downhill is way easier than the end of the day uphill trek. I wonder if it will be doable in an icy winter though - my prodigious trundling was barely checkable on pavement. if I were to slip at the top of ashburton, I probably would only stop at the bottom (or on the hood/grill of a car/truck).
it is a really pretty day today - the sun and light breeze are a pleasant remainder of summer's breath, but the mackerel clouds, and crackly/crisp scent on the periphery of the wind suggest change is in the near future.
funny story just came to mind. before I was removed from he BSA - my assistant scoutmaster, mr. ventura, or V, was quite a player in my understanding of the wilds.
V was a heluva football qb - despite the fact that he was in his mid-40's, and a little overweight. He was also a really mean smacktalker - you learned to speak fast and smart around him, or wear your verbal guts for garters.
Physically, he was almost a cartoon character - he always wore glasses, a felt or flanel hat, and a vest. He had a huge walrus moustache, out of which always poked a pipe - unlit or faintly wisping cherrywood and tobacco. He often wore white nike hightops, unless we were camping, when he would wear faded combat boots from a long-ago lifetime (he often exclaimed his feet were the only thing that hadn't changed in 20 years).
At any rate, among the other things, V was a prodigious outdoorsman. He taught me how to set up a camp, how to build lots of different types of fires, how to find North, how to set your pace, and use that to determine the height of things, and how to read the clouds and winds for the weather (which is what started this reminiscence).
One of his tricks which would always amaze was that he could unerringly tell the time just by looking at the sun. For years, it astounded me - ask the man the time on a camping trip, and he would swivel about, give a quick chew on the end of his pipestem (which would make it bob like the birds that dip themselves into a bowl of water incessantly because of evaporation), throw a hand up to shield his eyes, and squint at the sun.
Independant comparisons with his time pronouncement, which usually came about 10 seconds after he started squinting, consistantly placed him at within 5 minutes of realtime every time.
This was completely spellbinding to us. The mystery lasted for nearly three years before Mike Patella (whose mother was instrumental in my removal from scouts) noticed that V hid a watch up under the cuff of his sleeve, and as he squinted at the sun, he was really scoping the time at the periphery of his vision.
Some magic is better left unexplained.
V hat a rough patch a few years after I left scouts. One of the kids in my troop was injured on a hike, and the scoutmaster, Mr. Lilac, was held accountable. They replaced him with some other scoutmaster, who was a real bastard, and did not get along AT ALL with V. Aparently, they feuded openly for about a month before the new scoutmaster's son (big surprises here) accused V of assaulting him (supposedly delivering a full force slap in the face that remarkably left not a mark on poor Tommy). I got all this from other scouts mind you - Tommy's dad, the scoutmaster said he would not press assault charges if V left the troop.
This sucked for V, and he opted for the path of least resistance. However, the buck didn't stop there. V was very closemouthed about the affair - as were the troop and local council. Officially he resigned for 'personal reasons'. He would not even tell his wife what happened, which apparently was the straw that broke that camel's back (V and 'the old windbag' were never on the best terms) and she left him within 6 mos of his last scout meeting.
I ran into V at a diner parking lot 3 years ago - dapper, dressed very differently, and having traded in his old grey 80something Oldsmobile POS for a Mercedes. I wouldn't have recognized him if not for the pipe and moustache. It was actually the scent of the pipe that caught me.
Apparently, a year or so after his wife left him (he filled me in that apparently rumor had turned "assault" into "advances" which was a further part of the reason she left him) he won the state lottery! 7.3 million dollars, all in one bang, from out of nowhere. He was pretty much a fulltime loafer, and had taken up fishing (and was happy to show off his gear in the trunk of his Mercedes).
That definitely put a grin on my face that day - and today, remembering all the good (and bad) times. I dunno if he is even still alive - I hope he is, and enjoying his fishing, wherever he is.