It was last Sunday when I detoured briefly in the Cascade Mountains above Seattle at Snoqualmie Pass so my oldest could hop out of the car to schuss, swish and whatever else winter alpinists do on a snowy mountainside for all of an afternoon (this used-up body doesn’t schuss which is just as well considering the pastime requires substantial, nay obscene outlays of greenbacks). We stuffed his pockets with salami, shatter-prone crackers, chocolate bar, iPod (an exception to our usual rule since none of his friends were free to get out of town for the day on such short notice so he was thrilled about skiing to his own meticulously-curated soundtrack), extra gloves and other small essentials before he hobbled away like a rusty robot in plastic boots with skis and poles slung over his shoulder, this twelve year old aimed for the nearest elevator to the sky. You would have seen me shaking my head and smiling at my baby boy, tackling the hardest black diamonds in his second season and starting to ask about Alpental (the hill across the Pass where the bigger kids show off). It’d be disingenuous to deny feeling a little wistful about skiing with the boys but mostly that biz is too much like roller skating at the playground. I’m glad when the snow melts and a lotta those other kids take their doo-dads and go home. It was brilliantly azure over the Pass but I descended to the eastern, hazier side of the crest and that’s where I headed for a quiet walk in the woods on the edge of a former coal town.
Later on, the pull of the tall, century-old slag heap was irresistible, the views called my name through wind whistling the boughs of Ponderosa and Grand Fir but I regretted my decision halfway up the cindery-pile of coal and pumice when my choice of walking surface revealed itself to be a slippery, congealed strata of toxic poopy mush. The metal roofs of the scrappy town below reflected brightly in the early-afternoon sunshine and blue-green ridges extended in several directions, it’s no wonder Hollywood filmed a hit television series here. The appealingly rustic village isn’t as hardscrabble as it used to be judging from the sporty Volvos and Land Cruisers parked in some of the driveways of tiny miner cottages-turned-second homes but in the 1920s coal was absolutely king here. Our house was even built by coal, but that’s a different story. At any rate, it was a slippery, black diamond (over black diamonds) on the way down and the bottom of my shoes accumulated several pounds of sedimentary paste that left me feeling positively magnetic-attached to the ground but, most of all: No jesting, behind me for nearly a mile in the slippery snow were those coal-goop footprints seemingly extending to infinity. That jolly cross country skier whisking along behind three humongous hairy white dogs chuckled and pointed behind me: Sure ya betcha I nodded on my merry way to various points of historic interest including concentrators and whatnot (did I say no adrenaline?). It was a nice walk.
Five hours later, Adam joyously menaced me at forty to zero with a mischievous smile on his face, skidding to a devilishly-too-close-for-my-comfort stop on vanished corduroy, his flowing locks framing apple red cheeks. He pleaded for a few more runs since the lift lines had dwindled to practically nothing so I admired a pretty sunset before carrying on a humorously shivery FaceTime with Uncle Eric.
There’s a winter storm warning for tonight so you can imagine Adam was fairly excited when I dropped him off at school with his skis, he rides a bus up to the Pass in the afternoon and gets hours of turns into the night. After school this afternoon, Oliver Fern and I will listen to the sounds of humpback whales on the stereo. Yesterday, we did that for more than an hour because this week he wants to be a marine biologist.