Rooted firmly into the slightly salty soil of brobrah dirtbag dialect, an examination almost means wiping the word itself clean from its modern usage.
Once clean, I immediately think of the wood stoves from my childhood–pine cut to length, stacked neat or haphazardly atop flickering kindling. A metal box or barrel. Draft and damper open fully. Closing the door once it takes light. Crackles moving to roar as it begins to siphon air and burn warmth into the room. The waves of heat that dry gloves and boot liners overnight, that chase the chill out the chimney with smoke we can see from across the lake.
This is what we’ve chosen to express our excitement–a red-yellow shade of satiety, a feeling of fullness and ability to burn. Fueled up to cook down the joy before us. Intrinsically optimistic, because it is the glowing present looking forward, stoke is a sentiment of propulsion, the wick alight and scouring into a candle.
We meet as the chair spins the first skiers up into the inbounds. Through the backcountry gate, we reset the bootpack. We check snow. We find blower. Or windcrust. We shred. We holler. We burn white contrails through the trees. We high-five. We skin out. We do it again.
They’ve come from Texas, Hawaii, Calgary. They don’t know where they’re going. They fill out waivers, eat breakfast, put on boots, hit the bathroom as everyone else is loading the cat. They smile. They shake your hand. They have no idea what they’re in for. They’ve been everywhere. They learn to put on beacons. To stop above guides. To take turns dropping in. They yell. They thank. They look through the fogged windows of the cabin, they walk down the steps, they follow us down hallways lit ambient by reflected sun. Corridors snow-filled and unsullied. They must wait ’til the end to start drinking. And when they step out at the end of the day, after a beer and clacking across the highway, grousers marring the asphalt, they step out as people with the acid tingle of sub-alpine fir in their veins. As astronauts orbited, returned, changed.
Our breakfast at Coffee Traders, at the table with the Glacier map. Crystal Creek. Stanton Lake. Shortcut up the switchbacks to the saddle. Follow the ridge to the high point near 6300′. Drop chutes to the other side. Dad and son discussing as the eggs and oatmeal disappear. I listen, an adopted one. Shuttling a pickup car. Beacon check on the logging road. Leaving the skin track as Kent breaks up the ravine. I take the lead through the saddle. Collin from there, his newly adopted paleo-ish diet making us wish the wind was blowing harder as we follow a safe distance back. Lunch on the ridge with clouds obscuring Great Northern’s north side flank. ECTN22 in the pit, so we hug the right side and the crunch of the parking lot is inaudible, the flakes blasting off boots and into our faces. Tight trees lower down. Skinning out the lake as it nukes, stellars like sequins on our packs.