In pinks and grays, the sun is setting and you spot something jutting from the snow.
And then slowly, as you ski closer, breaking trail,
Always all day breaking trail, you recognize—
And then you see the many tracks from animals
That ripped apart this carcass of deer,
That dragged it here.
Tracks that spiderweb across the snow.
And you are a fly, and you wish you could fly,
For you’re seven broken miles from your car
and an unbroken three from an unknown hut, and
Tracks of scavengers, of predators, of carnivores all converge right here.
Maybe merely moments ago.
And the aspen silence is suddenly deafening.
That if it were to escalate,
To crescendo by a crack of twig,
The sound would shatter
Your safety and all,
All your resolve to survive.
That this would be the very valley
Where you would finally die.
And as it gets darker, and as you ski on, breaking trail,
Always all night breaking trail,
Further and further from the kill,
Into the unbroken unknown,
You do not think about the murders that lurk in these dark woods.
Or the darkness, the temperature dropping, the river crossings, the miles to go, the getting lost, the frost that coats your breath in rime.
The being alone in the cold, in the night.
Just breaking trail.
Always, ever breaking trail.
And then, hours later, up ahead an apex,
and under starlight, two straight lines
And on this black and white night, under flashlight,
The roof of this green hut appears.
And you have made it; you are here.