On February 3, 2021

‘All who wander are not lost’

By Merisa Sherman

We were lost.

Well, not quite. I guess it would depend on your definition of lost. If it meant that we had no specific idea where we were or that we weren’t exactly where we thought we would be, then I guess you could say we were lost. But then again, if you defined lost by needing to have someone else find you … then we were most definitely not lost.

We had a general idea of where we were, which side of the mountain we were on (the wrong one) and the direction in which we were heading. What was missing was any idea how long it was going to take to get to our destination and exactly where that destination might be relative to our current location.

Therefore, we decided that we were absolutely not lost but merely exploring a new bit of terrain that was unfamiliar and quite unexpected. With this ridiculous amount of snow, we had decided to create a route from a friend’s backyard to an already known greatness. We were armed with topographical maps, both digital and paper, compass, knowledge of the surrounding area and enough gear to spend the night in the woods — just in case.

But we made a wrong turn. Okay, let’s be honest, I suggested we make our adventure more fun by turning off the skin track. Like I usually do. My favorite thing to do is wander around in the woods with my skis on and discover things. But, in this case, we had a specific destination in mind and I ended up wrapping us around the wrong side of the mountain because I was enjoying my meandering. Which meant our anticipated two hour ski tour got quite a little bit longer.

We traversed.  And we climbed.  For what felt like hours, we skinned around the mountain in an ascending spiral to the point where I felt like my right leg was going to start shrinking while my left one grew. The anxiety level in the group climbed ever so slightly with each false ridgeline and you could start to feel a bit of interpersonal tensions simmering beneath the surface. Because now we were going to have to climb TWO mountains instead of just one.

And then someone fell in the river crossing, breaking the ice, literally and figuratively. Actually, two people fell in the river. But, since no one even got even a little wet, our whole outlook changed. We started laughing. First, it was little giggles squeaking out. But it soon developed into those big full belly laughs that happen when all the stress suddenly evaporates from your system.

As the laughter began, so too, did our reconnection to the forest  The anxiety of “misplacement” had severed our link to the forest, almost blinding us to our surroundings.

So we began to look around and quickly realized: we weren’t the ones lost. These woods had been lost! On our way to something that was great, we had found something even greater.  Whereas every other season, these woods must have sat here alone all winter long, this year they had been rediscovered by a few wandering fools. The pitch, the aspect, the wide spaces between the trees … without even trying, we had found what we were looking for. There was so much stunningly skiable terrain all around us and we had been too committed to our goal that we had failed to notice.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter so much that I had made a “wrong” turn a few hours ago. We had food, water, warm clothes, shelter … and an amount of skiable acreage so ridiculous we wouldn’t have to ski anywhere else all winter long and probably never cross our own tracks. I would like to believe that it was the mountain herself that had led us to this secret lair, pulling us off our single minded course and showing us her hidden greatness.

But I know better than that. The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping — fast. This journey could have gone completely wrong and we might have need our overnight gear and first responder skills. Or worse yet, we could have needed our friends at Killington Search & Rescue to come and find us…

With all this amazing snow, it’s hard not to feel the call of untracked powder and all that never-before-skied terrain hidden in these wonderful Green Mountains. But study the topo, play it safe and always ride the cautious line when you’re deep in the woods … or you’ll soon be sharing that secret stash with the entire rescue team.

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