The Great Transition

It may be 90 degrees outside, but I have already made my annual “great transition” to winter thinking. It’s early this year, I admit. Maybe it’s partially an escape, at least in my mind, from the oppressive heat, humidity and hay fever outdoors right now. But there’s a practical side of the transition, too. The Backcountry Trail Patrol Association’s winter website is already updated and waiting for the first snowflake to fall. In order to do that, I had to set up our annual Backcountry Winter Workshop, and to do that, I had to contact the local snowmobile club and set up the location. Then I needed to start contacting sponsors to make sure that they wanted to support the workshop this year.

Of course you can’t automatically think winter thoughts when it’s ninety degrees or more outside, unless you get some inspiration. So I sat here in front of my laptop with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing Christmas music through my headphones, switched the screensavers on my computer to skiing and snowshoeing scenes (we need a lot more snowshoeing scenes!), and sent our patrol dues into the Winter Wildland Alliance. Okay. Now I was in a winter state of mind. As scenes of last winter’s excursions flashed across my monitor, I contacted each of our sponsors and, once they got past their surprise at my calling in July, they all agreed to support the Winter Workshop! I shot an e-mail message to the county Snowmobile Trails Association to arrange speaking at their August meeting, and much to my surprise, got and immediate reply. Seems I’m not the only one thinking of winter today.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and I have just gotten back from my first visit to the Adirondack Mountains in almost 20 years. No, they don’t have snow there in August, but it is one of the great places for snowshoeing on the East Coast when there is snow to play in. Thing was, it was in the 40s at night, and boy, if waking up to 40 degree temps doesn’t make you start thinking wintry thoughts, I don’t know what will. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, and by the time I was back in Syracuse for the 25th Anniversary of the Wilderness Search and Rescue Team (which I co-founded in 1979), it was back in the 90s. The next day a front blew through, while I was mountain biking with the SAR team, and while it didn’t snow, we sure did get wet.

When I got home, I went down in the basement and pulled both my Fabers and my wife’s GVs down from their hook on the wall, and surveyed them for signs of wear, sanded off the ash, and put the first layer of Marine Spar Varnish on the 35-year-old Fabers. Two more layers will follow over the next few weeks, and then the shoes will have ample time to set and dry before the snow really does fall. The GVs are new, picked up at the local Gander Mountain store at the end of the season for less than half their suggested retail price. I just needed to figure out which type of binding would be best for my wife’s style of snowshoeing. A quick call to one of the local outfitting stores. “I’m sorry. We won’t put those out until October. Yes, we have them, but they’re in the warehouse. I’m sorry.” Oh well. Retail didn’t seem to have made the great transition yet. I checked my mountain skis for rust on the steel edges. I waxed them in March, so they look pretty good.

Lets see, what else needs to be done for winter; Start setting up coverage for the City of Lakes Loppet and other X-C ski races we work (how did a backcountry ski and snowshoe patrol end up being the lead ski patrol for an urban ski marathon, anyhow?). Call my boss and find out if we are having a pre-skiing workshop this November.

“Hans, it’s 94 degrees outside!”

Oh well, tomorrow is another day, later in the year, closer to snow. “What Child is This?” plays in my headphones.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and nobody was thinking of winter for a few weeks. Members of the patrol (including me) loaded trucks, sent supplies, coordinated and even, in one case, responded to the Gulf region.

The reality sets in about the time the temperature really does change. It is rapidly becoming fall, and soon we should have snow. Maybe even early this year. Theoretically, in Minnesota, it can snow anytime after September 15th, the day this article is due. But I still have to work medical coverage for the Midwest’s largest mountain bike race and the Twin Cities Marathon. I guess it can snow after that. Oh yeah, I did do one other thing in preparation for winter; I changed the signature on my e-mail. There is a poem there now. It reads:

My country is not a country, it is the winter
My garden is not a garden, it is the plain
My road is not a road, it is the snow
My country is not a country, it is the winter”
-“My Country” by Gilles Vigneault

Think snow!

About the author

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Hans Erdman

WEMC-I
Patrol Director/NMBP Instructor #03
Backcountry Trail Patrol Association, Inc.
Isanti, MN