So I get to LA and immediately find Allie and Shawn to welcome me home upon leaving the baggage claim area at LAX airport. I hang out with them for a couple days and then I get a rideshare through Craigslist up to San Francisco. No one knew each other but the driver and the other ridesharer seemed to be on the same wavelength which was kinda eerie. I guess it’s all part of being hip to the times living in LA and San Francisco: they both used to live in S.F. and the other ridesharer was in the process of moving to LA, where the driver was living. They were talking about -- I don’t even remember now, but it was something I hadn’t heard about and they were talking about it like it was something everyone was aware of-- some sort of philosophy to live by-- and the driver was a quarky lady wearing pink pants with a pink patch in her blonde hair. They seemed to both be athiests and the driver was part of a hiking group in L.A. which I thought was cool, but then she went on about how all the hikers in the group are athiests and subscribe to this philosophy for living thing she was talking about. Any idea what they were on about Illona? Also, they had both been to Burning Man, an art festival out in the desert. And they weren’t acting like it was a coincidence they had so much in common - it was more like, well, yeah, we’re hipsters living in California.
Been in San Fran for little over a week now. Will be flying home in a little over a week. Had a Chinese New Year dinner with Paulo’s family and at 10pm during dinner I start talking to Phil, Paulo’s cousin whom I barely know, and ask if he skis at all, says he’s going skiing tomorrow morning at 4am in Lake Tahoe and invites me along. My first reaction is, “are you crazy?” I’m still tired from all the travelling around - was out late the night before with Allie going to some art exhibit in the middle of a cornfield right in the middle of downtown LA where Arnie was part of a larger than life puppet show with fires and drummers. Besides, I had no ski equipment and few warm clothes. But then Phil said he had goggles and a jacket and I could rent skis at the mountain-- better yet, I could demo top of the line skis and boots! Wow, suddenly I was going to be doing big mountain skiing out west, something I had wanted to do for over ten years! And now, in an unexpected transpiring of events that couldn’t have been anymore spontaneous or last minute, I was suddenly going. That was the kind of stuff I had been hoping was going to happen during my three months in New Zealand and Australia. And then finally, when I’m least expecting, when I think my trip is finally over, that no more adventures could possibly happen, such an opportunity for spontaneity presents itself and I don’t even recognize it and almost let it slip passed me!
As we were driving through Chinatown after dinner on our way to Phil’s, we stopped at an intersection to watch chinese new year fireworks celebrations. People were lighting fireworks in the middle of the street and they were so loud if someone had started firing a gun no one would have known.
As we climbed into the mountains the next morning, snow started to appear all around. What stark contrast to Australia to see snow covered mountains in all directions. When I had arrived in Los Angeles I immediately tasted and smelled winter in the air. It was so inviting and invigorating. And the evening before when I walked outside the restaurant my senses were filled with it even more. I had really been missing winter when I was away, as strange as that sounds, especially while I was being fried by the 115 degree sun in the middle of the Australian Outback on Christmas day. Now I was suddenly submerged in the full effect of winter. The roads were slick at 7,000 feet on the way up to Kirkwood and we had to bust out the chains. After dealing with uninterested to be helpful demo and rental people, another skier finally told me what I wanted to hear: “Out here, man,wou definitely want the best equipment .” Because I was trying to figure out what sort of equipment I wanted to demo or rent. So I was hooked up tough and even though I had never skied this sort of terrain before and it had been almost a year since I had last skied at Catamount and I hadn’t had much exercize travelling, I was tearing it up like a seasoned pro... well almost... the air was so thin I had to stop and catch my breath every ten turns lest I start getting light headed. My lung also was acting up and it really kept me in check and required me to keep my vigil so as to not overextend it. Towards the end of the day pole pushing into position at the chairlift cuased my lung to hurt and I had to rely mostly on skating. I almost skied into the chairlift once because I didn’t want to use my poles to stop myself and there wasn’t enough room to snowplow. Any sort of pulling or pushing I did with my arms caused my lung to hurt.
So the days of tour guided adventures weren’t quite over. Phil was an excellent “tour guide” as he was kind enough to lug around my camera, water and lunch! --as well as showing the way to hidden powder stashes and other hidden “gems” of the mountain, one of which turned out to be a bit of an adventure. Thanks for that Phil! First of all, the slopes and bowls are ridiculously steep. Even the photos can’t hide the harsh reality of real mountain skiing. But the snow is soft enough to be able to attack the near verticle wall without being hurtled for a long tumble down the mountain. But Phil had this chute he wanted to ski down. So he leads us, the other snowboarders that were with us, too, one of which was his second day --mad props to him!-- high along one of the ridges of the bowls. During the traverse over one of Phil’s friends has a bit of a misadventure with his snowboard. He dropped it and it started running away down the hill. Phil was about 50 feet below the rest of us and the board was coming right at him. He gets prepared to try to stop it but it’s rapidly gaining speed and by the time it reaches him it is going so fast that he has to think about preserving himself as well as stopping the rapidly approaching board. He manages to slow it down significantly when it crashes into him but it keeps going and gathers enough speed again to leap off a lip and disappear below, out of sight. Apparently, and luckily, the board flipped when it landed and with a short hike down was retrievable.
We finally arrive at the chute between two giant rock outcroppings and it takes me a few minutes to realize there isn’t really an alternative way to get down. I inch my way out over the edge to peer down the enbankment and half laugh to myself sarcastically. Surely Phil had made a mistake. But I look over to Phil to see him unconcerned and that he is actually serously considering it, to my fear and bafflement. It is clear to me, anyway, that the snow has been windswept sheer. Phil claims he’s done it before, but when there was decent powder. I would conisider it if there was powder, even in my tired and bedraggled state as it was towards the end of the day. He finally takes the dive and realizes it’s much icier than he had thought, has he precariously teeters sideways on the edge of his skis, contemplating what he is going to do, the icy scraping sound from his skis making it hard to watch. I’m sure at any moment he is going to fall. His skis are completely perpendicular to the slope, and his edges are the only thing keeping him from tumbling to the rocks below. “Shit, it’s steep!” he exclaims. I burst out in stifled laughter, the camera jerks, since of course I’m filming him. Ya think? I think I was more afraid for him than he was for himself. He slowly starts to slide down, the awful scraping sound of his edges keeping us all on edge as he slowly and painstakingly negotiates the steepest and narrowest and most difficult top section. After a very drawn out few minutes, he somehow manages to get a turn in and jams out the rest of the gauntlet with a reasonable level of control and panache and we all watch in awe as he shoots out the bottom.
The rest of us took our equipment off and walked around to the left. This way was not much easier as there were tons of jagged rocks everywhere as if purposely placed to keep dumb skiers and riders like us from venturing off the beaten trail. Most of us got passed the rocks without too much difficulty, but one of Phil’s friend’s hurt his ankle. Fortunately he was able to get down the mountain okay. We came out to some tree skiing that was only really steep, (as opposed to ridiculously steep) which now seemed like a cakewalk after witnessing Phil. Phil’s stunt instilled a newfound confidence in myself and my whole perception of what I could was altered for the better. I just hadn’t skied this sort of terrain before and needed to acclemate a little. His stunt helped me do that. I also needed to aclimate to the altitude. Hopefully next weekend will be better....
My back was pretty sore the next couple of days but I had such a blast I asked Nikolai if he wanted to go again this weekend. He said all his stuff was at home and none of his family or friends were in the country to ship it for him. So I reluctantly called Ben to see if he would send the stuff for me/Nikolai and to my great relief he agreed and provided the stuff arrives on Friday as promised by the pack and ship shop, we will be driving up to Lake Tahoe once again in one of Nikolai’s friend’s Escalade with TVs in the back seats.
Until next time, this is the ... responsible Uncle Jason signing out. (Well I can’t say the Intrepid Dr. Root, now can i? having chickened out and all.) Sorry for lack of photos. Will try to upload some soon!