Soft ‘Shoeing, Hard Skiing – LIFE IS GOOD!

We have enough snow to snowshoe, although I didn’t get any trails track-set for cross-country skiing before guests arrived last Saturday for the Remembrance Day long weekend. Chris had come in Friday night to give me a hand getting the ski-doo out and running for the season. Best laid plans . . .

Mark and Molly heading towards the Hoff Ridge

Mark and Becci, who have got one of their own missouri cabins back home, opted for a short Saturday afternoon jaunt on snowshoes up the little valley towards the base of the mountain. That trail had been ‘shoed before, so the going was relatively mild. Jon and Karen took advantage of a warm, cozy cabin and decided R&R was in order for the afternoon. There is something magical about cabins, especially in snowy woods; they have such an enchanted feel to them. I’m very tempted to get my own back home, especially now that you can even get a prefab cabin with a loft; what a dreamy prospect!

On Sunday, we all strapped on snowshoes and took the side-hill trail over to George’s horse trail and down to pick up the Munn Creek Trail. I managed to twist my leg (somehow – go figure!) while breaking trail on the side-hill/horse trail and by the time we made it to the first willow meadow, I knew I wouldn’t make the first camp site another 3 km up the valley (plus 6 to come back to the cabins). Confident and keen, my guests decided to forge ahead while I gimped slowly and painfully back to the ski lodging. At least I ws on my way back to somewhere nice and comfy, and Leo and Molly stayed with the cripple . . .

Snowshoeing on George’s horse trail

Jon and Karen, a nice stroll

Our guests, on the other hand, made good time and arrived back at the cabins only about an hour or so after I did. They were safe and sound and none the worse for wear – although two snowshoes didn’t hold up. Looks like it may be a design flaw – and they’re going back!

Meanwhile back at the cabins, Chris had been a whirlwind of activity: generator and oil heater fueled up, jockey tank of gas off-loaded, wood re-stocked in the cookhouse, cabin fires kept burning, the ski-doo out and running and up and down our 3-km trail with his pickup to widen the snowtrack. AND dinner was on the go, with a new dessert made! A marvel that young man, simply a marvel. (Yes, he’s my son who grew up well despite his mother).

Chris decided that he could set ski track down our 3-km trail early the next morning so our guests could ski out if they wished. We could take their luggage down to their vehicles parked at the bottom. Our guests were enthusiastic, even though Mark and Becci had not cross-country skied before. That trail is usually not one I recommend for 1st-time skiers – you tend to pick up a big of speed . . .Undaunted and surprisingly eager to hurtle themselves down to their vehicles, Mark and Becci took some basic lessons from Chris on the (relatively) flat area around the cookhouse while Karen and Jon tested their ski wax, which they bought after consulting

I hurried down the trail in the pickup to catch some “action shots” of the skiers coming down the last hill.

Becci: I can do this . . .I can do this

Becci: Oh no! Out of control . . .

Mark – Speed Demon and FAST!

Jon: FAST, precise, total concentration

Karen – Never broke a sweat, always in control

Chris arrived at the bottom a short time later with everyone’s luggage and would follow them out to the highway just in case the Rock Lake Road got icy and someone needed a tow. The Rock Lake Road was good, although there is a fair bit of snow on either side of the travelled snowpack. Cars (or a Station Wagon) would quickly high-center . . . if the driver happened to be watching a deer bounding through the trees and inadvertently steered in that direction.

With no new snow this past week, and ridiculously warm temperatures, I didn’t set any new ski trails. Much to my dismay, I discovered that some yahoo had tried to come up my trail Wednesday or Thursday. This idiot decided to turn around at the top of the first hill, and what little he left of the ski track on his way up, he managed to completely obliterate on his way out. I was hoping to run into him (literally) on my way to town to pick up supplies. No such luck . . .and now we need more snow before I can attempt to repair the damage. Grrrrrrr

A single traveller arrived on Friday from Lloydminster, having moved to Alberta from his native Russia (same accent as you, Anton!). On Saturday we donned snowshoes after breakfast and headed to the Alpine Meadow/Avalanche Chute. There was one remaining trail camera on the spine of the Alpine Meadow that I was hoping to retrieve. The trail had been packed previously to almost the dry creek bed, so the going was fairly easy. We saw lots of snowshoe hare, squirrel, deer, one elk, several marten and weasel (plus scat) and maybe a lynx track on the way up. Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goat track (I can’t tell the difference!) were evident on the Avalanche Chute. Conspicuously absent were wolf track . . .

Climbing the Avalanche Chute with snowshoes was NOT EASY. It’s steep and traction was a bit of an issue. The little Denali bear paw ‘shoes I had on seemed to fare better than the Coleman’s Leon was wearing. Leon had enough by the time we slogged up to the poplars on the steepest part of the Avalanche Chute. Since we were so close and Leon was comfortable parking it under a big spruce and soaking in the view for a while, I decided to continue on. I have learned, over the years, that it takes drastic measures to turn me around once I get part-way up a mountain . . .I topped the spine an hour later.

On the spine

Looking southeast

Took some time to admire the view, spectacular as always, before retrieving the camera and heading back down. A combination of bum sliding, “skiing on ‘shoes” and “moon walking” had me back to Leon in short order. Leon tried a bit of bum sliding on the lower part of the Avalanche Chute and we were at the creek in no time. Easy as pie back to the cabins and Leon made a bee-line for his cabin while I scrambled to get dinner on the go. Thought I might have to go bang on his cabin door at 7:00 p.m., but Leon made it in time for dinner without the reminder. . . Amazing what quiet, dark, a bit of altitude and fresh mountain air, combined with a bit of physical exertion, will do to a person.

The cirque on the Hoff Ridge

Leon trying a bum slide

I tried out a new recipe (Slow-cooked Lemon-Garlic Pork Loins) on Sunday, which tied me to the cookhouse all day. Leon donned some snowshoes and headed for the Munn Creek Trail, with Leo and Molly eager to accompany him on his adventure. I assumed at least one of them could find their way back . . .before dark. They did and I was NOT impressed with the new recipe!

Our snow conditions are not the best at the moment – crusty on top wherever the sun has warmed the snow, down to bare dirt/grass in some patches and a sheet of ice on parts of the paths and trails. Snow and cooler temperatures are forecast for this week, and I am hopeful that we get enough new snow to groom and track-set some trails before new guests arrive on Friday.

Last Thursday, the Rock Lake Road was rough enough to jar the teeth out of your head for the first 10 km or so off the highway. Past the last compressor station at km-17, the road became significantly smoother with less traffic. I’m hoping that the Big Hill at km-15.5 has had a chance to bare off so we don’t experience an icing issue trying to get up the steep part . . .on washboard.

Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

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