the not-so-great outdoors

(That’s my road – what a change with just a few hour’s time!)

Pay no attention to the name of this article. The fault, dear Brutus, is not our grand environment but in our poorly fitting gear and under-preparation that we are underlings.

Today’s x-country adventure was a reminder that it’s best to be careful this time of the year in Vermont even when the skies are blue, the temps are above freezing and and everything seems perfect for outdoor fun.

The adventure began about a half mile from home, as I skiid to the top of my road and took off on the trail up there. I often walk it in the summer and snowshoe or ski it in the winter, occasionally encountering friends and neigbors from the area along the way. It’s a fairly straightforward path (no surprises) leading to the Beane Trail, which leads in turn to the Long Trail along the spine of the Green Mountains.

Today I was trying out a pair of boots I’d been given – my size, but more snug with heavy socks than they should have been. I thought it would be OK. I misjudged that situation.

At around the half mile mark I stopped along the trail to take off my right sock hoping it would  help the boot fit better. It did for a little while. Then the too-loose boot started rubbing. Great.

When a big blister seemed imminent on that heel I decided to call it and just head back home. Except I could no longer keep my foot in the boot with that nasty blister. So I skiid along, right foot on tip-toe with the heel out of the boot. In other words – unable to control that ski at all to any useful degree. That put most of the onus on my left leg to keep me upright and moving along. Clumsy and stressful, to say the least.

The trail never seemed so long and unfamiliar as it did today.

I fell a few times off the side of it and had to dig myself out of waist-deep snow to get back on the trail. At one point I lost a glove in the snow and the binding on my left ski popped out repeatedly with the stress of carrying most of my weight. The right heel continued to burn, mean and raw now as the skin rubbed off the nickel-sized blister and the exposed red skin beneath kept getting covered in snow. I was thirsty – the water bottle I had brought was crushed in one of the falls.

After a while, moving slow, I finally returned to the top of the trail where it meets my road. What a relief. But if skiing slowly on one ski was difficult in deep snow – it sure wouldn’t be any better fast on the slippery, snow-packed road down to my house. So I took off the skis and walked home, the whole way with my right foot still only partially in the too-tight ski boot.

Not the best day outside.

Still glad I did it though. And I made it back before the afternoon’s winter storm warning was realized. Within a couple of hours of my return to the house, the crystal blue skies turned thick gray and the snow started falling. There are already two new inches on the windowsills.

I’ll give it a week. Then I’ll trade in my boots somewhere, get better ones, and head out again.

(“Cross-country skiing is easier, if you live in a small country.” – Garrison Keillor)

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