Tuesday, January 3, 2012

excerpt for a New Book, Dog-slogging

Dog Slogging

I did a lot of dog slogging in the winter of 2011; there was a lot of snow in my usual walking places. It was deep enough to prevent a walk on one occasion; up to my knee. I feared that I might step into some hidden trap of a fallen tree or vines, twist and ankle or knee, or just get stuck – yet it was beautiful, and I could have appreciated it much more had I not been worried about hazards.
Snow shoes with gaiters helped, unless I ventured into deep powder where I sank and had a hard time extricating my foot and several pounds of snow. I still had a problem with hidden branches.
Ski tracks were not easier, especially after a hard freeze; they made it very difficult to set the snow shoe on the level; tough on the ankles; good practice for the sense of balance.
We had several snow storms. After each, the snow would partially melt and then freeze, soon after to be heaped with more snow or, in come cases, rain – which would freeze - the ice would be hidden and treacherous. Sometimes, especially in the middle of the day, I negotiated slush and puddles, some of them hidden beneath a cap of snow. I persisted.
It takes a lot of energy to walk in snow, a lot of concentration, a lot of determination. In the winter of 2011, I had to dog-slog if I wanted to walk. I spent a lot of time looking out for my next footstep, missing my woods, my views, and an ever-changing sky. I imagined how it would be to dog-slog miles and miles. Exhausting. Frustrating. Although I have done it.
I took a 20 mile backcountry ski trip with my friend, Joe, and his friend, Randy. I carried a twenty pound pack and had to cope with old “rotten snow.” We skied over Tioga Pass to Tuolomne Meadows and then back. It was tough.
On the first day, we skied about seven miles and then stopped to snow camp. By late afternoon, the temperature was in the teens. Joe made a great fire so that we would not have to go to bed early, and we huddled around that to make dinner and to wait for night.
We spent the second night in the hut in Tuolomne Meadows. It has a woodstove with wood to burn, bunks, a sturdy table and benches. We were so grateful for the chance to be warm and relaxed.
In the early evening after a rest, we skied out onto the meadows. I will never forget the experience of the stillness, the penetrating cold, and a blazing sunset on the domes at the western end of the meadows. I felt amazing.
The following day, we skied ten miles out of the meadows and over the pass. It took all the energy I had to give; it was really too much for me, although Joe and Randy fared well. However, I did not, and do not regret the experience:
there is something pure about cold;
something inspiring about the surprise of sunset;
something humbling about deep fatigue;
something inebriating about sliding on snow;
something honest about dog-slogging.

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