It is hard to find a safe winter sport

Susan Metcalf Photograph Image/jpg As I Get Older, It Becomes Harder And Harder To Find A Winter Sport That I Can Participate In, Because I Don’t Dare Risk My Knees, My Hips, My Skull, Etc. So When Our
Thursday, January 9, 2020
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Cooking in the West

As I get older, it becomes harder and harder to find a winter sport that I can participate in, because I don’t dare risk my knees, my hips, my skull, etc. So when our friends, Keith and Holly Williams from Virginia, suggested a snowmobile outing, it sounded fun and harmless.

We met them in Jackson, Wyoming and headed out for a three day ride through Yellowstone Park, and then one final day in the Grand Tetons along the Continental Divide. Even though it was 17 below at Flagg Ranch the first morning and 20 below the second morning in West Yellowstone, we had a marvelous time. Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours owner and guide Jon Toolson made sure we did not get cold, bored, or hungry, and he kept us laughing. We rode brand new Ski-Doo touring sleds with great hand warmers, electric start, and even rear view mirrors. We saw all of the highlights of Yellowstone without another soul around except our group. It was an amazing adventure even though unfortunately my 82 year old mother-inlaw, Carol Metcalf, came down with a horrible cold and bailed out when we hit Gardiner, Montana.

Then after three days of riding the wide groomed trails in the park, we arrived at Turpin Meadow Ranch right between Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks. It had snowed a couple feet of fresh powder that day, and the manager at Turpin Meadow told us he had spent most of the day digging his snowmobile tour riders out. That should have been a foreboding warning to me, but I shrugged it off as insignificant. After all, I had three days of sledding experience!

The next morning, we set out for our snowmobiles, and I had a feeling we were not in Yellowstone any more when I saw the Renegade and Summit machines waiting for us. They were pull start and looked like snow eating beasts compared to our sweet little touring sleds. Jon gave us the standard safety speech but concluded it with, “These Summits will buck you off, and then we will laugh.” In retrospect, this is where I should have faked a migraine and stayed at the luxurious ranch all day. Instead, I found myself zipping up the mountainside right behind Jon, the guide. Riding behind the guide would turn out to be a rookie mistake, but I had no way of knowing that at the time.

After an hour or so of enjoying the groomed trail that had several inches of fresh snow on it, Jon apparently couldn’t stand the boredom any longer, so he turned his sled and disappeared down a 90 degree powder covered hill. I blindly followed, and by blindly I mean that literally and figuratively. There was so much snow coming over my windshield that I could not see one thing except a little orange spot which was Jon’s helmet out in front of me. Somehow I made it to the bottom of the big hill without running into Jon or any trees or rocks or stumps, but of course I was stuck at a 45 degree tilt when I came to rest in deep powder in the bottom of a ravine.

After Jon finally found a way out of this hole we had dropped into, he came back to get me unstuck. He warned me that I would sink when I got off the sled, but I had no idea what that meant. I sank all the way to where the good Lord split me. I had to wiggle my legs back and forth to pull my stuck boots out without losing them. By the time I reached the trail by following this routine of taking a step, falling into my crotch, wiggling out, and taking another step, I was sweating through my Under Armour, turtleneck, fleece jacket, bibs, and snowmobile coat. I tried sort of snow surfing/wallowing instead of walking, but that is not easy when you are encased in 5 layers of clothing. By this time Jon and Keith had my sled dug out and turned around, so he pulled up beside me close enough so I could hoist myself out of the snow one last time and on to my sled.

Now we had to get out of this hell hole we were in. He scouted around the creek bottom and announced that we were going to get a “good run” at a perpendicular climb out of the ravine. It was either that or we would have to jump the open creek below. I am pretty sure I would still be in the bottom of that ravine in Wyoming if Jon had not realized that I was totally incapable of that maneuver, and so he hopped on the back of my sled and drove it out of there. He elevated himself from normal hero to superhero with that act of chivalry in my estimation.

I figured maybe we would be staying on the groomed trails, since a couple unnamed persons in our party (whose initials are Hannah and Darcy Williams) had a little “oopsie” and ran into each other. I was just glad I was not one of those affectionately referred to thereafter as “Wreckt’em.” Wrong! Right after lunch, we were happily riding along when Jon dove off the trail again. This time, I hesitated and almost revolted by continuing down the groomed trail, but I decided I had better follow obediently and not risk getting lost in the wilds of Wyoming. Again, I could see nothing, but I kept the machine screaming at full throttle, because I had been advised, “Speed is your friend.” I couldn’t even see Jon’s orange helmet dot, so I reached up and popped my face visor up thinking this would help me see. Instead, I almost drowned. So much snow was coming into my face, it coated my hair and eyelashes. I could tell when we crested the hill, so I let off the throttle and miraculously came to a stop without running into anything or getting stuck. It took a couple minutes to defrost my hair and eyes and defrost my face, but I had learned not to pull my visor up again.

I only got stuck one more time that day, which I count as an answer to the frantic prayers I offered up and not to any skills I had acquired. I did learn to ride back in the pack though, because then the trail is a bit more packed down so rookies like me have a better chance of staying in the tracks. I can tell you that snowmobiling in that much powder is not something I am going to aspire to. I am more of a road warrior or better yet--a passenger!

My featured cook this week is faithful reader and a great writer, Jane Lambert, of Stevensville, Montana. Thanks so much for these recipes, Jane!

Easy Baked Cod ala Greece

4-6 pieces cod (or any similar fish)

1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley (or green onions)

5 T. lemon juice

5 T. olive oil

2 T. melted butter

5 cloves minced or pressed garlic

1/3 C. flour

1 t. ground coriander

3/4 t. paprika

3/4 t. ground cumin

3/4 t. salt

1/2 t. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix lemon, oil, butter and garlic together, and set aside. In a plastic bag, put the flour and spices. Shake to mix, then add fish and shake to thoroughly coat. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a skillet over medhigh heat. When hot, sear fish on both sides, to give it some color--just a minute or two on each side. Remove from heat, and put fish into a shallow baking dish. Drizzle the pan drippings, and add the lemon juice mixture to the fish. Bake ten or fifteen minutes, or until fish flakes. Garnish with parsley or onions, and serve.

Greek Pilaf

Cook enough rice of choice for your family. Saute together in olive oil-- mushrooms, colored bell peppers, onions, and garlic. Add either fresh or dried basil to taste, and stir into freshly cooked rice. Serve with the cod, spooning lemon sauce from cod over rice.

Walnut Butter Crisp Cookies

3/4 stick softened butter

1/4 C. brown sugar

1/2 C. finely ground walnuts

1/2 t. vanilla

1 C. flour

pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Stir in the nuts and vanilla. Add the flour and salt, and mix well.

Shape the mixture into 3/4” balls, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. They should spread to about 1 1/2” inches around and be lightly browned around the edges.