After an hour and a half, we finally got into a rhythm. Legs moving back and forth as we shuffled up the slight incline. The quiet of the snow covered landscape was only interrupted by our poles hitting the frigidly cold corduroy, the swish of our snow pants, and the occasional comment of, ‘What a beautiful day!’ or ‘The mountains are gorgeous!’.
When the forecasted high is 13℉ I wouldn’t normally agree to spend two hours outside for fear of exposing my already cold fingers and toes to the elements. But in the spirit of my husband’s new year’s resolution, to say ‘yes’ more, here I am with more layers than an onion (a beanie, neck gaiter, wool lined leather gloves, three down jackets, two wool pullovers, and a long sleeved shirt to be exact). And unexpectedly, my entire body is warm, except for my cheeks, which makes me feel like a kid again.
Growing up in Oklahoma, we did occasionally experience arctic temperatures ranging from 10-32℉, although they did not last for weeks and months at a time. During those few days one could remain inside, playing board games or watching movies, until the temperatures rose to the normal 40-50℉. Idaho, in comparison, is much different. After the early December snowfall, it seems as though a high pressure system sits on top of the lower half of the state for nearly 6 weeks. This creates an inversion and as the cold air sinks, lowes in the negatives aren’t unusual.
What can one do when the average low temperature is 8℉? This is a question I asked friends and family, which gave me a few ideas. One which appealed most was cross country skiing. It seemed similar to running or hiking, and most importantly allowed me to get outdoors during the winter months. With this in mind I asked, ‘Santa, could I have cross country gear for Christmas?’. He replied within days, bringing a 6 foot long box to my front door, filled with 2 pairs of everything needed, boots, poles, bindings, and skis. Off we went!
Feeling blessed to live within walking distance (50 yards) to a groomed trail made for cross country and skate skiing, we shuffled north. The sun had begun to set on the Smoky Mountains, turning the hillsides coral red and the sky bright blue. “Oh how lucky I am to live here” I thought and in the next breath shouted at my husband who was ahead of me by 10 or 20 yards, “Isn’t this GREAT?”. My enthusiasm was met with equal zeal.
Although my stride was imbalanced and lacking in the ‘glide’ aspect, I felt wonderful. The quickly dropping temperatures had no effect on my morale. My heart pounded and my body felt warm, all while looking at the beautiful mountains which surround the small town I call home.
As I have continued to venture out into the cold over the past few weeks, I have learned many lessons while on cross country skis. One very important lesson, don’t panic on the downhills and embrace chaos. Otherwise one may end up sliding feet-first into a snowbank and possibly hurting an elbow. Other lessons include rumors of a ‘technique’, which I haven’t yet mastered, but will post more about when I have a better understanding.
No matter which outdoor winter activity one gravitates toward, the important component is simply to be outdoors. Finding a way to be outdoors in every season is important, connecting us more intimately within our world, which I find gets lost in the 10 hour work days followed by treadmills and HGTV.
May your outdoor travels inspire and connect you as they do me.