Friday, August 31, 2007

Birthday Turns

It is a beautiful morning when I rise from my bed at 5 am. I gather my snowboarding gear, which I inventoried the night before, and pack the car for a trip to the mountain. I have arranged to be absent from work today, and instead I spend the early morning hours driving to Mt. Hood's Timberline Lodge, where I lace my boots and don my helmet - and then proceed to the Magic Mile.

This time of year, the lifties instruct folks to carry their gear until they reach the Palmer lift - there is no longer enough snow to maintain a run back to the Mile. The ride up is smooth, and there are only a few skiers and boarders on the hill - this is the calm before the storm of Labor Day weekend. I strap in at the top and enjoy a few hours of the joy of summer snow riding. The conditions are actually very good for late August, and I decide to continue past the midway loading station, down to the bottom of the Palmer run. With such a light turnout today, the grooves of corduroy left by the groomers are still plainly visible across the run to the bottom. I turn laps, do some switch riding and practice my turns, just enjoying the cloud cover and the view - there is a small cloud over the mountain, keeping the sun at bay, while the view is unimpeded across the wide expanse of Oregon.

Eventually I realize that lunchtime is coming soon, so I consider my options, and elect to ride as far as the snow will allow, and then hike to the car. I make the last run count, and carve smooth turns from the top of Palmer, past the midway station, and then past the Palmer loading ramp - I have committed to the hike out at this point, and I continue down the trail. There are only two other sets of tracks on this run - probably ski patrol. The run gets progressively narrower, with more and more rocks poking through, and the canyon walls reaching ever closer together.

Perhaps a quarter mile from the lodge, with the run becoming a mass of rocks with mere patches of melting snow, there stood a lone stop sign in the center of the run. It was hardly necessary, as beyond the sign, the snow quickly gave way to hard, dry rocks. I did as the sign instructed, and removed my board. This is one birthday tradition that I hope to be able to continue for some time.

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