By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
As a self-confessed homebody and certified “indoor person,” I don’t gush about outdoor adventures. I’ve been known to avoid them, especially when they include chance encounters with snakes, bugs or camping tents. But I’m about to gush for what may be the first time ever.
My family and I just flew back from Colorado where we took a long weekend to visit my brother-in-law and his wife. We met them in Breckenridge, a ski resort town. We skied for one day, and I enjoyed it as much as possible for a person like me. Whenever I’m skiing, I appreciate the beautiful scenery and the feel of gliding down the slope, but I’m always mindful of the risk – how you can go from being vertical to being a tangled wreck of broken limbs with one wrong move.
Perhaps if I was a more skilled skier, I’d feel differently. But for a person who has skied only a handful of times, I spend most of my time on the slopes trying to make sure I don’t die.
So, I was thrilled to discover that, for scaredy-cat skiers like me who love the scenery but not the risks, there’s a great activity designed just for us – snowmobiling. Tom has been wishing for a snowmobile trip for years now. Growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, he spent plenty of time traipsing across the frozen tundra on a snowmobile and wanted our kids to experience it, too. He assured me it would be “so much fun.” I didn’t fully trust that endorsement because this is a man who also claimed camping would be “so much fun.” (It wasn’t.)
But this time he was right. Tom booked a guided trip, and each one of us had his or her own snowmobile. Our guide, Jeremy, gave us a quick lesson on how to drive it, and it’s a lot like operating a cross between a four-wheeler and a jet ski. After the instruction, he let us practice on a flat field with no trees to dodge.
Then he led us onto a groomed, narrow trail nestled into the woods. The trail was lined with gorgeous evergreen trees heavy with fresh snow. At times, the trail expanded into wide-open spaces where we flew across frozen fields at forty miles per hour. Then we’d dive back into the woods and marvel at how the snowy trees looked against an intense blue sky. It felt like we’d driven right onto the set of a Christmas movie.
But it never felt dangerous because the guide, who had 14 years of experience on the trails, was watching out for us. He wouldn’t let us accidentally drive off a cliff. He wouldn’t let us get lost. In short, he was functioning as “the grown-up in the room,” which freed me up to feel like a kid on winter break.
At one point, the guide motioned for us to stop. He told us the next part of the trail would be steeper and that we should keep using the throttle to get up the mountain. When we took off again, I concentrated on doing what he said. After 10 minutes or so, the steep trail suddenly leveled out to a plateau, and I gasped when I saw what surrounded us – an expansive view of the most incredible landscape I’ve ever seen in person.
“Welcome to the Continental Divide,” he said, after motioning us to stop and take in the scene.
And that’s when it happened, friends. I found myself loving an outdoor experience! For the first time, I got a glimpse of what must motivate “outdoorsy people” to go on their various adventures. Before that moment, I never understood why people climb mountains, or dive miles below the ocean’s surface, or jump out of planes with a parachute and no guarantee of it opening. It seemed so crazy to me.
Honestly, it still does. I’m not wired the way they are, and the inherent risks in some adventures would make it miserable for me. But at least now I understand that “rush” you get when you see something that truly takes your breath away. Being there in that moment felt like a true gift, even for an indoor girl like me.