A Walk in the Snowy Forest
Ron Karpinski ©1998
My lovely wife, Irmi, and I have just returned from a one-week ski trip in the Swiss Alps. We lodged in the town of Bad Scuol in the lower Engadin. Bad Scuol is a quiet village, far from the tourist scene.
Our group of nine rented a two-story chalet on the main road through town. At eight-thirty each morning, a free city bus took us a mile up the mountain to the gondola station. Fifteen minutes later, we were carving gentle turns on pristine slopes in the high-altitude sunshine above the tree line.
This year, we had good snow. At times, all nine of us skied together in one long slalom line; other times, we broke up into smaller groups.
Around noon, we all met for lunch. Someone scouted ahead and found an empty table on a restaurant terrace. High on a hill, out in the open, we spread out and soaked up the sun. The heat sank clear to the bone.
An hour later, we hit the slopes again. Riding the T-bar up a long grade, we peered out at a wide panorama of snow-capped peaks off in the distance. At the end of the day, four of us skied all the way down the mountain to the village at the foot of the valley.
On Thursday, Irmi and I stopped skiing at three o'clock and took the gondola down. Leaving our ski suits on, we donned snow boots and took a walk through town, gazing at the store fronts. At the far edge of town, a narrow trail led down toward the valley floor.
Wandering along the snow-covered trail, we eventually came upon a river deep in the forest. Our path paralleled and crisscrossed the river a number of times. From rickety wooden bridges, we stared into a deep gorge where icy water foamed over huge boulders.
Soon the boulders thinned out, and a crystal clear pool appeared. From our vantage point above, we could see the river bed. A blanket of small rocks, ground smooth after eons in the tumbling current, spread out like a soft gray quilt. Streaks of sea green, caused by runoff snow, clouded the surface while iron oxide bled long rivulets of rust-red.
Once, when Irmi hiked ahead, I gathered a palm-full of snow and heaved it in a perfect arc that caught her at the base of the neck. Splat! Ice melting down her back, she chased me up a small hill and caught me from behind. There, I paid a high price for my misdeed.