Makes you feel like a kid again.
Saturday, I went to a “winter fun” party at a friend’s house up in Peshastin. He lives up a canyon, on 15 acres of what used to be an orchard. In addition to his 1940s era home and open garage, he has a handful of apricot trees, a small pond for storing irrigation water from a creek that runs through his property, and a few hiking trails that wind up into the national forest that borders his land. It’s quite idyllic out there — very quiet with little road traffic and lots of trees.
Even though Peshastin is only about 20 minutes by car from Wenatchee, they get more snow up there. It’s a higher elevation and it’s closer to the Cascades. Because of that, my friend Kirk planned a winter fun party at his home there. Activities would include sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and skating. There would be a bonfire and a potluck dinner.
Since leaving Arizona, I’ve embraced the snowy winter days here in North Central Washington state. It started with my return to cross-country skiing and taking up snowshoeing last season and continued this year with a return to ice skating. While I still like to stay warm, I discovered — belatedly, apparently — that with the proper clothes you can keep quite warm in the typical 20-30°F winter weather we get. I got the clothes last year and have been giving them plenty of use.
And yes, I know 20-30°F isn’t that cold. In fact, I think it’s milder here than the winters we had back in the New York metro area. But after 15 years in Arizona, it’s a bit chillier than I’m used to.
Kirk wasted no time getting us organized for sledding and skating. He had some equipment; some of us brought our own. Although I would have liked to go skating, my knee was still sore from the nasty fall I’d had the last time I skated. I swore that I wouldn’t skate again without knee pads — and not until my knee was fully recovered. I just don’t heal as well as I used to when I was a kid. (Duh.)
Instead, I opted for sledding. Kirk and Pete had a few old runner sleds, including one that looked just like my old Flexible Flyer. I gave one of them a try on the relatively mellow hill that led from the road to the pond. I was disappointed. The sled was old, the runners were rough with rust, and the hill wasn’t slick enough. I was a long way from the quarter mile sled runs down the street from where I used to live in Cresskill, NJ, starting in the woods out behind the Merrifield’s house and ending on Brookside Avenue.
Meanwhile, Kirk was skating and others were just walking around on the frozen pond surface. Kirk had shoveled the snow onto big piles and was gliding gracefully among them.
Pete, in the meantime, had a need for speed. He’d taken one of the metal saucer sleds he’d brought along and had climbed to the top of a much steeper hill that led down to the pond. As we watched, he launched himself down the hillside, crashing into the tall frozen reeds at the side of the pond. Not to be deterred, he did it again. And again. After a while, he wore out a good, fast track down to the ice.
My second run down the hill was enough for me.
He kind of dared Megan to try it. She wasn’t interested, but I was. I climbed up the hill, sort of surprised by how steep it was — it didn’t look that steep from the pond. Then I grabbed one of the sleds and, after asking Pete for some advice, launched myself down the hill. It was wicked fast and wicked bumpy. No control at all. About halfway down, I closed my eyes. I finally skidded to a stop on the ice, laughing and groaning. Megan caught the whole thing on video.
And if that wasn’t enough, I did it again. The second time, I definitely got airborne at least twice. The banging sled beat the crap out of me. When I slid to a stop on the ice, I just lay there, laughing. That was enough for me.
Pete kept going, through. On one of his runs, both Megan and I had video cameras rolling. I was up top and actually gave him a push down, so my video is very bumpy. But it’s interesting to see the two camera angles side by side.
By that time, Kirk and Kathy had moved on to sledding on another hill. The rest of us joined them. It was getting dark and Kirk wanted to take us on a quick hike before it got too dark to see. So I loaded Penny up in my day pack — mostly because I didn’t want to worry about her running off after real or imagined wildlife — and we we all followed Kirk up one of the trails behind his house. I think we would have made an excellent commercial for Sorels boots, since I think we were all wearing them. The path was snowy but not slippery and the forest around us was quiet with snow on the evergreen branches. We stopped on the way back to admire Kirk’s tractor — that’s how things are around here — and swap stories about how useful they can be around the area. I might have convinced Kirk to use his tractor to dig some holes for trees for me this spring. Fingers crossed.
While we were gone, the fire Kirk had started earlier in the day and fed with scrap lumber I brought along had come to life. We sat around it in lawn chairs. A few other people showed up, including Kirk’s housemates. Kirk and Kathy poured out some warm Glühwein from Leavenworth. We chatted, told stories, took photos.
Afterwards, we went inside for dinner. Clam chowder, leek soup (my contribution), garlic bread, fresh fruit, pizza, lasagna, and more. We sat around the big table Kirk had set up in his living room. It was warm and toasty indoors — so warm that I stripped down to my bottom layer Under Armor.
Of course, there was more. After dinner, six of us drove about a half mile up the road to a National Forest trailhead. We strapped on our snowshoes and started a hike up an old, closed off forest road. It was full dark out by then and thin clouds filtered much of the light from the full moon. Most people had headlamps. We crunched up the trail with snow covered evergreens and hillsides or ravines on either side of us. It was magical out there, especially when, on the way back, it began snowing.
Back at the house, Kirk and Kathy went back out to the pond to skate in the moonlight. The rest of us enjoyed the warmth of the wood-burning stove, chatting about life, careers, and retirement. A while later, just as Kirk and Kathy were coming back we prepped to go home. It had been a great day out in the snow and, for me, a reminder of my younger days.
Although I’m sure I’ll have bruises on my back from the edges of that silly saucer sled, it was worth it to remember my young, fearless, and carefree days as a kid.