Back to the Introduction.

The Flag in the Snow -- You are here.

The Flag in the Snow

The red flag flutters from an old garden stake stuck askew into a snow pile. Once the flag was part of an old, red, t-shirt that ran badly in the wash. Now it marks the end of the world, though there is clearly more snow behind it. The flag sits poking out of the snow two miles onto the plateau, behind the small hill, behind the Parkerie, the only highrise in Laramie that is also my home.

the old red border flag in the snow Two and a half miles from home is a respectable cross country ski run for most people, since you need to ski two and a half miles back. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to have a flag there...except... there is more perfectly skiable land beyond the flag. I could see that. I hate arbitrary boundaries. I asked around my complex about the flag, but no one at the Parkerie would confess to creating it, putting it out, or knowing any one who had any part in the flag's creation or the setting of a boundary.

So one day during winter break of my first year in the Parkerie, I decided to ski beyond the flag. I went out in the day time, though dark-adjusted eyes by moonlight would probably be just as reliable. I reasoned that if I reached country that was too rough or had too steep an upslope or downgrade, I could just turn around. Skis leave tracks in the snow on calm days, so my chances of getting lost was nil.

I skied out the two and a half miles, and bravely, well not so bravely, I headed off into terra incognita. As expected, the country beyond the flag, did not seem any different than the well skied circuit before the flag. There were cottonwood trees where scrub jays were fighting over something left on the ground. If I had looked at them more closely, they would have flown away. Clearly this was not really untraveled land.

Eventually, I turned back. I was tired. I did not need a flag to tell me it was time to turn around. My own muscles and flesh told me to move the flag and move on. There will always be flags whether they are visible and arbitrary or I put one there for good reason.

Since my first trip beyond the "official" flag, I have been a fairly good distance into the plateau. One day, by chance, I'm sure I'll run into a downgrade or mountainside, or else a state road. The world ends somewhere with or without a flag.