A Great Day To Snowshoe

This winter has been marked by lovely weather. Unlike some places I have lived, low moisture typically means lots of sunshine. Thus we have enjoyed many many beautiful days. This particular day it was so lovely, you would have had to tie me to a bedpost to keep me in!

Sunshine. Blue Skies. Fresh Snow. All perfect ingredients for a day outdoors. Granted, with our dry snow, snowshoes aren't always the best mode of travel, but I have learned quite a bit about snowshoeing in powder snow this year. One important tidbit: If you want to 'enjoy' snowshoeing in this kind of snow, pick a couple of favorite 'hikes' and keep a trail packed in. So, I headed (generally) for a trail we'd packed in a week earlier.

Of course, there's no sense in making it too easy. After all, where's the challenge in that? So, I decided to try and follow a game trail up from the Narrows instead of head further across the bay to our packed trail. I figured I cut our trail on around the hill (and I did), but we traversed quite a bit of powder before we reached it - we being the dogs and I - who, as you can tell, are not overly excited about my route!

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, one of the things I really appreciate about snow is its ability to 'store' information. Tracks. Skat. They stand out on the snowy background. And, when I run across fresh tracks, it's always fun to determine 'who' passed this way before me. Today it was a weasel. He must have been having a good time because he created several of these 'U-shaped' tunnels along the way.

When I reached the top of the hill, I realized he must have been on his way to the Weasel Convention. From the looks of these tracks, several critters converged on this one spot to catch up on the local gossip - or whatever weasels do on a nice day in January. Unfortunately, not being a weasel, I did not receive the memo (although I would love to have been there when they all converged. Imagine the photo opportunities!)

Another fun thing I like to watch for when traversing fresh snow is 'decorated' dried flowers. This yarrow wears his cap of snow with a jaunty flair, don't you think?

My goal was Elk Mountain's saddle. From this viewpoint I could see north into the Madisons and south into the Centennial Valley. I don't think the views get much more spectacular than those I enjoyed this day. To my east, Elk Mountain stood quiet and steady against its blue backdrop. In fact, the quiet was absolutely amazing. Between the warm sunshine and the silence broken only by the soft swish of a gentle breeze tickling the tops of the evergreens - well, I was tempted to sit right down and take a nap. However, the tracks coming down of the hill to the left of this photo piqued my curiosity. These belonged to something bigger than a weasel.

Whatever it was (it looked like two 'whatevers') had headed down into the draw to the left of this photo. As I worked my way toward the edge, hoping for a glimpse, I couldn't keep from trying to capture the beauty of the Centennial Valley.

That's the lovely thing about snow. I didn't see them. The dogs smelled them and barked so they weren't far away. But, their tracks remained - testimony to the two elk whose sunbathing I'd aparently disrupted!

Dropping off the saddle heading back toward the lake, we cut some more tracks. This time a coyote who had been using our trail (in places) to make his own travels easier. However, unlike the dogs and I, he didn't sink to his knees and beyond on the fresh stuff. In fact, I was impressed with how little impression he made.

Some sights are just too pretty. How do you capture the beauty and grandeur of something you can't even begin to describe? I tried - but my attempts pale when compared to the 'real' thing! Any way you look at it, the Madison and Elk Lake sure compliment each other.

The trail heading back follows the cattle track over the Divide. This well-worn pathway drops steeply down until it pops out of the trees. Years ago this hillside was covered in aspens - a golden glow in the fall. Now only a few stands remain to testify of their sweeping grandeau. There is something special about these lovely trees. How is it their white trunks manage to look so interesting against a white background? Even the sun could not keep from caressing their lovely bark this fine day.

Stepping back into the open sagebrush-dotted hillside, I looked up to behold the most beautiful wispy clouds forming overhead. Picture patterns, drawn by the wind, meandered above - too large to capture fully but this gives a hint of their unique form.

Even as I made my way down that final slope to the lake, those wispy clouds began to take on substance. By the time I headed back across the frozen lake to the private resort's nook, the sunlight began to fade. While nothing came of those clouds (and this winter snow would have been very welcome), the memory of that fine sunny day has left a lingering feeling of pleasure!

Lady of the Lake

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