When you live in the middle of Wyoming, your winter getaways generally involve a lot of this:
And when you try to leave Wyoming, you get stuck with a lot of this:
Would you ever guess that there are giant mountains hidden behind the wall of snow in each of these images?
Wyoming: you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
Usually, by March, with 3 more months of winter left, Wyomingites manage to escape and do this for a week:
But we live in a place like Wyoming so that we don’t have to go far to follow our winter follies. We live here because we like doing this:
and definitely these:
This is in response to BootsnAll‘s 2012 Indie Travel Challenge, Week 4: When the weather gets cold, do you prefer to head to sunnier locales or do you love the outdoor adventures or off-season prices of winter? Warm or cold, what’s your dream winter travel destination, and do you have any travel plans for the coming months?
The die hard strap their gear to office-weary backs and hike up crevices in the foot-high slop to slip slide down, just to say they were the season’s first.
But it melted quickly, creeping back up the mountains, and remains in hiding for weeks.
Hunters, blindly blaming their poor harvest on the wolves that don’t exist here, come back empty handed, heads shaking. Without the snows, the elk are content to find safety and sustenance in their summer pastures high up in the Winds; they haven’t been frequenting their normal fall rutting grounds. The dry, warm air is taking its toll on all kinds of winter enthusiasts who had high hopes for La Nina again this year…
When we looked down the dirt road, it looked friendly enough.
After all, it was sunny in Boulder, WY. And it would shave a few miles from our lonely journey along the western slope of the Wind River Mountains.
And it was a road less traveled, a path we had never taken. There were mountains and cabins and cattle we had never seen. How bad could it be?
The secretive Air Force nuclear treaty monitoring station should have been an early warning. Perhaps we should have taken it in the height of summer, when the threat of a blizzard was at least minimized.
An abandoned farmstead, a solitary swing in want of a playtime, a rusty barbed-wire fence rotting at the edges, a set of bear prints in the frozen mud. An ageless set capturing a lost moment in the life of the Wyoming backcountry.
The Oregon Trail passed under our sloshing tires as we crossed river and snowdrift and cattleguard. When the road disappeared into a blinding canvas of plain, thick, swirling whites, we finally decided it was time to turn around.
I don’t ski. Or snowboard. Something about “the art of catching cold and going broke while rapidly heading nowhere at great personal risk” (though that definition can accurately describe most aspects of my life anyway).
But ski-bum culture has always fascinated me. It’s a mix of reggae and pop and club remixes and a hint of new-age lounge. It’s cigar smoke and beer and all natural olive oil soap. These are people who spend all year waiting for that fresh powder.
They spend thousands of dollars on sick gear but are willing to fit 10 people in one double bed in one hotel room just to save money on their ski trip.
They know all about wine but prefer to drink beer.
They’ve read Vonnegut and Kerouac and enjoyed them but prefer to flip through Powder Magazine and Athleta catalogs. They tease beginners, but only because they remember THEIR first times, and they were all awful. They love the outdoors and roaring fireplaces and good food and don’t mind that their boots crush their toes and give them blisters that will last until next fall.
They are arrogant and self-absorbed and well-educated and friendly and always laughing.
I think next year, I will learn how to ski.
This race is the longest sled dog race in the Lower 48, goes from Jackson, Wyoming to Park City, Utah and kid of zig-zags its way there to maximize influence.
Below is Lance Mackey, who won the Iditarod four times in a row!
I bet you didn’t know that Jamaica has its own dog sled team! Cool mushings! Below is Jamaica musher Newton Marshall!
Getting ready to start the race!
It’s the time of year when the winter, which has been building and blowing for two or three months in most places by now, seems to have settled in for the long haul and people begin to look to spring, still several months off.
Hot chocolate and spirits run low, and no one has the will to unwrap themselves from flannel sheets and wool blankets tucked into the couch. Stuck in the rut of snowdrifts and frozen pipes and icy roads, minds begin to wander, and inevitably they wander to those thoughts of failure and longing that most have been able to sweep under the rugs of summertime and BBQs and holiday cheer and the romance of the first snowfall. But the blanket of winter cannot keep warm those feelings of contentment, and come February, they are packed away with tiki torches and tents, and then the Christmas decorations, to lay dormant until the next season.
Replacing the cozy feelings of hope are rumblings of discontent, fault-finding introspection and repining retrospection. People who, during music festival season, seem comfortable in their own skin, their perfect costume, are now itching to get out of it. Lamentations of “who am I” and “what really makes me happy” litter the blogosphere and facebook and idle conversations over one-too-many pints of beer. It starts out as a philosophical debate with the self, and iterates and reiterates and diminishes into it’s very foundation: a discontentment that rarely crosses the line into unhappiness but always teeters into the realm of sad abandon.
The seemingly boundless winter makes it easier to focus on the self that we have lost somewhere along the way, and I see the melancholy in faces and facebooks everywhere. Is it necessary? Is it inevitable? Do short winter days and cold winter nights and the inevitable winter confinement alloy without fail into the perfect storm for primordial philosophy and the art of the malcontent? To what end do we unceasingly persevere in our self-criticisms and our “what could have beens”?
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