I was not aware that snow does in fact, on a sunny day, cause snow blindness and when the snow is uninterrupted , can cause the ground to appear to be glowing with a hot yellow-white that looks like a cartoon gold mine just below the surface of the snow, or the sun twice removed. I’m new to snow. I am not well-acquainted, or was not. When I stepped foot on Mount Hood’s frozen exterior–in a resort town run by local cronies who call their town Government Camp “Govy” for short and perhaps have watched the movie “Out Cold” with a bit too much passion–and quickly out of the sunlight into a dark cafe’s interior, I did feel blind. My vision accommodated for the lighting change, though I walked blind and faithfully until it did so.
Hiller and I, unimpressed by the tubing slopes (about 50 yards long with only toddlers using it) decided to take a walk through the snow and in some way prove ourselves to the mountain and the mountain people. Up to that point, the people in town had made us feel like outsiders, city assholes who had intruded, shifty-eyed and prepared to steal some part of “Govy’s” pristine-ness. Map in hand, beers in pockets, shoes laced up, we walked up the slope through a beautiful and picturesque Northwestern mountain trail and it being so picturesque, we decided to stop as often as possible for photo opportunities, beers now in hand and shoes now in snow. Now and again, Mount Hood’s peak would come into view, illuminated with the sun at our backs and by this time clearly beginning to sink.
And now, can I just say, all we wanted to do on this mountain is slide down it, feel it right beneath us and as close as possible. It was a simple request from the mountain! Hence the appearance of our first ominous sign: a small broken piece of a red plastic sled at the bottom of a slope that was even equipped with a snow ramp. But alas, the sled was now simply a seat so you didn’t get your ass wet in the snow. We walked onward and upward, excitement waning a bit, but hopeful we would find something with the few sled qualities we needed to ride the slopes.
Skiers and snowboarders passed us. The snow grew deeper. We talked about falling into a snowy abyss when our feet gave more than a few inches. Still we walked. Map says Timberline Lodge isn’t far. Is it around this snowy bend, maybe? No. Signs pointed upward. The slope grew steeper but we were determined even though both of us were close to back spasms.
Five miles we walked. And still we were two miles from the lodge, the lodge where we imagined we would sit in comfortable chairs in the warmth, with hot cocoa, and exotic Swedish women in ski boats would walk open through the lobby. We didn’t make it. I had told Hiller, through fits of laughter at our folly, that I had Snow Madness and only later on the drive home learned that the Timberline Lodge had been featured in a movie: the Outlook Hotel in “The Shining”.
Now the sun was an egg yolk reaching for the pan and we still needed to get down this mountain. All instinct told us we didn’t want to be here in the dark and cold snowy wilderness. If I knew any songs by the band Ski Patrol, I would sing them here. Thank you, oh thank you Ski Patrol for stopping two guys from the swamps of Florida to incredulously ask where the hell we were going. The wrong way, obviously. They pointed us in the right direction, and we watched snowboarders pass us as we walked down the slope, defeated but “gnarly” according to one pierced female snowboarder, and without ever sliding down the mountain, though we slipped and fell so many times on it. An empty case of Keystone Light rested against a tree and could have been our ticket to ride. I started to walk off the path to grab it and sank to my knees in snow and quickly hoped back on the path and we walked with our heads down.