Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The heart of the slog

As I slogged upwards, my snowshoes sinking deep into over a foot of new, unconsolidated snow, I felt an uncharacteristic tiredness. A longing to be on the couch, eating Juanita's tortilla chips. Anything, as long as it did not involve a slog with a backpack. My run the day before ranked way up there in the realm of awfulness, and this was not going well either.

"Why do we do this?" I whined.
J, on skis, beamed. "Because it's fun."

I was reminded of my marathon training days, when my running partners and I embarked on a 22 mile run, starting from Whale Park to the fish hatchery gate, then doubling back past the park and all the way to the other end of the road at Starrigavan. The first four miles were always awful, something we had to slog past until it became, if not effortless, something we were meant to do, could always do, for hours and hours.



We headed for the hut, marveling at how much snow there still was, this late in March. Later, J dug a pit and showed me how dangerously unstable the snow was. We wore our avalanche beacons and carefully moved higher, leaving spaces between us and staying on the safer terrain.



There's a delicate balance in the slog. You don't want to redline it on a slog. We saw it last week in Hells Canyon, where an enthusiastic group of kids bounded out of the campsite at the same time we did. We stepped aside on the climb to let them pass, only to have them stop breathless on the first switchback. You don't run a marathon the same way as a 5K; you don't hike in deep snow the same way you do on bare ground. In a slog there is nothing to prove but longevity.

This was night #8 spent in the backcountry this year. It seems like a paltry number.  Does a hut count? Yes it does, especially if you carry your stuff on your back and have to shovel out the toilet.


In the end, it was worth it, as slogs usually are. At night there were no lights to be seen. We were way, way back there, surrounded by deep snow and dreaming trees. I didn't want to leave. Even for the couch and Juanita's tortilla chips.



10 comments:

  1. Oh that looks like a wonderful place to spend the night! And yes, I know what you mean about a slog. A week ago I summited Mt. St. Helens on skis,(blog post to come) and it was just as taxing as running a marathon.

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    1. I'm looking forward to reading. I've wanted to climb Mount Hood (hike up, I guess) for awhile. Skis...well, that would be a problem.

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  2. Would so love the opportunity to do the SLOG and THEN spend a night in THAT cabin with THAT AWESOME view.

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  3. Where were you guys Mary? Aneroid Lake?
    Beautiful pictures, I love the pic of your pup in front of the hut.
    I guess I don't need to be concerned about the water situation in some of the smaller streams this summer, not with that much snow still around at this point.

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    1. This is on the shoulder of Redmont Mountain, near Wing Ridge area. Yes, I think this will be a high water year.

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  4. I don't think I've ever gone snowshoeing and had it feel easy. I think night #8 is something to be proud of. I remember that just a couple of years ago, you were the person that refused to go winter camping. That looks like a nice adventure and hut. Where's this place?

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    1. Yes--although winter camping is a little easier in a hut! It's a little ways out of town--our ski club gets to use this hut, and it's pretty awesome.

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  5. Beautiful pics. Glad there is snow pack, but wishing warm summer camping was already here.

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    1. Me too, although working is easier when it is awful out. FOMO.

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