I'm not humbled by many things. As you age, you advance on the learning curve and many experiences start to fall under the 'been there, done that' banner. However, I must admit, to my surprise, I was humbled last week.
Arlington National Cemetery left me speechless.
A few extra days in Washington DC allowed me to play tourist. Going into Memorial Day weekend was a bonus. Mind you, this is not a celebratory event in our nations capital, but as told by numerous veterans, a day to remember those who gave their lives while serving our country.
So began my history lesson.
On my first day, I beat feet to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and of course the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.
I figured I'd save Arlington National Cemetery for the last day as I assumed the vast size would require more time.
Upon crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge, I quickly realized my planning was correct.
Upon turning left and passing through the main entrance gate, a number of things are instantly brought to your attention: The vast size of the cemetery. The deafening silence. The rolling knolls. The thousands-upon-thousands of white tombstones (I'm told 400,000 are buried here). The symmetry of every row. Kennedy's eternal flame. And of course, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It is a spectacular place.
While I've never served in the military, I have a tremendous appreciation for all the men & women who have served our great nation. Freedom comes at a price and I don't take any of my liberties for granted.
Silence and Respect.
Before Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made a Bucket List a household phrase in 2007, many words conveyed the same concept. As a lifelong skier, I always had a Ski Wish List. It was even posted in my SUNY Buffalo dorm room for a few years. It always turned a few heads and inevitably led to interesting conversation.
Born in the month of January, some would say winter is in my my blood. It's certainly in my DNA. So much so, as a child I'd place a snowball in the freezer every year in search of an endless winter. Yup... true story.
My list was simple and to the point.
What did I want to do in my lifetime that involved the sport of skiing?
While things constantly get added (and crossed off), there has been a bedrock of ski goals since day 1. An annual ski pilgrimage has allowed me to whittle down the list over time. Some key ambitions over the decades have included...
1) Live in a ski resort 2) Ski as many days as possible in 1 calendar year (for the record... 150 remains my personal best!) 3) Teach skiing for a year or two 4) Jackson Hole, WY 5) Telluride, CO 6) Whistler/Blackcomb, BC, Canada 7) Lake Tahoe (Alpine, Squaw, Heavenly, etc.) 8) Ski/explore New Zealand 9) Heli-ski n the Bugaboos/Cariboos, Canada 10) Big Sky, MT 11) Ski/experience Chamonix, France 12) Stop getting frost bitten (i.e. older & wiser?) 13) Ski Corbits Couloir @ Jackson Hole 14) Ski in South America... Portillo, Chili 15)Alta/Snowbird, UT.
Having recently returned from a tremendous week of skiing in Chamonix, I'm pleased to say I can put a check mark next to lucky #11. It only took a few decades to complete the task. But, hey... good things take time! And, while it's never fair to compare one mountain vs another (every resort is unique). This one was special. Chamonix/Mt. Blanc can best be described as "Simply Majestic".
The size and scale of the area is remarkable. It's hard to verbalize and capture on film (sorry old habit... digital sensor). The pictures posted here were taken with my iPhone as I tend to leave the Big Boy camera @ home on ski trips. It's simply too challenging to carry skis, boots, a suitcase, backpack and a 2nd backpack of camera gear. This also provides a good excuse for going back at a later date solely for photographic endeavors.
Viva la Chamonix...