Tuesday, January 4, 2011

break through

Huck bundled me up, packed my fanny pack (yeah... I said fanny pack; what of it?!) full of goodies and sent me off to recover myself from the week.  It was New Years Eve and I would have one last solo adventure for 010.  To Duck Land I trotted.  I've almost made it around the lake before, but in order to pick up my children on time, I've always turned back, curiosity still burning: does this trail go all the way around the lake or what?  And on Friday I found out!

my favorite tree: Duck Land's willow
I followed ski tracks around the lake, analyzing them to determine if they were one skier who'd gone and returned, or two who'd passed this way once, completing the circle.

I remembered how to pee on these trails and worried I'd be found (hint: you don't take off your skis, nor do you leave the trail, nor do you do this at the top of a hill because once before I made a single yellow line all the way down).

I paused for the chocolates, apple and cheese Huck packed, taking my skis off to sit on a log.

And in the 7 whole, entire degrees, my binding froze open.  I spent 20 minutes trying to get it to clamp down.  Huck suggested later that I could have peed on it.  Really?  Just like a man to imagine that would be easy in a foot or so of snow.  But it would take considerable effort, agility, contortionality, and dumb luck to have gotten that steaming delivery where it needed to go and then I'd have frozen pee all over my skis.

I couldn't use the one ski nor the one left over.  I'd broken bindings before and knew that using one ski was worse than none. This could never be as bad as that one time: four miles out in central Alaska,snow thigh high, steaming wolf kill, in the dark.  So I packed my skis up under my arm and headed:  FORWARD, determined to determine if this trail was a loop or not, once and for all!  If it wasn't a loop,  I'd have to walk all the way back from the end, skis slipping from my tired grip.  But if I didn't try it, the question of the loop would burn hotter.  And these ski tracks I followed evidenced no returning pole holes.  It HAD to be every hikers coveted find: A LOOP!!

long shadow with fanny pack
The tracks sloped down, towards the lake, towards the swamp.  There, the ski tracks continued over the frozen wetlands.   The lake ice might be harder, but there were no bipedal tracks over that, just coyote and bunny.  And if it broke... those stakes were too high.  Crossing through the cattailed wetland, the ice wouldn't be so hard, but the stakes would be lower, thigh high at the most.  And these ski tracks I followed, they kept going forward.  But I didn't like their route, so I strayed to more open ice, less climbing around grasses and cattails.  And my plastic soled ski shoe binding slid out from beneath me.  Humbled, I returned to follow the tracks and CRACK! My right foot jammed beneath the ice into the swamp up to my knee.  And then went the left foot.  And the right again.  Whereas skis distribute your weight, plastic bindings consolidate it into a narrow line.  If I kept moving, I wouldn't get too cold.  And forward was by now much shorter than back and the land had to be coming up any minute, and if I didn't fall in any deeper than my knees, and if I could hold on to my skis through all this jolting and splashing and flailing, I would make it to 2011.  And I did.  Eventually, after walking miles and miles and miles and having to go around a new drainage channel.  And I thought: At least I'll have good story.  But I don't.  It's a flat tell.

I tried to regale my co-revelers at the New Years Eve rager but the story just settled at the bottom of the conversation.  It's the sort of story you don't really know how to end.  No ambulances or wolves or pneumonia or frantic phone calls or orbituaries, just a woman sloshing through it all, carrying too many long things, and following fools.  Same old story, different setting.

Blue read Hawksmaid which led us to the Audubon society meeting last month which led her to want to do the Audubon Christmas bird count.  This is dawn to dusk, counting birds.  And so on Sunday, she jumped out of bed at 6 am.  And off we went to join the crew of experienced bird watchers.  I took a class in college, instead of the more hard core biologies.  But that was shore birds: ducks, gulls, and raptors, no song birds.  I have taken the kids bird watching a few times, but had no idea this was going to erupt so forcefully in Blue.  The first bird she spotted turned out to be a very rare warbler that caused our leader to call the rare bird hotline.  It was 10 degrees all day.  And she loved every minute of it.  We had to leave after 7 hours because I was so tired and feeling kind of ill, not yet fully recovered from the New Years celebration.  As we left, our co-birders all said, "I've never even heard of a child that would do this without complaining."  And she was ticked I needed to bail before dark.

I've listened to her recount every sighting for the last two days.  That Heron, oh MOM!  The dipper.  The Cooper's hawk.  The scads of magpies.  She was giddy.  She's still riding high.  I asked if she wanted to join the Audubon society, and she mock-swooned with joy.  And then danced around the house. I don't really get her passion for this, but I'm not going to stand in it's way.  And because I'm the mom, I believe I'm going to learn every damn little song bird in this region.  It's not the worse thing in the world.  At least it's not baseball cards or ice skating.

AFTER 7 hours in 10 degrees

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