Mystic Writer

Peeking out to see if there is a real world out there...

Friday, February 06, 2009

A drift

Last night I walked in the late night under a shining half moon. My shadow was blue black against the blue white of the snow, and I paused often to watch the stars and the silhouettes of trees against the sky. I started a wish for delightful things to grace my days, and just as I uttered the first words, a shooting star swooshed across the sky for me to wish upon.

The weather has finally started to warm a little - it was within a few degrees of freezing, which is far warmer than it's been in a long time. There was the first hint of water in the wind, a welcome scent after months of arctic dryness.

Last weekend it was much, much colder. I decided to explore a park in a rural town in western Minnesota. I don't often hike near civilization, but this park sported a waterfall, and it was somewhere I'd never been before, and I was concerned about being too far out in the wild with the temperature so dire, so it appealed. I parked my car and started up a steep hill, and it was only after I was a long way above and away from my car that I realized I'd set off without snowshoes strapped to my pack.

I considered going back to my car, but then rationalized that the effort I'd expend getting my snowshoes would probably exceed the effort saved by having them, and so I resumed my trek. The trail crested the hill, then dropped a long ways down to a wonderful frozen waterfall. I was so jazzed by the beauty I decided I'd follow the trail up the far side and see if it looped back to my car. The trail again climbed for a while, then exited the woods to follow the edge of a cornfield. The trail started to descend, but the snow stayed level, having been pushed by the wind into a long, long drift. Pretty soon the drift was bellybutton level, with a heavy crust of ice just below waist level, making it impossible to push through.

I started breaking the crust with my fists, but soon I was exhausted and my hands were hurting, so I decided I'd try to get up on top of it. That took a lot of effort, and it didn't work. I struck on the notion of trying to spread my weight out and roll my way along, and so I very carefully slid myself onto the snow. I rolled one full time and gained a couple of feet of distance. It wasn't easy as I had to compress the loose snow on top of the crust, so I was always rolling up hill, but I managed another full turn, and just as I was twisting to get on my side for a third, the crust completely collapsed.

I sunk deep down into the snow. My trekking poles got tangled around and under me, the straps still twisted tightly around my wrists. For a few moments I giggled at the notion of me floundering around under the snow, but then I realized I couldn't get a purchase on anything to free myself. My feet were quite a bit higher than my head, so I tried arching and twisting and that only succeeded in burying my head deeper. I strained hard, hoping that something might pull free, and when I could feel my pole pressing against my ankle, I shifted a little and freed a hand.

I torqued and twisted my body, and was finally able to get the pole oriented so the tip was on the ground, and I used that point of solidity to lever the other pole free. With two poles, I was able to get myself up on my feet.

At that point I gave up on fighting the drift and turned around. Later, still hiking through the snow, I realized that throughout my ordeal I had always been within a short distance of all manner of homes. Something about the notion of freezing to death buried in a snowbank in the middle of a town struck me as hilarious, and I kept bursting into laughter all the way back to my car.

I think it's possible this winter is driving me mad :).


  • At 12:58 PM, Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried said…

    Nice to meet you, too, mw!

    I love this story. I'd be laughing about the idea of freezing to death in a snowbank within distance of houses, too. There's definitely some justice in there.

    I DO hope you'll come back and get to know the band more. They are a lot of fun and I'd love to share them with you.

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger Bob-kat said…

    Wow, that makes our 4 or 5 inches of snow seem quite puny! The frozen waterfall looks gorgeous.

    Netchick sent me over for my weekly virtual adventure with you :)

  • At 9:02 PM, Blogger Mike Althouse said…

    That's an incredible story. So close, and yet so far. I absolutely love the frozen waterfall, by the way. Coming to you via iPhone, via tanya.


  • At 11:24 AM, Blogger David said…

    driving you mad, indeed!

    good story and fine picture of a great beast! we only have 8 inches on the ground - but more coming tonight or tomorrow. Not enough to get trapped in, yet.

  • At 1:31 PM, Blogger Carmi said…

    You seriously need to go on walkabouts more often, as this was an amazing journey.

    I find it cool how much adventure can be found so close to home.

    And the waterfall pic? Frame it. Stunning, as usual.

  • At 3:37 PM, Blogger Bob-kat said…

    Netchick sent me back but I'm not complaining. You always write so well about your treks outdoors. I must admit that I was chuckling along with you at the idea of being stuck in a snow drift so close to habitation. It reminds me a bit of having adventures at the bottom of my garden as a child for some reason :)

  • At 6:53 PM, Blogger David said…

    here from Netchick - cold water fall
    good story telling

  • At 1:41 AM, Blogger Snaggle Tooth said…

    That actually sounds a bit frightening, like being a turtle turned over on it's shell, only freezing cold! How embarrassing would it be calling "Hello? Help anybody hear me?"
    Good thing at least you remembered the poles!

    Beautiful Deer pic. I saw a young buck near the ice cream spot on the way home from work the other night. Dark n no cam, so I just openned the window n talked to him. Maybe he won't think all people want to eat him...

  • At 2:44 PM, Anonymous colleen said…

    That was a close call that I don't want to read about in the news and stark contrast from my most recent post, which is about sunbathing (short lived). I came by way of Netchick.

  • At 5:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    An amazing story I say. But I think I would have a similar reaction to yours about the idea of freezing to death and everything.

  • At 9:03 PM, Blogger David said…

    get thee on a plane to groovy LA and come see what winter is like in the southwest.


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