Celebratory Skiing

Pedro takes in the scene around him, at Teacup Nordic Sno Park at the base of Mt. Hood

I had a hard time psychologically with my 40th birthday. So far, turning 40 was the year I felt the biggest shock about my personal path to aging. My 50th was kind of fun because it happened to be a great time in my life and also because I arranged my first ever birthday party for myself and lots of people came and I felt loved and secure and happy.

It’s now Pedro’s turn. On the 23rd of February he will be turning 50 years old. And this birthday is hitting him hard. Pedro and I agree that compared to our peers, we are in good health, good fitness, and we look good for our age. Still…it’s hard to become an age that used to be our personal marker for who is an old person.

Pedro is an experienced cross-country skier and really loves the sport. I have only tried cross-country skiing when I was a teenager at my mom’s property in North Idaho, many years ago. I only recalled that it was very hard to do. But it was his birthday and as long as I’ve known him he has not gone cross-country skiing. I was determined to make it happen. He has enough gear that I am able to borrow what he is not using. The closest groomed trails are at Mt. Hood outside of Portland. It’s about an hour and a half from Pedro’s house, which is not terribly far away, but inconvenient. So I rented us an Airbnb room close to the mountain.

On our way into Sandy, Oregon, I insisted on a stop at Tollhouse Cafe, which was a traditional stop for me and my kid, Kellen, when we came out to Mt. Hood to go camping, or when we came to Sandy to visit my Grandma Trulove. This is the best place to get fresh baked pastries.

It surprised us both that there was no snow on our drive to our room in Welches, Oregon. I left snow in my yard in Rainier, and I think of the Mt. Hood area as the snowy part of this region. We only saw bits of snow here and there in shaded places. I was a little worried, but Pedro assured me that the elevation change when we get really close to the mountain would mean we would have plenty of snow the next day.

Our cute little Airbnb room.
Looking out the windows from our room you can see the shared hot tub. We used it THREE times while staying here.
We got a kick out of a bunch of old stuff around the property used as decoration. There were ringer-washers, old bicycles, and other kinds of iron contraptions. This old phone booth was one of the newer items, and looks as though it may have been functional at one point, but today it is not.

We arrived just as it was getting dark, and too late to go skiing. Instead, we chose a restaurant at random and had a lovely dinner very close to our rented room.

Pedro surveying the menu.
A Christmas gnome was still in the window. Along with a giant bottle of wine from Tuscany.

Naturally, we ate entirely too much and had to carry home leftovers. We couldn’t even eat the delectable pastries from the Tollhouse Cafe. But that was fine because we had made those purchases for breakfast the next day. I then gave Pedro his birthday gifts, to include tickets to see a live Portland show of one of his favourite TV shows: Impractical Jokers, which I think is ridiculous, but he loves it. On our birthdays we should all get exactly what we love, not what others love. :o)

In the morning we enjoyed coffee with the pastries and filled a giant thermos (you can see it in the first room photo above) with coffee from a local shop, so we would have something hot to come back to when we took a ski break. Off we went.

Our treats from Tollhouse Cafe: Apple fritter, Almond butterhorn, Cannoli, Ham & Cheese & Egg croissant sandwich.
The forecast was for rain much of the day, so we were excited to see a flash of blue on our way to the sno park.

Pedro had been right. As soon as we left Welches we began climbing in elevation, through the little towns of Zig Zag, Rhododendron, and definitely when we reached Government Camp there was plenty of snow. We drove around the backside of Mt. Hood, and left most of the traffic as the long line of cars on this Saturday morning of a holiday weekend took the road up to Timberline Lodge to do some downhill skiing. Neither Pedro nor I are fans of downhill skiing.

We passed multiple Sno Parks: a couple for cross-country, a couple for inner-tubing and sledding, and these were packed full of families and a million kids and their sleds and inner tubes in the snow. But we were heading for the biggest one of all: Teacup Nordic. This park has been here since 1979 and boasts 24 kilometers of groomed ski trails, with signs, maps and a warming cabin. I had never been there before but Pedro had. He knew we had to get there early or there would be no parking. We arrived somewhat early and had no problems parking.

My borrowed ski gear.

We left the parking lot and walked a short distance to the trail, through heaps of snow. There had been no need for concern, as snow was several feet deep in every direction. I nervously put on Pedro’s extra skis and boots. He has some super fancy elite skis that are apparently highly calibrated to size and weight. He told me that he weighs too much to use the skis right now, so I could use them. Luckily, I fit well into his old boots too. It’s fun dating a guy who likes to have the best quality gear, and then I get to benefit.

I slid and wobbled and yelped quietly to myself, and moved into the fray with the other people going uphill.

I had so much anxiety, you have no idea. I worried that I would not learn how to ski right and would not have any fun and would ruin Pedro’s birthday. I knew Pedro loved skiing, and I wanted him to have fun. If I was suffering, he would not have fun. So I told him, “Go! Take off and get comfortable and have fun with it, then come back and find me.” I was happy that he did.

Right away I was dismayed and confused because there was so much uphill. How does one ski uphill? I didn’t realize this was a thing. I strained and struggled and slid backwards. Off to my right, a group of four people went swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! and passed me UPHILL and going fast. I began watching all the people that passed me (that was everyone, including the children). I watched how they held their feet, the angle of their skis, the way they moved their body. Each person moved a little differently. I tried hard. I slowly began to go uphill, and then slid back, but I went uphill again, and eventually made some progress. I grinned and tried to see Pedro to show him I was proud of myself, but he was out of sight ahead of me.

It was awkward and exhausting. The groups of people moved on, and left me alone, which was fine. So then my anxious mutterings could not be heard. I came to an intersection near the top of the hill and I could not see Pedro. I stood there, thinking, and came to no conclusions, so I continued forward. I mean, why would he turn off to the side, since he knew I would be behind him? So off I went and to my delight I reached the very top of the hill! This is the highest point in the park, at 4,405 feet in elevation. Still no Pedro.

Happy that I didn’t have to struggle upward anymore, I pushed forward and realized too late that the trail had turned into a lot of downhill. I am somewhat terrified of downhill skiing. I THOUGHT CROSS-COUNTRY WAS FLAT. What the heck was going on?

I was confronted with what looked like a very long downhill trail.

I wanted Pedro to have fun and not worry about his scaredy-cat girlfriend, so I decided to be brave. I clenched my teeth and eased forward, assuming the end of the downhill would show up any moment. I made a massive snow-plow with my skis and slowly crawled down the hill. Five-year-olds were zipping past me and staring. ha ha.

The trail went down, down, down, down. I stopped every now and then to rest my tense knees and relax my jaw. Then I pressed my lips together and made my snow plow again, and went down. It was almost a mile to the bottom! A kilometer and a quarter until I finally got a break! There were lots of people at the bottom, I joked with a few, helped a large group get a photo. I finally thought to check my phone for a message. I had one from Pedro. It read, “I turned right at the top of the hill.”

Of course he did. One of the dudes in the photo saw me laughing to myself. I explained, “My boyfriend messaged me that he turned off at the top of the hill.” He smiled. Then he did a double take, “At the top of THIS hill?” I nodded. “Oh boy!” he said, understandingly, which made me feel better.

After a break, and a few exchanged texts with my man, who had gone all the way back to the beginning of the trail looking for me, I told him to come my way and I would start making my way up that hill. Oh my gosh. A mile up uphill climbing in skis. I wanted to smack my forehead. Hopefully Pedro would be fast and I wouldn’t have to climb the whole thing. I continued what I had done before, watching the people who passed me, and trying to copy their form. I got so hot from all the effort that I had to unzip my coat. If you will believe it, I began to get the hang of it! I was making pretty good progress going up that hill. I stopped to take a break at an intersection on the way, because it offered a view and a tiny bit of blue sky and I could see Mt. Hood. I went off the side of the trail to get some photos.

This beautiful view was my reward for climbing halfway back up that dumb hill.
I was so pleased with myself that I took a selfie with the mountain, but it doesn’t show up here.

I put on my gloves, grabbed my poles, and carefully turned my skis around so I could head back and start going up the hill again. Pedro zoomed past. “Hey Babe!” I called, and he didn’t flinch. I lurched forward on the skis, yelling, “Pedro! Pedro!” but he was too focused on saving his woman, and flew on down the hill.

Of course he did. I got out to the middle of the track and looked downhill and he was long gone around a bend. I sighed, and followed him down.

We were happy to be reunited.

This time I had more courage, and I knew where the bottom was, and I went faster. I soon found him down there and he was relieved to see me. He asked why I would go on this hill since it was marked as expert, like a black diamond. I didn’t know what he was talking about. Pedro took me over to a sign that named the hill The Screamer, and there was a black diamond-shaped symbol below it. Ha ha ha ha. I had no idea there were levels of cross-country ski trails. I had not read a single sign up till then. All the trails leading from the bottom were also marked for experts, so we decided the best bet would be to go BACK up the hill. Oh my gosh.

Pedro caught an unflattering picture of me, clonking my awkward way up that long, long hill.

It was excellent physical activity, and I was getting much better at it. Still not gorgeously graceful like the other skiers who glided past us, whoosh! whoosh! whoosh! But I clopped and clacked my way upward with a purpose. And eventually we made it back to where Pedro had turned off before. We stopped to take in the view and rest. That’s him at the top of the blog post.

Me at the fateful intersection where I had originally chosen wrong.
Pedro is happy that he found me.
This guy came zooming past us, towing his toddler in a ski buggy. What the what?!
When we caught up to them, he let me take a photo of it. His little dude inside was about 2 1/2 years old.

We took a few more trails, exploring more of the park. Then we found our favourite part.

We entered a wide open meadow with views in all directions and a very subtle downhill slope that was not scary at all.
From the meadow we had unobstructed views of the glorious Mt. Hood.
I took a photo of Pedro on that trail.
He took a photo of me back.
I liked this view of the treetops because it shows how many different kinds of trees there are. Look! Each one is different.

We had so much fun on the loop through the meadow that we did it again!

We passed a group of tense, concentrated learners. I knew what was going on in their heads and I was glad I had moved past that stage. (You might be able to spot Pedro at the back, waiting patiently for all the beginners to clear out of his way. There is a trough in the trail, and the students were all stuck at the bottom of it.)
He was happy to ski freely again, once the beginners cleared out of his way.

We skied from 10 am to 2 pm and I was reluctant to go, but feeling exhaustion in my limbs. It’s harder to clonk uphill when your legs are exhausted. He only got me to go by promising we could come back later, ha ha. We went back to our Airbnb and tried out the hot tub, then ate our leftovers from dinner the night before, then watched a movie and then went to the hot tub once more. We both slept late.

In the Mezzanine at The Armory, where we catch a lot of Portland plays.

The next day we said goodbye to our cute little place and headed back into Portland in time to catch a play. This time another from Lauren Yee, who wrote the marvelous The Great Leap, that we saw last year. This one was called Young Americans, and was the overlapping of two road trips: one by a man whose bride to be had just arrived from his home country, and he met her in New York to drive her all the way home to Portland, Oregon, in order to show her the country. The next was 30 years later, when the same man surprised his daughter, returning home from a year abroad, and met her at the airport in New York to bring her along on the same road trip to try and recapture what it was like when he and her mom got to know each other. It was a clever idea, and a nice story. You see, neither the first trip NOR the second went anything like how he had planned. And yet, they both went exactly as they should. The travelers all had to confront things about themselves and each other, and decide what to do about it. I liked that the only set was a “car” in the middle of the stage, and the man almost never left the stage, but kept switching between young and old versions of himself, using a jacket and glasses as props.

We had dinner in Portland, to take advantage of the choice of downtown restaurants that we usually don’t take the trouble to go to. And then home to Pedro’s house. It had been an excellent weekend.

Near the end of the time we spent, Pedro was fussing less about getting old. These memories will be something fun for him to think about when he thinks about turning 50. Hopefully we can both rely more on how youthful we are, and not worry about how many years we have been alive.

15 thoughts on “Celebratory Skiing

  1. Your delightfully descriptive prose and splendid photography, as today, always demonstrate you exuberant lifestyle. You are both doing so well I venture to encourage you by saying I was in my mid seventies before I had to slow down – so you have a way to go. I’ll bet your man is glad he found you.

    1. Thank you, Derrick. Your words are encouraging. Also the fact that, while you may have slowed down physically, you certainly have not stopped filling your life with new projects and adventures. If I can emulate lives like yours and Jackie’s I will have lived a good life. Yes, Pedro has a protective nature, and was happier when we found each other.

  2. Laughing a lot through this one, Crystal, especially you picking a black diamond trail. Other than staying off of black diamond trials, all new X-country skiers get to go through what you did. I x-country skied a lot in my 30s and 40s. Not so much afterwards. Never downhill skied. I did go on two cross country ski treks, both of which I was nominally in charge of but had experts along as leaders. One was a 60 mile trip along the Sierras, the other was into Denali National Park where we slept out on 30 degree below temp. We are off to the Nile today so I won’t have much blogging time but I have preschedules posts.

    1. Oh if only I could be with you! Today we all woke to heaps of snow in the Portland area. I would love the warm dry desert of the Nile. You will have a marvelous time! I simply LOVED my Nile trip with Kellen, when they were young, and small, and used a different name. https://crystaltrulove.com/2010/01/15/cruising-the-nile/

      So glad you enjoyed this funny post. I started off the day so worried and ended up having a blast. I can hardly wait to go back. If I had Pedro’s skis at my house right now, I would go right out into the back yard and ski. I guess I didn’t realize that you were a skier too! What great adventures you have had in your life. I’ve not been inside Denali park, only around it. I think a 60 mile ski trek would have been magical there.

      1. Interesting post, Crystal. Our tour starts tomorrow. I’m now sitting in our hotel room overlooking the Nile. We came three days early so we could rest up before the trip. We will do a day in Cairo visiting the Cairo Museum, Saladin’s complex and the Alabaster Mosque. On Monday we will fly up to Luxor where we will begin the riverboat part of our tour. (Early but not as early as you.)
        I did a lot of back yard skiing. My partner at the time owned a cabin at Donner Pass of of I-80 and we could ski out her back door to miles of groomed trails or pure wilderness, which I preferred. The 60 mile trek was in the Sierra’s west of Lake Tahoe. My Alaska experience was more tame although I also had a group skiing across the Alaska Range, which I decided was beyond my skill level. 🙂 Our NP ski was great however. It’s a kick going to sleep at night listening to wolves howling.

  3. Happy birthday to Pedro. What a lovely way to celebrate, Crystal. You had me in stitches when I got to the name of the hill you so bravely faced – The Screamer sounds appropriate for your quiet mutterings to yourself.

  4. I had an interruption while reading this. A caregiver here lost her job and I need a bit of cleaning help so we had a long conversation. Wish Pedro a happy belated birthday from me. You probably won’t see this until tomorrow. I’m glad to chose to do something outside your comfort zone. It looks beautiful there. I saw pics of Portland’s snow! Wow! I hope you didn’t get hit as hard. More later. Love and hugs, M

    1. Oh dear. I hope you have been able to find a solution to the get the housekeeping help you need. I will certainly tell Pedro. I am only just now seeing your message now, on Monday morning. I spent the weekend at his place with the kids, then we looked at homes for sale and got our brains to thinking. Unexpectedly, I was up half the night with anxiety, worried about leaving my place. It was a lifeline when I moved here and now I am so worried to leave it. Will my mind fall apart again? I don’t think so, but I’m scared. I guess it’s normal to be scared. ANYWAY….

      On this occasion, Portland got much much more snow than Rainier. Our total for this last one was only two inches, when Portland got 10. I got another two inches this morning. But my biggest snow so far here at home was the 5 inches on Valentine’s Day. It has certainly been a snowy February.

      1. I’m not in any hurry to have housekeeping help. So far, I’m managing well. Just would rather be doing other things. You need to write out what is giving you so much anxiety about all of this. You know what it is but you are trying not to see it. Once addressed on paper, a solution will appear. I promise. I heard about Portland’s snow! In Milwaukie, they had a lot less. We are getting more tomorrow and the locals are all complaining that it’s more than they’ve had in years. We need the snow. It’s what feeds the wells all year. The rain just runs off. It’s been a very odd month. Everything feels out of balance and we are all feeling the tension. You may know something but have not acknowledged it yet. Love and hugs. M

  5. Wow, what a celebration! I’ve never skied so I’m always eager to read anything that helps me understand the mechanics and the thrill of it. Happy Birthday to Pedro! 50 is a milestone for sure. My wife rented out the top floor of the Smith Tower in Seattle for mine and then whisked me off for a weekend in Vegas. 60 passed without much fanfare but I’m thinking I should plan something bold for 65! Thanks for more vicarious adventuring!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s