VOLUME 2: ISSUE 4: EXCERPTS AND IMAGES
FULL ARTICLES AVAILABLE IN THE PHYSICAL EDITION
Story and Photographs by: André Rober Beriau
Around the back of a water tower, the trail dips several degrees, crossing a stream that runs with fervor in the spring and summer. On a Thanksgiving-weekend night in November the idea for potential highway-hits was formed. The flanks of the Forestry trail off the defunct Tenney Mountain had tree-jibs, tree-gaps, and ledge sections waiting to be figured out. The proper amount of snow would turn the track into a winter snake-run. Smaller storms had rolled through over the mild December and bitter January, leaving a curious taste for what a true Nor'easter could provide. Two storms brought in the necessary depth. Hot dogs, buns, matches, knives, snowshoes, and water are packed. There is little else to bring. Jacques Beriau pauses at what would later be deemed a relative halfway marker for a section that had no identifiable end. Few orienting markers exist other than a border of new growth trees on either side of the eight-foot wide path. Banks, hip-sections, and slash zones are noted, none are utilized. The “What else is there?” motto takes form.
The snow that had dropped earlier in the week added another twelve to fifteen inches to the base. Born in Western America, Gypsy demonstrates her natural-born ability to mush through the fresh crop. She leads us over the small passes of river, past several hits, and attempts to play fetch with every loose limb that happens across her path. Stick in mouth, she runs ahead, knocking Jacques below the back of his knee with impeccable accuracy every time. I wait for it, laughing harder with each repeated whack. He is patient with her want to play, pulling the stick from her mouth, telling her “no,” and advising me on how to avoid her incessant desire to have a stick thrown aimlessly into the snow. Gypsy bounds between us, intent on one of us giving in. I crank back my elbow, stick in hand, and am warned, “She’s going to go for it, man.” I drop it. She still picks it up. Success comes by ignoring her. For the duration of the hike, she treks back and forth, though her stick game comes to a close earlier than expected - a welcomed event when finally noticed. We stop to session a hip that is tracked out sooner than the time it had taken to shape. Jacques works out a distraction system to prevent Gypsy from running in front of us or through the take off. Call her name. Throw a stick. Drop in. She changes direction halfway through her chasing game to follow either of us at full sprint. This back and forth does little to tire her. On the way home she will stay close to him, waiting for help over difficult sections. Legs tired now, she walks behind us, weary and wanting rest.
One slash. There is only this opportunity. Along the hike there were few spots as adequate for a proper frontside slash as this one. The corner is close to the top of the trail, and is preceded by a backside turn further up. Jacques finds his point of entry, and I walk a few steps below to find my point of view. An instance like this, Jacques strapping in, and myself providing the “all clear cue” make me time travel twenty-years. A different piece of equipment, a different set of woods, and a different perspective. Two decades back it would have been a Black Snow with a lime green base, a dirt road gap, and a jump over a patch of crocus flowers - long dead and buried under lake-effect snow. What separates us most from then and now is trying to find the time to get back there. Jacques shouts down, and I give him a count. He comes into focus past the elbow of the middle section. Three frames black out the viewfinder in rapid succession. I back off the path as Jacques straightens out before colliding with the edge of the trail. We are back on that hill, staying out until our father’s shop lights replace the sun and illuminate the take-off and landing.
Dug into the side of the mountain, someone, or some people have built a roughshod lean-to. The roof is covered in corrugated zinc-metal, the type that makes a light rain sound like a shower of change filtering through a Coinstar machine. A crude assemblage of pots, pans, storm lanterns and tree-cutting supplies are scattered across the dirt and moss floor. Whoever was here had sense enough to shape out a fire pit and back it with an excess piece of metal. Jacques collects sticks and kindling, and I get to work with a plastic bag to light the fire. He doubts my technique, and later mistrusts my advice on building a fire too quickly in the snow. Hot flames. Frozen water. No fire. We work together to coerce it to life again - swearing and cursing each other with every breath blown. Over the fire we begin to roast our lunch. There are few moments in my life when I have seen my brother laugh from the bottom of his gut - to the point that he places both his hands on his knees and doubles over in unabridged, authentic cackling. I’ve seen it once in the laundry room of the house we were raised after I told him something about an experience on the camp bus. I witnessed it again in a parking lot in Lake Tahoe, California on the tailgate of his 1996 Ford Escort. In the woods on this February afternoon he can’t hold back. Looking at the hot dog stick I chose - drooping into the pit of flames - he asks what I am doing - a smile already leaking out, “Hot dog fishing. What, you’ve never seen this?” It begins, so strong that he has to stand up and step back. I proceed to roast another. He gathers more loose kindling, watching me fish the flames. It drops straight through the cavern of sticks and into what coals exist below. I barely have his stick in hand, attempting to rescue my lunch before he is half over. “Hot dog fishing! What the…”