Thursday, January 29, 2009
It's really obvious I need to write about something fun. After a long series of serious posts about this and that and technical stuff and automotive stuff, well...let's just say some levity is in order.
So, given that it's winter and even the southern states are taking a beating, well, let's first accept the fact that we can't do anything about the weather, and in that acceptance, we can find the fun that it is.
I'm an avid skier, although I can't afford it these days, and I've never been out West, sadly. :-(
But I have great memories, and they go back to playing in the snow as a child. And let's face it...our "horror stories" are the best to tell. Like the one about the flood that happened while we were sledding in a dangerous area.
There's another I don't think I've written about, though.
After my family moved to Minnesota, we didn't get to do a lot of sledding, because, suddenly, we lived In Town. (That's how we thought of it, capitalized like a title).
In Town, there were SOME hills...but they were pathetic. Not worth our time. They were bumps and it wasn't worth dragging a toboggan or sled or carrying it over pavement to get to six-foot (in length) "hill" that bordered a soccer field.
The good thing was, though, that our uncle was a Park Ranger, and because they lived out at the local State Park, they also had access to great winter recreation...including the simplicity of sledding.
I was in maybe 9th grade (so about 14 or so) when we went out to Scrambler Hill on a dark winter evening under a full moon.
We had to snowmobile to get there as it wasn't a hill accessable by driving. So we dragged our sleds behind us as we slowly moved through the trails, untill we met the Queen of all sledding hills everywhere.
This hill had SHELVES...it started out nearly flat, with a drop down to the next landing, then to the next and next. At the bottom was what in skiing terms we called a "compression", which basically means that it flattens quickly and causes the g-forces to press upward. Not a big deal in hiking, but a HUGE deal when moving at a fast speed! Compressions KILL ski racers, and I mean that literally. If they can't "absorb" the compression, they are flung into the air in really creative ways by gravity.
Back to Scrambler: in winters where there was a lot of snow, it wasn't a big deal. It was ALWAYS a fun and challenging hill, but it wasn't necessarily dangerous.
Well, THAT winter there hadn't been a lot of snow, so of course Scrambler Hill was quite..uh...bumpy.
That evening, I remember climbing onto the plastic orange toboggan behind my cousin, who was a freshman in college. Neither of us remembered that thing being so small. Didn't we used to be able to fit at LEAST 3 of us on it?
Well, apparently not anymore.
She sat in front, I was in the back as we stared down this killer hill, the Hannenkam of Sledding.
Without a second thought, we pushed off, hit the first bump, screamed as we went airborn and came down on the slope, hit the second, screamed and went airborne again, and just as we hit the compression at the bottom, diving nose-first into the compression, I remember flying over my cousin. I remember her head striking my knees while I was still weightless, and then I plowed head-first into the thin, now-icy snow at the bottom of the drop.
I laid there a moment, confused as to how I'd gotten there. My neck hurt. My forehead had plowed a furrow into the ground, which thankfully allowed me to be able to breathe.
My cousin was getting up, with her friend helping her. They were laughing, and it seemed so far away. I wanted to get up, too. But I'd hit hard, head-first. I knew that was bad.
I had a sudden, panicked thought: what if I never walked again? What if my neck was broken?
In my panic, I put my hands under me, thrilled they moved, and thought to myself even before the cloud of impending darkness cleared away, "If I don't stand up RIGHT NOW I'll NEVER walk AGAIN!"
And so I pushed upward, scrambling to my feet, just as one of the guys was asking, "Are you OK?"
I couldn't see for a moment, and wondered how long I'd be able to stand.
Thankfully, by then we were out of time, and decided to head back to the house. We trudged back up the hill and mounted our snowmobiles, leaving the toboggans there to be picked up the next day via snowcat.
When we got back to the house, both my cousin and I were quiet. She was a nursing student, so was a bit more aware of what could have happened than I, and insisted on checking my pupils, as she'd asked her mother to do when we'd gotten home.
It seems we were fine...but lucky.
But I'll never forget that feeling of weightlessness, just before plowing head-first with all my force into the snowpack, and the moment of wondering if I'd never walk again.
Now that I think of it...I think that's the last time I ever went sledding.
P.S. Years later I started downhill skiing and got into racing...wanna talk about SERIOUS crashes? Dang, I'm happy to be alive!
What's YOUR story?