Monday, March 19, 2007

Top o' Douglas Island

I hiked too long and too high today, and now I regret it. It was clear and calm and I was down to short sleeves in the 32-degree sunlight. Now ... swollen. I can't detect my tipping point, and I can't define my boundaries. Heaven knows I'd push them, though, even if I knew what they were.

I learned that a window of three hours will take me deep into the heart of the Douglas Island mountains. It's much further than I've ever been on my bike, because the canyon's grade increases significantly and the trail fades out into dozens of "high mark" lines. I always thought that "high marking" was the term for snowmobilers' testosterone-fueled efforts to kill themselves and all of their buddies in massive avalanches. But today I watched several snowmobiles roar up the slope before carving a graceful arc and descending in a cloud of powder. It looked wicked fun. I was jealous of them, and wishing that I had brought my snowboard with me, and at the same time, grateful that I didn't (Heaven knows I don't need to add that to my list of infractions.) That didn't stop me from traversing several of the less-steep high-mark lines in an effort to climb to the top of the ridge. I came pretty close a couple of times. But eventually, the slope would reach a grade in which my wimpy snowshoe crampons became useless. I'd take one last hopeful step before sliding backward about 30 feet. Clearly, I was inviting my own avalanche. So I turned around, bounded down the mountain as powder swirled around me, and went to try a high-mark line that *definitely* looked less steep. Repeat.

Not the best of physical activities, but good for the soul. Somewhere in here, I'll find a happy medium.