Heavy Lifting


It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Working for a living, and not having internet in the home are my excuses. The truth is, on most of the last 10 days or so, I have been in a cafe and online.  It’s just that the only writing I did was on my novel, and I did precious little of that. If I’m lucky, I’ll reach the halfway mark of the rewrite this month.  Now that I have reached the realization that there will probably be a couple of months of edits before resubmission to the publisher, I am looking at next spring for that.

Mt. Lemmon, in the Catalinas, just north of Tucson has the southernmost ski area in the United States.  Some years it doesn’t even open for lack of snow.  Pictured above is one of the lifts. I think it’s the “baby” lift for kids and amateurs.

I looked up the mountain so I could post its accurate elevation.  I usually just say 10,000′.  Wikipedia has two elevations right on the first page, 9151′ and 9179′. On the right side of the Google search page is a box which also has two elevations, 9157′ and 9159′.  I guess I’ll stick to almost 10,000′.  Suffice to say, driving from downtown Tucson to the top of the mountain takes about an hour and a half, and feels like driving to Canada, 20 degrees cooler and pine trees everywhere. I was supposed to go camping up there last weekend, but work got in the way.  I drove up on Sunday morning and spent a little time with the leftovers of the group which had camped.  Then I drove to the summit, planning to take a short hike on the loop trail up there. I had forgotten it was the weekend.  Usually I go up on a weekday.  Tucson is pushing towards a population of a million slowly roasting humans, and on the weekends, those who are able drive the hour and a half to Canada equivalent.  Not only was the parking lot full at the trailhead, but the lower parking lot was as well, and both sides of the road in between.  I could have parked a half a mile away and walked up to the trailhead, but then I would have been hanging out with all the people brought by those cars. So I went to the restaurant at the ski area, had breakfast, and took this photo. I have the next few days off, so I’ll try to get up there and take some photos midweek.

Back to skiing (what other word has two consecutive “i’s” ? My Scrabble brain says radii and genii, but I’m looking for something in everyday parlance.  Anyone?) I went to a somewhat exclusive high school in Vermont, thanks to a legacy scholarship and the frugality of my parents.  The proximity of numerous snow covered peaks with handy cable driven chairs to ferry people up to the top, combined with the inflated income level of most of my fellow students led to a lot of skiing.  At the time, a budget downhill ensemble of skis, boots, and poles ran about $250.  The same thing if you chose cross country instead was $40. No brainer for me.  It didn’t hurt that John Caldwell, my math teacher, was also an Olympic cross country ski coach.  His son, one of my classmates, was the first American to win a silver medal in the sport.  The more snow there was, the less homework Johnny gave us.  Putney School also sported some of the best cross country trails in the north east, immaculately groomed.  A 10K loop through the woods was a regular activity for me.  I miss that as much as anything from those days.  If I had stayed and continued with those 10K treks, I’d be in a lot better shape than I am now.  XC skiing is rivaled only by swimming as a total body workout.

There were yearly trips to Stowe, Vermont to ski.  Most students went to the slopes and rode the little chairs up to the top so they could race down, over and over.  I and a few others went to Trapp Family Lodge (yes, Sound Of Music) for cross country on trails almost as good as we had at the school.  One year, I decided I was going to ride the chair to the top and ski down on my cross country skis.  I was well aware that I would literally kill myself on most of the trails, but there was a long one called the Toll Road, which wasn’t as steep, and I figured if I stayed off to the side and snowplowed a LOT, I could manage it.  So, to the bemused looks of the lift operators and other skiers, I sat my skinny teenage ass on one of the lift chairs and rode up.  About 3/4 of the way to the top, I realized what a mistake I had made.  It was freezing rain, and the entire top of the mountain was a sheet of ice.  This would be manageable on downhill skis with nice sharp edges, but I was sporting 2″ wide wooden planks with the wrong wax on them. I just barely managed to stay upright when I got off the lift, long enough to sheepishly cajole the operator into letting me ride it back down again.

Life has been a long series of grand plans gone wrong.  My father is famous for listening to my latest and responding with “I will monitor all events.” The thing is, every grand plan put me on a path, and every one of those paths took me somewhere new. I may not have skiied down that mountain, but I did get to the top of it. I still have grand plans, even in my 61st year.  Why not? That’s how you find the interesting paths and the spectacular views. I will say that the nature of my grand schemes has changed. These days they are less about achievement and advancement, and more about exploration for its own sake.  That means I can’t go wrong.  As the late, great George Harrison said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”  See you on the road.