Thursday, October 18, 2012

Winter approaches

I like to live in a place with four seasons. I find this a refreshing experience after living for 45 years in the UK where there were only 3 - winter, rain and fog. And while summer, and the discovery that the sun isn't some object too embarrassed by its exposure to full view that it constantly scurries for cover behind rain clouds, is extremely pleasant, I really enjoy Fall and the approach of winter. In truth, I actually prefer Fall to Winter, but I realize it's hard to have one without the other.

I like visiting San Diego, but I couldn't live there. The sheer monotony of 70 degree temperatures and constant sunshine would wear me down. I need winter to shiver through in order to truly appreciate the warmth of summer. Yes, relativity at its finest, but that's just how I am.

These last few weeks in Colorado give every suggestion that the mild winter of last year might not be a pattern for this year. We've had no snow in the foothills yet, but the high mountains have an early covering, and although temperatures are set to rise again over the next few weeks, it is doubtful this high level snow is going to disappear. Warmth at lower elevations, beautiful fall colors, snow on the high peaks and brilliant blue skies is very difficult to beat. It is only a matter of time before trips to the high mountains will be impossible and the trailheads will be inaccessible. I intend to enjoy them for as long as I can and then look forward to those cold and frosty runs on the plains.

But the weather in the Indian Peaks Wilderness can sometimes be unpredictable. Last year, in the early part of winter we were experiencing a 70 degree day in Boulder and I headed to Brainard Lake with Livvy to complete a 6 mile circuit from the Red Rocks trailhead. This involved jogging along the approach road (closed to vehicles in winter).
My breath was taken away by the cold as we left the parking lot. It was negative 11 degrees with a 45 mph mean wind speed. As we trotted up the road and sidestepped huge snow drifts, the wind whipped up ice particles and spindrift and battered us from all angles. It was like falling asleep in Hawaii and waking up in Antarctica, the contrast was so extreme. Of course, I was appropriately dressed in shorts although I remembered my rain jacket, hat and gloves.

But as brutal as it was in those appalling conditions, there was no other place I would have rather been at that time.
We were fortunate that, on some sections, the trees provided a little shelter and we were able to run along quite quickly, but we were following only cross-country ski tracks and snow shoe prints and when we eventually caught and passed their owners, we drew some strange stares. I can only imagine these surprised individuals going home and telling their stories over the evening dinner table about this idiot and his dog running in shorts in a blizzard. I would have signed my autograph had I remembered a pen.
I've always been attracted to more extreme conditions. It's more than just a test of self - it's certainly not a test of equipment because I rarely bring any - but there is something deeply satisfying at being exposed to such extreme environmental challenge and surviving...even enjoying it. Given the choice between an easy option and a hard option I've never even considered the choice a real one. A gentle slope or a steep one? An easy climb or a hard climb? These are decisions that take so little processing power. That's why Brainard Lake in a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures makes so much sense.

Livvy loves running in the snow, although I am always concerned to check her paw pads for cuts or abrasions on the ice. I also have to be careful she doesn't stand for too long and lose body heat. But Borzoi were bred in Russia. They are an extremely hardy breed, and this makes running with them in winter so enjoyable. Even if sometimes even Livvy has her doubts....

Winter...just around the corner, and I can't wait.

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