We were skiing into Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument against the better judgement of the woman in charge of hut reservations. We were aiming to spend a night at Big Springs Hut, which is normally accessed by a five mile groomed trail, but there had been so much recent snow that the staff had been unable to groom the road. I received a long email from the reservation office strongly discouraging us from heading out in the deep, fresh snow.

But this was our chance, so we went anyways. We crossed a bridge over the East Branch of the Penobscot River and skied into the thin fence of pale birch and speckled maple trunks. A young forest. It had certainly been logged at some point because these spindly trees couldn’t be much older than me. Despite the deep snow were able to navigate just fine since the road was a wide path cut through thin-trunked trees, but we were breaking trail. There was a slight sun crust on the top of the snow, which made it somewhat supportable. With every step our narrow cross-country skis would punch through the crust and sink into the softness underneath. The sharp edges of the crust scraped against my rental boots eroding the fabric seams. With every step I felt a gaping cold tingle my big toes. My legs began to burn with effort and my breath burst in hot puffs. I thought about the miles ahead of me with some despair.