Sunday, April 22, 2012

The First, The Last

This incredible April-in-Seattle weekend was perfect for the first day of trail running and the last day of skiing, as the training calendar flips over to a new year.

The insanity of the work schedule I've been buried under all winter and spring is not letting up any time soon, but the sanity of the forest is always there, patiently waiting for me, and on Saturday I heeded its call.  I spent two glorious hours at Cougar, and yeah, there was as much hiking as there was running, my office-stiffened joints squeaking in protest, but just being out there in the forest made every one of my cells say oh boy oh boy oh boy!  Sunshine and soft winds, the fresh green smell of spring -- and, in some places, of horses -- sweet baby leaves on the trees, soft pink roses and bleeding hearts, shy trillia, brand new buds on the huckleberry bushes (oh boy oh boy oh boy!), lonely frogs, a snake, an owl (an owl!), small creatures rustling in the grass, and a million singing birds ... every living thing whispered to me, we're here, we survived the winter, and so did you.  Welcome back.

I thought I knew all the trails at Cougar, but I tried some new ones I hadn't noticed before and found ... Christmas!  Someone has hung glass balls and icicles on a tree and the back of a boulder, where you can't easily see them unless the perfect angle of the sun glints on one of the balls and draws you off the trail to investigate.  I won't tell you where it is; it's like the amazing shoe-covered tree I stumbled across in empty central Oregon one day -- if I tell you where it is and you go look at it, you're just a tourist.  If you find it yourself, you're an explorer.  The Christmas trail, after a lot of ups and downs and winding through the forest, dumped me out on a paved road that was nowhere near where I thought I was, but fortuitously, a local was nearby with a map in his pack, and he showed me where I was and how to get back to my car.  He recommended I hike up a nearby steep paved road first to check out the view, and I'm glad I did.  There, in what was going to be yet another housing development, complete with fences and gates and utilities, but now abandoned and reclaimed by the alders and blackberries, the hill topped out with a spectacular view of basically all of western Washington, including far-off Seattle and the full snow-covered Olympic range.  I'm glad I made the effort; thanks for the tip, Mr. Anonymous Cougar Mountain Map Guy!

I'm looking forward to all the hours and miles I'll be spending at Cougar and Tiger between now and next winter, but first ... one more day of skiing.  Today was the last day Stevens Pass Nordic was open, and this was the pass report, so how could I resist?

 It was sublime: sunshine everywhere, no clouds, temperature in the mid-50's, the intoxicating fragrance of snowmelt, immaculate grooming, and perfect fishscale conditions.  I rolled my tights up to my knees, put on a little t-shirt and my seriously cool new 50%-off Rudy Project sunglasses, and skied.  Today, finally, at the end of a disappointing winter, I got my mojo back.  I wanted to ski forever and never stop, and my body felt so happy to just stride and stride and stride, and skate around the corners, and sail down the hills, and stride some more, all under the imposing snowy mountains on either side of the valley.  It was just awesome, but even the best day must eventually end, and after three hours, I headed back to the parking lot, out of water and powerbars but brimming over with contentment and a little bit sun-kissed.  I lingered at the picnic table with my lunch, chatting with Harold and listening to his cool stories and figuring out how he knows Bert and Ozzie, then finally headed home.  Many thanks to the Stevens Pass crew for staying open and for providing such a perfect day of skiing; what a fabulous way to end the season!

It's a little over 200 days until Silver Star, and we have lots of fun trail running, roller skiing, paddling, cycling, bounding, strength building, and, don't forget, stretching to do before then!  Who wants to play with me this summer?

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