The night before we left we attended the services, which started once upon at time at midnight before people either got old or had kids and had since been moved to ten. There was afterward, a reception with high-octane eggnog-I stuck with Sri Lankan beer. Sabina took this opportunity to tell some of our neighbors who didn't already know about our upcoming trip. Even going as far as to quote bastardized football mantras;
"Twelve! Twenty-six! Fifty! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hike!"
I have resolved she perhaps never needs to have any of that high-octane eggnog ever again...
The service and our yearly pilgrimage to the Great Stupa our way of getting holy. At least in the institutional human construct. The older I get, I see it as more contrived and otherwise fake. A dog and pony show. It's when I get to walking, out in the bush, that I find the shit gets real.
The air was crisp and clean when we arrived at the trailhead. There was fresh snow and turquoise blue sky. Perfect for snowshoeing the two miles up a jeep road to our destination.
Although I can move at a good clip on my long shanks, I learned quickly, carrying our liquid; four and half liters of water, a bottle of wine, four twelve ounce cans of beer, and a three-hundred seventy-five milliliter bottle of spiced rum-gotta be prepared-that there's no hurry. A mile an hour is fine. I took the framepack's discipline-an estimated thirty pounds of weight total-in stride. It could be seen as training for a summer backpacking walkabout.
It took two hours to reach the cabin, whereupon we met some of our eighteen new friends, most of whom were skiers, although there were a couple of fellow snowshoers. We found a couple of beds, opened two of the beers, and settled in. There is something just so very right about arriving somewhere that has books both by and about Edward Abbey.
This is one of the more family-friendly huts and there were children. Whilst loud when playing, they weren't horrifically obnoxious. One was just fascinated with my trinkets.
"You have rings and bracelets and earrings and a nose ring," she observed.
"Yeh, and tattoos too," I said, pulling up a sleeve to show some ink. "Terrifying, ain't it?"
"My goal in life is to play as much as possible," one of our cabin-mates quipped when asked what he did.
A wise philosophy to have, and one I embrace as well. I like to be entertained. Part of it I could say is purely environmental; we live somewhere that playing outside is hardly kid's stuff or an occasional weekend hobby, it's a lifestyle choice. Nay, a sacrament.
For the duration of our stay, Sabina's name was birthday girl, and exhortations of merry Christmas were replaced with happy birthday. This was kind of cool. I suppose after you survive a half century you most assuredly earn that.
We slept fairly well for being in a strange place with well-worn pillows. Bacon, eggs, and mashed potatoes take on a special divinity when you're in the outback that language cannot properly describe. With the sun out and the air still at eleven-thousand two-hundred sixty-four feet, twenty above doesn't feel bad at all. I didn't bother with a shell when we set out.
One hour down. It was more the grade than the shedding of three-quarters of our liquid weight. We discussed returning to the cabin in summer to check it out in another season, when we'd deal with mountain bikers, jeepers, and fellow walkers. Both of us were beaming from the adventure.
"We did it!" The birthday girl exclaimed. "And we didn't get mauled by mountain goats!"
"I only saw one cougar up there," I said with a smirk.
"Oh, fuck off," she said somewhat flippantly, although I cannot fathom why. It wasn't like I was going to start humming Mrs Robinson to her. At least not straight away.