Once again, Ken and I drove out and spent a week at his dad's place in Wilson, Wyoming, this time with a different bunch of folks who met us there. There wasn't much snow this time (only a couple feet of old stuff). Snowboarding was a slushy experience, which turned out to be more enjoyable than I expected.
The pictures here are from Saturday (the 10th). I got up dark and early and brought everyone else to the bus that would bring them to Flagg Ranch, where they would snowmobile into Yellowstone. I did that on my last trip to Wyoming. These pictures start shortly after I dropped everyone off.
|On my way back, the sun was just starting to rise. As it did, the tops of the mountains got to see it first.|
|Meanwhile, the full moon set behind the range. The moon is hard to see in this picture; it was more striking in person. I should get some filters for my camera.|
|A couple hours later, I went to Grand Teton National Forest,|
|put on some arctic clown shoes,|
|and made tracks.|
Two paths diverged in a wood. Screw 'em.
I had a compass and a bad map, and I usually could see the mountains, I decided I didn't want to run into other people, and I left the trails and wandered fairly aimlessly in the woods, keeping track of where I was headed and approximately how I'd have to go to get back.
|These might be wabbit twacks.|
|This is how much snow there was.|
|I followed a moose by its tracks for a while. Or I ran away from it; I couldn't figure out which way the tracks were pointing.|
|The moose (if it really was a moose) apparently liked walking in circles around trees. It would wind its way through the woods, sticking close to trees, then it would pick one and think to itself, "ooh, I like that tree over there. I'm going to walk over there and circle it a few times before I continue on my way.".|
|After 4.5 hours of trekking around off the trails, only partly sure of where I was and that I was heading in the right direction, I finally rejoined a major trail and ran into some people and dogs. Counting the squirrel and three birds I'd seen, this doubled my wildlife count for the day.|
Next time I go snowshoeing, I'll take poles and a better map. I'd considered bringing a couple ski poles, but didn't really see the need. It turns out that poles would have been useful in two situations that came up.
One was walking downhill. Since snowshoes have to support your weight, they have to come between your boot and the snow, and that means you don't get the traction your boots' tread would otherwise provide. Only your boots' toes reach snow, and only when your toe angles for a step and digs in. You get lots of traction when walking uphill, and none at all when walking downhill.
The other case is more important than simply being able to walk down hills; it's getting up when you've fallen over. Walking with snowshoes can be tricky. There were many times the snow was so loose I sunk in up to my knees even with the shoes. There were also times I ended up walking across a slope or bump that wasn't apparent from the surface of the snow. Once, I fell over, and I found that getting back up wasn't simple. The problem is that I needed to push my body to be over my feet so that my feet could once again support me. On normal ground, I'd have just pushed against the ground with my hands. In this case, I couldn't reach the ground. All I could reach was snow, and my hands went right through it if I put weight on them. I ended up swimming sideways with my hands to move my torso over my feet, and that worked. I wasn't down for long, but it might have gone worse, and it really would have been better to have poles to push against the ground with, or maybe a couple trays to lay on the snow and push against. Trays would work even if the ground were farther away than poles could reach, and would even help me get downhill if I were feeling adventurous.
A better map would have been useful for the obvious use of letting me figure out where I was with more accuracy. It didn't really matter that much in this case. I knew I could get back before dark, and I was well enough equipped that if something had gone horribly wrong, I could have stayed out there overnight without any serious problems (and I had cell phone service the whole time, much to my amazement). But I would have enjoyed myself more if I'd been able to pin down my location with more confidence. Eventually, I decided I'd had enough of not being sure of where I was, so I started heading in a direction that I knew would take me to obvious landmarks. The problem was that since my map didn't have many landmarks on it, it took an hour for me to reach that landmark. I knew it would take that long, but an hour is still a long time to be wandering semi-lost in the woods when you've had enough of being semi-lost. A GPS would work too, but electronics are always less satisfying than mechanical solutions.
Overall, I had a wonderful hike. The other days in Wyoming were also nice, replete with snowboarding, making and eating nice dinners, and a healthy amount of lazing around, watching the snowy mountains not go by.