Athletics Campus Life St. John's College Santa Fe Student Activites

Cross-Country Skiing in the Jemez Mountains

You find yourself by the side of the road somewhere in the Santa Fe National Forest with nothing but your gloves and an empty sandwich bag, as of late holding the pesto turkey wrap that was meant to be your dinner. It’s two in the afternoon. All you can remember from the drive is waking from your unconscious slumber and peeping the Valles Caldera, the vast crater of an extinct volcano covered in snow — also that all of Hector’s music you heard asleep in the van sounds like something you’d see on a GoPro video. Perfect, for that he already has his bright orange helmet strapped to his head with a camera on top. Derek, the outdoor program director, mocks him affectionately for this hardware.

So, here you are by the side of that road, and all your compatriots are putting their cross-country-ski boots on. You would, too, but first you have to pee. So you find a nearby tree, whatever, and drop ‘em. Of all the college experiences that get you comfortable with nudity, this one’s has got to be preferable to streaking through a library, a tradition we do not plan on implementing at St. John’s. 

Imagine then gliding past vistas of pine trees and blue skies with some of your nearest and dearest, as if on wings, wings of a low flying crop duster flown by a trainee pilot, running on empty. As we head towards the San Antonio Hot Springs, a selection of four secluded tubs of smoothed stone on side of a treacherous slope, there are screams of all kinds, mostly of delight. (We tossed our whiny sources of complaint back in the first mile, if only to demonstrate just how treacherous that slope could be.)

A few hours later, dusk threatens, as does the possibility of being fined by the Forest Service for being on the trail past dark. To avoid trespassing against the after-sunset policy, we must turn around before reaching the hot springs. Avi, a boy king, will not have it. He stamps his ski-adorned foot. He will have his soak. He offers to pay all of our fines. Will five dollars be enough? All laugh, but was he kidding?

To console ourselves of not reaching the springs, we consume two large thermoses of hot chocolate and three boxes of fat doughnut holes. On the return trip, the ice carries us all crashing to the ground under the light of the Snow Moon, the sky alternatively orange and purple like the happy bruises we’ve sustained in our raucous falls. The nap on the ride back carries us through places we’ve been and loved, these and other shoulders we’ve slept on. We’re back in time for Phil, Reyna, and I to pick up some Dominoes pizzas and stretch out our hip flexors to the beats in the Cave. Heck, we might even have time to go streaking through the library.

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