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Well that was a week

An exhausting, at times exciting, but still tiring week. Husband had some eye appointments in Portland that bracketed the weekend, but there was enough stuff up in the air that I only could really plan one get-together with someone I’ve missed except for tiny grabs for the last few trips. It was probably a good thing I didn’t overplan the Portland time, as I ended up down flat sick from an allergic reaction to all the damn pollen. The same thing happened last year, and I had a less extreme reaction in March, so….yeah. I suspect this means that this is now a thing. On the other hand, I found a cromolyn sodium nasal spray and that’s really helping with things, much better than its steroidal cousin and much less harsh. So I now need to find someplace other than the Kaiser Pharmacy to buy it OTC.

We did spend two days skiing. The first day was lovely in spite of the stormy weather, and the second day was full of the heavy deep powder the Cascades is known for. Three runs and not only was my back done in but my knee was complaining. So we stopped. We’d considered skiing on our way home yesterday, but I was so tired and hurting that I determined it wasn’t a good idea. All the same, everything works really well on the slopes again. I’ve got my control back and I’m not struggling like I was so much of the time last year. I’m now thinking that everything I’m doing to address the lower back pain is paying off in this respect. Yay!

Then we spent two days hunting razor clams. OMG. Both days were hard clamming days. Lots of false shows to fake us out, which meant a LOT of digging. The first day wasn’t too bad as we were four clams shy of a full limit. The lot were amongst the biggest clams we’ve ever dug, though, consistently large. I found a medium-sized cockle on the beach, still alive, and claimed it. That day was also good for finding hermit crabs, a live snail, and sandpipers. At one point I stood still as the sandpipers scurried around me, several coming within five feet of me. Sweet.

It was also a lovely day for April on the Oregon Coast. Very light wind, sunny, and relatively warm. A good day to be down on the beach, but after the hard work clamming none of us felt like following up with fishing like we had planned.

The second day was tougher. We never did get any good clam shows, and ended up with just one limit between the three of us. It was another gorgeous warm day on the beach, though. Not as much bird action, nor did I find any crabs. My back ached so bad that I went back to the truck and brainstormed the latest rough draft work, including a quick sketch on a short story idea.

 

Then we packed up, went back to Portland, and headed back to Enterprise yesterday. Three short story ideas mugged me on the way back. I’m not sure why that part of my brain is waking up again–perhaps being finished with Netwalk, and two-thirds of the way through Goddess’s Honor is a factor? Dunno, but I’m not going to ignore it. I sketched the three stories out last night. They’re all tied to some other stories I’ve been working on, contemporary fantasy or Western fantasy.

And now for the first time in a week I’m not having to wake up and rush around to go somewhere. Later on today I’m going to introduce Miss Mocha to the wonderful world of saddlebags. But spring is erupting in Wallowa County and I’m itching to get on the front porch for a porch writing session. Ah. Lovely.

 

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Back on the planks again

So here I am at 60 years old and I’m still skiing. Of course, it wasn’t until I reached 60 that I had the experience of galloping a horse through snow…and let’s just say that I was going faster on Miss Mocha (her idea!) than I usually ski (well, except for going down the Magic Mile but the Mile is its own thing). I thought oldsters were supposed to slow down, but…maybe it’s time to scheme on a way to rig up a means to do skijoring with Mocha without a rider. PVC pipe and surcingle, I think…and lots of ground practice during the dry season.

Anyway.

Yesterday hubby and I finally took advantage of the sweet late-season skiing and went up to Timberline. Unlike last year, I could visualize my moves when watching ski movie clips. I felt stronger and had this suspicion that it was going to work out just fine….

….which it did.

It was a stormy day, with temperatures running right about freezing. The snow was a crisp mix of snow and ice, not that nasty can’t-get-a-grip ice but just enough to give the footing a crunch. It was wintry-mixing all the way through to our last run, where things changed from tolerable to full-scale misery with sharp icy drops cutting into the face and coating the glasses.

Glasses. Sigh. I cannot wear goggles with my current lenses. The lovely (NOT) opticians at Kaiser decided that despite my requests and the optometrist’s specific instructions to lower the bifocal line that we were both full of it and jammed the line into the usual spot (no, I do not wear progressives, progressives are NOT an option for me, they do not work so don’t waste your time advising me to try them out!!). As a result, I can’t wear any goggles because according to the opticians, I wear my glasses too low on my nose so that when I DO wear my goggles the lovely fucking bifocal line is halfway through my line of sight and I can’t see a damn thing clearly for my complete lower field of vision. Which is NOT acceptable for ski life and depth perception in an already-sketchy situation.

Oh well. Maybe I need yet another pair of glasses that are just single-vision distance glasses. Grrr.

On the other hand, my feet worked very nicely. I have spent the last year working a combination of massage/chiropractic/foot and back massagers/acupuncture to try to get my feet back in shape and minimize my lower back pain issues. Yesterday proved that I’m on the right path. My stiff Dalbellos went on my feet securely and while I had the usual “ouch ouch ouch” while starting up, I worked through them and was able to control what my feet were doing…which meant I could control my skis, and my hips, and yes. Lovely, lovely glides and turns. No fighting and struggling.

It also helped that I took the skis in for a professional tune. They desperately needed edging. My wax skills are pretty decent for the level of skiing we do, but edging…um…not ready to go there.

We made five runs on Stormin’ Norman. Between skiing out there and the runs, that was close to about five miles skied. Five runs that were gorgeous, wonderful, and…yeah.

A lovely late beginning to the ski year. Going back up tomorrow, and then maybe Friday on our way back to Enterprise, depending on how sore my back is after two days of clam digging and surf fishing. Yay.

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Ski year summary–2017

For the first time I only skied a few times, over about three weeks, similar to what a lot of people do with their ski vacations. I’m–not thrilled with that amount of limitation. That said, I could have gotten more ski time in, including in NE Oregon, if I had been able to get my feet into my boots sooner in the season. But I couldn’t, so there’s no crying now over spilt milk.

We had five ski days in total in late April and early May. That more than brought the cost of our spring ski passes ($118) down to about half of what a regular pass would cost for me and less for the husband at age 65.

Besides being away from the slopes for two years, the big challenge was that the snow is just plain different in April and May than it is in November/December starting out skiing. Even when there were heavy snowfalls, they were different from the heavy snowfalls earlier in the season…not as dry and cold, for one. And even though we had plenty of cold exposure in NE Oregon over the winter, it wasn’t ski exposure.

I don’t know. There was only one session where I found my flow and rhythm, and skied well. The rest of the time? I struggled more than I like to do. It seemed harder to get back into it than it does at the beginning of the ski season. Maybe it was just the awareness that I only had these few short days or something like that…but whatever it was, it wasn’t working that well. I may have just not been trusting my cranky ankles.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

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Ski day four

A couple of days late, but there was a Day Four on the ski slope!

Since it was the first day of the changeover from warm weather back to cool and wet, we were slow-moving in the morning and debating whether it was worth it. Then hubby looked at the web cams and pointed out that despite the temperatures, it wasn’t raining at Timberline–yet. So we saddled up and went skiing.

I’m glad we did. I hooked into the flow this time, despite a knee locking up on me in the parking lot. Once we started skiing, though, the knee was quiet. I glided from side to side, smoothly curving and transferring weight, just like I wanted to do. No problems with thigh burn or the aches that go along with overcontrolling the skis. Everything was balanced and in control.

One factor was a fresh wax job. The snow was wet and could have been sticky, but with fresh wax on the skis, it wasn’t. I did comment at one point that “I can just feel the wax stripping off of these skis!”

I was right. We got home and I saw that the skis needed another hot waxing.

In any case, we got in two runs on the Mile before it got socked in and we retreated to Norman. Four runs on Norman, two on the mile, for a total of five miles skied. Getting the legs back, getting the flow back…but I’m still not entirely feeling the passion that I did before. Maybe it’s because of the lateness and missing the big seasons. We’re looking at two more sessions at most, for a total of six ski days this season. Not bad, but…at the end of six I’m just getting tuned up.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

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Ski Day Three: Up to the Mile

So Day Three of getting back on the skis was a more typical spring ski day at Timberline–foggy down below, and then breaking through above the clouds once we got to the lodge. The snow was typical Cascade concrete, not even corn snow. I had some problems getting my left binding to catch when first locking in (this will become important later) but finally got it going and we headed back out to Norman.

But something wasn’t right. I kept muttering about having control issues going on. I was having problems with turning and had a couple of bobbles that didn’t go all the way to falls. Still. Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t catch the flow, couldn’t find my rhythm, and meanwhile the snow was warming up and turning to slush. After the third run on Norman I suggested we go up to the Mile.

As we got off of the lift to the top of Norman and headed for the cat track that goes to the Mile, I skied out of my left ski. Didn’t fall because we were on the flat, but it just popped off. So I popped it back on, started up again…and off it came. Hubby noticed I had ice on the bottom of my boots, so he helped me scrape it off. I took off and this time everything worked.

Still, coming off the top of the Mile, hips didn’t want to cooperate. It took a few turns, but I was starting to get the feel again–a good long run with no complications. We did a second run and I started feeling the flow again. At that point we called it a day–three runs on Norman, two on the Mile for about 4 and a quarter miles, maybe closer to 5 when you figure the ski out to Norman and then back to the Mile.

The Dalbello boots are much easier to work with than the equally stiff Lange boots were. I start out stiff in the Dalbellos but they start loosening up and getting comfortable after a couple of runs. I’m getting to really like them.

That said, I’m glad I didn’t ski last year. The right ankle I injured in the fall with Mocha in 2015 was aching when we got back to the house, and I can just imagine what it would have been like then. I am feeling better, and stronger, though. It’s easier to get up off the chair than it was the last year I skied. I’ve noticed it’s easier for me to swing a leg over an impatient Mocha when we get ready to ride off as well. Not sure what is bringing that about, unless it’s the hours I’m spending in the saddle…or something. And then tonight, I waxed and scraped the skis without feeling as achy and tired after as I was in the past. Yay?

But something still is missing. I haven’t gotten the joy of skiing back. I don’t know why. It’s improving, but…something’s still missing.

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Ski Day Two: Aprilary

Our second ski day was more like the depths of winter than the end of April…unless you’re on Mt. Hood. The weather system that Cliff Mass calls “Darth Vapor” is dumping snow on the Mountain, fine, wet powdery stuff…and I got a reminder that Timberline Road in some ways is a tougher drive than crossing the Blue Mountains via Tollgate.

The official snow count this morning was 199 inches at the lodge. I’m willing to bet it had gone over 200 by the time we got our skis on and got out there. It continued to snow, a wet powder that formed rime ice on our ski pants and parkas along with a mild wind. We went back up to Stormin Norman simply because given our level of conditioning, it’s the easiest run to do with blowing and drifting snow. My knees were fussing at me first thing this morning so I didn’t want to push it.

Not sleeping well last night didn’t help, either. I started with fatigue and it didn’t help things. My first run down, I bobbled a couple of times but didn’t tweak anything and stayed upright. The second run was better, and the third run was when I started to feel the flow coming. But then the fourth run was just not quite right, so I didn’t find the flow. The wind was also such that above the trees it was occasionally hard to see where the snow ended and the air began. When we headed back to the lodge, I encountered a few surprise drops, and had to stop in one place to figure out where to go.

On the other hand, my feet didn’t cramp up in the boots today. That’s a big plus. I’m getting them back into shape.

There was a big living quarters horse trailer in the parking lot. Obviously there weren’t any horses in it–I had to wonder if it was hauling equipment while the owners were staying overnight in the living quarters, or maybe that was the only trailer they had.

We saw some very happy snow doggies in the parking lot, romping in the snow. On Tuesday we saw one dog who was ecstatically rolling in the snow–nothing like that today, but nonetheless there were happy snow doggies around.

No spectral whooshes from the ravens today, though they were scouting the parking lot for any food scraps.

By the time we left, a little six-inch drift was forming by the rear driver’s side wheel. Driving down Timberline Road had some interesting moments with slush and ice.

But we’ve survived another ski day, and I’m beginning to trust my legs and feet again. One thing I am noticing is that my hips are stronger than they were before. It’s easier for me to stand up and get out of the chair. I can thank those long rides on Mocha for that, I think.

Now I just have to be in better shape….

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Back on the planks again

Skis, that is. It’s been two years since we went skiing. The first year, we had our Fusion passes ready to go, but no snow. Last year, because of my fall with Mocha in the summer, I couldn’t get my injured foot in my ski boot and I lacked confidence in the strength of my ankle. I missed skiing not just at Timberline but at Ferguson Ridge, the little ski area in Wallowa County.

This winter was and still is epic snow. Nearly 200 inches at Timberline right now. But I still couldn’t get my feet into those damn boots. So I finally broke down and went to the chiropractor for two sessions of footwork that my massage therapist recommended. After the second session, I shared with the chiropractor that I still couldn’t get my feet into the boots.

He frowned, and had me sit down so he could examine my feet further. “It shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “Your feet are flexing properly. Go talk to a boot fitter.”

So I called down to Portland to a boot fitter, and the boot fitter recommended exposing the boots to heat. Given that it was still winter, and the wood stove was burning, I parked the boots by the wood stove. A few hours later–et voila! I could jam my feet into the boots. I followed a further recommendation and yanked the tongues out as far as I could to see if that would also loosen things up.

Next, it became a question of when in a busy Portland schedule we could fit skiing in. By this point it was mid-March and the Timberline spring passes were on sale. But I knew from bitter experience that Spring Break at Timberline is total chaos, so…we didn’t go.

The stars finally aligned. I had started questioning if I wanted to ski again, but figured well, give it a try. I have a lot of things I’m wanting to do these days and not many of them are in Portland. Still, it seemed to be a good idea to give it a try, especially how epic this winter has been. Plus with the latest cold and wet spell, there’d been a fresh dump of snow in the Cascades.

We didn’t race up the hill like we had when cramming skiing in during time off on weekends, or like I did when skiing before work. All the same I had a brief sinking sensation in my stomach as I came down Cherryville, and had to remind myself that I wasn’t going to work, I was just going skiing and having fun.

The lot was almost full, which surprised us. It was as slick and icy as ever. Fortunately, several months of life in the snow and ice meant we were a bit more skilled at navigating the parking lot ice rink. Despite the full lot, we were able to get our passes quickly, then go back to boot up and unbag the skis. As I wrenched my snug boots on, I heard the whoosh from the wings of a parking lot raven flying low. I decided that was a good omen because I’ve always enjoyed watching the ravens play at Timberline. It was easier to walk back to the lodge in ski boots instead of my other shoes. I had some trepidation as I stepped into my bindings–woman, are you crazy?!!–but told my inner chicken to shut up and pushed off. It couldn’t be any worse than taking Mocha back out on the roads this spring after a layoff.

Lordy, I’d forgotten just how tight those Dalbello Electra boots are. And I gave myself a serious case of thigh burn overcontrolling every turn down the first slope to West Leg Road, and the relief of an easy glide to Stormin’ Norman. The second slope down to Norman was shorter and easier, and I found the whisper of a flow to my movement.

We hopped on the chair and rode to the top of Norman. It had changed since the last time we skied there, with a lot of big, big jumps. But the snow was powdery even though there were snowboard divots we had to work through to get to the really good part of the run.

I had to stop twice on the first run because my feet were still screaming about those tight boots. But I told myself to ignore it because tight is better than loose. I had a bad fall from packed out liners in soft boots so I’m paranoid about that now. My thighs were also unhappy because–again–I was overcontrolling and not skiing relaxed.

Everything clicked on that second run. The boots loosened up and I found myself able to use my feet more effectively. My arms and shoulders rotated from turn to turn as they should. After that first run, my thighs stopped aching so bad and I was able to pick up a little speed.

We decided after four runs that this was good for a first day. We both had more in us, but I knew that if something funky happened I was just tired enough to cause me problems. And after all, it was on par for what we’ve done in the past for our first days skiing. So we glided back to the lodge, and I had a wonderful glide down the bottom of the Magic Mile to the lodge.

And oh yeah, we did a selfie in front of the lodge. Because we could, and because this really was the first ski of retirement. Two years late, but we finally made it.

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New story live..JC the Ski Bum

Issue Two of Fantasy Scroll Magazine is out, and with it….one of my stories!

http://fantasyscrollmag.com/article/jc-the-ski-bum-joyce-reynolds-ward/

Enjoy. I had fun writing it, and it’s based on a throwaway line that happened during one of the epic Welches Ski Nights from a few years back. 😉

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Real spring skiing for once

This Mother’s Day, I got up at 5:30 am, had some yogurt and almonds and an energy bar, hopped into the car with DH, and went skiing.

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Yeah. Lifts opened at 8. But the temps had dipped into the high 20s and stuff had iced up weirdly. By the time we went through our usual prep (plus me getting a coffee and! bacon!), the snow was just right. A little soft with hardpack underneath.

The catch was that the Magic Mile wasn’t open yet. Still in storm recovery mode (and one does not diss the gifts of Ullr and Skadi  at this point in the season; yea, even though it may cause Perfect Run Issues). So we went for Stormin’ Norman. Whereupon we discovered this:

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at the top of Norman. Essentially, there’d been a freestyle ski movie conference at Timberline, and that is what they made for it.  Then, when I saw where the takeoff hill for that set of jumps was, um, yeah. Pretty intense. It’s about halfway up the Kruser line on the Magic Mile, which means that it’s built for speed. Given the airs I saw on Facebook links from that conference…yeah. Fast and high. That’s what you need to get those big multi-revolution tricks. It’s as much of a science as a ballet pirouette. Trickers spot their turns just like dancers do. Eyes-shoulders-hips-feet. It’s a graceful sequence to watch on video, but in slow-mo you don’t always get a sense for how fast the freestyler is going in real life.

Anyway. Enough ski geekery.

I got up to my old pre-packed out boots, pre-fall speed. One of the beauties of Norman when it is relatively quiet is that you can have a nice side-by-side run, and for once this season I dang near passed the hubby. Mmm. I think I like my boots, at last. It’s taken a year to break them in, but now I’ve found their potential.

Back in the groove again. Feeling the flow of the fall line. Finally, damn it, after struggling with boots and injuries and stubborn aging body.

About time.

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Spring ski day with horsey moments

Went skiing this morning at Timberline. About six inches fresh snow; got 3-4 more inches while we were skiing. Heavy powder. Not as heavy as earlier in the month. It wasn’t grabby powder, just heavy. I was glad I’d waxed the skis heavily as that turned out to be just perfect for the conditions. As it were, I still kept muttering that we weren’t in shape for these conditions. Heavy work for the quads, for sure.

There were several slopes where I just pointed the skis downhill with about eighteen inches between my feet (to keep the tips from tangling, a problem I have with my shaped skis, and heavy pow will do that), leaned back, and sledded down. Lots of bounce, bounce, bounce when I did that. Slow snow, so perfect for that. Powder’s much more fun when one isn’t hurting and the quads are in shape!

We tended to shun the wide open slopes (our usual haunts) for the narrower runs because they weren’t getting chopped up. If I’d been in better condition it would have been the perfect day for tree skiing. Lots of other folks were doing that, because otherwise the big slopes were just getting chopped up and heavy. We retraced our trails enough that we could see where the snow had filled in our tracks in ten-fifteen minutes.

Perfect little snow globe day.

Afterward, we stopped by the Burro for pork belly tacos and then to the barn and Mocha. I can’t believe how much she’s shedding this year. I think some of it is due to limited rolling due to limited turnout; still, I swear she’s shedding both winter AND spring coats at once!

She tolerates the restricted schooling routine. Key word: “tolerates.” We start out with me putting her on the bit and in collection. It’s a departure from the usual methodology I’ve done with this horse but given that I’m  striving to keep a bit of muscle tone on her, I want her first moves to be under restraint, and then move toward relaxation. While she’s never yet come out of the stall on tiptoes, it’s still pretty clear that she’s tired of no turnout, walk-only works. Today I got a bunch of grunting through the process, which is one way she expresses grouchiness with what we are doing. So–first lap slow, small, collected work, second lap I ask her to extend the walk while still being on the bit. Most of the time she lines right out but today she decided that meant I wanted her to break into trot. Not once, but several times.

Nope. Not yet. Not until that bar shoe goes (projected to happen–maybe–in June).

Besides weaving in and out on two tracks (half-passish), we also schooled boxes. As in walking box shapes with sharp haunches turns, about 10 feet by 10 feet. Then backing the same. One of the beauties of this mare is that after backing the first box, she started anticipating what we were doing. But instead of anticipating in an obnoxious, pissy way (ie, “we’re at the place where we do something, so I do it before I’m cued!”), she slowed and waited for the cue. Very nice when she does that. I think she was looking for her tracks because a couple of times, she sidepassed over to back in her previous tracks. Just a case of half a step or so, but…..very nice.

We backed six boxes. That’s probably enough.

Her haunches still look to be in good muscle tone, which pleases me because that’s why we do all the backing work. Her shoulders look good–well, that’s because we keep doing the small circles and the two-tracking work.  She’s put on weight in the barrel. I figure we’ll have to start doing aerobic conditioning once she’s out of that shoe, but…before then, I’m going to be doing more extensive walk work to try to at least get a head start on that.

At least she seems to have gained enough weight that I can put the English saddle on her. I figure we’ll start with that for conditioning, then move into Western once I deem her sufficiently fit for extensive canter work.

It’s a work in progress…and I groaned when I slid off of the bareback pad today, because between skiing slow deep stuff and then schooling horse bareback, even at a walk….OUCH.

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