22 December 2008

Merry Solstice Celebration

Don Stierle and Andrea Stierle have a cabin near the cross country skiing area at The Moulton. Some years ago, Jan Munday, Jeff Schahczenski, and Celia Schahczenski began hosting a bonfire/solstice celebration in lower German Gulch. It involved a fair hike to an undeveloped area. Stierles began hosting the party after they bought the cabin at The Moulton, and it provides a place for people to get inside and warm up. Plus, good skiing is close at hand.

The weather has been very cold, and Winter Solstice night was predicted to be -30 deg F or colder. At hour house, you can usually tell when temperatures hit sub-zero, as Roly-The-Dog & Phoebe-The-Cat start getting chummy and bed down together:

I reached Stierle's cabin with the "evening redness in the west" (Cormac MacCarthy Blood Meridian). Don & Andrea were just returning from a ski, as you can see by the frost in Andrea's hair:

Gradually, more folks (and dogs) found their way up to the cabin. The weather scared a lot of people off this year, and I think the human people were outnumbered by the dog people this year. We spent a few hours feasting on the potluck, Don grilled up several platters of hamburgers, I had time for a headlamp ski (RTD went back to the cabin before we made it 200 feet!). Returning, I had just enough time to kick off my skis, run in the cabin, and grab my old hat as Bill Macgregor was pouring diesel fuel on the wood pile:

It's been a good old felt hat, serving more than 20 years of backpacking, floating, flyfishing, and other outdoor adventures. But it was getting pretty ratty--to the point where Jan didn't like being seen with me in it. Last summer my little Tahiti boat got rolled up by a wave on the Big Blackfoot River. I held onto the boat and kicked toward shore--as my hat floated downriver. But Jerry Gless had his kayak in rescue position and saved the hat. Jan was not pleased with Jerry. He just happened to have inherited a pretty good old Stetson, which he gave me upon one condition: Jan could decide the fate of the old hat. And so, to the Solstice bonfire it went. Goodbye, old hat:

Meanwhile, the crowd gathered round the fire:

And felt the glow:

Mike Stickney insured no stick was left unburned:

"The flames climbed high into the night" (Don McClean, "American Pie"):

But watch those sparks. Good time to be wearing wool, and not fleece or other high-tech synthetic fabrics:

The fired died down, stars retook the moonless night sky, we hugged and all bid farewell but not goodbye.

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