Monday, October 1, 2012

Skiing Uphill

September 25

The gentle birth of the Truckee is in stark contrast to the raging freeway above.  The machines of man roar toward their destinations while nature flows at its own pace.  Time is meaningless in such a place and I would be content to stay along the river's banks forever.  Alas, dawdling is no longer an option.  I've set a date to meet my friends at Point Reyes.
The Truckee seemed aware, suddenly forming rapids, rushing instead of lazily drifting.  I'd ridden my first whitewater on rafts further downstream as a ten year old boy, an experience only now half-remembered, mostly lost in the dustbins of my mind.
I parted company with the river at Squaw Valley, a ski resort set in the High Sierras.  The Winter Olympics were held at Squaw in 1960.  The choice to site the Games here was an interesting one.  At the time the decision was made their were no venues and the town was mostly undeveloped.  The construction was accomplished but the whole competition nearly unwound when the United States refused entry visas to athletes from Communist countries.  The IOC threatened to send the Olympics elsewhere and the American government backed down.  Thirty nations, including the red ones, participated.  The highlight for the home team was a gold medal by the Men's Hockey team, a huge upset over perennial favorites Canada and the Soviet Union.  A young Al Michaels was not asked for his opinion on the matter.

The alpine ski events were not held in the Valley, of course, but up on high.  I headed towards the stage where downhill and slalom heroes were crowned via the Granite Chief Trail.  The path consisted of a wall of giant boulders, stacked one atop the other, with an occasional splash of blue paint marking the suggested course.
I climbed for waht seemed an eternity, picking my way slowly and steadily.  The thought of a broken ankle so near to the finish fills my throat with bile. 
At the top I found a picturesque tarn, where I filled my water and rested, satisfied - too soon, as it turned out.  All my effort had only taken me to the base of the slopes.
A ski resort without snow is a mountain covered in dirt roads, each with no apparent destination but down.  Or in my case, up, and I couldn't help but think there are more exciting methods of enjoying a double black diamond. 
There does seem to always be a reward for such toil and the best are the unexpected ones.  Until I summited I had almost forgotten the large lake I was leaving behind.  There she stood, a blue jewel winking at me from the east, sucking away my pain and fatigue, leaving only awe.

16 miles/3827 total miles

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