Yesterday morning, I knocked on Ben’s door at about 9:00. I heard a muffled shuffling noise and a faint, despairing “oh no!” before he opened the door and let me in. He knew I was planning on coming, and was hoping I wouldn’t. The agenda: a ten-mile hike around Big Lake.
New snow had fallen in the night, but it wasn’t enough to break out the skis again. Those have been retired since the first heavy snow melted into a sheet of treacherous ice. Gingerly was a fan-favorite vocabulary word last week. P does an awesome impression of someone slipping on the ice for vocab-charades. We put on long johns, packed snacks and water, borrowed a GPS and a tagalong dog from Jake and Shannon, and set out, leaving a trail of boot prints in the fresh powder.The snow masked the mountain in the distance, but it softened everything, muffling the sound of our steps in a heavy white scarf, and it covered the world with a fresh canvas for the little squirrels and hares and mice to fingerpaint on. It also hid a sheet of ice, left over from the last snow, under a slippery layer of deceptively crisp-looking new snow. I fell in an ever-more-balletic progression of styles. Once, I fell flat on my ass like a four year old. Another time, I wiped out, stood up, and wiped out again (Ben was laughing so hard he nearly keeled over too). Another time my right leg slipped out from under me and my left leg lifted in an elegant high kick as I went down. Ben was falling too, though not as extravagantly as I was, and even Angel (the dog) faceplanted a couple of times. I’ve got black and blue bruises all over my body, but I had a blast.We met a fella from the village at this crossroads, and he sent us down the middle road, which, after a time, brought us to the shore of the lake. We didn’t dare try the ice, but there’s enough out there to support the snow, and the sky and the ground and the whole world looked like a blank page.
We walked on, exploring old four-wheeler trails along the shore until we came to a scrubby, marshy area at the north end of the lake. Here, it was safest to skate, plowing up an inch or two of snow in front of our boots with each step. We walked on ice dotted with grass clumps for at least an hour, picking our way through the low brush and scrubby trees, before we came to a trail on mostly high, dry ground again.
After about five hours, we made it to the landing at Big Lake. At some point since the last time we were there, some knucklehead took a shotgun and blew a hole clear through the outhouse. When he saw it, Ben exclaimed “well now it’s useless!” which made me laugh so hard I fell one more time.