On January 31st, a beautiful thing occurred. I did not spend any time at the hospital. It was the only day this entire month that this occurred, so Ashley and I wanted to do something fun to take full advantage of the opportunity. We decided to visit our favorite regional retreat, the Catskills, and try cross-country skiing at Mohonk Moutain House. It would be the first time for both of us.
It had snowed briefly on Friday, which meant a light dusting of powder across the land and a beautiful drive as we approached New Paltz. We had left early in the morning—no sleeping-in for this boy on his day off (though we did both manage to
Armed with this local, insider information, we drove up the hill, past the hotel entrance, and continued down, down, down to the state park parking lot. Simple logic
With our skis on, we followed an ungroomed trail up in the direction which we had seen some others go. And by “up,” I mean up, up, and up. We alternated from duck-walking (this would be the “skating” part for a more experienced skier) to slip-siding our way up the hill. As the cold wind whipped through our thin layers (thin for when we worked up a sweat, right?), we began to wonder just where, exactly, this trail was ever going to connect to those relatively flat, groomed trails.
Still not quite sure how to connect to the Mohonk trails, we cruised around the golf course, enjoying its more gentle ups and downs. Coming around what would presumably have been the tee at hole 6, we saw the gate house, or entry point, for Mohonk and the bridge over the road that would take us there.
We got a trail map from one of the gate house attendants and plotted our course for the next stage. But we got some disappointing news: the picnic lodge house was closed for the winter. That left us—at 1 p.m.—with an apple to share, having not eaten since breakfast. But we figured we might be able to make it all the way to the Mohonk House if we followed the North Rim Trail. Ignoring growling stomachs, we pushed on. We skied along and made it as far as the North
We made it back across the trails of the grounds, over the bridge, and back through the golf course to the long downhill stretch that we had both been looking forward to. But, as the guy who had rented us our equipment had told us, we would not be able to edge our way to a stop as we were accustomed to. Instead we would have to form a wedge, a pie, to stop. So, as I started down the first of many downward slopes to come, I found myself picking up speed rather quickly, and started to form a wedge. Before long, the inside of my thighs felt like they were about to explode! I managed to come to a stop where the trail split—a black diamond to the left, and a green to the right. Our path back to the parking lot, of course, was to the left. A hill that would have been boring had we been downhill skiing suddenly became a serious challenge.
With not a few tumbles—Ashley attributed hers to that moment when her leg muscles just gave up—we made it down to the base of the trail, across the solid field of black ice which the parking lot had become, and got to the car. Poor Ashley, so happy to be walking again, confidently started to stride down the road and took one last fall, hard to the knee (which still bears a reminder). Blasting the heat, we headed straight back into New Paltz and ordered ourselves lunch. We felt like we were in one of those cartoons where each of us is morphing into a leg of turkey in the other’s eyes as we sat for minutes that went by like years. When the French onion soup finally came, it was the best in the world. Or so our starving, freezing brains thought at that time.
The next morning, it felt like we’d been hit by trucks. Ev-er-y thing hurt. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Did we have the same rush as we get flying down a hill? No. But we saw the landscape in ways we could never do with hiking, or skiing, and it was actually very satisfying to struggle through a new sport together, and feel a sense of achievement when we were able to glide across the snow. Next time, however, we’ll skip the cheap parking lot!