There is only one place I’ve lived where one can downhill ski, back country ski, cross country ski, mountain bike, and hike all in one week. Welcome to Idaho!
Over the past decade I have spent my one week off for Spring Break traveling to connect with family and friends, only to feel exhausted and in need of a rest when school gets back in session on the following Monday. This year, learning from my past experiences, I took the week to do anything and everything which would leave me feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. What was on my list? Gardening, skiing, biking, hiking, writing, and most importantly… being outdoors!
The week started with an ‘early release’ Friday afternoon which allowed three hours of blue-bird skiing at Sun Valley. The snow was solid with a 1-2 inch softening layer on top which grew throughout the afternoon. Because of the late start, I didn’t remember sunscreen lotion, aiding me in the sweet goggle tan forming on my lower cheeks. A stylish look for anyone wishing to appear raccoon faced. The skiing was followed by music at the base of River Run Lodge. The jam band sounds were the perfect complement to the surrounding mountain scene. Ending the evening with a soak in the hot tub and a relaxing dinner made the most enjoyable and perfect beginning to a terrific week of outdoor adventures and relaxation.
The weekend came and went as usual. Mornings full of coffee and catching up with my husband. Afternoons full of workouts and errands. The difference came on Monday. As my husband rolled out of bed to head to the hill (ski patrolling- who needs a big boy job?) I stayed, lavishing in the comfort and warmth of my bed. ‘Oh, how beautiful life is’ I thought to myself.
After treating myself to a massage at Pure Body Bliss in Hailey, Idaho I took myself out to lunch at Glow Cafe in Ketchum. In a past life I lived and breathed for one thing- ketchup! Any reason to get the substance into my mouth, I would. Mac and cheese, ‘Got any ketchup?’. Hamburger and fries, ‘Got any ketchup?’. Steamed broccoli, ‘Got any ketchup?’. To this day I continue to love ketchup (raw vegan or clean vegan or meat-and-cheese-atarian, who cares? A girl’s gotta have her ketchup!). One item on Glow Cafe’s menu with ketchup is the Sun Burger. Each time I have been there they have been out of the patties (what’s a burger without a patty?). Was this poor planning on their part or is the Sun Burger really that good? I had to know!
On this occasion, once again, I asked for the Sun Burger fully anticipating being told, ‘We are out of the Sun Burger, but have you tried the Sun Valley Wrap or the Grilled Cheese?’. This time the woman taking my order promptly asked me, ‘What type of dressing on the side salad?’. I answered, ‘The Sun Valley Wrap would be fine’. We both stared at each other looking confused for a moment, until I realized what she had said. Surprised, I replied, ‘Oh, for the Sun Burger? I’m so glad you aren’t out! The hemp ranch please!’. Homemade sunflower burger patty served with avocado, “cheese”, and (the most important ingredient of all) raw ketchup! And let me tell you, the Sun Burger really is that good! I was in vacation heaven. ‘How could the break get any better?’ I thought.
Tuesday was the day to get ready for the upcoming mountain biking season which was quickly approaching. I recently began mountain biking and am somewhat unfamiliar with the fine tuning. The Boise Bike Project located near the Boise State Campus came to the rescue. For $10 an hour one can work on their bike using all the tools in the BBP shop, while working directly with a technician who teaches the bike owner how to work on their own bike. The technicians there are so incredibly nice and helpful it’s unbelievable. They got me in and out of the shop in under 30 minutes, fully ready to hit the Boise foothill Ridge to Rivers trail system. The one crucial bit of information I received at the BBP, ‘If you want to be sure your bike is ready to ride, lift it a couple feet in the air and drop it. If anything giggles it needs fixin’’. Gosh I love those bike technicians! Such wisdom (I do not mean that sarcastically)!
The initial climb up 8th Street was grueling. Only five minutes into the ride I had to stop and take a break. Had the hours of cross country skiing done nothing for me over the long winter? The seemingly endless gym hours, for nothing? I hadn’t worked as hard to go such a short distance since my first hike in Idaho, straight from the plains of Oklahoma. Nine years in hill country, I thought, would have served me better.
After 45 minutes of climbing toward the ridge I came to my turnaround point. The view of Boise from 1000 ft above the valley floor is magnificent, well worth the huffing and puffing! As I practically flew downhill, I was grateful not to be working quite so hard, and also grateful my friend Lauren taught me the correct posture for going down steep trails, ‘Keep your butt back, feet level, and squeeze the frame’. Great advice!
‘An adventure a day keeps the doctor away’, is the age old adage (or something to that effect). Tuesday’s mountain bike refresher led to Wednesday’s much needed yoga session. Boise is blessed with many wonderful amenities and Sage Yoga is one of them. Debbi Murphy, one of the yogi’s who taught me what I know about teaching yoga, led the 75 minute vinyasa class. Her teachings, accompanied by the new East Forest album Music Meditations, grounded and invigorated, which kept me buzzing for the 2 hour drive home to Hailey.
Cross country skiing at Sun Valley Nordic Center followed by laps through the half pipe at Dollar Mountain consumed my Thursday. As I stood near the bottom of the half pipe, reveling in the fun run I had just completed, a (what looked like) five year old girl came down, shooting up each side, getting higher than I would even dream of going, then flew through the bottom to shoot in the opposite direction. My ego, which takes a beating each time I compare myself to the elementary school shredders which dominate Dollar, was hit hard. ‘I don’t think I’ll be going pro anytime soon,’ I thought to myself. Looking forward to heading to the family cabin brightened my spirit, giving me something to think about other than my some-what pathetic half pipe showing.
Friday morning, as my husband worked, I packed and hiked our food, clothes and supplies into the cabin then went off to explore the snowy wonderland at the base of the Smoky Mountains. In between the Big Wood River and the Harriman Trail I weaved in and out of pine trees, up small slopes, and traversed patches of flat land. The quiet only interrupted by gusts of wind moving through the pine needles. Being outdoors, without the sound or sight of any other human being, in a white wonderland is an experience I never knew I’d live.
My habit of waking up late on days off turned out to be advantageous Saturday morning. The early morning isn’t the best time for spring skiing. The snow, set up by the freezing night temperatures, was hard as, well, ice until around 2:00 pm. This was perfect for me. Not only does tele-skiing tire me out more quickly because of the constant lunging taking place, waking up early is my archenemy. Lack of sleep is my kryptonite. One sure way to put this enthusiastic, energetic girl in a piss-poor mood is to deprive her of sleep. Needless to say, that wasn’t the case on this Saturday.
As we clicked up our climbing wires around noon, heading toward the ridge line, we discussed the spring snow and created a game plan. Lucky for me the snow hadn’t yet loosened, so we would need to take our time, moving slowly uphill, to allow the sun to soften the snow. ‘Perfect,’ I thought, ‘That’s my usual speed!’. Ascending Easley Face was no great feat. The mellow slope ranged from 25-32° with the peak sitting at 7,400 ft, only 1,000ish feet gain from the front porch of the cabin to the ridge line.
Once at the top, surprised to experience a gentle breeze and blue sky conditions, we added a layer to our t-shirts, more out of habit than necessity. Surrounding us were the Pioneers, Boulders, and Smoky mountains. We paused, gazing at the gorgeous scene for nearly ten minutes without realizing the passing time. Awoken from our daze by a gust of wind, we peeled off our climbing skins, and prepared ourselves for the descent.
The solid snow pack and gently warmed crust made for the best corn skiing of my life. A few months before the snow had not been so solid and forgiving. As cracks shot out from under my skis toward the nearby anchoring trees and rocks, my husband gave me a bit of advice, which I am calling the golden rule of sketchy ski days, ‘Today would be a poor day to center punch a back country bowl’. Words to live by! And although this week the snow pack was not nearly as dangerous, I still wouldn’t be center punching anything. No need to take risks when the sun is tanning the ridiculously white skin that hasn’t seen sunlight in over 6 months.
Our skis took us all the way back to the cabin’s porch with almost no effort (I even caught some air!). The late afternoon brought naps, followed by snacks, ending with a dazzling sunset and the conclusion to my week of freedom. As the moon lit up the night sky, I felt at peace and grateful for this time. Oh, how I love the great state of Idaho!