Monday, April 9, 2012

as good as it gets sometimes

Yesterday the local all-volunteer run ski hill had its annual bout of craziness called Fergi Fest. People skiied around in long skirts, wigs, and even a Superman costume. There were ski races and mountain golf (with tennis balls) and the main event, the lawn chair race, an event so improbable and dangerous it couldn't occur on any real ski hill.

Rocky (r) won the event. Tim, next to him, was second.

There was a potluck and a band. Just about all the outdoor types I know were there: the backcountry powder hounds, who rarely show up on groomers; the woman who runs faster than I can imagine anymore;  the guy who likes to show up via paraglider; the lake swimmers and wilderness hikers and triathletes. Just a bunch of people who love mountains and rivers and this tiny place at the end of the road.

The hardest part for some was getting their chair up the T Bar. Jerry shows how it's done.

It's times like these when I realize the importance of a community. When I worked for the Park Service, we had them. True, they were artificially created due to circumstance, little compounds nestled in the sequoias, baking in the desert, or seething in the swampy air. What partly kept us seasonals coming back every year wasn't the low pay or the backbreaking work or even the landscape. It was immersion in a tribe of people who got it.They got our obsession with gear, the elevations we'd climbed, the thrilling glimpse of a bear. We would gather on dilapidated picnic tables after our hitches were done and just talk about where we had been and where we wanted to go. There was always someone willing to run that trail, journey to the Mexican border, or canoe at midnight.

In the "real world," this is harder to find. Kindred spirits are out there, but it takes some searching and time to find them. It's not the same as the carefree Peter Pan world I inhabited as a twenty year old, where my only concerns were where I would end up the next summer and if the Chevette would make it another year. I admit it, I miss the battle-scarred "employee housing", painted its ugly shade of brown, the creepy bunkhouses we lived in with their Smokey Bear posters on the walls, not for its beauty but for what it represented: a companionship and freedom long gone.

But if you do really have to grow up, this is as good as it gets. There are always things that could be better about a place. More bike trails. A pool besides the motel one where it takes four strokes to get across. Less entrenchment of beliefs. But for this one afternoon this place seemed pretty darn perfect.

I think I'll always be a grass is greener type of person. That's just how I am. I am drawn to the horizon, I want to see what's out there. It can be a tug of war. Instead of going to Fergi Fest, I almost went to the canyon. It's spring there, topping seventy degrees, that tiny slice of time between freeze and bake. It's been too long since I've slept in a tent.

In the end I chose community. The canyon will always be there. It's not always about wilderness, I am finding. It's also about who is waiting for you when you walk out.


  1. That looks really fun. I agree that community is incredibly important.

  2. Yes, community is important--to have and to give back to. Fergi Fest sounds pretty fun!

  3. Wow, this looks like a blast. And yes, it's wonderful to hang out with folks that share the same outdoor philosophy.

  4. All the travels..and some travails...have led you to a great place and people (and outdoor partner!). Yay, J. and the Lawn Chair race...loved the photos....


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