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The first half of the first semester of law school has gone pretty well. I’m a smart guy and in many ways going back to school has made me feel a bit stupid. I really do not like feeling stupid and as the semester progressed, the feelings of intellectual inadequacy have melted away. Three to five hours of reading per day is the norm. Jumping into twenty to thirty five hours a week has the same feeling at stepping on the upturned tines of an iron rake and stopping the handle with your face.

In skiing parlance, the best analogy might be taking some time away from skiing or not doing much over the summer to prepare for the upcoming season. During the first few workouts, when we train like we did when we were twenty years younger (for those twenty somethings, save this and re-read it on your fiftieth birthday, it’ll make sense.) our bodies revolt against the increase in workload and protest by sore muscles, stiff joints and a general feeling of “Why am I doing this?” After a few weeks we aren’t stiff and sore and the joy of movement and feeling strong make us want more.

Drinking to excess is a valid if misguided escape strategy for graduate school. You don’t feel any better but you just don’t care. This isn’t to say I’m on the moral high road and haven’t been a bit heavy-handed mixing an occasional post study cocktail, but as with skiing, school requires some distraction to stay mentally fresh.

My early season distraction is coaching a group of U-10 boys soccer players, the Fury, with the Lightening Soccer Club. It has been a blast and gets me out of school mode (running from the law) for about ten hours each week. This season we’ve stressed the basics and fundamentals of playing well. Just as with skiing, the fundamentals set the foundation and when the basics are automatic and subconscious we are able to parcel out some mental capacity for making good decisions. The boys have improved dramatically and hanging out with ten year olds also helps me think like a kid and enjoy the moment.

What does this have to do with trail grooming? Getting the ski trails into skiable and easily groomed condition is the replacement drug for coaching soccer. Working with the Fury taught me and demonstrated there is an extra ten hours a week available and it should be spent doing something creative. Law school isn’t big on creativity.

Our house is heated almost 100% by a wood stove and there is enough deadfall and blown over trees on the property to supply a good jag of the wood we need each winter. Occasionally, there is a need to drop a few trees and modifying the trail layout is a good way to use the wood. Most of the modifications just smooth the radius of curves or give a better angle to pass between obstacles.

More trai ljunk to remove. It always amazes me how fast trails are consumed by the forest.

More trai ljunk to remove. It always amazes me how fast trails are consumed by the forest.

This will be the fourth season grooming trails and reducing the mental load of having to run the equipment on a precise track to reduce the effort of grooming will be nice. Right now I’m THE grooming equipment operator for the trails and while exclusivity has its rewards, it would also be nice to just have a ski once in a while.

During trail walks to remove branches, or even entire trees which have fallen across the trails, it is not uncommon to find old bottles, cans, car parts, discarded farming implements along with a few rocks and bit of erosion. Every once in a while there is some bit of trail junk that inspires.

The bamboo hoop and wire to hold the flame. I have miles of carbon thread so I might make up the hoops with modern parts to create an ancient piece of art.

The bamboo hoop and wire to hold the flame. I have miles of carbon thread so I might make up the hoops with modern parts to create an ancient piece of art.

I began finding gray lumps of paper scattered throughout the woods. At first I thought they might be discarded hornet’s nests. Once I found the courage to investigate I discovered they lumps were tissue paper lanterns. The bamboo ring supports a wire with some fuel soaked cotton to heat the air inside and fly them off. Over the course of the past few months I’ve stumbled across twenty or so melted balloons and bamboo frames.

I’ve always had a fascination with hot air flying and wanting to build a small hot-air balloon. When I found an almost intact lantern/balloon my yahooing could have been heard for miles. Now I have a pattern and something else to place onto the pile if stuff to do someday.

In the meantime, trails are being buffed up for the onset of snow. We had a few flakes last week so it is on the way. The weeds and grasses are being cut back; branches and sticks removed; widowmakers taken care of; rocks and other base grabbing stuff is being plucked; and erosion areas are being filled. I might even pull out the sled and start rebuilding the roller. Nah, I’ve never been this prepared prior to the first snowfall but I am looking forward to the distraction of grooming trails and skiing.

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