Ode to Snow

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Brighton Ski Resort, Utah

Winter is a time for contemplation. Everything takes a little longer to do. Food must be warmed, layers must be compiled and worn, windshields and sidewalks must be scraped and shoveled of ice and snow.

Whether you are in the midst of knee-deep snow yourself or whether you only dream of it, I invite you to listen to my new snowy playlist on Spotify while indulging in some wintry reading (sources cited) and photography (all by me) below. Enjoy.

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Laramie, Wyoming

“Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.” -From Mark Strand’s “Lines for Winter”

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Southern Wyoming

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'” -Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

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American Fork, Utah

“Everything is flowing — going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches… While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood… in Nature’s warm heart.” -John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra 

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado

“One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land…” -From Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man”

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Centennial, Wyoming

“It snowed all week. Wheels and footsteps moved soundlessly on the street, as if the business of living continued secretly behind a pale but impenetrable curtain. In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.” -Truman Capote
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Steamboat Ski Resort, Colorado

“A few feathery flakes are scattered widely through the air, and hover downward with uncertain flight, now almost alighting on the earth, now whirled again aloft into remote regions of the atmosphere.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming

Love and warm wishes to all from the wintry American West.

Christmas in North Carolina

Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday – smell of balsam and pine, clove and cinnamon; sharing food and drink with loved ones; watching a child’s face light up with joy upon opening a long-desired gift; huddling around either a lit Christmas tree or a crackling fire in the fireplace out of both reverence and a wish for warmth.

Log cabin Christmas

Log cabin Christmas

These things all have a special meaning for me now that I live across the country from my family. Coming back to visit is so special. I get to put Sam, my ten-year-old brother, to bed every night – sometimes via a game of Boggle, sometimes a game of soccer between two puppets ensues, and sometimes I start reading paragraphs of an educational book on cartography in a Liza Minnelli voice.

North Carolina was rainy, which was strange, as I hadn’t seen any rain in several months. In fact, just before I left Laramie, it snowed enough that, on the drive down to the Denver airport, the pines in Medicine Bow National Forest were covered in dustings of snow.

Frosty forest

Frosted forest

The wind hadn’t yet had its chance to strip them free of frost.

Landing in Raleigh, I could immediately detect the difference in temperature. My older sister Margaret picked me up and I requested we stop by CookOut, a North Carolina-based fast food chain with dank milkshakes.

On Christmas Eve, my mom made a delicious vinegar-y bratwurst and red cabbage stew while Sam and I attempted to assemble a gingerbread house. We learned icing is very sticky.

Even blinking Sam is adorable

Even blinking Sam is adorable

That night my uncle and grandparents came to town for Christmas festivities. Dark beer and bourbon-spiked egg nog were had while we caught up and opened presents. Because there are six of us Indermaur kids, to save us from the problem of needing to find gifts for each sibling, each year we are secretly assigned one sibling for whom to find a gift. Otherwise, Sam would probably give us each a pack of gum or something.

On the morning of Christmas Day, Sam appoints himself the sorter of presents under the tree and stocking deliveryman. We each have our stocking, full to the brim with candy and other small goodies, personally delivered to our beds.

After partaking in cinnamon rolls, coffee, and candy, we drove to Greensboro to meet up with the Indermaur side of the family. We had lunch at a delicious Thai restaurant (after all those sweets, savory curry was a welcome change) and went to Opa’s house afterwards for dessert, caroling, and presents.

Uncle Tom, Aunt Morgan, cousin Catalina and baby cousin Maxime couldn’t join us from their home in California, so we sang Christmas songs to them over Skype. We were all wearing the matching T-shirts Tom and Morgan gave us.

The Incredible Indermaurs!

The Incredible Indermaurs!

The next day we headed to what my mom has dubbed the “Creekside Cabin” in rural central North Carolina.

Ben fuels up on the way to the cabin

Ben fuels up on the way to the cabin

Mmm nothing like a fresh jar of pig foot

Mmm nothing like a fresh jar of pig hooves

The cabin is a restored tobacco barn plus a newer addition surrounded by some wooded acreage and fenced-in areas. We’re trying to convince our parents to get a pet donkey. Or some goats. Really, anything will do. Rabbits?

The cabin

Welcome to the cabin!

There is a tire swing, a little creek (true to its name) – perfect for crawfish hunting and splashing and panning for gold – random abandoned treasures (an old tent? mason jars?), and a neighbor with a donkey and llama farm.

Sam enjoys the tire swing

Sam enjoys the tire swing

Sam panning for gold

Sam panning for gold

The old chinking and pine walls in the main room are just lovely.

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Cabin living room

But of course, the best way to experience the cabin is to wander around the woods.

And the best way to wander is via piggyback

And the best way to wander is via piggyback atop your younger but taller sister

We spent the night at the cabin, wandered and played a little more, and made s’mores around Dad’s campfire before driving back to Raleigh through beautiful little Chapel Hill.

Will chomps down on his half-charred marshmallow

Will chomps down on his half-charred marshmallow

Libby, Will, and I saw the excellent movie “Wild,” based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, about a young woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail solo. IT’S SO GOOD AND YOU NEED TO SEE IT. NOW. YES, YOU. YES, NOW.

I wish I’d had more time to see all my friends in North Carolina, but I’m so glad I was able to catch up with my family and to warm up a little before returning to Wyoming just in time to experience several days of negative double-digit temperatures.

Happy New Year, readers, and may it be a beautiful one.

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Christmas Preparations

It’s been unseasonably warm for December here in Wyoming. We were almost afraid there wouldn’t be any snow to speak of in the mountains when the Snowy Range Ski Area opened.

Matt and I went up to the Snowies the weekend before last to get our Christmas tree, just like last year. We stopped by the ski lodge to pick up our passes, have my skis and Matt’s board waxed, and go up the lift and down the the slopes a couple times. The lodge has a little bar upstairs overlooking the slopes, and we had a draught beer from Sheep Mountain Brewery, basically a guy outside of Laramie who makes great beer in his oversized garage. I believe it was a red IPA – really delicious! The bearded man sitting next to us introduced himself as a foreign exchange student from Tasmania studying at the University of Wyoming. I drank a free additional pint of the red IPA because the bartender messed up a pour. You know, typical Laramie-area happenings.

A semi-frozen creek up in the Snowies

A semi-frozen creek up in the Snowies

I was pleased that I hadn’t completely forgotten how to ski and that neither of us fell while getting on or off the lift, which had proved more difficult than I had anticipated last year. It was warm enough that I hadn’t been dying to get off the lift by the time we reached the top of the mountain, and sunny too.

Sometimes, caught in a turn, the view obscured by pines, you forget that you’re not completely alone with the trees and the snow. You feel small and a part of something wide and deep and beautiful in the almost-silence of the wind and the sshhhh of your skis against the snow.

The road between Laramie and the ski area

The road between Laramie and the ski area

After skiing, we drove up the road a ways to find ourselves a tree. We walked by a family on snowshoes carrying their own tree on the snowed-in trail. If you stayed on the cross-country ski trail you didn’t need snowshoes, but we eventually had to wander off the trail to find our tree, as per Forest Service regulations. I believe the word “trudging” was invented to describe one’s slow, labored walk through over a foot of snow. If you’ve never had the good fortune of needing to trudge through so much snow that it’s a small miracle every time your boot reappears, whole – just imagine a small child so bored they’ve grown exasperated with the feeling, chin to the ceiling, eyes rolled up in their sockets, shoulders sagging, walking away from you. That, too, is a trudge.

Matt in the forest

Matt in the forest

To ease your sadness about severing forever a pine from its roots, the Forest Service informs you in their handy brochure, which accompanies the $10 permit for the tree cutting, that your act assists the growth of the surrounding trees, and thus the forest as a whole (I admit it would be better here if I quoted directly from the pamphlet but, after a ~30-second search through my recent mail, I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably threw it out). Harvesting the tree, then, is like giving the grove a haircut. Mowing the lawn. Holding two or three kids back a grade. You know, science: not everyone wins and gets to become a magnificent Christmas tree – just the pretty ones.

Got it!

Got it!

We picked a more suitably-sized tree for both the inside of the car and our house this year, though its much skinnier trunk repeatedly rebelled at our positioning it in the Christmas tree stand. It remains crooked but only if you look at it from either the perspective of the gas fireplace or the dusty corner behind the couch which likes to collect tumbleweeds of dog fur. From the front door it looks very nice. We only broke one ornament wrestling with it and the stand.

Christmas is fast approaching! I’ve already watched “Elf” once, and listened to probably 50 hours of Christmas music, so I’m prepared. I’ve wrapped all the presents, created plenty of online wishlists at various outlets in anticipation of the receipt of gift cards, and made at least one Christmas-related dessert item, though I have yet to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which I have on DVD – yes, it’s that important. I’m looking forward to seeing my family in North Carolina, but I’d gladly skip over the whole shuttle-to-the-airport/plane-from-one-airport-to-the-next thing if I could. I think this is a sign you’re officially an adult, when the prospect of traveling via plane exhausts you and causes you to go out and buy crystallized ginger and anti-nausea pills instead of giving you boundless, exuberant joy.

Unless the drive looks like this. JOY!

Unless the drive looks like this. JOY!

But after all that sitting and wondering which ridiculously expensive dry sandwich or stale burger to order and weaseling your way into public bathroom stalls only to find there is no toilet paper – after all that mess comes FAMILY. And old friends, and presents, and free food, and all those wonderful, wonderful things. This is why I love Christmas.

Happy holidays and safe travels, everyone!

25th Annual Poker Run

To celebrate the much-awaited end of February in Wyoming, locals and ex-locals convene in the very small town of Centennial one Saturday a year with cross-country skis, snowshoes, dogs without leashes, and backpacks full of beer for the Poker Run. This was the 25th year of the annual event and pretty much the only thing to look forward to during the yucky month of February (except skiing, of course). I am already researching what flowers to plant in front of the house post-defrost. Tulips? Daffodils? Zinnias later?

Welcome to snowy Centennial

Welcome to Centennial! Normally you’d be able to see the mountains, but it was snowy that day

Centennial is about a half hour west of Laramie at the base of the Snowy Range mountains, so we drive through every time we go up to the Snowy Range Ski Area for some wintry recreation. The town consists of a church, an elementary school, a post office, a general store, a convenience store/bar, a couple other restaurants/bars, and a fire station.

Another shot of wintry Centennial

Another shot of wintry Centennial

Matt and I like to joke that the Beartree Tavern is the best restaurant in Laramie. Their pork green chili means business. Also, they’re not actually in Laramie, so there’s that. (Laramie isn’t exactly known for its fine cuisine.)

The Poker Run itself is just a crowded, slightly drunken adventure down a cross-country ski trail in Medicine Bow National Forest. Rowdy, outdoorsy Laramie folks dress up in wacky costumes and attempt to make their way down the trail from the mountains down to Centennial without tripping up on someone else’s skis or running into a tree. Also, there’s some part of the event that actually relates to the card game poker, but that escaped me entirely.

Bar decor in Centennial, WY

Bar decor in Centennial, WY

After indulging in some elk sausage-filled breakfast burritos, our group drove up to Centennial and went inside a restaurant to pay for a shuttle up the mountain. We then stood around in the light snow and played with dogs until an empty suburban stopped and invited us in. As it turns out, this guy wasn’t part of the organized shuttle experience for which we’d just paid; he was just a generous local. He said something like, “I can fit five of you.”

Someone promptly asked, “Can we sit in the trunk?” and soon there were twelve of us, plus two dogs, along with all our skis, poles, snowshoes, and backpacks. We slowly made our way up the mountain.

At the top of the mountain were snowmobilers, other Poker Run enthusiasts, and a couple of guys drawing their names in a prominent snowbank with their urine. All in all, a classy affair.

Snowshoe ninja

Me, the snowshoe ninja

I strapped on my friend Amy’s extra pair of snowshoes and put on my integral mittens. Snowtime.

Thumbs up in mittens!

Ready to get going?

This was my first snowshoeing experience. As Amy (pictured above, on the right, with her gluten-free beer chilling in the snow at her feet) wisely put it, “It’s literally walking, but on snow. It’s just walking.” That said, the only technique recommendations I have are a) not to step on anyone and b) make sure your straps are tight enough that they don’t continually fall off your boots. Oh, and c) wear boots with faux fur for an extra dose of fun.

We ran into a lot of people I recognized, and many more I didn’t. I even came across Kyle and Tallie’s pal Ray, who graduated from the University of Wyoming but is now living in Utah. Halfway through the course a woman was selling beer off the back of her snowmobile to thirsty participants.

No dogs were intoxicated in the making of this blog post

No dogs were intoxicated during the making of this blog post

We passed by some snow-muffled cabins that were, incredibly, chugging out smoke from their chimneys. So much snow! It seemed like a scene out of Narnia.

Anyone home?

Anyone home?

It intermittently snowed and shone sun all afternoon. At one point, we came upon a dwindling bonfire just as they ran out of hotdogs. I’ve never before seen a fire in the midst of so much snow. Some of the surrounding snow was stained black from smoke and ash.

The forest bordering the trail

The forest framing the trail

Upon returning to Centennial via hitchhiking, we ended up at the Beartree Tavern for a pizza and a rambunctious concert led by a band of rowdy old, gray men. Three of the five were guitarists, which was a little perplexing. A thirties-ish married couple from Denver sat at the bar, completely enamored with the scene. “This is so cool!” The husband said to me. “Is it normally like this? We’re from Denver.” 

On Sunday we went skiing and I began to experiment with taking jumps which, as Matt pointed out after the fact, is not an activity commonly undertaken by skiers. I had my first good fall since the beginning of the season trying to land a jump that was way higher than I had anticipated. I had one of those cartoon moments where you begin to realize that you’re still airborne, so you start to uncontrollably flail your arms and say things like, “Woah.”

Now I know what my friend Kevin meant when, after I went skiing for the first time, he asked how much snow I’d gotten in my pants. Rolling around in powder after literally crashing into it will do that to you. Miraculously I didn’t lose any skis or poles or mittens (a “yard sale,” as the ski bums call it), but I am glad I wear a helmet, as always!

Fun & safe adventures to you all.

Snow Sport Adventures

I took a little break from the blog while traveling for Christmas, and I’m sure you all are as excited about this first post of 2014 as I am. LOOK, I REALLY CAN KEEP A BLOG!

Since I last wrote, I’ve been skiing several times up at Snowy Range Ski Area in Medicine Bow National Forest, which Matt informed me is one of the highest-elevation ski areas in the nation. As you can imagine, they have gotten quite a bit of snow up there recently. When we went on New Years Day, there was a couple feet of fresh powder.

Driving up to the ski area

Driving up to the ski area

As you swish by on skis through the trees up on a mountain, everything becomes quiet. This is, in part, what I enjoy about climbing and yoga too – all you hear, all you experience in that moment is your breath and your movement.

Rental skis, boots, and poles

Rental skis, boots, and poles

The last time we were there, Matt and I got on a few blue runs, which are a step up in difficulty from the introductory-level green. Though I’d never been skiing on the east coast before, apparently the blue runs in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah are way more legitimate, also known as scary. There was a lot of squealing involved, and some falling. I basically zig-zagged as slowly as possible across the wider runs and occasionally tried to pull some sweet-looking, fast-braking maneuvers to no avail. At least now I can turn relatively confidently.

Matt enjoying the bunny slopes

Matt enjoying the bunny slopes

Look at all the snow in between the trees!

One thing I hadn’t mentally prepared for was the sketchy ski lifts. Why is it so easy to lose your skis and/or poles just as you’re getting on the lift? Why is there no bar a la roller-coasters to keep you from tumbling out onto the snow thirty feet below your toes? What do parents with small children do?!

Speaking of which, there are some seriously adorable toddlers hitting these slopes, HARD. Like, kids who are barely old enough to wear pants as a separate thing from a shirt. Their skis are maybe up to my knee. It’s impressive.

More snow! More trees!

More snow! More trees! (Instagrammed)

My least favorite part has to be riding up those ski lifts, mostly because you are forced to sit for five minutes in cold, snowy, windy weather with weighted feet. Also because there is no bar to keep you from falling to your cold, untimely death, but I have a feeling I may have already mentioned that.

One of my favorite parts might be sipping on a hot chocolate smothered in whipped cream and sprinkles while the feeling slowly, tingly, and painfully comes back into my toes. Another potential favorite is the fact that Snowy Range Ski Area has their own brewery on site. Already plenty afraid of my skiing skills while sober, I haven’t ventured into the bar as of yet.

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Snowy and overcast Medicine Bow National Forest

Next time I’ll force Matt to take some photos of me on my skis, or of me drinking hot chocolate – whichever ends up being the more prevalent winter activity.

Best New Year wishes to you all!