GET OUT: An antisocial solstice journey

By on December 23, 2014
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Soaking in the few precious hours of sunlight. (Photo: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – I don’t know why I left. I could hear the ravens cackling outside as I inhaled bacon grease and ripe socks. Maybe it was the morning sun, peering through the white canvas walls. I slid my pack on and bid goodbye to my friends as they slowly peered at me from their nests of sleeping bags.

It was an interesting cascade of events, really. I had just spent the last two evenings at the Baldy Knoll Yurt with a fantastic group of people, but on the second morning, a coffee-inspired burning need to get away entered my bloodstream. Maybe the short days around this time of year have finally gotten to my brain. Maybe I was filled to the brim with social time.

The sun guided me out the hobbit door and soon I was on my way, skinning towards Housetop Mountain. I had a picture of a map. It felt like a pretty standard route. Within minutes of my start, my smartphone’s brain froze and the map was gone.

I thought back to those sweaty summer days working in Granite Canyon on the trail crew. With the summer trails forever etched in my mind, I continued on my way. From Housetop, I pieced my board together and rode down to Marion Lake. The lake was totally frozen over and appeared to resemble a small meadow from Little House on the Prairie, minus the house.

At the lake, I traversed south and skinned up the ridge of a small knoll also known as Pandora. Small pillows at the top gave way to a fantastic feature to ski through. The Arch, visible from the summer trail, consists of about two turns through a tiny classic cavity that opens to a powdery apron. Some people spend an entire day of skinning for those precious turns. I could not pass up the chance to ride through the hole since it was only a smidge out of the way. Decent, soft, and bountiful powder brought a smile to my face.

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A two-turn paradise a la The Arch. (Photo: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

I switched back into split mode and made my way to forks. It was a fantastic journey. Creek crossings, variable split skiing between crust and powder, and lots of sidestepping took up part of the afternoon. Some may interpret this experience as heinous, but I only heard complaints bubbling up from Granite Creek. I attribute my positive experience of tromping in the woods to the fact that no one was there to reflect my complaints, thus negative thoughts simply disappeared into the ethers.

After much more sidestepping and one more water episode, I spotted the only set of tracks I saw all day. Could it be a snowshoer? A human? A Bear? It appeared to be more terrifying than all three of these things. A moose, shoulder deep, nine miles up Granite Canyon huffed and perked its ears up. It appeared as perplexed to see me as I was to see it. In my attempts to avoid death by moose, I made my way up the backside of Tensleep Bowl. Early season, the idea of going through the boulder field seemed like an x-rated skin, so I stuck to the trees and tromped uphill. Upon gaining the ridge on the backside of the resort, I eyed some ski patrollers on their final sweep at the Village. They looked at me, uninterested in where I had come from, only motioning for me to hurry up and make my way down so they could wrap up their day.

I switched back over to snowboard mode for the last time that day. For the first time, I felt rushed. I attribute this to the fact that humans were present and humans have a tendency to rush things. They rush to get into the mountains only to rush to get down from them to the safety of their motorized vehicles. However, I understood the need to hurry as the patrollers had worked hard all day tending to the needs of a thousand guests.

Thankfully, I was able to experience a majority of my day in my own free world. Snacking at will, drinking water without judgment, and snowboarding around wherever I desired. My day of silence felt like a breath of fresh air in a world where constant chatter permeates into every corner. As I rode down the icy death cookies of the Cirque, I began to feel hunger.

From there, I journeyed on the big red shuttle to Teton Thai, where I excitedly awaited my green curry. During this wait, I experienced a profound reentry into society. Voices rattled about like a tree full of ravens. The bright colors of the fancy new winter coats blinded my soul. It was early evening as I put my sunglasses on and waited for the Start Bus. The solstice has finally passed. Longer days mean more sun, which will inevitably add to my desire to be social again.

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