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The Last Pillow Hurrah

This will be the last pillow post of the trip. However, the whole pillow thing is still a bit of a revelation. One travels and invests so much time and money for the big sunny lines, but ends up focusing on deep pillows for a month. The unplanned surprise of it is one of those beautiful things about travel and the road.

Miguel (you'll meet him shortly) and I were talking about the beauty of surprise Red Herrings that one encounters within the travel experience- the kind of distractions that would be annoying if you were on a urban commute, but totally refreshing out in the woods of Alaska. We were driving down the John C. Anderson down Mosquito Lake Road on the way to when a parked station wagon appeared on our right. We stopped to see if the driver was alright. He walked up to the passenger window with a nice fat grin, and rested his arms on the door, "how you guys doing?" he asked, and before we had a chance to ask him if he needed help, he continued, "We are going on a hike here shortly, just waiting for for my friends to show up... I built the trail over the course of ten years. It's a nasty little one- I build it as a great hike up to the alpine, but also just on the cusp of what the best sledders could just barely handle it on a modified 800. You guys should try out it... I've built two cabins up here...."

Fifteen minutes later, we pulled away from the station wagon without having said much, but laughing and much better off for it. Miguel looked at me and said, "Super nice people here, eh!"

Back to the action. With the weather still snowy or cloudy, or shifting between some variation of each, we continued the pillow hunt on upper Sunshine Mountain. Just above where the Stairway Pillows of two posts ago, was another set of lines. These were more dramatic and steeper, with bigger drops.

Rob, Mark, Oskar, and myself left from the twenty-six mile bridge. We endured the ruts and spent the first part of the day creating a track up that linked the lower stairway pillows to the upper ones. Once in position, it was a photographers bootpack special. Oskar, now the fit, lean machine that he is, put in the pack and the skiers followed.

The first line closed with a big pillow at the end. It looked great, and I lined it up with speed. It was one of those airs where after take off, you sort of realize in an instant that you went a bit too fast and big. It's amazing how many thoughts the brain can process in a split second. As i sailed way past the tree that I originally intended to land beside, far over Mark (who was shooting from below), and as I started to drift backwards, I braced myself for a bomb hole and the deacceleration that would go with it. Splat- I took a seat into an instantly generated snow pit sized crater.

Buzzed and ready for more, I headed up for the second pillow line on the face. The second line featured two options: a small drop to straightline, or a succession of tightly stacked pillows. I opted for the more photogenic pillow sequence. It looked fun and exciting, but hinged on a quick, secure landing on the second pillow. After getting the go ahead from Oskar and Mark, i dropped in only to have the second pillow collapse upon landing. Next thing I knew, it was white and I was going for a ride down the hill with sluff and pillow in tow. Not the way I planned it, but a fun ride nevertheless. Good pillows are a real treat, and it was something special to be up in Haines skiing these lines.