s fun going back in time and discovering that in the 13th century there WAS no paper or that in the 12th century there was an enormous earthquake in Northern Italy and thinking of the effect that would have on the world in which your characters live.

I actually have a WIP (sounds nasty. Means “work in progress”) but I’m not convinced. Necessarily it echoes some of Martin of Gfenn because it’s the story of a young guy learning to paint, but I don’t want it to be a repetition of that story and sometimes it feels like it is. I haven’t figured out who the protagonist is, either. I have only a vague idea of the world in which the teacher lived/lives. Lots of stuff still kind like a fog. Sometimes things just start that way and you have to let them do their thing until you’re doing it with them.

My goal, though all writers are often required by the people in their stories to abandon the goal, is to show the OTHER medieval world, the one in which young men joined the church not to serve God, but to get an education the only way that was possible. I want to write about the wandering scholars, their art, their values, their world.

I read this quotation from Picasso yesterday. It pretty much sums up my feelings about the WIP. “You mustn’t expect me to repeat myself. My past doesn’t interest me. I would rather copy others than copy myself. In that way I should at least be giving them something new. I love discovering things.”

So maybe tomorrow morning I should just roll up my sleeves and see where Bro Benedetto and his illegitimate son, Michele, want me to go.

Dammit. I just got an idea for a newspaper column… I could interview a different artist in the San Luis Valley every month and write about that. Shit. See what happens when you “just write”? You get ideas.

Chionophile

Feeling like a total freak mourning winter’s passing while everyone around cheers the arrival of spring, I was stunned to see a word posted by a Facebook friend, a noun, for creatures like me (and my big white dog). Chionophile. OK, Chionophiles are mostly animals who live high up in the mountains or on either of the poles, but why not Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog and me?

There are also people who suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in spring and summer rather than in fall and winter. It’s rare, but the symptoms are anxiety, insomnia and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Funny that’s how summer makes me feel. People all around are all excited about what they’re doing in summer. I try, but for me, summer is a trial. I just try to make the best of it as I wait for it to end. Back in the day, I taught almost every summer. The money was great, but also I didn’t notice summer as much.

In doing my research into this yesterday, I discovered that Norwegians and Icelanders don’t suffer from winter SAD. Either they are incredibly stoical about the cold and dark, or they (as every article stated) like it. They even have a Norse god and goddess who represent winter and winter survival skills. Skadi (Goddess) and Ullur (God) live in the highest mountains, are expert hunters and go everywhere on skis.

I’m good with Skadi. She’s depicted on Nordic skis, hunting in the high, snowy mountains with a blue-eyed white wolf. It seems to me that getting through the seasons ahead will depend on training for the Birkebeiner and, maybe, getting a 4×4 car.

The Road Ahead

Because I’m in earshot of 70 years old (3 years away), and I just got Nordic Skis and have been out on them ten times in the six weeks I’ve had them, I’m concerned about the future. Nordic skiing makes me happy. It always has, but I have not always lived where I could easily find snow and I have — for the biggest part of a decade — been dealing with debilitating arthritis in my hips.

There’s nothing else I really want to do, honestly. As time has peeled away aspirations and goals, I stand here with only a couple of things that matter to me. I want to be able to *langlauf. I want to be able to hike in the mountains (because there is not always snow). I want to be able to do these things for a long time.

I already know what bad stuff can happen. I had my first hip surgery when I was 54. My second in 2018, at 66.

How does this happen? I always loved those things. Why did so much get in the way? Why didn’t I see as clearly long ago? No idea. But what matters is doing whatever I can to be able to keep going.

I did some research — tried to do some research — on how best to keep going as long as possible. The short answer is weight training. The long answer? Well, it’s long, OK?

I found a lot of articles written by young people about old athletes. There was no escaping that the whole idea of a geriatric runner or something else is kind of a freak show. This is strange, because I know people who are still running, hiking, and skiing well into their 70s. They don’t see themselves as a freak show and neither do I. It seems that some of the younger people looking at us have forgotten (or don’t know?) that it’s FUN to ski, it’s fun to race, it’s fun to hike. Sure, maybe not for everyone, but who would expect it to be? In all my years hiking, I was most often completely alone (in an urban wilderness park).

One article I read was a review of a photo book with an interview — Racing Age by Angela Jimenez. In this book, a former college decathlete documents several elderly track and field competitors. Jimenez goal is to blast the stereotypes of old folks, stereotypes that old folks — that is to say we are,

“…sick or vulnerable or kind of cute—I had seen those jokey greeting cards of a grandmother lifting a barbell or something—and I felt, as someone who was just starting to think about age myself, a sense of rebellion against that,” says Jimenez. “That’s something I’m always interested in doing with photography—countering visual stereotypes and thinking about how is a group of people being depicted in a simplistic way and what could I do to explore that.”

https://www.outsideonline.com/2153626/these-80-year-old-athletes-will-blow-your-mind


The photos included in the article are great. The photographer seems like an intriguing person. These athletes are completely engaged in their sports as any real athlete would be.

The sub-heading of the article says,

“The new photography book ‘Racing Age reminds us that it’s a whole lot of fun to be a competitive athlete for life.”

For me, that’s the whole thing. I don’t want to compete, I just want to play.

*Langlauf — German for Nordic skiing


Training for the Birkebeiner??

Yesterday I was so inspired by the Birkebeiner Nordic Ski race that I was ready to sign up, but a little research showed me three things that dampened my enthusiasm. In order, first, it’s a crowd of people trying to ski. I’d hate that. Second, sleeping accommodations are renting a mattress and showing up at a dorm with your sleeping bag. I’d hate that. When I say I sleep alone, it includes a room. Third, it would be expensive BUT all other things being cool, I’d willingly go into debt (further).

“But,” I thought, “I can still train for it.” Strangely, that sounds fun, so I looked into it. There’s a whole schedule for preparing for the Birkebeiner. It’s nothing I’m not already doing, only more of it and pushing harder. So, nothing I can’t do.

Do you really want to READ this???

So, today (in my personal adaptation of this plan, since I cannot jog) was a hike day. I grabbed Bear (not really) and we headed out to the golf course. It was cold and sunny with BIG snow storms in the offing. There was an old guy making his way slowly around the 1 mile ski loop.

“How is it?” I asked him
“Not great. I’d like to go up to Rock Creek, but I’d be all alone if I broke my leg or something. Cell service isn’t great. Not fair to my wife.” (It’s amazing how EVERY man I meet lets me know, ASAP, that he’s married. I kind of hate that because I don’t WANT one of my own, but whatever…)
“Yeah, me too. I don’t want to go up there by myself, either. Have fun!”

He shuffled off. Bear and I walked a mile and a half before returning back to the golf course. An elderly couple was shuffling along the tracks. The woman stopped to visit (this is a small town and that custom is charming) and we exchanged stories of our joint replacements and she said they’d gone up to South Fork but it was so crowded it was no fun. I thought of my short-lived Birkebeiner dreams and nodded. We exchanged names and personal history. Most people ask my name thinking they should know me. When they don’t, it’s a little bewildering for them. I now have nicely memorized litany to legitimize my living in this insular town that I love so much.

Bear and I headed toward home. Bear only dragged me into a snow drift once. I’m SO good at getting up now it’s impressive.

We were half a block up a muddy alley from home, and the two little kids who’ve moved into the neighborhood came running to their fence to see Bear but mostly to visit.

“What are you doing today?” asked the little boy. (He’s 5. Visiting skills develop early here.)
“I just took Bear for a long walk on the golf course so she could play in the snow.”
“THAT golf course?” he pointed across the street.
“Yep.”
I got another exhibition of his precocity in the art of visiting. “We might try that sometime.”
“Have you been to the park? It’s more fun.”
“We’ve been there,” said his sister.
“Did you have fun?” I asked.
“Yes!” they both said. Then their dad came out to give them a chore and Bear and I came home.

Once home, I rode the bike to nowhere four miles in 15 minutes. It was part of my training for the Birkebeiner to go fast and then faster for a period of time. As close to running as I can get.

I track everything on Mapmywalk.com. I started doing that just to know the distances I covered when I couldn’t walk well, but now I’m mildly into it. I even signed up for the annual challenge and I’ve achieved a pretty high ranking in relation to other women who signed up which just shows that it’s true that 99% of success is just showing up. I’m the little white figure on the graph of runners. The challenge doesn’t include the Bike to Nowhere. It’s no big deal, but I’m kind of proud, even though it just means a lot of other peoples’ New Years Resolutions bit the dust.