Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.
Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I can hike up a storm in the warm months, the mountains and I are pretty tight. But I have never learned how to be in the wild during the winter. I broke the ice, so to speak, with new snowshoes last winter. This season I am putting them to more use. I am feeling something new on the trails, like I am out of place. Like I am vulnerable. Not a feeling I get on the hot days of summer. Not a feeling I enjoy.
I know how to cope with the trail in the summer. How much water to carry. What clothing works for both the heat of the day and layers well for cool evenings. How much food for how many miles of trail. What gear to carry just in case. I am at home and comfortable with the wilderness. In the winter I suddenly find myself a stranger again as ice crusts the streams and snow goblins climb the trees.
My biggest problem so far is with clothing. Learning what works and what doesn't. I understand layers and use them, but the wrong layers cause problems. If I trap too much heat I sweat and ultimately get wet and chills. If I don't trap enough heat I find myself in a race to keep moving and keep my body temp up. The middle ground is elusive.
The right gear to carry is different too. I learned the other week that my snowshoes can throw snow up the back of my legs and get my pants wet. Wet is bad and results in chills. Note to self: get some waterproof snow pants.
I am leery of the unforeseen too. When it is warm I am confident I could spend an unplanned night in the wild if an injury or other circumstance forced me to. In the cold I don't have the same confidence. I am reluctant to explore too far from the trailhead and safety.
So many things are different about this time of year. I feel like a novice again. Snow and ice are harder to walk on than dry ground. The trail is harder to identify. It even feels different to be thirsty. Add to that everything I don't know about avalanches and when ice is safe and my own limits and tolerance for hypothermia. I don't like feeling like a novice. Some days staying in like a hermit sounds better than feeling like this.
There are some wonderful things about the snow and cold. The still silence that makes breath and heartbeat ear shatteringly loud. How easy it becomes to see animal tracks. The way snow and frost paint old familiar landscapes into new, wonderful pieces of art. I think I have to keep going. To keep learning. To keep adding gear. What choice do I have really? Last winter I learned that being a hermit sucks.
Course, I've had my fill of snow this year.
There is more Jones in the archives: February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 December 2009 January 2010 May 2014