Rob's Blog Archive

February 5, 2012











It happened on Sunday, the zipper on my favorite parka stopped zipping.  I found its slider hanging happily over rows of disconnected teeth.  This engendered a bit of cursing, several failed tries to make the zipper work, more cursing, and finally acceptance.  I guess I shortcuted the five steps of grieving. 

I had a second parka, the one that I replaced with my current fave, but by Tuesday afternoon I realized that my decision to replace no. 2 was correct.  The no. 1 was more comfortable, particularly as it got cold.  No. 2 was workable, but I wanted my no. 1 back.

I started my search for zipper replacers Tuesday evening.  First, I tried the woman who had replaced another zipper for me, but she said she had a new job and no longer did the sewing work.  The Missoula yellow pages beckoned.

After a few minor gyrations, I found two women who could do it, but there was a catch.  It would take a week before Beth could get to it.  Carrie could do it on Thursday, but the rush job was going to cost $45 rather than $30 Beth said she would charge me.  My mind knew it was only $15 but it was also saying it was 150%.  My mind also noted that the moon was going to be almost full on Friday night and the prediction had consistently been for a clear night.  Having perfect equipment for the perfect moonlit night sounded right to me, so I went on my Missoula run on Thursday and it included a stop at Carrie’s.  Call it lunacy.

The Missoula run went without a glitch including the zipper replacement.  And the zipper I have now will stop small caliber bullets.  With the functional favorite parka, the only question was would the weather be as good as had been predicted.

Friday was clear beginning to end.  Moon up, I started my first run of two about an hour after sunset. 

My teams are pretty evenly matched.  Usually, the Team of the Little Bitches (includes Daisy, Mitzi, and Sybil as leaders) starts out too fast and tires.  Occasionally they have a faster time than the Team of the Dogs of a Certain Age (includes Shoshone, Jake, and Tanner as leaders as well as my two twelve year olds, Vixen and Otter), but usually the Little Bitches end up a little slower.  The Team of the Dogs of a Certain Age pace themselves better.

I chose Archibald Loop again for the two runs.  The 2007 fire burned through the top of the loop and several miles would be open and I would be able to sled with my headlamp off.  And if a normal snowed in forest in moonlight has eerie romantic appeal, a burned out forest in winter has that much more.

The Little Bitches went first.  True to form they blitzed the hill on which we started sledding.  By the time we made the top of Archibald, they had slowed.  They still moved well, particularly considering they weren’t in racing shape, but twelve mph uphills turned into sevens. 

I jogged a bit on the final hills of the first run---my clothing was adequate, but I hadn’t bothered throwing handwarmers in my mittens and my hands had gotten a little cold.  And I do like jogging. 

By the time we started the second run, the temperature was just above zero Fahrenheit.  I had changed into a slightly warmer parka liner and threw a couple of hand warmers in my mittens before we took off. 

A perfect winter night isn’t that different from a perfect winter day.   It’s cold rather than cool, clear, a bright moon, and the trail is good.  For these runs, old snow may well be better than new and the cold reminds you it is nighttime.    

The light from the moon is much softer than that of the sun.  But that isn’t the big difference.  Moonlight has a different hue than sunlight.  Snow, particularly old snow, shows this off.   Shadows and illuminated areas are distinct and indistinguishable at the same time. 

Not only was the moon unobstructed along the top of Archibald, there were long stretches of the road approaching the loop that were lit up as well.  I sledded for miles with my headlamp off.  

In the cold, I glided through ghost forests left behind by the fire under a bright moon, noting the undulations of the snow that covered downed trees and frozen creeks.  Toasty warm in a cocoon of clothing, watching my dogs enjoy their work, hearing the sound of the sled runners grinding through the snow, it was magical.  Or was it Lunacy?

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