reflections from the southeast PA rural underground

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Endless Winter

I gasped for breath, holding onto the board and slushing heavy footstep after heavy footstep, climbing the little farm hill that had transformed overnight into one gigantic, plush, white ocean. I couldn't remember this much snow falling since the blizzard of 96' when Carl and I had gotten stuck on the off-ramp at Trexlertown. Not believing the weatherman's forecast of up to 2ft. of snow, we had taken off in the little Ford Escort wagon from our college "homes" in the morning, destined to end up at my Aunt's house for family Christmas. This being the gathering of extended relatives a couple of weeks after December 25. By the time we got to my Aunt's house, 25 miles north of the Poconos and two hours and fifteen minutes north of Berks County, there was already 5 inches of heavy snow on the ground. "Yeah, the New York bunch called to cancel and hour or so ago," my Uncle said. Idiots, I thought. Why hadn't we called ahead?

That day ended in a Holiday Inn Bar, the hour striking midnight, January 7, 1996, my birthday. Today I was with another friend and neighbor, trudging through 2 feet of fresh white powder to get to the crest of a 10 acre field and make an attempt at descending it by snowboard. It might not be possible, I thought. Two feet of virgin powder with such a mellow incline. Having snowboarded for over 15 years, I knew that if nothing else, we would just have to carve out a line and keep going over it and over it until eventually, the path would widen and get packed down enough to gain whatever speed and carve the little slope could offer.

It was truly hard work at first. But the feeling of cold, fresh air, wind and sun after so many days physically cramped inside little apartments and mentally cramped in by the season's lack of sunshine, was unbeatable. It was just after 4pm and the sun had started to wane, leaving an orange-purple horizon and crystal clear sky directly above. Each time after hiking back up the field, trying to step into previously made tracks, feeling the sweat build on the brow, heaving for air for the first time in months, was incredible.

We were alive again! Out of the stale, heated air and into the rural wonderland. Unlike going to a commercial ski area these runs were earned. And the hill was all ours. Each ride a new striving for that soft, floating, bumpy feeling of gliding along the top few inches of air and water. Going for the first cut in the snow or just trying to keep standing while the nose of your board is constantly fighting to stay afloat of the fluff. Bring on the endless winter, I thought. We'll take every flake to be had.

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