February 16, 1997
Nationally renowned Obsidian entomologist Josh Ladau had planned an ambitious off-trail ski adventure up the north ridge of Mt. Washington. Worn out by a particularly busy week of interviews with various sectors of the news media, Dr. Ladau (yes, the Alpine Cricket Institute awarded him an honorary PhD!) called me two days before this trip and revealed that he desperately needed a day of restful anonymity before the relentless cycle of interviews would resume the following week. The trials and tribulations of being young and famous!
So what was I to do? I hadn’t a clue as to the route he had planned, and the more he described to me over the telephone, the more sure I was that I would be unable to find it. To be sure, the prospect of getting terribly lost with half a dozen eager Obsidians was a tempting challenge, but in the final deliberation I chickened out. After all, I might get some poor soul on my ski trip who had actually confused me with a professional guide.
So, instead of a delightfully grueling slog through the densely forested lower slopes of Mt. Washington, where I and my companions could have spent countless fun-filled hours extricating ourselves from tree wells, I chose to take my unsuspecting ski companions to the Three Creek Lake area (20 miles south of Sisters). Unfortunately, it turned out to be a beautifully sunny day with nearly perfect trail skiing conditions. Not much potential for adventure and/or mishap there.
Miraculously, however, an unlikely source came to the rescue and really made our day eventful and exciting. Almost as if on cue, within a minute of arriving at the parking lot, the head spokesman for the local snowmobiling group came over to greet us. Knowing what an exceptionally polite subspecies of the human species snowmobilers are, I knew this fine gentleman would immediately insist on taking off his helmet, the way one sheds one’s hat in church. Knowing that we were mere cross-country ski mortals, I secretly signaled to him that we were unworthy of such respect and that he should keep his helmet on. Being a perceptive and sensitive man, he picked up my secret signal without letting on to my companions. Snowmobilers always communicate better with their helmets on because they can hear themselves clearly while not being distracted by any outside interference, such as the static of little woodland creatures or cross-country skiers. To further improve the line of communication, he planted himself directly six inches in front of me. From this vantage point he could clearly see that I had neglected to remove the earplugs I had been using the previous day while chainsawing some firewood. Showing further consideration for me, he did his best to raise his voice to chainsaw decibel levels, knowing that this would spare me the bother of removing my earplugs.
After welcoming us to the parking lot that he and his companions had generously built for the public at large (with scant help from taxpayers or Forest Service, and on land that for all practical purposes was really no more public than his own backyard), he invited us to try out the new and improved Nordic skier parking lot that was more conveniently located down the road. I was overwhelmed that a human could be so helpful to strangers and I insisted that he was being too kind, that we couldn’t possibly accept such a thoughtful offer. He insisted that we should. I insisted that we couldn’t. And so, back and forth it went for several minutes until I thought up a generous alternative. I asked him the whereabouts of his vehicle, and he pointed to a most impressive motorhome, complete with snowmobile trailer. The entire rig was about the length of a 747 and was cramped in the inadequate parking lot. I expressed my concern for the welfare of his fine vehicle and offered that it might feel more comfortable in the lower Three Creek Lake parking lot. Well, I was just being too kind and he was clearly overwhelmed. With one final grand act of generosity, he offered to have his friends move my little station wagon for me — sparing me and my four companions the inconvenience of doing it ourselves. I thanked him and his friends profusely and insisted on moving my vehicle myself. After all, he was so sincere and I just couldn’t see putting him and his friends to all that trouble. Apparently other cross-country skiers were extended similar greetings, because as I drove down to the Nordic parking lot, several other ski vehicles followed me. We skiers are far too eager to take advantage of the kindness of others.
Later, at lunch, a couple of dozen snowmobilers buzzed by us on the nearby snowmobile road. They alternately revved their engines as if to provide us with a lunch time chorus. Ode to Snow, or something like that. A couple of them even zipped down our cross-country trail, probably to show us the way and smooth out our route. Naturally, we felt rather lost and alone as we made our way down Snow Creek Trail without them. If only the Forest Service would allow them to keep us company wherever we ski.
Back in the parking lot, we were greatly distressed to hear that the Forest Service had implanted a parking ticket on our friend’s 747. That’s the trouble with the government, they just don’t understand, do they?
Fellow skiers and FOSs (Friends of Snowmobilers) were: Steve Goins, Mike Landes, Drew Lardinois and Rebecca Ries. — Bill Montgomery (trip leader).