Adventures pour from the hills like cold honey. We are no longer living in the desert and we are surely no longer pedaling our way through another rice paddy. The gray skies on the Inland Northwest rarely give way to warm sun or night sky. Our Kansas has long been the wild west and the exotic continent of Asia and we are definitely no longer there.
But the adventures do come and we happily greet them, with more respect than we did before, knowing our meeting could be fleeting. When the fickle weather picks a side, we're out. Winter rain is stifling, but winter storms are welcome. So are the moments of blue ski sun, those that remind me of red rock and long Mojave days.
In the time between, we plan. Maps, guides, forgotten information buried deep in the web, our own wintery drives to scout for upcoming climbs and floats – these are the reminders of time before Netflix and baseboards and the convenient neighborhood grocers.
Sherman Pass is the highest plowed road in Washington. We go there, to 5,500 feet, to find something exotic, to be reconnected with the many foreign landscapes that pepper our memories. There is a front-end loader in the parking lot, we skin up and ski the power-line swath cut over the pass, the sunset is colorful, log trucks continuously grumble by, the Forest Service bathroom is shoveled out, and apparently it costs $21 to park. We spend the night in the Sno-park lot, huddled low around a fire melting into the snowy dirt lot. If anyone were to show up so late in the lot we would surely look primitive to them – we're getting closer.
The next morning the clear sky gives way to gray and the snow warms to goo. We skin along a well-groomed trail further into the wild land. There has been a big fire on the flanks of Sherman Peak and the logging history is not clearly evident. There are views into the Okanagon and the Selkirks. The log truck's compression brakes echo across the entire valley and the warm snow sticks to our skis and slows us to a crawl. We turn a wide open corner into a small saddle. Snow Peak looms wild and beckons to be skiied. We find an igloo, likely built not long ago, near a well-signed junction and eat lunch out of the wind. We are Eskimos in Kansas.