The castle…

Sent from Mark and Angie’s iPad.


The Great Ski Trip – 2013

Formerly known as the Great Kaylee Ski Trip – the name has been changed to reflect the fact that we all went.

Videos are available Here

First of all, being flatlanders from the south, the idea of driving through snow did not have its appeal. Sliding down it on two sticks, yes; sliding on it on four rubber wheels, no. The trip had been postponed twice due to terrible snowstorms and illness. It was getting to be “ski or bust” time in the south. Around here, you go betwene Martin Luther King day, and President’s Day, or risk not going at all. A sudden warming thanks in part to that bastard Punxsutawney Phil, and you’re staring at a muddy hill instead of a ski slope. It almost happened last year. 2012 was the year without a winter.

However, this year we were treated to a rare event. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but we had snow. Yes, Snow in the midlands of South Carolina. It happened to coincide with our leaving to go to West Virginia, and it snowed on and off the entire trip.

DSCN1503 (Medium)The first sign of snow was barely fifteen miles from the house, at a gas station.

DSCN1508 (Medium)By the time we were close to Lancaster, SC some yards were covered. I was hoping the county’s salt truck was working.

DSCN1509 (Medium)But – as we approached Virginia it was clear the snowy places were localized. Some had a lot of snow, while down the road a few miles there was nothing.

DSCN1512 (Medium)I try and get a picture of this house every year, just a few miles south of the NC/VA border on I-77. My daughter took a great picture of it on her first trip, purely by random chance. She took 300 blurry pictures, but this house turned out great.

DSCN1516 (Medium)Getting close to West Virginia, the landscape got whiter, and taller.

DSCN1518 (Medium)Very imposing ridge… with SNOW! This made me very hopeful, as of course, last year there was no snow anywhere. Take that, global warming believers!

DSCN1519 (Medium)Our hotel. It’s 12 degrees, and there’s 2-3 inches of snow on stuff. Oh yeah, and I have to drive 20 miles to the ski place.

DSCN1521 (Medium)We made it just fine, and after sending Kaylee and Angie off to Ski School, I tried to remember how to turn left, right, and get on the chair lift.

DSCN1522 (Medium)The Chair Lift. Not for the faint of heart.

DSCN1524 (Medium)Kaylee enjoyed her lesson. She’s the one in the porcupine pink spike hat.

DSCN1525 (Medium)I wouldn’t say Angie “enjoyed” her lesson. There were some technical difficulties, and the boots hurt her shins a lot.

DSCN1528 (Medium)And the people back home were in awe over their two inches of snow. Hahahaha. DSCN1532 (Medium)Snow Tubing was a new experience for all of us this year. It was a lot of fun, despite Kaylee thinking it was going to be boring and suck. We all took several turns down the slope.

DSCN1533 (Medium)Angie is ready for her tubing ride.

DSCN1534 (Medium)Kaylee wrestles her tube into position.

All in all it was a great way to spend a weekend. It amazes me how fast you can get up the interstate, whereas all the damn back roads I take hiking are a lot closer, yet take just as long to drive. Angie decided that 18 years was not quite enough time between getting on Skis, while tubing was fun. Kaylee didn’t do quite as well this year, due to her sudden dependance on poles. The snow was also “too fresh”. Last year it has been pounded into a flat, even surface. This snow was so new, and our rental skis not in great shape, that we found it hard to slide on some surfaces. In fact, Angie was sent back to the rental shop for a re-waxing. It didn’t really help, however.

I did recall this from my youth, however, and it was a true today as it was then. Sliding down a hill at 20 miles per hour on anything is brutal-ass cold when it is below twenty degrees outside, and snow is blowing around.

Life – it’s what happens when you are making other plans.

A friend of mine said this once (on the evil entity known as facebook), but of course she was not the first to utter such a cliche’. But it is true. The universe doesn’t give a crap about your petty interests, wants, needs or desires. Bad stuff will happen to good people, and no good deed will go unpunished.

Why am I waxing eloquence here? Someone I know became ill recently, and although she is going to have some trying times, she is very likely to recover with no ill effects, so they say. I’m reminded a bit of the movie “Up”. For those of you without little kids, it is about a couple who always wants to move to a faraway place and explore. They do their best to save money, but something always happens, and they dig into their adventure funds and wind up living in the same little house in the same town their entire lives. That’s how it goes.

I haven’t done much in the way of hiking or having grand adventures of my own in a while. Life happens. Tires go flat, vacation plans change, work intrudes, and the weather decides not to cooperate. 4 inches of snow is good on a ski slope, but not on I-77 when you are trying to GET to the ski slope, or on Table Rock when you would like to walk up it.

I’m thankful for my daughter having been born in late January. I couldn’t have planned it better. Well, I guess I could have, February 7th would have worked out even better, but it wasn’t like we subtracted nine months from the calendar and said “Hey, a late January birth would be cool… turn on Cinemax and take your pants off.” But her January birth has saved me from some of the worst events any parent can face. I’m not talking about recorder recitals or kindergarten graduations, those are a day at the beach compared to Children’s Birthday Parties.

I’m not sure which is worse, hosting a child’s party, or having to attend one. At least if you are just an attendee, all you have to do is sit around with a bunch of people you’d rather not talk to, watch them appraising the host’s efforts, estimate how much the whole event costs, and hope your kid doesn’t catch hepatitis or some kind of fungus from the ball pit.

Most of my attendances were at this scary place called the Play Zone. It was darkly lit, contained a maze of industrial vinyl-padding-on-plywood play areas, a substandard half-filled ball pit, and threadbare industrial carpet complete with poorly rendered murals of cartoon characters and superheros on the walls. And the smell – a combination of sweat and feet and mold. But in our small town there’s no where else really to hold a party, so most of the people use it, at least those not gracious enough to invite twenty strange kids to their house to wreck the furniture, stain the carpet, and throw up on the cat.

A few years back, I went on a ski trip with a friend of mine. It was a scary event on its own (you’ll have to read deep in the history of this thing to dig that one out), but the end result of the trip was my kid wanted to go skiing. So the next year I took her with me, in lieu of a hosting party. It was birthday present and party all wrapped up in one, and cost about the same. A funny thing happens when you don’t host birthday parties…

The overachieving moms who host THEIR kid’s parties don’t seem to like you going out of the loop and breaking the party chain. After all, how can they one-up you and talk about you behind your back, if you don’t tow the Party Line? So, if you don’t host a party, you don’t get invited to many, either. Of course, that’s fine with me… I’d rather go skiing, and evidently my kid would, too, despite missing out on substantial opportunities for personal enrichment. Or, maybe it’s just that after a certain age, you don’t have to go to everyone’s party like you do in the first grade. I keep waiting for the forced give-everyone-a-valentine-in-class thing to end as well, but evidently that tradition carries on at least until the fifth grade.

So, for the last three weekends, we’ve plannedĀ  to go skiing but Life has made other plans. Two snowstorms later, we are staring down the double-barrels of summer, while mother nature laughs and loads her shotgun, preparing a full-on assault. Hopefully soon we can get the belated birthday/ski trip taken care of, before summer hits us in the face and the last vestiges of winter are melted into the gutter. I have one more good cold-weather hike to plan before the end of the month, and then it’s all out Appalachian Trail preparation time.

Things to do before the Great Spring Break Appalachian Hike:

1. Decide Where the F**K I’m going. I had some plans, but they have changed (damn you Life!), so now I’m looking at new places. Why not start at the start? Springer Mountain to Neel Gap is only 30 miles…That’s three hiking days, home with half the break left to lounge around and ignore the yard work.

2. Tell the people who are supposed to go with me that plans have changed. We were leaving from Columbia as a group, now, not so much. They will have to meet me in Georgia.

3. Hope Life doesn’t interfere. For all the plans, hopes and dreams that are out there and effort put into stuff, Life has a way of giving you the shaft fast and hard without lube. While March 31 would be a great time to be standing on the top of Springer, looking out towards Blood Mountain, who knows what will really happen between now and then? Some say “God knows”, but I prefer to think even He likes the occasional surprise. What fun would there be in knowing everything all the time?

4. Endeavor to be less of a fat lazy slob. For a while my doctor was happy, I was happy, and pants were loose. Then the evil season came upon us, and there was darkness and much food and big sweaters. Turkey and ham and cakes were consumed, and pants became tight and the backpack was left forgotten in the corner. So, I have to take up my full-pack Sunday walks, and face the indignities of the treadmill, or I’m not going to make it from the car to the trail shuttle with my pack on, much less thirty miles through the back woods.