With a major snowstorm about to hit, it only makes sense that we would decide to head out for a winter hike in the bluffs. This area is pretty steep on a good day, but give it a good coating of ice, and you can just imagine the "fun" to be had.
Immediately Jason is "off-roading." He is allergic to the marked path, always has to take his own way (read: stupidly hard way) up a trail. Meanwhile, I am busy noticing that there are no other human footprints where we are, but there are other prints of sorts - some very big paw prints belonging to an animal with very big claws, and some pretty big hoof prints, and some smaller paw prints which I'm pretty sure belong to rabbits. Now, rabbits scare me less than a bear would, but they still scare me. I realize we are trespassing in their home, but I still don't want to meet up with any creatures. Jason is quick to reassure me that at least at this time of the year there won't be any snakes, but I find little comfort in that. I have bears on the brain, and every snapped twig, every moan of a tree, and I'm looking behind my shoulder, half-expecting to see a mean grizzly giving me the stink-eye.
But come on, let's face it - animals are the least of my worries. Here I am being held up by an obliging tree. I think we had been hiking for less than 10 minutes but I was already gasping for breath. Jason, ever the compassionate fellow, a good 20 meters ahead of me, pauses to take a picture of my last dying moments on this earth. When I get my breath back, I yell up to him that it's too steep - with every step, my toes touch my calves. That can't be good for my ankles, can it?
Jamie: Jason! This is too vertical!
Jason: Too vertical for what?
Jamie: Too vertical for me! I'm more of a horizontal girl.
And so we pressed on. Every time we came to a narrow escarpment, Jason would turn and say "Be careful here" but the truth is, telling someone to be careful is not very helpful at all. It doesn't make me steadier. It doesn't slow my heart rate back into the triple digits. All it does is make it easier for me to visualize myself impaled on some of the heftier branches jutting out on the path I will surely slide down as soon as my feet finally fail me.
I find myself wondering if it would feel better to fall to my death, or be eaten by a hungry bear when Jason reminds me that bears are fast asleep at this time of year, and I grasp at this piece of heartening news. Bears are hibernating! They will not chase me! I will not be served up as a chubby little main course tonight!
But then the site of this stops me in my tracks:
The tree of doom!!!!
Okay, it's not the tree of doom, but you do see what had me stupid with fear, don't you?
Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!
"Um, Jason....what do you do when owls attack?"
Do you see him in there? I was terrified, and the damn thing just stared out at me, probably appraising the juiciness of my flesh. There's nothing like silent stalking of an owl to make me realize what an idiot I am: I'm thinking, shouldn't he be sleeping right now? Aren't owls nocturnal? Can they even see in the daylight? Should I stand very still? Or is that bats I'm thinking of?
People - I was a Brownie for 3 whole years, but I was not prepared for the haunting gaze of this vicious predator. I slowly took cover behind the fattest tree, but the thought that another, bigger, hungrier owl might be sleeping in that tree eventually found its way into my sluggish brain, and all I wanted to do was start digging a snow cave and hide under there until civilization built up around me and evicted all the creepy owls. Of course, the fear that I might accidentally burrow into a bear's den stopped me cold, and we soldiered on.
Then we got to a clearing that was potentially scarier than an entire parliament of owls - massive, hissing, spitting powerlines.
Okay, well, technically, they weren't hissing or spitting, but I swear I could hear the crackle above, and Jason was all like Man, if even just one of those snapped right now... and I was all like I just love it when you point out all the various ways we could die painfully, and he was all like Oh really? and I was like, Um, no!
And underneath these great big towers of death were stacked some yellow boxes that Jason just couldn't resist exploring. They were marked Brazilian Isolators, and Jason thought we should maybe steal a couple, sell them on Ebay, but ever practical, I thought:
a) Lugging yellow boxes might make us more visible to the owls.
b) I barely made it up the cliff, how in the hell are we going to hike down with boxes that weigh more than I do?
So of course Jason suggested that I just climb on top, and he could push me down, and I could steer them like a toboggan. Thank goodness Jason is not really a thief, because as much as going up always sucks, when it comes to going down, I always feel as if I have as much grace as a boulder hurtling through space during a landslide. Watch out below!!!!
Circling back into the woods, Jason stopped to read a posted sign, and seemed to put a lot of thought into the message. I wondered what information the forest could be imparting upon us - cougars ahead? avalanche territory? bear feeding station? snowy mud that will swallow me whole and not burp up a corpse for my poor mother to bury? What, goddamn it, what?
But then I heard a noise. A very conspicuous noise, a noise like the growling stomach of a bear that hasn't eating in 5 months.
Jamie: Um, Jason....when do bears wake up?
Jason: Oh, not until March 2nd, at least.
Holyfuck, holyfuck, holyfuck, holyfuck.
Jason: Those aren't bear noises, though. That sounds mechanical.
Jamie: Oh sure. Mechanical. Because there are machines hibernating in the forest now, right? How stupid do you think I am?
He didn't answer that. I mean, we've together for 7 years, and he's not a fan of sleeping on the couch. But when we extricated ourselves from the tangle of trees, he did point at this thing:
So, not a bear after all. Just a train hiding in the middle of the woods, probably taking an unscheduled coffee break or something. Speaking of which, some hot cappuccino sure does sound good right about now..... and so we agree to start heading down.
We made our way down a little quicker than was necessary, and let me just say - kids, don't try this at home.
But when I tried to take a picture of Jason, he insisted on standing closer to the ledge, and at the exact second I was saying Not too close though, or you'll make me nervous, he was saying It's not fun until you're nervous. So he stood upon this log, and I took the picture, and when he went to hop off, the log (no doubt loosened by a bear just moments before) began to roll backwards, down the cliff, with Jason still on it.
Now I have reason to believe that Jason is secretly a super hero, because the guy literally log-rolled halfway down a mountain and managed to stay upright the entire time. Meanwhile, I was slipping sliding every which way just trying to put one foot in front of the other, and even made this breathless statement at one point:
Oh for fuck's sakes, did you see that? This here leg slid out further than you would have thought possible, and this other leg had to run to catch up to it!
In all of our wandering, we did once accidentally find ourselves on the actual trail, and I recognized this view from last year- see it in the springtime here. Poor tilty tree, it must be even tireder than me!
Just as we were getting back to base, the projected snowstorm hit with full force. An ice pellet hit me right in the eyeball, so I fell to the ground yelling Man down! Man down! and mumbling about how I was blind and how Jason would have to scour the forest floor for the missing slice of my eye when he threatened me with abandonment.
Do you want me to go get the car and pick you up? he asked, and I marvelled at the iciness of his heart.
He would leave me alone with the bears and the owls, and the isolators, and the train conductor?
So I bravely winked my watery eye until vision returned and managed to crawl back to the safety of the car, which was already buried under 13 feet (well, a few millimeters anyway) of snow, and we got the hell out of dodge.
What, isn't that how you spent your Thursday?
More pictures here.