Went for a hike today. Struggled with the camera. Batteries died, lens flare, lost a lens cap. Didn’t have the mojo today. Still… felt good to be outside.
I honestly think I could have won medals in the downhill. Maybe not gold, but I’d definitely have been on the podium. When it comes to skiing, I am a Norse god. I am the very definition of fluid, harmony, and grace in motion. That is, as long as I’m on a groomed run named after either a bunny or a Disney character. And, if you squint and ignore the 12 year olds flying past me. I am the original rock star of the groomed intermediate trails.
If you’ve ever hit the slopes you recognize that coolness factor some people exude. Those people who have the right gear, not too flashy, simple and comfortable looking. They never look cold or too hot, smothered in 20 layers of Walmart fleece. They never slip while slogging through an icy parking lot in ill-fitting boots. They ski fast and with a simple fluidity, skis close together, with an easy rhythm in any terrain. You hear them talking about runs you’ve never heard of, backcountry excursions, and levels of vertical that are vertigo inducing.
I am not one of those people. My gear never really works. My skis are of an “old school” vintage. In the cold my nose runs with a disturbing volume. I am either cold or sweating like I just ran a marathon. My legs lack the strength to go down a long run in one shot. I wear ill-fitting goggles I stole from my wife. My gloves are from Costco and my jacket was manufactured before the current crop of high schoolers were born. My poles are so old I honestly don’t remember where I got them. They may be rentals that never got returned.
When faced with terrain that tips more towards the vertical, my fluid, carving turns instantly become an awkward snow plow. Bumps and moguls? Only if you want to see a grown man cry. Deep powder? I have lost skis and spent thirty minutes trying to extricate myself from deep holes, only to repeat it fifty yards further down. Chairlifts? Yes, I have fallen off. I have run into trees, trail markers, other skiers, and a chairlift. I have fallen on flat cat tracks, in front of the lodge, in the parking lot, and while putting my skis on.
Why would I continue to subject myself to such abuse? Because I love the sport. I plan on skiing until the doctors tell me I can no longer continue for fear of permanent damage to my ego. Or until it becomes a risk to my fledgling mountain bike racing career.
I’ve recently taken a more serious interest in fly fishing. There’s something magical about drifting a fly past a beautiful trout and watching him come up out of his hiding place to grab the bug. I should be clear – I’m watching others do this. What I do is buy a bunch of expensive crap and stand in the river looking clueless. And watch for snakes. Trust me, if I mange to catch a fish it’s purely an accident. I’m usually just as surprised as the trout.
Casting a fly rod reminds of why I gave up golf. Every once in a while I manage to cast and get my fly generally in the direction I intended. Just like those few, random, great shots in golf, one is usually enough to keep my interest. Unfortunately most of time I’m tangled up hopelessly in about fifty feet of line, leader, tippet, midges, indicators, and a collection of branches I’ve managed to snag. When I’m casting I need one of those yellow “Stay Clear, Danger!” lines like you see at airports painted in a hundred foot diameter circle around me.
I must admit that the gear is kinda cool. Seriously, how often can you get away with wearing a vest of any sort? Let alone a vest decorated with about twenty pounds of spools, forceps, nippers, clippers, range finders, nets, and voodoo charms. I don’t have a vest yet. The super cool fishing vest implies that you know what you’re doing. I don’t. I live in mortal fear that I’d be wearing my bad-ass fishing vest and someone would ask me a question. “So, are you using a number 3 flower dropper or a burrowing fox with a flux capacitor?” I’d stammer and probably pee in my waders if that happened. Which makes for a long drive home, trust me.
As much as I’ve enjoyed standing in freezing water and dropping expensive gear in the river, it has been a bit depressing. As I’ve worked to perfect tying one of the approximately two hundred and thirty four knots you need to know, I discovered a sad fact. I’ve reached the age at which I can no longer see well enough to thread the damn invisible line in those ridiculously small holes in the hooks. I’ve had to purchase a pair of magnifying glasses to see what I’m doing. On the bright side, I can now read the warning label on a bottle of Advil. Which is needed to numb the pain of tearing half my earlobe off while casting. Hmm… time to go watch “A River Runs Through It and pretend I understand the magic of fly fishing.