The Yellow Trail

Balance Rock

This past Friday Luke, Mitch, and myself headed to Mount Wachusett to skin up the road on the mountain’s backside and ski down the trails on the resort side of the mountain.  The skin and ski at Mount Wachusett has been a somewhat regular activity throughout the winter, as Mount Wachusett is both close to home, has reliable snow, and is an easy place to head before work to get in a quick workout. 

The day proceeded as I expected, with a relatively quick skin up the backside of the mountain.  The sun was shining and we enjoyed it’s warmth on our faces and backs as we ascended the road.  As we basked in the sun, we also enjoyed the amazing views; the clear sky allowed us to see Mount Monadnock and ‘The Stash’ in the distance. 

Mitch and Luke taking in the view

At the top of the mountain we began to prepare for the descent. We removed the skins from our skis, flipped boots from walk to ski, and began to add layers, helmets, and goggles in anticipation of the descent.  Because we all hold passes to the mountain, we took no measures to hide our actions and were preparing in a small opening in the woods behind the lift. 

As we prepared, an older gentleman (75 years old, I later learned) skied off the lift and into Luke’s personal space, standing shoulder to shoulder with him even though the vast amount of open space behind the lift allows plenty of room for separation.  Luke, being friendly, asked the stranger, “How you doing today?”  Our new friend responded, “Good,” then asked, “Is this where the yellow trail begins?”  I was somewhat taken aback and confused by this stranger’s appearance and questioning, as I wasn’t quite sure what he was inquiring about.  First of all, we rarely see people on the backside of Wachusett. Secondly, people sneaking out of bounds rarely do so that blatantly. 

Mitch coming up the road  

We had seen a few parties skiing down the road behind Wachusett and I thought this gentleman was asking the whereabouts of a particular trail on the backside of the mountain.  It did not become clear exactly what he was asking until he informed our party, “I still feel young, but my bladder does not.  When you get to be my age, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”  The older gentleman’s candor made me smile as he was both quick with his response and his statement had contained an honesty to it that only the older generation can get away with.

Luke was quick to reply to our new friend with “I think the yellow trail begins over there behind those bushes.”  As our new friend rambled on about the state of his bladder and how age has declined his ability to both hold his bladder and know exactly when the urge will hit him, I began to tune him out and go back to preparing for the ski descent.  As I got close to being ready to ski it occurred to me that for all the desperation in our friend’s voice about his need to relieve himself, he did not seem to be in much of a hurry to leave our company and find the ‘bathroom.’

Nearing the summit

As I lifted my eyes from my pack and began extracting myself from the duties involved in getting ready to ski, they made contact with Mitch’s eyes, which were getting wider by the second.  I quickly released Mitch’s gaze and looked over my shoulder where the old man had not moved from his original spot next to Luke, but had removed ‘himself’ and was relieving himself right next to Luke…and Luke’s pack and skis.  I quickly returned my gaze to Mitch’s, seeking confirmation that what I just saw was indeed happening. Mitch’s eyes confirmed.

There was a silence among us as we all stood in shock of what was transpiring and were unsure of the appropriate way to react.  I returned my focus to my pack, grateful that Luke was the victim of this crime against decency and anxious for our friend to leave so I could laugh at Luke’s misfortune.  As our new friend finished his business, he wished us a great day skiing while putting ‘himself’ away. He left as quickly as he appeared, vanishing into the crowd exiting Wachusett’s quad.

Luke and Mitch enjoying ‘bluebird’ conditions prior to the incident