Winter's Opening

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Winter cracks open with an impressive storm and consequently a massive natural avalanche cycle. Recent slide activity drapes the flanks along San Juan County Road 2 from the town dump all the way up to Eureka. On an early morning reconnaissance mission the remains of a seven day storm depositing up to 2 meters of snow finally show. All elevations and aspects exhibit failure in the snowpack: North Star of Sultan, Diamond Face of The Grand Turk, south face Macomber and even some open pockets in The Ghost Face Trees of Kendall. These are the lines we ride, ripped clean with huge crowns hanging. Along the way north, Hazelton and Galena show bed surfaces, and the trail continues past old mines and off to the west a unique debris pile below Dome Mountain comes into sight. Channel flows creep down like stretching fingers of the slide's diminishing energy. The early light hits these features well.

Up in Eureka the air is calm and sunshine illuminates the NE buttress of Dome, a mostly vertical wall of rock with a few small trees. For the first time in a week these rocks feel the sun and as they warm small sheets of sluff whisp off and catch an airbourne swirl, feather light and surreal. For an instant suspended and free, the sluffs continue on, 7 or so of them as I gaze from the basin of what was once a prospering mining settlement. Now just a dilapidated mine shaft and the ghosts of old miners peer on in wonder at this ice crystal display. For a moment I think of the people who pioneered this area and dug out their souls for silver and gold. We skin the old roads they built, use the names they gave to the land and play with laughter as they did in this magnificent landscape. They deserve respect and recognition just as these wild mountains do. Confronting these peaks we go deeper into the mystery of the soul of winter, further into a passion for feeling alive and higher into an awareness of nature's ways. The path continues on...

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