I love the adventure of a road trip with the inspiration of the scenery, the conversations with TallBoy and thrill of knowing you are heading somewhere! We left early on Friday morning after dropping Savvy off at Downtown Hound and started our drive to Oregon. TallBoy and I have have had a trip to Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort on our calendar for the last month for a day of skiing at this little mom-and-pop ski area and spend a night in the historic Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City. This all coincided with the Geiser Grand lobster fest.
Only a couple of hours from Boise and the adventure really started once I was able to finish up work from the passenger seat while TallBoy patiently drove and I negotiated one last deal.
Anthony Lakes is situated in the Elkhorn Mountains of Eastern Oregon with a base elevation of 7,000 ft and it boasts the best powder in the Northwest. We were eager with anticipation because in the last 48 hours 13 inches of powdery delight had fallen. Imagine our surprise to find the ski area closed! High winds from the night before had caused a ruckus. But, it was calm now, the air warm and the snow begging us to make turns in her textured folds. The good news is we came prepared. We strapped on beakers, adhered a pair of skins to our skis, added a shovel and probe to our backpacks and started to climb.
I have limited experience with backcountry skiing while TallBoy has an abundance of know-how so after a quick review of avalanche procedure and the necessary equipment we got ourselves ready for the escalating endeavor.
My first few steps were awkward until I got into the grove and trusted the skins on the bottom of my skis. Skins are strips of material (all synthetic material now but they used to use real animal skin) that attach to the undersides of your skis. The outer surface of skins are fuzzy and scale like so they can grab the snow, preventing backward movement of the skis. When the skis are moved forward, these surfaces flatten out to allow some glide.
We utilized one of the ski runs for about half of our climb and then veered off trail and cut a path of our own. The weather was perfect and the scenery elegant. The sound of silence surrounded us and the swiping sound of our skis was rhythmic and hypnotic. I found a counting system to keep me going and would stop for a breather about every 100 steps. Taking in the beauty of the majestic Elkhorn mountains and the sound of a nearby creek running under snowy ice was heavenly. My senses were alive and I reveled at the sight of a large Raven observing us as we wandered through her territory. Raven’s have always been a sign of magic and mystic to me so this omen was welcomed and I felt blessed.
Once we got to the top of the mountain we found a sheltered spot to make snow chairs and enjoy a snack. This is el fresco dining at it’s best: no crowds, endless views, fresh air. After our reprieve we got ready for the descent: remove the skins, reverse bindings and boots out of walk mode, put on ski jacket, helmet, adjust poles, don on backpack.
TallBoy ascended first. He is a telemark skier with the most graceful and precise gait that looks effortless and fluid like a professionally trained dancer. The snow was a little stiff due to the drifted snow but it was still a thrill. We went about 1/3 of the way down the slope then re-geared into walking mode and strode back up to the top. When we did our 2nd descent we went all the way to the car.
On the second descend I had a mini melt down because my feet were killing me! I truly was miserable so we stopped and I took my boots off, TallBoy massaged my nagging feet back to life (what a guy!). Back in my gear the rest of the way down was quick and swift. It was already late afternoon and the shadows were getting long so we loaded up the car and headed to Baker City to check into the Geiser Grand. The exhilaration of the day had me buzzing with joy and accomplishment. Nature is a blissful thing!
Stay tuned….next installment will be our time at the Geiser Grand.
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