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WenOut Day - How Did You Spend It?

Photo: When skiing replaces engineering, why wouldn't the ever-enthusiastic Mr. Rolfs be grinning?

WenatcheeOutdoors Day - Walking the Talk
Words and photos by Andy Dappen

“I’m taking the day off because of you,” Mike Rolfs told me. “So what are you doing for WenatcheeOutdoors Day?” I hadn’t finalized plans but was thinking a long mountain bike ride was in order. “That’s a terrible idea,” Mike argued, “You should join me on some powder laps in the Stemilt Basin.”

How could I argue with a guy who sided with us in believing that, as a society, we worked too much and neglected important incidentals like exercising, de-stressing, and appreciating nature? How could I argue with perhaps the only other person in the entire the Wenatchee Valley who was following our advice and was using the first Friday after the spring equinox to celebrate outdoor recreation?

We met at 10:30 the next morning at Midway (the mid-station at Mission Ridge). I had already taken in a morning meeting (shame on me). I had also talked to Jodi Taggart, the Snow Sports Director at Mission Ridge, who had told me about all the fifth graders who were currently on the mountain. In March, Mission Ridge brings all the fifth graders in the valley up to the mountain and gives them all free lessons, rentals, and lift packages for a day. It’s the ski area’s sinister attempt to peddle the cocaine of snow to these innocents and turn them into little addicts. There were classrooms of kids on the mountain for WenatcheeOutdoors Day and it gave me a warm glow to know these ne’er-do-wells were out having fun on our day. Their presence here had nothing to do with our influence, yet they were definitely embracing the spirit of the day.

Mike and I, both being season-pass holders at Mission, took the lifts to the top of the mountain. Then we hiked east along Windy Ridge to the microwave towers to start our tour.  Along the way we ran into Matt Dolan and Aaron Wright. “You participating in WenatcheeOutdoors Day,” I asked? They gave us blank stares – they were here because there was semi-fresh snow and they were doing what they always did – making quality of life a front-burner issue.

Photo: A few of the many enjoying WenatcheeOutdoors Day at Mission Ridge. Don and Linda Dimmitt and Todd Kiesz up front, Aaron Wright and Matt Dolan behind.

Near the microwave tower we passed Todd Kiesz, Patrick Aylward, and Don and Linda Dimmitt, hiking with skis on their shoulders, looking for fresh powder fields to harvest. “You all playing hooky on WenatcheeOutdoors Day,” I asked? I soon discovered these and several other attorneys from Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward were enjoying the firm’s yearly Ski Day. None of these attorneys knew a lick about our self-declared holiday but Patrick Aylward graciously offered, “If it helps promote the concept, add us to your numbers.”

Photo. WenatcheeOutdoors Day wasn't an altogether terrible Idea -- Mike enjoying first tracks in Stemilt Basin.

Now those of us observing WenatcheeOutdoors Day were over a hundred strong and, with a fortified feeling of solidarity, Mike and I left the ski resort and glided the half mile over to the Stemilt Basin. Here on southeastern slopes we harvested what was surely the softest, purest stash of uncut snow to be found in the general Mission Ridge environs on this fine day. Downward we went finding interconnected clearings to ski for a thousand vertical feet.

Photo: "With a little practice, I might get used to this."

Slowly the clearings gave ways to glades which slowly thickened into forests that became poster children of those places where you might want to ski with a helmet. At the 4300-foot level, we completed what was a first for both of us – a descent that terminated at the Upper Wheeler Reservoir.  As we broke free of the tree limbs clutching our clothing and glided onto the expanse of ice coating the reservoir, we surely felt the very same sense of discovery that consumed Balboa as he first looked upon the Pacific Ocean.

Photo: A modern-day Balboa skating the Upper Wheeler Reservoir.

Across the reservoir we skated, listening to the ice growl under our weight. Then, on a peninsula splitting the reservoir into distinct lobes, we sat in the sunshine enjoying a moment of psychic well-being. We discussed our feelings about being the escapees of capitalism, even if just for the day -- all work and no play, we decided, makes Jack not just a dull boy but an unbalanced boy. Soon skins were stuck to skis and we started the sweaty work of climbing the 2,000 vertical feet separating us from the basin’s rim.

Of course there could be no returning to town before the work day was officially over. Such a mistake might lure us back to the office and engage us in the unsolvable and stressful task of completing our ‘To Do’ list. This necessitated the skiing of second run down through the basin with Mike spewing a non-stop string of whoops that clung to the air as tenaciously as his tracks clung to the powder.

Photo: Big swoops beget big whoops.

By the time we had completed the next climb leading us to the margins of the Outback, the lifts had been still for over an hour and the hush of early evening hung over the hill. We each thanked the other for his help in keeping our priorities straight, then we carved low-angle powder turns that snaked right into the parking lot.

Photo: The way-back view from the Outback.

Such a day and we still had an entire weekend ahead -- we gloated in the luxury of it all. “A person could get addicted to this kind of jump-start to the weekend,” I told Mike, “Maybe WenatcheeOutdoors Day should be declared a monthly affair."


See a
map of our wanderings.

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