After an hour, we began to feel sluggish, a little bored and a little cold. The first mile was announced. There were five more to go – five more miles of riding over each other’s skis and warming my fingers (they were tingling slightly.) The time moved as sluggishly as we did and when the second hour was nearing, we reached the second mile. This time some of us audibly groaned.
Many of us not only groaned but muttered about bathroom needs, complaining about the gradual meandering of our path and the creeping cold. We passed along pretty rivers, peeking through holes in snow-clothed ice, rushing dark waters. We passed along steep bluffs, crowded with trees. We passed along down sudden hills that veered off and around and then lay hidden behind the curl of trees.
There was no hint of cold in my fingers now, which, despite the thin gloves I wore, felt like canvas and I could barely feel them. I resorted simply to not speaking and to keep moving, feeling my spirits tear themselves to shame (far more than merely dampened.) Every minute felt like a tiny forever. There was an annoyingly slow pattern that we’d developed in waiting for the stragglers, who fell too often, that involved skiing for only a half-mile or so – stop. Ski. Stop. Wait. Ski. I was miserable, along with a few others, but there was no relief, but the promise that somewhere forward, there was an “out.”
Thus, the hours and the miles passed. It would never end. There was a feel of hopelessness about us, me in particular, as we traveled onward. I had long since stopped using my poles and had them cradled in the crook of my elbow, staring soullessly at the end of the skis before me.
Ironically, the country we were passing through was beautiful and magical. The forest we passed through was pristine and everything was young and fresh. Unfortunately, at the time, I knew nothing, but the cold in my fingers and the cold that began to sneak into the tips of my toes.
The magnificence of the words “one more mile” fell upon my ears before their meaning reached me and when that meaning did come, the heaviness was lifted and the cold temporarily fled. I began to breathe again and began to use my poles again, pushing forward with a renewed energy. I sang stupid songs with Daks down, down across the last of the natural fields and the last of the half-frozen streams, desperate. I said to no one particular that “this will be something we’ll remember as awesome and laugh at…but now? No.” When the house (we had traveled in a full circle) appeared, blurred behind the stretching trees, I closed my ice-laden eyelids and breathed a sigh of triumph.