It looks like we won’t check everything off this year, but that’s okay. I’m alright leaving the caramel corn, igloo, and tiré for another winter. This weekend we managed to squeeze in the “cross-country ski to a cabin in the woods and stay overnight” between bouts of warm weather. I was afraid we wouldn’t get to it, and then more afraid to postpone it until next year with a baby in tow.
Skiing with the girls is a little like betting on a close horse race; you don’t know how it will turn out and you can only hope for the best. Before we left, Belén was excited (when she heard me ask about bandages and Advil for the first-aid kit she said, “This is is gonna be so fun!”) but Susanna wasn’t convinced. She wanted to stay home and play library all weekend.
When we get to the trail-head parking lot both of them start throwing their thermarests into the air like popcorn and I sense we’ve placed a good bet. Once on the trail, they sing a little ditty about “adventure girls never giving up” and I feel awfully lucky. Lucky, as in “dumb-luck”; it was only this winter I’d been on our local golf course begging Susanna to get up off the trail when she’d resisted like stubborn weed, blooming into a full pout, right there in the snow.
We planned to ski a 13 km loop with an overnight at a warm-up shack, but what we didn’t count on were all the hills. I’ve never skied such a hilly course in my life, and none of us have skied with packs before. (Stan shoulders the bulk of the weight but all of us carry something. Unbeknownst to us, Susanna stows a heavy metal alarm clock in her bag which I persuade her to leave at the cabin before we ski out.) I’ve been down-hill skiing for thirty years but facing slopes in Nordic bindings is something different altogether. I feel like a frail 92-year-old woman in windstorm during every drop and gully, and the girls fall plenty, but we all survive.
Just as the sun sets, Stan skis on ahead to make sure the cabin is empty (the huts are available on a first come, first serve basis). If it isn’t, we’ll have to ski a few more kilometers to another one and I’m not looking forward to breaking that news to the girls. Stan and I recently heard a comedian suggest how to manipulate children to do unpleasant tasks with the word “festival”. For example, “Go to bed!” turns into, “Let’s have a sleep festival!” Fortunately we don’t have to pull out the ole’ ski festival trick–I don’t think it would work anyway. The cabin is empty… and better equipped than we’d expected!
We fall asleep while Stan reads to us. It’s idyllic and all, until we realize how temperamental stoves without dampers can be. Ours pitches fits all night long, throwing heat and then dying out just as fast. At one point Belén asks us if it’s time to get up and Stan says, “It must be 6 o’clock already.” I look at my cell phone. It reads 1:30 am.
The next morning the falling snow mutes our voices and the swish of our skis. Stan tamps down the trail ahead of us and looks like a light house with his pack towering behind him. The sound of the howling wind reminds me of a conch shell, but the gusts don’t reach us down here below the tree tops. Gliding, flopping, complaining, and singing, we ski our way back to the car.
To winter and last hurrahs,