My first day in the backcountry

Despite the fact that I hate trudging through the snow in snowboard boots and snowshoes (as you learned last Thursday), I willingly chose to do it again Friday morning. Tim was meeting Doug, Mickey Spades, and Luke at his favorite local place for some backcountry action–a place he affectionately refers to as “The Stash”–and invited me and his friend Dan to join them. After hearing Tim talk about this place all winter long for the past three winters (though last year it was mostly just whining about how there was no snow there), I was really excited to finally be able to go with him (“able to go” meaning that I would make it from top to bottom without killing myself–something that definitely would not have been possible the last few seasons).

Up to this point, my “backcountry” experience consisted only of what I will call “reverse slackcountry”–hiking up to ride groomed trails down–adventures at Wachusett and Waterville Valley. So I was super pumped about playing in the fresh, ungroomed snow and envisioned myself riding like an all-star. I should have known better.

No matter how much I may have complained on the way up, there was no denying how perfect the day was
No matter how much I may have complained the first half of the morning, there was no denying how perfect the day was…just look at that sky!

I spent the better part of the morning bitching about how much I hated hiking in snowshoes (I ended up ditching them after the first lap), how out of shape I am, how sore my legs were from the day before at Wachusett, and how my lower legs and feet kept falling asleep (I need new boots)…which was certainly not the way to start an all-star day. Tim pretended to care, which was very considerate, but maintained just enough distance so he didn’t actually  have to listen to me, which is fine because if our roles were reversed I probably would have done the same.

After about 30 minutes of hiking, Tim, Dan, and I finally caught up with Luke, who was waiting a bit below the summit on an old service road for Doug and Spades (the three of them had gotten impatient and left without us). Luke had transitioned to his board before the summit due to a stretch of really thin snow coverage, but Doug and Spades were a little over-stoked and had kept going to the top. I followed Luke’s lead and switched over, glad to get out of my snowshoes. I was a little nervous about how thin the snow was, but I knew that once I made it back to the trail, conditions would get better.

I should probably mention here that I’m still not very good at snowboarding; after all, this is the first season I’ve gone into actually knowing what I’m doing. And if you know me, you know that I hate not being good at things. I expected my crankiness to dissipate once I was on my board, but after running over some exposed rocks, realizing just how narrow the trail really was (I’m not good at making tight turns yet), and getting the nose of my board stuck under the snow several times–clearly not  the all-star riding I had envisioned– my psych was even lower and I was still pretty crabby. Like, wanted-to-be-done-right-then crabby.

Tim (and Dan's backpack) at the summit.
Tim (and Dan’s backpack) at the summit.

I was talked into taking another lap, and was slightly more happy about it when Tim said I would be fine hiking back up without the snowshoes. I don’t know why I hate them so much…I think I’m just a little too clumsy to feel comfortable in them. Luke ended up using them to hike up a steeper trail, so everyone was happy. Doug and Mickey Spades had insisted that the snow from the summit was awesome, so for our second run we went all the way to the top. They weren’t lying. After taking in the beautiful view for a few minutes, we transitioned and began our second descent. The snow was perfect until we got to the thin spot on the road, so the plan was to stick to the sides, where coverage was a little better and there were fewer rocks.

Ouch.
And this is what I’m pointing at. Ouch.
Have I mentioned how bad I am at snowboarding?
Stellar pouty face, yeah?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke had mentioned maybe taking his board off and walking through the rocks. In hindsight, that’s obviously what I should have done. Other than tearing up the bottom of my board, though, the second run was amazing! I felt much more comfortable, and fell about half as many times as I did on my first run. My crankiness was finally gone, and I was actually kind of excited to hike back up for a third lap.

By the time we made it back up to the road I realized how exhausted my legs were, so the boys kept going to the summit while I waited in a sunny spot for them. (I was also hoping to avoid putting another hole in my board so I stopped just below the rocky area.) After a nervous first run, and a slightly-less-nervous and more successful second run, I assumed the third run would be that all-star run I had been hoping for all morning.

But do you know what happens when you start to feel confident? The universe feels compelled to take you down a couple notches. I went into that run thinking it would be my best and feeling pretty good about myself (and knew that even if I did fall, I’d have a soft landing), so naturally I took the most–and worst–falls. By the time I made it back to the bottom, I had snow everywhere. The only thing that made me feel better was that Luke had taken a few good falls, too.

Luke, Dan, and I decided to call it a day while Tim, Doug, and Mickey Spades went back for one more. (They’re all animals.) I retreated to the car for a quick nap, which was all I needed to change my perspective on the day. When I woke up, I wasn’t mad at my snowshoes anymore. I wasn’t mad about my feet falling asleep. I wasn’t even mad about ragdolling a few times or gouging a hole in my board. No, when I woke up I wasn’t upset about any of those things. I was just excited to have survived my first day in the backcountry, and was already looking forward to my next adventure.

Not a terrible way to spend a Friday morning. (My grilled cheese seemed extra delicious that afternoon.)
Not a terrible way to spend a Friday morning. (And my grilled cheese seemed extra delicious that afternoon!)
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