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Inside the Outdoors: It Needn't be Perfect to be Fun

You might have a difficult time convincing a true perfectionist that "Perfect is the enemy of good." The fact that I readily accept this wisdom suggests that I'm not much of a perfectionist, an accusation for which there is ample evidence. My wil...

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My son and his new wife decided this would be the year they would do more than just dabble in cross country skiing. They found amazingly good "pre-owned" skis and poles, got a good deal on boots and were ready for the first good snowfall of the season. PineandLakes.com Illustration

You might have a difficult time convincing a true perfectionist that "Perfect is the enemy of good." The fact that I readily accept this wisdom suggests that I'm not much of a perfectionist, an accusation for which there is ample evidence. My willingness to embrace the imperfect must have an effect on those around me, if one of the events of our Christmas holiday weekend is any indication.

Just a month earlier, at Thanksgiving, my son and his new wife decided this would be the year they would do more than just dabble in cross country skiing. They found amazingly good "pre-owned" skis and poles, got a good deal on boots and were ready for the first good snowfall of the season. My wife, who gave up skiing and sold her gear several years ago after double knee replacement surgery, was similarly inspired, and re-purchased the very same equipment she had previously owned. They, my daughter - a former high school cross country skier - and I were determined that we were going to hit the trails when we were all together for the Christmas holiday. By the week before Christmas, we had acquired enough to snow that the local trails might be reasonably good.

Apparently no one bothered to tell the weatherman about our plans. As we were making holiday preparations in the days before the family's arrival, the forecast was beginning to look grim. Before the Christmas weekend was over we might even experience that meteorological rarity known as a winter thunderstorm. By afternoon of Christmas Day, the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark, and the formerly soft snow had slumped in that wet, heavy way that is least appealing to a skier.

It would have taken very little persuasion for a voting majority of our five-person troupe to accept Plan B, and curl up with a book we'd received for Christmas and a glass of hot mulled wine or a cup of eggnog. But my son wouldn't hear of such wimpiness, and shamed the rest of us into gathering up our ski gear and snow clothes and piling into his car for the short drive to a favorite local trail.

The empty parking lot spoke volumes. Had this been a day with good trail conditions, the lot would have been full. Perhaps everyone else had chosen Plan B. Word of trail conditions travels fast; in all probability the softening snow had been packed into an icy layer that would have more in common with a skating rink than a ski trail.

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Nevertheless, we clambered up the path from the parking area to the trailhead, and prepared to clamp on our skis. That's when we began to feel the mist on our cheeks, the first telltale signs of the freezing rain that was forecast, but which we had hoped would fall as snow instead.

There is a point where an adventure passes the point of no return, when going back ceases to be an option. We had apparently passed that point, so despite the fine rain drops beginning to fall more steadily, we gingerly made our way out onto the trail. What would normally have been a well-defined set of parallel tracks pressed into the snow by a grooming machine, was instead a nearly featureless surface that closely resembled the icy parking lot.

My daughter, though not a competition-minded skier a decade and more ago in high school, nevertheless had learned the skating stride that is so different from the parallel skiing stride known as "classic." She, at least, could make good headway, while the rest of us tried to find the least icy portions of the trail for the less forgiving skiing stride to which we were accustomed.

Gradually the rain intensified, and the rest of the troupe looked to me with a "Keep going, or turn back?" expression on their faces. Without being asked in so many words, I offered that "It's just about as far to finish the loop as it is to backtrack now."

The outer clothing we wore was intended to block wind, not to shed rain. As we neared the end of our loop and approached the parking area, it was evident that we were feeling moisture infiltrating from the outside, rather than "dewiness" from exertion generated on the inside. A stiffening wind was building, now driving the rain drops and sleet pellets at a more horizontal angle.

No one expressed regret to be stepping out of their skis and making the short walk to the car, or to close its doors on the unpleasant elements. Back home we stowed our skis and poles in the garage, then went indoors to shed wet wind pants, parka shells, woolen gloves and stocking caps, all of which crowded the basement clothesline that is normally used for "hang to dry only" garments. Then upstairs for well-earned hot cider and cocoa, and even a few self-congratulatory sentiments for having toughed it out.

I offered the observation that "It will be a long time before you ski in such poor conditions again." To which my son appropriately countered: "It didn't have to be perfect to be fun."

Related Topics: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS
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