I should have really written this column last week to make it into the pre-Valentine's Day Source "Love Issue." But sometimes you just come up a day late and a greeting card short. At any rate, I thought it might be amusing, if not timely, to comment on the outdoor dating scene in Bend.The other day I skinned to the top of Tumalo with a girlfriend and discovered an impromptu party at the summit. There were shiny, happy people everywhere, munching on Clif Bars, peeling off skins, soaking in the view. My friend and I noted especially the good-looking guys clad in soft-shell and beaming endorphins who were quick to strike up friendly conversation. Advice about the best line in the bowl, homemade brownies and cell phone numbers were shared. OK, I made up that part about the phone numbers, but on the way back down, we declared the top of Tumalo on a sunny winter day the best pick-up spot in Bend. At least way better than the Astro Lounge. Apparently, though, Cog Wild is now hosting Mountain Biker Happy Hour at the Marz Bistro on Wednesday nights.
Which got me thinking, as I schussed through the trees. Let's say I actually did meet someone who floated my boat, theoretically, at the top of Tumalo. Then there might be a date, and what would that entail? As I carved a turn in the heavy powder the following rating system somehow popped into my head.
A Green Circle date is easy and, frankly, a little boring. Something like Thai on the Fly while watching the Winter Olympics in high def (culturally clashing, I know), or maybe a surf and turf theme - dinner at Longboard Louie's followed by the Telluride Mountain Film Festival (coming to Bend February 26 and 27 at the Tower Theatre). All fine and good, in a Pleasantville kind of way. A Green Circle date is for those people on Match.com who say they are "outdoorsy" and "active" but don't actually sweat or get their heart rate over 100.
A Blue Square date ups the ante a little. It might actually involve a boat, a bike or a pair of trail-running shoes (preferably all three, but there I go into Black Diamond territory already). A Blue Square date might be a day of climbing at Smith Rock or a hike around Green Lakes. This date can be a good shake-down test of your partner's potential. If he holds his paddle backwards, it's probably all over. If he can converse coherently while running from Big Eddy to Benham Falls and back, there's a chance. If he can belay you on Monkey Face, it's looking good.
A Black Diamond date is challenging and exciting. Something like tandem paragliding from the top of Mt. Bachelor. Emotional attachment is enhanced by adrenaline, they say. On a Black Diamond date, you get to see what your partner is really made of. A weekend camping on a lakeshore in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness comes to mind. Will he carry the tent... and does he snore in it? Another idea for a Black Diamond date might be racing PPP in the co-ed pairs division (BTW, registration is now open at www.mbsef.org). Do you have complementary skills and can you work as a team under pressure? How good does he look in soggy running shoes, a sweat-stained shirt and helmet hair? More importantly, how good does he think you look in soggy running shoes, a sweat-stained shirt and helmet hair?
A Double Black Diamond date is off the charts, hors categorie. This date combines excellent adventure with heady romance. Something like a bike trip through the Dolomites of northern Italy and the vineyards of Tuscany. Days filled with 10,000 feet of switchbacks followed by evenings sipping chianti over a dish of risotto. Or perhaps a trek around the Annapurna Circuit. Three weeks of magnificent peaks, thin air and cozy tea house evenings. Maybe a surf trip to Bali. Sunny days filled with glassy overhead swells followed by balmy evenings swaying in a beachfront hammock.
I actually enjoyed a Double Black Diamond date once in my life. It began in a Thai restaurant in downtown Portland and hurtled non-stop into a week of snorkeling, mountain biking and bodysurfing on Kauai. Ah, yes, Double Black Diamonds are a girl's best friend.