This summer any time I was invited on a hike, it was a production. Knee brace? Check. Hiking poles? Check. I can remain in denial about advancing into middle age for only so long, right? Whatever.
Most days the hassle was worth the killer views, exhilarating endorphin’s, the works. Then, rather by accident, I happened into a pleasurable mountain climbing experience, the likes of which I had not enjoyed in several years: The scenic chairlift ride.
My in-laws were visiting, and the kids wanted to show them the top of Bald Mountain, which is one of their favorite spots to ski. We were tempted by a text from our friends Stacey and Steven, who were planning to hike the Silver Lake Trail (one of my favorites we used to do it a lot when the boys were still riding in frame packs). We hadn’t seen them since winter, and they had just landed to spend the holiday weekend in their home. So the temptation to say, “yes,” was great. However, between my uncooperative knee and the in-laws’ recent arrival from their sea-level home turf, it seemed like a better idea to ride the lift up, and meet up with our friends afterward.
We split up into threesomes for the ride up on the quad chairlift. Dad, Grandma and Lance in one chair, Seth and Papa and me in the other.
It turns out, not every ascent has to be adrenaline-filled to be thrilling. The views, alone, were enough to stop me in my tracks. Even better were the moments when my kids pointed out their favorite ski runs to their grandparents. “See where those guys are mountain biking?” Seth asked. “That’s one of my favorite places to ski.” His grandfather was duly impressed with the kid’s ability to navigate the trees.
We chatted, excitedly, about some favorite moments we had enjoyed on the mountain over the course of the ski season. We pointed out Sunset Cabin, where Seth helped me lead Temple Har Shalom’s famed “Ski Shul,” a ski-in ski-out Shabbat service, held each Friday at 3 p.m. during ski season.
Soon, we were disembarking from the chair (something that seems to inspire us to break into a jog, actually) and scrambling up the steps to the view area. While we pointed out ski trails and views of town to our visiting family, we took a bunch of photos. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Stacey and Steven, just summiting their hike.
“Perfect timing!” I announced. “We couldn’t have planned that!”
We spent a few minutes more, exploring the mountain, and then added Stacey to one chair, Steven to the other, and began our descent. There is a good argument to be made for a round-trip chairlift ride, because the views of the Jordanelle (which you only glimpse for a few moments on the ride up) are expansive, spectacular, and in sight for a good several minutes on the way down.
Of course, after all of that hard work, we needed refreshment. Thankfully, Steven and Stacey had the exact right trick up their sleeve a stop at the Snack Shack at Silver Lake Lodge to pick up Deer Valley’s famous chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.