And our Tour de California, Nevada and Hawaii has continued – this time with an impromptu trip through the Eastern Sierras for SKIING (!!) and free National Park Day (…and a lot of hours in the car).
We were planning to stay in the Tahoe area for the rest of Charlie’s time here and catch some of the smaller mountains that were meant to open this weekend (thank you, global warming and 60deg temps this week), through some Wednesday evening sleuthing I discovered the Mammoth was opening on Thursday (and had reduced-price tickets) AND Yosemite (which Charlie really wanted to go to but we’d foregone because of potential snow issues) is close to that, we decided to get up early and trek down the Eastern Sierras.
Guys. I really love skiing.
While my parents taught us to ski when we were in early grade school at the tiny local mountain and eventually on longer trips to larger mountains in the west, it wasn’t really until the uni and PhD years that I really skied.
St Andrews had a weird schedule (that’s since been changed) where we used to finish the first term at Christmas time, go away for two weeks for hols, and then come back for two to three weeks of exams. It stunk, from the sense that I spent most of my Christmas breaks running on treadmills with my biology flash cards or writing and rewriting notes while everyone else did Christmas-y things, but it was also fantastic, because despite having to usually sit two-four exams (severely jet-lagged) back-to-back in the first days back, I was rewarded with three weeks off with absolutely no obligation. Since apparently no one in the rest of Europe operates on this bizarre schedule, that meant it was the ‘off’ season for skiing hols while simultaneously being the prime time to have guaranteed snow. After the failed ski disaster of First Year where I attempted to save money by going on the uni trip (knowing nobody) and taking the ‘coach’ option (which entailed getting on a bus and driving for 48 hours through Scotland and England, taking the ferry across the Channel, and then driving to the Alps), we’d wait around until the last minute and sneak in the extra spots to fill a chalet, and for less than £500 would have flights, transfers, all food, skis, passes and ample French wine sorted.
Since R spent several years of his youth living in the Italian mountains and had spent a season skiing, and I was at a decent enough level where I could get myself down the mountain, we’d spend sun-up to sundown traversing mapless across mountains, balancing technical turns on wide open, groomed blues with off-piste adventures where we’d slowly hike up and navigate down through powder, rocks and trees, and eating saucisson and Emmental baguettes and chocolate bars while wedged on the sides of hidden slopes. I quickly got to the point where there was nothing I couldn’t get down, any fear of steepness or ice or hidden obstacles disappeared, and it was playing on mountains in the purest sense of that phrase. In retrospect, I think the reason I’ve taken so much to trail running and long cycle rides is the same reason I love skiing – I love the exhilaration of being on top of the world and covering distances, where the actual activity is second to the thrill of just being outside, disconnected and staring down at the world below.
I haven’t actually skied since the last spring before moving back to the States, where we’d gone on a last ditch attempt to squeeze something in to Andorra (…which I did not know was a place, let alone a place that had skiable terrain) in late April. It was at the height of the That Time I Almost Died medical saga, and I spent a lot of time throwing up on the sides of slopes (pleasant imagery, I know, but also reality). While I know skiing is, for me, like riding a bike at this point, I’ve still been a bit anxious about whether I can actually still do it, and have been thinking that that might (perhaps) be the kind of thing I should figure out before I get let loose with little ones. My eager-anxiousness to get out has also been ever-so-slightly out of control, and I’ve been slowly stocking up on kit over the past few weeks in preparation.
Anyway. That did, in fact, turn into slight lyrical waxing and a nostalgic trip down various trails, when it was meant to just be ‘I love skiing and can’t wait for the season to start’.
Back to our little mini-trip:
1) I successfully confirmed that I can, in fact, still ski. Although there were only about four trails open (two of which were double black, mogul-y and icy bowls, which is kind of baptism by fire), it instantly came back in that total second nature sort of way. It’s actually a bit amazing how bodies just return to something they once knew and are able to assimilate all of the information and just react appropriately. I’m fairly certain I didn’t stop smiling the entire time.
2) We spent Friday driving (…almost all day) through Yosemite. I was in the park this past July to hike Half Dome, so I had some familiarity, but I hadn’t gone through the east to west direction. Tioga Pass was stunning.
3) Since we had Otis along for the trip, we were limited with what we could actually do, so we stopped at a few places along the way to explore.
Turns out Home-Dog really likes water and walked straight into this lake and started drinking. We might have to go to Kings Beach to play if it’s warm out this week…
4) It also turns out Home-Dog has severe separation anxiety (which we knew…) and cannot leave my side. Having someone else there to witness the chaos that ensues when I leave his sight has been… interesting… to say the least. Apparently he resorted to throwing himself against the bathroom door while I was out running the other morning.
This also means that any time I left the car, full-on beagle howling ensued. (Yes, my car is really dirty right now).
5) We finally ended up in Yosemite Valley and spent a few hours walking around the village area during Golden Hour, which made everything look even more impressive than usual.
… and then got back in the car to take The Longest Way Home Ever through backcountry northeast California, which was made exceedingly more pleasant by the Spotify ‘Cheesy Hits’ playlist, which suitably brought us back to the Good Ol’ Days of the 90’s and 00’s.
6) And then spent the weekend catching sunsets, playing Clue (turns out I am quite good at this children’s game I have somehow never played) and hiking up Ellis Peak.
And then Charlie leaves, and life will go back to whatever my current normal is, and I am really, really going to miss having Scotland around.