Thursday, March 9, 2017

Best. Day. Ever.

I went cross-country skiing.
Can't you tell?

I don't own any proper skiing attire except gloves. And a cute hat with a giant pom-pom. So, before my adventures in the snow, I went on the hunt for ANYTHING to keep me warm & dry. I found an ugly "old man", all-weather jacket *with holes in every single pocket* (but it fit!) at a thrift store. And that's about it. I didn't have any luck finding snow pants, so I wore layers instead: the Mr's thermals + jeans. 
Actually, I take that back. I DID find a pair of snow pants. They were the last pair for sale on a Walmart clearance rack. But the Mr. made me put them back.
He must have a thing against neon Hawaiian print.

After a quick stop at Beemun's in Soldotna for boots & ski rentals, we were on our way to the Tsalteshi Ski Trails.

Now, I must say that I have been downhill skiing a handful of times as a kid. I did not like it. Especially that one time I went down backwards & fell (& kept falling) & I couldn't get righted the proper way & I was just a heap of a mess of snot & snow & tears. And my dad going by overhead on the ski left yelling down advice to me wasn't helping, & then my Uncle came & saved me & I was done. Done with a capital D. Get these stupid skis off me with a capital G. Leave me alone with a capital L! Where's the hot Cocoa with a capital C? 

I also went snowboarding once as a teenager. Not a fan of participating in that sport either. I think it's the whole "downhill" thing. And then there's the equation of speed + tree = death. It's simple math, really.
But, cross-country skiing? As I got older, the idea of this intrigued me. I have been wanting to give it a go for several years.

So I was thrilled to be invited to an afternoon of cross-country skiing a few weeks ago. A whole big crew of us went. Mostly some of my new church family. I think it doesn't matter what adventure you go on—it's essentially about who you go with that makes the journey special. It's fun to have shared experiences. Because, instead of one account, the story can be told a dozen times, a dozen different ways. And re-living an event through narrative is one of the best parts. 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. We seriously couldn't have picked a more beautiful time to do this! It was overcast, not too cold, & we had fresh snow. 
Although I did have proper gloves, my fingers were immediately beginning to get numb even before we started. I was worried & contemplating the fact that I might get frostbite & have to learn to play the piano with my toes. 
But other than that, I was strapped in, feeling anxiously excited & ready to go!

We skied both the Porcupine & the Wolverine trails, for a total of 2.9 miles. I think if I would have known we were going to be skiing for almost 3 miles, I would have had many hesitations. 
And possibly whined excessively.
Sometimes it's good to not know things, to do your research AFTER the fact. I can't convert meters to miles without an app anyway. So I was under the cover of blissful ignorance—and just focusing on getting blood-flow to my fingertips & trying to stay alive...

Cross country skiing is not anything like I imagined. I pictured flat. Like, a completely horizontal landscape. Nope. There are hills. And as you can hear in this video, I'm not much a fan of hills. That's me on the right. Screaming. And then my friend, Destiny, comes in & joins the chorus. I think the whole forest could hear us. (Other skiers later attested to this truth.) Snow fell off trees as the sound of our screams reverberated throughout the trails. Birds resting on branches took immediate flight. 
**NOTE: I can't currently get the video to work on my blog, so click HERE to view it on Flickr. And, thanks, to my friend Christina for filming it. This 25-second video clip is one of the best gifts ever.**

Random fun fact: Twice, while I was skiing, an old man passed me. We were going uphill. *sigh* 

I admit that I was the slowpoke of the bunch. I eventually fell to the rear of our ranks. But I didn't mind. It was peaceful. Trees everywhere, all covered in snow. Trails winding through the woods. I even saw a bald eagle. And then... I saw a clump of fur hanging from a nearby branch. I froze. Crap. Some sort of wild animal had come this way. It could be anywhere! It could be watching me right this minute! But then I looked around & realized that there were little furry things hanging from all the branches. It musta been moss or something.

In the end, my screaming ski buddy, Destiny, joined me for the final leg. We both discovered that we {obviously} were slow, we aren't necessarily sporty folk &, though we may often lack skill, we do have a decent attitude about trying. 
Once, with Destiny by my side, I did a face-plant. (As seen in the first photo at the top of this post.) 
"This is too good not to capture," Destiny said, as she dug around in one of the pockets of her snow jacket for her phone. 
"I can't see my legs!" I yelled. "Where are my legs?!" 
Destiny snapped a photo. "Do I look cute?" I asked. (It's a thing I always say when someone takes my photo.) 
If I wasn't wet before, I was certainly wet now. And then I got the giggles. Could not stop laughing. 
Getting up on skis after a fall is one of the most awkward & difficult things ever. Especially with an audience. I couldn't do it. I was weak from skiing & screaming all day. But Destiny gave me some tough love & used what I think was her stern-ish voice. Mostly she was saying, "You can do it! You can do it!" But between her words I mostly read: "I am NOT getting down there to help you, Nikki. I can't. I won't. Do you understand? Because then we'll both be down in the snow, helpless & frozen, & that is NOT what is going to happen right now! So grab your ski poles, & push your body up off that ground, girlfriend! These woods are full of wild animals. And if you don't get up, the animals will eat you! I can't be a part of that, so I may just have to leave you behind & head to base camp & eat the potato chips I left in the car while the rest of us wait to see if you'll come out of this or not." 
With a giant grunt, I stood up.
Our legs were ready to be done skiing, the trail seemed to go on forever. Destiny had a mini panic sesh. And then it started to snow, big heavy flakes. "This is like a nightmare that never ends!!"
To add to the drama, we thought we might be lost. I had a quick pep talk with Destiny. "You can do it! You can do it!" But what I was really thinking about was if I would be able to fashion a sled of some sort from tree branches, along with Destiny's skis (she wouldn't be needing them anymore since I'd be pulling her on the sled). And then I was hoping that by the time the sled was built, that old man with the tremendous skill & speed I ran into earlier in the day would come by again, because then maybe he could pull me AND Destiny on the sled. That would be nice of him. 

Well, turns out I didn't have to build a sled. Moments later, we finally arrived at "base camp" (a.k.a "the parking lot where we started") where everyone was waiting for us—& HAD been waiting for a while. They had started to worry, too.

During my 2.9 mile ski trip, I fell a total of 5 times. And I didn't die. So I'd say it was a successful ski adventure. I won't tell you how many times Destiny fell. If the name of the game was "Let's See Who Falls the Least", let's just say: I won. 

As a happy little treat on the way home, we grabbed Odie's for lunch + donuts from The Moose is Loose for dessert. Unfortunately The Moose was out of regular maple bars. (My favorite.) Fortunately, their GIANT gingerbread-boy-shaped donuts were covered in the same maple icing.  I grabbed a couple to share with the fam back home.

The day ended with friends around a fire-pit, along with good eats & conversation. 

 Well before I arrived here in Alaska I decided that I want to do ALL THE THINGS. I want to experience everything there is to experience in this amazing world I now call my home. It's so fun that I now get to check something off my Alaska Adventure List.  

I want to go ice fishing, & regular fishing. I want to go four-wheeling & camping & hunting & ice skating. I want to learn how to gut a fish & fillet a fish. I want to learn how to smoke salmon & can salmon & make jerky. I want to make jelly from local wildflowers & hike local trails. I want to ride a dogsled, go bear watching. Wallow in mud pits, have campfires by the beach. I want to try out snowshoeing. I want to hunt for agates all day, see the Northern Lights with a good view. And there are so many other things I don't even know about yet that I hope I'll get to do one day!

 Sometimes I ask the Mr. "What if this is where we will grow old? I just might become an old lady in this wilderness that we call home. And I'll watch you become an old man." 
And so I guess this is the beginning. 
Cross-country skiing? Check.