Last Flight Out
Last flight out. To me the connotation has nothing to do with airplanes, it has to do with being engaged till the last note of the concert, getting the most of the every day, sucking the marrow out of life as Henry D. Thoreaux would say. Sometimes, on the last flight out you are straining to catch the fleeting rays of an epic day and sometimes you are on the bumpiest ride of your life knowing you overstayed your welcome. Either way it’s fun and you know you played till the end.
And so it is in mid-April with the end of the ski season here in Montana. Last weekend was the end of the downhill season at our local mountain. It had snowed all week and we were treated to ten inches of fluffy, sparkling, talcum pow pow that had drifted up knee deep on some slopes. We didn’t see our skis all day! We rode that last train out of the station, sounding the horn and screaming the whole way. In fact, everyone did. Riding up the chair lift you could hear people all day long whooping and screaming and having the best day of the year. It reminds me that I should whoop and scream and have the best day of the year, every day. Everyday should be the last flight out.
Today, one week later, was the last day of the cross country ski season….self proclaimed last flight out. We hit the trails with the same vibrato we did on downhill day. We tackled our favorite triple loop combo of Gold Medal/Sentinel Valley/Windy Point and Up Joseph Creek, hooting and hollerin’ all the way. But….in this instance “epic” was not the adjective we used for the day. Have you ever been skiing after it was warm but it was still freezing at night? Up here we call it crust cruising. Sometimes you ride the top of the snow half out of control down the hills and sometimes you break through the crust to the slush below, your poles getting stuck behind you each time you plant. Well, today when we weren’t crust cruising we were stuck in wet cement. We’d be flying down the trail weaving in and out of the trees and all of the sudden come to a place that had warmed in the sun and hit the wet cement. Screeching halt is the best descriptor here. Ass over tea kettle is another one, cliche yet descriptive! Wow, our normal 1:30 loop took us 2:15. Ah…but it was the last flight out, good job, well done, way to give it our all. Enjoy the crappy snow and know that we skied it till the grass was showing through!
Now, put the skis away!
Season of Confusion
Here in Montana, April is neither spring nor winter, it is the season of confusion. We Montanans can’t for the life of us figure out what we want to do. It was 30 degrees when I woke up, snowing up on the pass and now it’s 50. Should I ski? Bike? Hike? Fish? Trail ride with my horse? Yes!!! You should! And I chuckled because I saw it all today. We are a town of 700 confused souls here in our valley. I passed people with skis, people with their fishing pontoons and canoes, horse trailers, and snow mobiles. By April, Darbarians (yes, truly that is what we who live in Darby are called!) are tired of the snow but just can’t seem to put away the skate skis, we are ready for spring but we still need snowshoes to hike above 7000’. The people of this valley are gaga over fly fishing – A River Runs Through It was about the Bitterroot Valley – and the rivers are clear yet only a few inches deep until the snow melts. The mountain bikers have begun their “summer” Wednesday night rides but have to stay in the valley due to the snow pack. Back country skiers are wary of avalanches this time of year.
So we just do it all. And that’s the beauty of the season of confusion. It’s a cross between winter’s last flight out and spring’s first flight in. This past week between the two of us, we got in a couple of runs, a mountain bike ride, a cross country ski, a downhill ski and an epic climb up one of our favorite mountains. Our “gear room” is strewn with mittens and parkas and camping gear and bear spray (yep, the bears have emerged!) and trail runners and Sorels. I used to hate this time of the year. In Michigan, growing up, we’d call them the slush months. It was gray and dreary with just enough of a sprinkle of a spring day to make me angry at the clouds and rain. Now, I realize that it’s a beautiful, magical time when I can do it all!!!
No excuses to “not do”
So I’m sitting here in front of the fire, the sky is as gray as a Michigan February day, the hillsides brown and the mud ample. But it’s OK, I’ve learned to love the transition for the variety that it brings. And every morning I hear the western meadowlark in the top of the ponderosa pine singing away. I see the bluebirds en masse searching the ground for winter’s leftovers. Spring is coming but let’s not wish away winter. I’ll spend the rest of the day wiping down the skis and hefting them into the attic, tuning up the bikes and testing the camping stove.
It’s time to move from winter’s memories to spring’s anticipation, a time when the earth itself is reborn. Time to remember that the glass can be half empty or half full….it’s all about attitude. If it’s too cold to ride, go up the mountain and snow shoe. If it’s too warm to ski, get out the bike. No excuses to “not do”. Be on the last flight out or the first flight in but don’t MISS the plane! GET OFF THE COUCH and enjoy the uncertainty of the season of confusion!!
Here’s to your “slush month” adventures!!
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