50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #20 – Night skiing away from civilization

The date was December 10, 2015. This did not start out as a crazy thing.

I stopped at Stake Lake on the way home to go for a night ski. It was my first night ski of the season and it was snowing pretty heavily but the skiing was still pretty good.

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At the beginning of my ski… I was still smiling!

Normally when I ski at night I stick to some green, or easier trails, that are close to the ticket booth and the lodge. I’m usually alone and it just always felt like the thing to do. It might be that I just wasn’t thinking, or it might be that I had lost my mind, but on one of the darkest nights of the year I chose a 9km route that took me far away from the ticket booth on a two hour ski in pitch black darkness. Half way through I knew I was sinking seriously deep into crazy territory.

I realized, all of a sudden, that I had never done that before. Even when I skied with someone else at night we stuck to the trails that were closer to the parking lot and staff at the ticket booth. That night I didn’t see one other skier until I got back to the lit trail at the lake.

It was dark, snowing hard, and there were no stars or moon visible. All I could see was the dim circle around me created by my headlamp. I saw fresh animal tracks all around me and I kept picturing the mythical Gruffalo, from one of my favourite children’s books by Julia Donaldson, walking behind me. My overactive imagination didn’t help. I know there is a cougar out there, and some lynx, some wolves, and bunnies that are probably pretty vicious too. I was imagining all of them, watching me, in the woods, just out of the light where I couldn’t see them. Sure, laugh now, but if a fluffle of bunnies ganged up you when you had skis stuck to your feet you might not fare so well either. And yes, a group of rabbits or bunnies is called a ‘fluffle’ – there, now you’ve learned something new today. Sometimes they are referred to as traveling in a herd or colony as well. Either way they’re quick and they’ve got big teeth, and those feet…!

The whole time I was out there my imagination pretty much ran as wild as the wildlife all around me. “If you go out in the woods tonight…” at first I had this stuck in my head, over and over and over.

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For some reason my shadow didn’t seem scared.

Then I moved on to rewriting the Gruffalo, one of my favourite kids books ever, to feature a librarian instead of a mouse. I did it all in my head… over and over and over!

A mouse (librarian) went for a ski in the deep dark woods,

a (cougar/ lynx / moose / fox / wolf / chainsaw wielding serial killer) saw the mouse (librarian) and the mouse (librarian) looked good!

Where are you going to, little brown mouse (librarian)? come and have lunch in my underground house.

It’s terribly kind of you, (Fox/ cougar/ lynx/ moose / wolf / serial killer…), but no—– I’m going to have lunch with a gruffalo.

“A  gruffalo?  What’s a gruffalo?”

“A gruffalo!  Why, didn’t you know?

He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws,

And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.”

“Where are you meeting him?”

“Here, by these rocks,

And his favourite food is roasted fox.”

“Roasted fox!  I’m off!” Fox said.

“Goodbye, little mouse,” and away he sped.

“Silly old Fox!  Doesn’t he know,”

“There’s no such thing as a gruffalo!”

At about the halfway point, with my heart pounding wildly from skiing and the side effects of my wicked imagination. I stopped to catch my breath and I actually considered turning off my headlamp to see just how dark it really was. This year I have faced many of my fears and I’m not one who is usually afraid of the dark, but there was no way I was turning off that headlamp! I practically gave my own head a shake. I was pretty sure that chainsaw wielding serial killer would be standing right in front of me when I turned the light on again. And at the point where I would turn the headlamp on again he would crank up the chain saw and I would absolutely jump out of my skin.

At the end of the 9km loop I reached the lit trail that circles the lake and leads back to the parking lot. I have never been so happy to see the lights of the trail system, civilization! I practically hugged the first skier I saw. That might have been awkward!

Why was this crazy?

Seriously? It was crazy because I managed to scare the crap out of myself without even planning to.

Would I do it again?

Maybe….

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This was actually taken the next night, on those lovely green trails closer to the parking lot and civilization. Me thinks they might be lynx!

 

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