We had an enjoyable evening with our friends Eric and Jay. It took some coaxing to get me out to the springs, where luxury means a wooden horse trough with two hoses — one gushing with scalding spring water, and the other with 32.1-degree creek water. It's imperative to strip down fast, but only after ensuring you got the mixture right, otherwise you're going to have boiled legs and a frozen torso. The last time I went for a soak in the wind, I sustained frost-nip where ice-crusted hair pressed against my scalp. It was quite painful and has made me reluctant to return to an activity that I associate more with suffering than relaxing. I was going to make up an excuse and stay inside the cabin while the guys went for a soak. However, after hearty servings of hot chocolate, pizza and ice cream, the winds died down and I mustered up the confidence to venture outside. The water temperature was perfect as we watched trees sway in the breeze beneath an impressive meteor shower. I caught a glimpse of the brightest meteor I've ever seen — an orange fireball with a white tail, ripping through the moonlit sky.
So you can see, can't you, why Tolovana is a magical place? There are always surprises. The next morning, the wind was gone, and even though a respectable cold (-20) still lingered in the valleys, calm air made me feel impervious to the chill. After making a wide arc through the long night, the nearly full moon set over the mountains while we marched up the dome and ran down the other side. I raised my arms and took large, loping steps — flying, or more like moonwalking, through the surreal landscape with its glistening ghost trees and lunar plains.
It was an easy climb back to the trailhead — not much effort at all compared to the rewards. Frost-incrusted trees slumped over the trail like a crystal tunnel, sparkling in the early afternoon light. Simply magic.