What have I been up to this winter? Skate skiing-as a form of exercise, the perfect way to get outside and enjoy nature, and at times a bit of an active meditation. The repetition and rhythm clear my mind while the endorphins make me happy, really happy.
Pole-ski-ski, pole-ski-ski, pole-ski-ski. So begins the song. However, the only sounds are the shhh, shhh of each ski gliding. Indeed, when I stop it is as if nature has listened-the woods are perfectly silent, and all of the thoughts in my head are quieting down as well.
Snow-lade pines glide by and the sun beats down through the snowy boughs and reflects off the snow crystals, a million shining diamonds. Just for a day I am rich.
I climb, and climb, and climb. Kilometer after kilometer. 7,000...7,500...8,000 feet altitude. The rhythm of my skis keeps time to the beating of my heart. Then at 8,200 the trees recede, leaving me with my first view of everything. Lone Peak dominates the horizon, proclaiming all of its 11,166 feet. Other mountains dot the horizon, while the valley below is so far below. After climbing over 1,600 feet, with the blood pulsing in my head, my lungs working overtime, and my legs crying out from the unending flood of lactic acid, this is my reward.
Then the trail turns the opposite direction and slides back into the trees, taking a slight downward pitch. Now for the fun part. Gravity has turned from enemy into accomplice. The crime: having to much fun, and perhaps breaking the speed limit for cross country skis. The pines begin to rush by as gravity gives me a boost. I lengthen my glide until each ski track is twelve feet or longer, my focus split between balancing on each ski for as long as possible and catching glimpses of the mountains through the trees. Whoosh. Then suddenly the pines open up and reveal the Gallatin Mountain Range and canyon. This is the moment I live for: effortlessly flying down the trail at top speed while marveling at the awesomeness of 'God's Country', as they call Montana. Indeed!