Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Course

I left the house at sunset, after taking longer than I might have to get moving.  With the light fading quickly I drove Northeast, following a tip from a colleague that there was some good skiing to be found on a golf course over that way.  I knew the place, having lived close to that neck of the woods in years past, and having passed it many times, en route to my favorite thrift store during those days.  There's a pleasant parkway that meanders through the course, passing under a railroad bridge...rolling hills, thick stands of trees, a couple ponds, few lights... I figured I'd find a trailhead at any of the parking lots, but after I pulled into the first one, I wasn't so sure.  I hopped out to take a look, but of course there were no signs, just random tracks in the white, barely visible.  Where were the other skiiers?  On to the next lot, a few hundred yards down...no, no, just giant golf fence and dog-walkers... Out and back in.  Next lot, half-way round about, past the sledding hill where a man and child were still making runs in the dimming light, a small wooden sign suggested "ski trail center" or something like that but there was only one car, no lights...really?  Was that on the map?  Where is the map?  Out and back in, on to the main and also empty lot next to the big creepy empty old golf course building with one lit window...nnnnnmmmm, no.  Circling back again, all the way round, looking out at the terrain and wondering if it's big enough, or dark enough, that I might get lost out there... nnnnnmmmmm, whatever.  On a golf course?  How lost can you get?

So I made my way back to the lot near the sledding hill and switched boots. After traipsing around this way and that, cutting tracks in the fresh snow and thinking once or twice about the fact that no one on this planet had any idea where I was, I followed an unrolled "trail" up a hill, through some trees and a short way down the railroad tracks, before coming to a not unpredictable stopping point, where whoever had the dim-witted idea of going that way realized, at the top of a steepish drop through the shrubbery, that it was not passable.  In spite of having to backtrack--I'd so much rather not, if it can be avoided--I was already rather enjoying myself, and determined to find the actual trail (the one that most people follow, anyway), which I did a few minutes later.  Not surprisingly, it was somewhere approximately right next to the little wooden sign that said "ski trail" something or whatever.  Haha.

I headed out past the sledders ("look at that, dad!" she said, which I thought was sorta cute) and went on past both of the other two lots, with all of that now making a lot more sense than it did when I was car-bound... As it turned out, skiing through fresh snow on a darkening golf course in the orange and purple light that seeps in after an overcast sunset, with no one else around (except the odd pedestrian or two, in the distance, and the hazy moon above), was quite pleasant and peaceful, or at least it was up until the point that the fumes from the nearby trainyard began to drift in... Ah, comes with the territory, I guess.  Anyway, it was a pleasant discovery, to find such solitude in the city and to know it can be found.

Today I got a bit earlier start and had a somewhat better idea of where I was going, but managed once again to take the long way round to reach my destination, this time a big old park and course on the North side.  Again I set out at dusk, but tonight the skies were clear and blue, the moon a bright crescent, the skyline and the sunset glowing faintly pink on the horizon... I shared the trail with a handful of others, skiiers with lights and without, dark walkers through the trees, gentle voices...stopping for a sip of water and watching a pair of bikers wind their slow and quiet way through the snowy woods, by headlights and lamps in the deepening twilight, was a slightly magical experience.  (It also looked like some kind of fun...)  From the top of a ridge I looked down over a small lake ringed with houses still decked out in lights, and after giving a moment's consideration to just how much more I love my snowboard than I do my skis, and with deep appreciation for those particular curving climbing trails and many others, I realized that I'm pretty darn glad to live here, alongside a bunch of winter-loving Minnesotans who aren't afraid of the dark.  Winter's still young--and snow abounds! Here's hoping it'll last 'til Spring...

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