Rough Start

The snow finally came, and with it came snowshoe season—one of my favorite times of the year. My snowshoes now have a comfortable place in the backseat of my car, and my poles are tucked neatly against the passenger seat.

This past Saturday, I headed out on the trails near our local bunny hill, climbing 1,000 feet in less than a mile right out of the gate. Other than a few deer prints, I didn’t see any evidence anyone had used the trail lately. When I got up on top, however, I saw a print with toes …

Later, as I was making my way alongside a barbed-wire fence, a deer rustled in the trees not far away and then emerged, bounding across the trail in the snow. I thought I saw two or three of them, and then later, I came across another one—mule deer, with their huge ears. I was pretty tickled to be spending time in nature with no one but the wildlife to keep me company.

Later, as I curved around the radio tower—well out of screaming range of any other people—I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of two large, dark animals ahead of me astride my trail: two adult moose stood there, eyeing me down in the snowy silence. I, of course, yelled at them, hoping they’d get the drift and scoot out of my way, but they just stood there and glared at me. Then, the female walked behind the male, and that’s when I realized how big a rack the guy had on him. I’d thought they dropped those before winter. Guess I was wrong.

I was just about to reroute to the cross-country ski trail when the two decided they’d had enough and trotted off into the forest. In the end, I didn’t see another human being at all in more than two hours on the trails. So my animal to human encounter ratio was something like 4-0 and 4-2 for the season.

This morning, I got up late for another snowshoe only to find the road coated with a thick layer of slick snow. That wouldn’t be much of a problem except for the fact that I drive a sedan that has a knack for sliding all over the place. I’m not sure what it is about Chevrolet Malibus, but our car cannot handle the winter time at all.

I made it just outside the canyon after admiring some bald eagles (add two more to the animal to human ratio) when my car slid out on the road. I turned around and went to go chain up only to discover my chains were worthless. After toying with them for nigh unto a half an hour, I threw them in my trunk in disgust and tried to head back up the canyon without them … and that’s when my car slid completely off the road.

One of my wheels was dangling, more or less, completely off the edge when cars started to stop and offer help. I declined having anyone come push, simply because I didn’t want my car sliding and crushing anybody, but I asked around for someone with a tow cable. Nobody.

Eventually, a rock-laying truck came along, and the guy stopped and pulled over just as I slipped and fell on my butt. I got up and he said, “That slick, huh?” Just as he said that, his truck began sliding from its completely parked position and I ran to steady it before it slipped off the road. He got back into the driver’s seat and backed up to better traction, and then he started warming up the motor for his truck to lay down some rock.

I was stuck waiting around for a little while longer when a nice woman came along and reluctantly asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?” I asked, “You don’t happen to have a tow cable, do you?” to which she answered that she didn’t. But then she rethought for a second and said, “Actually, maybe I do.” She got out, searched a first-aid kit in her trunk and found a tow rope.

I hooked it around my rear axle near my left wheel and then to her loop hitch on the back, and voila, I was out in moments. I thanked her and got on with defrosting my fingertips, all of which felt semi-hypothermic.

I drove home and then to the tire place to get some snow tires put on my car. Then I came home—$200 lighter. When my wife got home, the mountain bike was already sitting against our bannister, and my vexation at not having snowshoed was palpable.

Traction was good going up my local hill, and I managed to get up to the summit without putting a foot down. That soon changed as I found my way into some nasty drifts along the road. The wind picked up, and my hands again lost feeling. I wound up riding home on the rivet with a gale-force winter wind blowing the other direction.

As I walked in the door, I told my wife, “I’m going to be in pain in just a second,” and she responded, “Why? Did you crash or something?” “No,” I said. “My hands are just freezing.”

I sat on the couch and winced as I defrosted my digits, and in a few minutes everything was almost back to normal. “I just can’t catch a break today,” I told my wife.

Then I enjoyed the most exquisitely warm shower I can remember, slowly draining the cold from my shoulders with steaming hot shower water. And then, finally, it felt like Christmas vacation again.


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