CO – San Juan NF – It’s a Slippery Slope

I hadn’t felt so much uncertainty and anxiety since finding myself in a similar situation a couple years previous when I was invited to join a group hike to Mt Whitney. I’d mulled this ski-to-cabin opportunity while spending time hiking with friends in Utah. As many know by now, I’m an opportunist and not shy about trying new things.

Part of my trepidation was from less-than-fun, cross-country skiing experiences several decades previous. After that I stuck with downhill skiing and snowshoeing . . . well except for that time I attempted snowboarding. New technology has tempted me to try backcountry skiing; maybe the same would be true for cross country. My friends were supportive and knew my lack of skills. They assured me my youth would help me keep pace, afterall they’re all in their 70’s. Ha, I knew better as I’d snowshoed with them and they are all in fantastic shape with years more experience than me. Meet Janet, Will, Travis and Greta, the furry four-legged friend. 

The spring thaw was in progress which meant carrying our ski equipment a couple miles. We’d be staying at Travis’ cabin but I needed to bring all my backpacking gear except tent and cookware, plus assigned meals. My friends meanwhile were lucky to have their overnight stuff stored at the cabin. 

We’d be playing in the foothills north of Mancos. 

Part 1 – Walking. Now this I can do!

Views of the La Plata Mountains. 

Part 2 – Skiing. My notes: “It felt like learning to roller skate in a rink. I was very tight and awkward, jerky. Fell about 5 times. Hard to get up. Had to remove pack each time. Reminded me of learning to snowboard.”

Part 3 – Cabin Life. It was about a 7-mile ski to the cabin. I survived! The next morning I got up early to capture sunrise colors and overnight snowfall. 

Cute outhouse award. 

Pretty tree and sky award. 

Cotton candy sunsets.

Part 4 – Practice, Practice, Practice. I had a couple days to work on my skills. Journal notes from first practice day: “Fresh powder made for more forgiving skiing. I did better and only fell once. Lots of herky, jerky movements. Takes lots of focus which makes me prefer snowshoeing.” Journal notes from second practice day: “Let’s see if today skiing wins over snowshoeing. No fresh snow. Slow snow and big clear cuts made for more enjoyable skiing for newbie, but snowshoeing and downhill skiing still win.” 

Part 5 – Have my skills improved? We left the cabin under icy conditions. I was grateful for the practice I’d had the previous couple days including a bit with ice, as well as all my years of downhill skiing. My journal notes: “Fell a couple times. Icy in morning and in shade. Definitely getting better but still not enjoyable. Still feel klutzy. Requires immense concentration. On the downhill today I was grateful for my beginning ski days where I learned the snowplow technique.” 

Any regrets? Absolutely NOT! I was proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone. Learning new skills is good for the mind and body. I know now if I lived in an area like Durango or Boulder I’d embrace cross-country skiing and become proficient like my friends. I had to chuckle at my final journal note, “The old folks went out tonight while I’m in bed.” Thank you again Janet, Will, Travis and Greta for the invite, your patience, guidance and encouragement, and for sharing your special place in the woods. It was a memory maker trip with great food, conversation, and accomplishments. I want to be OLD like YOU when I grow up!

Mother Nature decided I needed to spend a couple more days in Durango before continuing my travels. 

There are miles and miles of trails around Durango. Janet and I walked each day. One of the things I love about Janet is her passion to rid trails and her community of litter. She was recently featured in the Durango Herald (link); the story was picked up by other state and national sources. Her can-do attitude is infectious. It’s easy to carry a plastic bag on your hikes  to cart out a little something. 

I was practicing patience.

Adventure Dates:

  • March 27-30, 2017

Links:

3 thoughts on “CO – San Juan NF – It’s a Slippery Slope

  1. Looks like a wonderful trip! Beautiful area! I think XC skiing is Much more fun than snowshoeing (bummed most of my friends only snowshoe or track ski) altho having a heavy pack makes it easier to fall. Sounds like you did pretty well. And yup, more experience makes it easier and more fun.

    • My initial experience was in lumpy bumpy crazy terrain in the Lassen area years and years ago. Equipment was old style; improvements have made a difference and the road make for much nicer surface.

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