Friday, December 26, 2008

More ranch skiing

Friday I skied more around my pastures. Following my old tracks in the north and middle pastures certainly was easier than breaking trail. I did also ski around the south and NE pastures and that entailed breaking trail.

There were lots and lots of deer tracks in the south pasture and I could see the areas where the deer favored jumping over my fence from my neighbor's property.

Interesting how the river appears to disappear.

In this photo I caught snow falling from a tree branch of the middle tree in the back.

Trees and fallen trees.

The 'skeleton' tree below is a tamarack (Western larch).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas skiing

I hope each of you had a great day Christmas day. I had a good day. I drove to Whitefish to have brunch with Jackie (a good friend of dad's) and part of her family. Two of her three daughters, their spouses and kids were there and it was the first time I met most of them. The food and company were good and the four hours that I spent there passed quickly. One of Jackie's granddaughters spent a semester as a college exchange student in Ireland and she and I talked about our travels in Europe.

It snowed again today. I woke up to two to three inches of snow and I spent an hour clearing the driveway of snow before I left to go to Jackie's place. Most roads had not been plowed of snow. Traffic had made tracks and actually it was kind of fun driving in the snow. Especially as there was so little traffic out and about.

I decided not to take the road up the ridge as I had some doubt about making it up to the top. The road curves to reach the top and at the bottom is a bridge and river. If I - or others - couldn't make it top I didn't want to have to back/slide down. So I went a few miles out of my way to the highway and took that. It also had been plowed earlier even if there was still plenty of snow on it from the snowfall in progress.

The traffic and I went less than the speed limit. Still I seen a pickup going the other way pulled over by the highway patrol. Who'd be exceeding the speed limit in this weather? The pickup's driver was on his cell phone as the highway patrolman sat in his car.

After four hours at Jackie's my car was covered in snow. As I swept the snow off my car some of the snow on the metal roof of Jackie's house slid off and landed with a loud thud on the sidewalk below. Avalanche!

I slide and slipped during my drive home in the even deeper snow. I took the route where the road curved down from the ridge. No problem going down.

Back home I had an inch or so of snow on my driveway. It was (and is) still snowing so I left it alone for now. Instead - once I cleaned the ashes from my wood stove and lit a new fire - I decided to go cross-country skiing in my pasture. The weather was perfect: no wind, light fluffy snowflakes falling, and a temperature around 20 F.

I found with the warmer weather the snow was slipperier, which is good for skiing. Maybe too good at times as I found it was too slippery for me to cross a big dip when I couldn't get up the other side and slid backwards until the back end of my skis stopped against the ground and I fell down backwards into the soft snow. I had to take another, shallower, route out of the dip.

This time I didn't try to crawl over the barb wire fence and skied back to the gate to the middle pasture on the eastern end then back to the river again.

With the warmer temperatures I found quite a bit of the river open water again. I am constantly surprised. Here is today's photo contrasted by a similar photo taken a few days ago when the temperature was much colder.

I was skiing at dusk and the deer didn't know what to make of me. When I was in the north pasture five deer were coming out of the trees along the south end of the middle pasture then stopped when they saw me. They didn't know what to do and eventually turned back to the river.

When I was near the river in the middle pasture I saw another couple deer on the island near the river. Again these deer didn't know what to make of me.

When I returned from the river in the south side of the middle pasture the five deer were now crossing over to the north pasture and again occasionally stopped to look at me to figure me out.

It was getting dark and I kept an eye out for mountain lions. I didn't see any. I did see tracks of some smaller/mid sized animal running around a section of trees along the north/middle pasture fence. No idea what animal it could be.

As it was warm at around 20 F I felt like skiing more and when I returned back to the house I decided to ski the driveway to the road. I ended up skiing almost a mile total up and down the road. It had not been snowplowed but the traffic had compressed the snow. Finally I got to "ski" and glide as in the pasture all the new snow meant breaking trail even when I used my old tracks from a few days ago. On the road I only met two cars; otherwise I had the road to myself. Eventually I quit and returned home.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cross country pasture skiing

Over the weekend I went for another cross country ski run around my pasture. The snow was much deeper now and my "skiing" was merely breaking track through the deep snow. Yes, that is my ski in the first photo.

On my "to-do" list for next year is to make a gate through the fence closer to the river. If you think it is a hassle to normally cross a barb wire fence, try doing it while wearing cross-country skis! I made it over the north/middle pasture fence but it was complicated. No, I didn't feel like taking my skis off, though in the future I will.

I saw some deer tracks crossing north and south through my pastures. Usually the deer travel west/east from the river area to the creek across the road to the east.

As you can see in the second photo another tree has blown over. This tree is one of two that had died a few years ago. Being much smaller this tree will be easier to drop to the ground than the tree I just finished with in November.

Here are river views. The river hasn't completely frozen over in deep areas or where the rapid movement slows ice formation. Some animal crossed the river over the ice that stretches from bank to bank in the middle of the photo. I couldn't tell what kind it was from the tracks. The animal was light as the ice is not thick.

Here the river did freeze along the north pasture since the last time I skied here a few days prior. This is not a very deep area.

Here was my view heading back from the river.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Avalanche Lake in November 2008

Sunday November 23, 2008 I hiked to Avalanche Lake in Glacier Park.

The hiking group consisted of Patti, Gene, Leah, Deb, Fran and Pam. Five women and two men. This was the first time I had met Fran and this was the first time Pam had hiked with our group.

Avalanche Lake is an easy hike and one I have done a number of times. I hadn't been to Avalanche Lake yet this year, and never this late in the year, so I decided to go along. Sunday was chosen this week as Leah is a big Montana Grizzly football fan and the team plays on Saturdays.

We got a late start as we met in Columbia Falls at noon. At the Glacier Park entrance the sign said the ranger would be back in a few minutes and one could self pay. We have season park passes so we drove on. The ranger was hot footing it to the outhouse as we drove by.

We started the hiking under partly cloudy skies and a temperature in the mid 30s F. Leah, Deb and Pam all had ski poles to use as walking sticks. That helped them on the hike but one had to be careful when following them so as not to get struck by a pole. The trail was mostly bare until closer to the lake when a light layer of snow covered the trail. With all the traffic compacting the snow one had to be more careful not to slip.

There still were a dozen or so people out on the trail - far less than what I normally see on this popular trail.

Once we reached the lake Leah, Deb, Fran and Pam all found a bench to sit down on and got out their lunches. Patti had wandered off along the lake shore. I got Gene to join me in following her and then convinced Patti to walk to the head of the lake. None of the other women were interesting in doing so. As Patti, Gene and I had come in Patti's car it worked out as we could split into two groups. The others were long gone by the time we got back.

We all walked along the snow covered lake shore taking care not to slip on the rocks. At the far end of the lake shore was a small snowman. A nicely made snowman.

A short distance away were two men and three women standing and sitting on the far end of the lake shore on a section devoid of snow. In addition to some food the group had an empty bottle of wine and paper cups. Both Gene and I smelled the alcohol. Patti was too engrossed in photo taking and never noticed. One guy looked to be in his late 50s, the other guy in his mid 30s, and the women seemed to be in their mid 20s to mid 30s. They looked to be having a good time.

Patti, Gene and I walked the east end of the lake. The water level was lower than when I was last here with Brian and we were able to walk the entire east shore. That done I convinced Patti and Gene to go east of the lake. I wanted more views of the mountains and also to go where I had hiked with Brian when we saw the grizzly bear.

We followed a dry stream bed and not the abandoned trail. I was in the lead and followed deer tracks for the best path. Gene fell behind by the time Patti and I made our way through the low bushy trees to the open area where snow slides keep the vegetation clear. This area was under a large snow field when Brian and I were here. The snow field was gone.

The waterfalls on the mountains were all ice. A stream ran underneath our location and we decided to follow it up to where the mountain side got steeper in order to see more of an ice view.  We each broke through the ice one time and got one shoe slightly wet. It was neat to see the ice and water and hear it run. We were careful as our path was over rocks, snow and ice.

10 second video of the water running under the ice and snow.

Gene decided not to pass through the "field" of small bushy trees to join us and said he would go back to the lake to wait for us; and that was where we met him when we got done taking photos of the ice stream.

Our return journey was on the trail and that was easier than picking our way along the rocky snowy lake shore. No one was at the foot of the lake when we got there and we only met a two or three couples on our hike back to the parking lot a little after 4 pm. Only three other vehicles were left in the parking lot. A woman came over and asked us in an eastern European/Russian accent about the trail to Avalanche Lake and how snowy it was. After we assured her it was not bad she said she may hike it tomorrow.

Little traffic was on the road back out of the Park. We stopped at the Back Room Restaurant in Columbia Falls to have supper, which was very good.

Here are 20 more photos from the hike:


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Snyder Lake

November 6, 2008 I hiked to Snyder Lake in Glacier Park with Joyce, Sue Ann, and Bill. The trip totaled 8.8 miles. The elevation gain was 2,147 feet.

The trail starts at the Lake MacDonald parking lot. The trail is the one that goes to Sperry Chalet and beyond that, Gunsight Pass. First, there is a side trail to Mt Brown overlook (10 on map), then there is the side trail to Snyder Lake.

When we started, the trail was covered in dead tamarack needles. Then a little snow. Then more and more snow the higher we climbed.

By the time the Snyder Lake trail branched off from the Gunsight Pass trail we already had done a fair bit of climbing. Bill's foot was bothering him so he turned around and went back to Joyce's car. Joyce, Sue Ann and I continued on.

The day was beautiful: a severely clear blue sky and no wind. The temperature was in the 30s and it was great to be out in a winter mountain wonderland.

At Snyder Lake was a wooden rail for people to tie their livestock. We had to go across a small bridge to reach the camping area. We looked about for the place to access the lake but didn't really find any. We wandered about before deciding to stop at a small area along the lake. Maybe without all the snow there would have been a better area to sit and have have lunch and enjoy the lake view. With all the snow we had to eat our lunch standing up. Joyce munched on some snow on a small tree's branches.

While the creek was free of ice...

...the lake was iced over and had snow covering the ice. It was very beautiful.

It started to cloud up on our walk back to the car.

A view of Lake McDonald as we hiked back.

In August 2008 a person on a solo backpacking trip went missing in Glacier and, even after an extension search of the back country, he was never found. There are still posters up.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wildcat and Strawberry Lakes

** News Flash! ** (Dateline: Jewel Basin) Initial reports indicate Chippy Chipmunk was fatally injured today. Apparently a woman by the name of Patti was involved with Chippy's death. More on this story on the 10 o'clock news.

Good evening everyone. Our top story tonight is the tragic death of Chippy Chipmunk (aka. The Scavenger) on the trail between Wildcat Lake and Strawberry Lake in the Jewel Basin. Ms. Patti (aka. Polite Patti) apparently stepped on Chippy as he ran across the trail on which Patti was walking as she led a hiking group.

Patti claims to not have seen Chippy and did not feel him under her shoe. A fellow hiker, Gary (aka. The Dancemaster), witnessed this tragic accident and claimed Chippy ran under Patti's heel and was crushed. Gene (aka. The Quiet One) and me (aka. The One-who-forgot-his-camera), also in Patti's hiking group, did not witness the accident but saw the fatally injured Chippy rolling strangely on the trail with Patti and Gary standing suspiciously nearby. Gene procured a rock and I put Chippy out of his misery, then rolled him off the trail.

The questioning began. Patti proclaimed her innocence. But the facts remained: Chippy was dead. Then Gallant Gene spoke out and proclaimed: "It was suicide! It was a case of 'death by hiker'." The tide against Patti turned and the consensus came to be that Chippy had committed suicide, and Poor Patti was the unfortunate victim of Chippy's death desire.

Patti was absolved, the case was closed, and the hike continued. But, you dear reader, what do you think? Was it murder by Perilous Patti? Was it suicide by a despondent Chippy? Or was it merely a tragic accident?

In other news, with hike leader Leah on the injured list and out of hiking commission, on Saturday, August 2 Patti and Gene stepped up and Gene led a hike in the Jewel Basin to Wildcat and Strawberry lakes. The group - Patti, Gene, Gary, and I - met after 8 am and under cloudy skies and in cool temperatures began our hike from the Camp Misery parking lot high in the Swan Mountain Range at the end of forest service road 5392.

The parking lot was almost full when our group arrived early in the morning. When we left later that afternoon cars were parked along the forest service road a good distance from the parking lot. As we readied for our hike one of the three rangers wandered over to check out our destination. Then it was up the trail and to the left.

The climb was steady but not steep. The group passed only one other group on the hike up. On the way to Strawberry Lake only a few tents were seen around Twin Lakes. No one was at Strawberry Lake until minutes after we left. Then from the trail above the lake we could look back and see a young couple at the lake where we just were. The woman woke a white bikini and Gary and I were kicking ourselves for leaving the lake so soon. It wasn't until the group passed back by Wildcat Lake that we began to see more tents and more hikers. Lots of hikers with camping gear were coming up the trail mid afternoon when we hiked down.

By late morning the clouds thinned and it became more sunny than cloudy. Twin Lakes, Strawberry Lake, and especially Wildcat Lake, were all beautiful.

The group ate lunch by Strawberry Lake and swapped stories. Patti told of surviving (barely) her first hike with this hiking group: 20 miles over the Dawson-Pitamakin Passes. Gary told how he almost fell off a cliff when he was young. Gene talked of bicycling through New Zealand and from Montana across British Columbia to Prince Rupert on the coast. I told a humorous - though very long - story about bicycling in New Zealand and Australia with a friend who was new to bicycling touring and had the worst luck.

While at Strawberry Lake I wondered if Gene wasn't the long unseen "Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine" from the old Gong Show, Gene wouldn't "bust a move" for the group by Strawberry Lake. Gary, however, is the real dance master. On the hike back to the car he encountered one of his former dancing partners hiking up the trail.

A side loop trail passing by Blackfoot and Black Lakes was considered by the group until they realized they didn't have time to hike this extra distance. It was resolved to hike to these lakes another day. In total the hike this day was 10.6 miles and the group returned to the Camp Misery Parking lot at 3:30 pm.

Patti wondered what one of the wildflowers was along a section of the trail. Reluctant to pick a flower, it was only after the urging of the group that she did pick one flower and bring it to a forest service ranger to identify. The group's only request was that Patti give them her car keys in case the ranger hauled her to jail for picking the flower. The young woman ranger was certain she could answer Patti's question until she saw the wildflower. She had no clue as to the flower's identify.

By the end of the trip Gary killed a fly and Gene swatted a mosquito to join Patti and I in "murderers row".

A good time was had by all.

Photo 1: Flathead Valley with Flathead Lake on the left

Photo 2: Ridge

Photo 3: Twin Lakes

Photo 4: Mountains on the east side

Photo 5: The group at Strawberry Lake

Photo 6: Strawberry Lake

Photo 7: Gene and Patti

Photos 8 - 12: Wildcat Lake