Title: February 3rd, 2017 The Dead Tree, Colorado
Post by: MW88888888 on 02/04/17, 03:36 PM
The Dead Tree
Front Range, Colorado
February 3rd, 2017
Bring on the night!
Rounding the last corner on the drive up and first look at the parking lot - and yikes! A car? Dark forms with headlights lingered around an SUV, it seemed as if they were packing or unpacking. At 10:30 at night? I enjoy the wild life on my nocturnal foray’s (rabbits and a bull elk this evening on the drive up, and more rabbits and two hunting owls on the way down), but man is the creature I fear the most. So unpredictable.
I pulled into a spot a couple cars down - their presence, after all, was not going to change my plans - and I cranked Sonic Youth’s "I Love Her All The Time" from 1985’s Smart Bar performance up to the limit of my truck’s stereo system - a beautiful chaos of sound resolving itself into a dreamy trance of passion. Glorious noise! It should keep idle chatter down in case they have questions of moi. They seemed to get the hint and scrammed minutes later without a word exchanged. Needless to say, I did not miss them.
What is this? Cars at the car park in the middle of the night? To quote the late David Bowie “Cha-Cha-Cha Changes!”. I smiled to myself connecting once again with the soothsayers of our times; awed how the musician’s Art reflected the human condition, man’s invisible emotions so elegantly described.
Changes indeed, but even with these changes the mountain above was now black as coal, a light snow falling and the stars and moon a memory, again no other people were about. As was my “usual”? Would my “usual” remain?
Enjoy this time, for it may never be this way again.
I gathered my belongings, strapped the Venture 167 to my pack and snowshoed up into the darkness following my flashlight beam.
It had taken about 15 years of continuous underbrush removal to get the trees to a state of enjoyment when crashing down through in the darkness of night. Fifteen years of fall and summer trips, 15 years of use. And now a wonderful “trail" to follow that I could almost do with my eyes closed - which is good as regardless of your flashlight or the moon above, there is no way to prevent 50% of the turns to be done by feel - and why the choice of evening is so important. The snow must be right, my mind must be empty enough, the gods generous enough to nullify the snow dragons. Tonight was such a night.
It was an interesting progression, witness to the growth in our lovely sport, the way The Dead Tree run was now being used. The easy goes first to the masses, the harder stuff, the not so obvious, well, that stuff goes to the creatives, the contrarians. Like me. The Dead Tree run reflected this fact of human nature. The way the trail worked, Lower Dead Tree was wide open, an abandoned ski trail, obvious from satellite if one wanted to look. This section had been skied during the day, the 6-8” of powder just enough to allow a float above the hard packed old layers but shallow enough to feel, especially on this quasi-ski trail. I was glad of the skin track - and laughed to think of the “don’t snowshoe on the skin track!” banter I would create if there were skiers or “split boarders” about. They are my favorite, split boarders. “You should get a split board, so much better than 'slo-shoes'!" As if the 33 years, yes, thirty three years (!) of snowboarding hadn’t taught me the powerful tool that is a snowshoe. Back in 1984 when I got my first snowboard, you couldn't snowboard at many ski areas - except for Jay Peak and Stowe of course! The “Enlightened”, another reason why those places are near and dear to my heart - so we needed snowshoes to get most of our turns. A split board? Now if I wanted to go skiing, I would have brought my skis, right? Why fuck up my snowboard and have to buy all new stuff when my solid was just that - solid. Perhaps you don’t know how to ski? But I digress…and rant, and these are the conversations of nuance that drive me crazy when others are about…and why the silence of the night is so refreshing. No Know-It-Alls.
Not to worry, the folks from the day shift had not skied the tree runs yet, a private stock of wine for the powder thirsty. Ready for a corkscrew if I wanted it.
Above Lower Dead Tree, the old ski trail, the Dead Tree run proper goes steeply into the deep woods, and there was no skin track from the day. But I used my Spidey senses to find the two week old up-track I had created on my last adventure. Easy-cheesy glorious up-track hidden under the boot deep powder. I chugged along, the snow falling lightly, my sweat building, the tunes cranking out my latest xmas present, a palm-sized sound system with impact resistant speakers hooked up to my sleek iPod. Alpha’s "Come From Heaven” album pouring out into the empty night.
“The sun that I see is just an illusion….and I live close to the edge…”
Funny how technology was also changing my experience over the years. The Walkman of my teens replaced with the mini stereo sound system with 72 albums to choose from….keeping me entertained and paced through the night, and the added bonus, as my brother had noticed, the aural boundary around me creating just enough distraction during the day when meeting other climbers to give them pause and me time to slide past smiling and unobstructed. No questions to ask when you have The Melvin’s “Don’t Piece Me” bleeding out your jacket.
Arriving at The Dead Tree, I was impressed by the depth of the pack, building in the two weeks from my last visit. For early February the snow was amazing, looking like late March or April. Only once had I seen the entire tree gone, a 7-8’ tall lightning struck tree that had become something of a Talisman for me, a tangible expression of the soul of the mountain, something I could put my hand on and feel outside as well as inside.
I put on my helmet and goggles - the falling snow demanding I protect my eyes, and I had forgotten my clear racquetball goggles - the night becoming dimmer with a hint of rose color. Wonderful. It’s a damn good thing I could ski this in my sleep.
With snowshoes on the pack, a ski pole in one hand, my flashlight in the other, I rocked into the fall line and enjoyed the powder of the night.