Winter Adventure Photos
January 15th: Leaving Sunshine for Snowflakes - At 0625 on a beautiful FL "winter"
morning, we are taking leave of our senses and boarding a flight bound for Bozeman, MT. What will be in store for us over
the next 2 weeks ....
Long Day in the Cattle Car - The first day of our winter excursion was less than exciting; but when all you
are doing is "getting there" on a commercial airliner, I suppose that is not a bad thing. It has been a long time
since I climbed aboard the great silver tube. After the first 3 hour flight to Houston, I remembered why it has been so long.
We got to the airport at 4 am
to get checked in for a 6:25 am
departure. We had "TSA Pre-check" on our boarding passes and got a special green card so we were happy. We
did not have to remove our shoes but that w the end of bliss. The computer and all the customary stuff still came out of the
bags, sweater off and I apparently alerted on the full body X-ray because they did a breast exam, wanded the full body and
check my hands for traces of explosives. I glad I was pre-screened!
We boarded the
flight with the rest of the herd. The flight was packed but we had the good fortune of sitting next to an SR20 pilot who is
taking his instrument training from Len Denardo at Page Field. Hat made for some pleasant conversation. We were discussing
the approach into Houston - ILS 8R was my guess. I was following on Foreflight but the GPS altitude was way off. The back
of the tube is not good for GPS reception. The METAR was showing 500' ceiling, 2 miles of visibility and mist. What should
have been really close to,touchdown, we heard and felt the surge of power for a missed approach (termed a "go-around
by the pilot on the PA system). The reason given was spacing. Hmmm. We came around the second time for (my guess), ILS 8L
and stuck the landing. Maybe it was 500' - it was definitely low.
We had a 2 hour
layover giving us time to hunt down a nice salad bar, have a leisurely lunch and stare at the weather reports for -7 temperatures
in Bozeman. We boarded the plane for the long 3.5 hour leg to Bozeman.
We broke out of the clouds shortly after take off to glorious blue skies above us and a solid sea of white below us. Needless
to say, there was nothing to look at out the window. I figured this was the prelude to the upcoming sights, except that the
white beneath us would be snow and not clouds. The lack of scenery did, however, give me the chance to read Erin Seidemanns'
book, Postcards from the Sky. I had downloaded the ebook quite some time ago but have never sat still long enough to read
it. I easily made it through the first 150 pages and look forward to reading the balance during the trip.
Arrival in Bozeman was pretty with maybe 6" of snow on the ground. Some of the roads were cleared others
still had a wintery mix cover. The mountains were beautiful. I have flown into Bozeman twice in Wild Mama during the summer
seeing lush greenery through the rugged peaks, now replaced with white, powdery snow draped over the evergreens with the rock
faces defiantly showing their faces.
Stepping off the plane, we got our
first blast of the now 4 degree temperatures. The door of the skywalk was open. OMG - even Vern felt the chill as I shot him
that look of "what-the-heck-are-we-doing-here?". We darted into the terminal and I found the nearest fireplace.
Vern got the bags and our winter coats, scarf, hat, gloves and mukluks. I waited inside with the bags while he got and warmed
the rental car and loaded the bags. I gingerly ran from the terminal to the car at the curb, trying not to slip on the
ice, and jumped in. Toasty warm with the seat heater blazing away.
We made our
way to Great Falls for the evening: a quick over night stop en route to Canmore. It was just above freezing when we got to
the hotel and unloaded. Nearby was a Walmart where we could stock up on supplies: breakfast foods, salad stuff and some
lunch supplies. Tomorrow we have a 7 hour drive to Canmore.
16th - Bozeman to Canmore - We left the hotel at 0600 en route to Canmore this morning. Although we were
not fond of driving in the freezing conditions in the dark, we knew we had a long day driving and needed to hit the road.
We had 1/2 tank of gas but wanted to top off before we got to the border
so we stopped at Conway, MT. With all of the road salts, the car was quite filthy already. Vern grabbed the squeegee to clean
the windows but it was frozen solid in the bucket. So much for clean windows!
By 0715 the glow of the distant sunrise was just visible on the horizon. We could finally see something but we were,
more or less, in high plains again but with a few lumps and bumps. Off in the distance on a small hill we saw the familiar
"flickering fire flies" or, as Ellen can tell you, my favorite ... windmills!!!! As majestic as they are in the
daytime, at night is is the dance of giant red fire flies. The first time we saw these was over Dalhart, TX. We left at 0400
because the hotel was so bad and none of us could sleep. Our efforts were rewarded with the dance of the fire flies as we
winged our way west to Albuquerque.
We made the Canadian border around 0800. It was still another 5 hours
before we reached Canmore after passing through some beautiful mountainous scenery. We were glad to be at our destination
after two solid days of travel.
Canmore is beautiful, nestled in beheath the mountains.
It snowed about 4-5 days ago and the roads are still slushy. It did, however, leave a sea of white roofs, a nic layer
of white on the ground and many happy skiers. We puttered about town for the remeainder of the day, figuring out our plan
for the next few days so we can maximize our time here. Even though I am not excited about beig in the cold, I am excited
about the winter activities we have planned.
- Dashing through the Snow
.... Other than flying south along the west side of the Canadian Rockies on
our return from Alaska in 2010, I have not been to this part of the world so I never got the thrill of experiencing the Chinook
blasting through. The good news is that the temperatures are
warmer as the air is coming in from the Pacific. The bad news is that the winds are howling 20-30kts pretty steadily with
occasional higher gusts ... so that wind chill thing can be lots of fun.
I heard the
winds whipping through the resort at 0400. There was some strange noise: a combination between someone snoring, snow shoveling
and a flapping flag. This went on until 0700 when I finally got dressed and went out on the balcony to find the source of
the noise. Along with all of the others in the complex, our grill cover was flapping furiously, looking as if it were ready
to take flight. I secured the cover and took note of the biting cold, returning to the warmth of the fireplace inside.
We set off for Banff this morning to pick up sleigh ride tickets and take a little
look-see around town. Banff is a beautiful quaint little Alpine-Village-looking place, snugged up against the mountains. We
got our tickets in short order and headed off to some suggested mini sights including the frozen Bow River Falls and a trip
up the Tunnel Mountain loop.
We needed to get to the sleigh ride a bit early, first because of the
customary they need you there early stuff, and second so I had time to use the facilities before donning my out the car gear.
I was getting quite accustomed to my 75 degree car with a warm tushie. It was time now to brave the elements and actually
do something whilst on this winter excursion. The temperature was wam, according to the locals but that wind, was she a-howling!
We bundled up under a blanket as we set off in the sleigh. The rythmic sound of the two-horse team tromping through the snow,
accented with the jungle bells helped to make me feel like I was riding through a holiday wonderland. The sleigh slipe and
slid through the trail until we made the full circle. Vern uttered the works that I knew he was loathe to admit: "I am
cold". Eureka! ... and it is only 32 degrees - just wait until -14 at West Yellowstone.
We headed back to the condo for lunch and headed off for a little shopping before the next adventure. Vern
saw my "terrorist" full face knit hood and decided he needed more than bare facial skin. I can tell you it will
be the best $15 he spends all trip. As for me, my trip highlight was about to happen. I had always wanted to go dog sledding
but that required a trip to the snow country - something that I usually avoid. As long as I am in the snow, you betcha that
I am going to make the best of it.
I donned my multiple layers, snow suit, over coat,
2 hats, 2 pair or gloves and a set of hand warmers. They would not fit under the double gloves but I figured I would
keep them handy - just in case. We have 5 teams of sleds, all hooked up to the 6-dog teams and we were ready to go. We were sled
#3. Our guide gave us some brief instructions and lead in sled #1 hollering back trail tips
and hazards along the way. The first part of the trail was the "more technical" having some sharp turns and many
up and down-hill places. We had to get off the sled and push the sled, running with the dogs uphill. I was the more fit between
the two of us so Vern took the first turn as the passenger and I mushed.
The trails ran
mostly through the woods which made it nice for the experience. The winds were blocked by the trees and it was only the
speed of the dog sled that created the headwind. The dogs were barking, juming and raring to go. With a "Hike"
they were off! The snow started falling and the dogs were kicking up quite a bit more snow from the trail as they ran. This
was exciting. I imagined the first mushers making that long trek to Nome. This is not a ride in the park it is work: lots
of leaning for turns, breaking left, breaking right, breakig to stop (it took ALL of my weight and some sled lifting to get
them to a full "WHOA"). But the hardest was the up hill where I had to get off and run, pushing the sled with Vern
inside to give the dogs a helping hand. Was I ever huffing and puffing. All too soon we rounded the corner and headed out
over the frozen lake and into the open wind - wow - still howling!!!
We stopped mid-lake
and switched mushers. It was Vern's turn to drive this team with Renegade and Menace in the lead. I was confortable
and warm while mushing, partly because of all of the running I was doing. But the inside of the sled was toasty. I was covered
with blankets and a wind-proof canvas cover. I opened the hand warmers because I had to remove my gloves to take pictures.
It was a nice ride - but, of course .... if you are not the lead dog, the view is always the same! Vern did a great job except
when he cut the last corner really tight and almost dumped the sled over. I think we almost tipped up on one blade but he
leaned back and got her under control. Our hour on the trail came to an end all to soon. Mushing was AWESOME!!!!
January 18th - Land-o-Lakes: After the busy day we had
yesterday, today was a more sedate driving day. We set our early for Lake Louise and Jasper. Passing Banff around 0815,
I looked over and saw we only had half tank of gas. With winter storm warnings and roadway conditions warning, we decided
that would not cut it so weturned around to top off before heading out.
By the time we got to
Lake Louise it was snowing to beat the band - large flakes in a fairly heavy snowfall had been ongoing for probably a few
hours. The ground was getting nicely coated with fresh powder on top of the snow that reported to have kept falling over the
past several days. There was probably close to 1-1 1/2 feet on the ground. Ver was wearing his work boots which would
have easily filled with snow on the first step off the curb so we stopped in to a small shop next to the visitors center
to grab his a paid of boots.
Lake Louise was magical with the falling snow, the snow covered evergreen
trees and snow topped mountains in the backdrop. There were several ice carvings at the lodge that was sitting next to the
lake. We decided this would be a great place to play. We romped around in the snow and had half of a snowball fight. Vern
refused to engage, being the gentleman that he is. Since he was wearing jeans, they quickly became soaked to the skin. He
was cold and headed back to the car while I found the perfect spot for a snow angel. After making the angel, I headed back
so we could go off to Jasper.
We made a quick stop to get information at the visitor center. The advised against Jasper and suggested
Emerald Lake and Jasper instead. Roads in to Jasper were simply not safe. We thought it was sage advice and headed out ....
but before we did, we went back and got Vern some snow pants so we could continue with the adventure.
It was snowing harder now and the roads into Emerald Lake had not been plowed. We pressed on albiet a bit slower
until we got to the Lake. It was similar to Lake Louise in its beauty but quite a bit smaller. The lodge was sitting around
the edge of the lake. There were groomed cross country ski trails across the lake and a herd of skiers setting out on one
of the trails. We opted to go to the small neighboring town of Field, population 200, for lunch and head on back when we saw
the snow and avalanche warnings. Lunch was good and homemade but the chief cook, waitress and bottle washer. It was the only
place in town and "busy" by community standards because the road to the west was alreadyclosed due to an avalanche.
We headed back early to some relaxation this evening. One more adventure-filled day tomorrow then we head back to the states
for the remainder of the adventure.
January 19th - Down the Tubes: Our last day of adventure in Canmore found us up in Banff again up on Norquay Mountain at the ski resort. Skies?
Me? No way!!! But they did have a tubing run that I could do. My problem was not balance on the slope - it was tripping over my own
feet! Tubing was different - plop your butt in an intertube and whoosh! There you go doen the hill. For the 30 seconds of
fun, it cost nearly 15 minutes of riding the lift and trudging the last bit up the hill. I never thought of riding a tube
as exercise but was it ever .... but the fun was worth the effort.
After a morning of tubing,
we headed off to the Banff Upper Hot Springs for a relaxing soak. I was thrilled. Hot water, oh yeah, how good to be warm. But
the mineral water was good for the joints and the stuf that ails ya. The evening was reserved for laundry and packing. We
have 2 days of travel to get to Jackson Hole for the next round of winter fun.
20-21 - Jumpin Buffalo! : After seeing the signs in the way into Canmore, we
could not resist the temptation and the recommendations to see Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Thank you, Lin Caywood - it was
an excellent place to stop! I had never heard of this but it was a fascinating look at the life of the local indiginous people
and how they hunted buffalo, essentially, without tools or weapons. They used the natural features of the land and herded
the buffalo to the edge of a cliff. They built the buffalo run lanes from cairns of rock and bushes. This gave the impression
of an impenatrable wall to the buffalo. Some runners dress as wolves and another dresses as a calf in distress. Once the buffalo
are safely in the lanes, the other indians, "hiding" along the cairns, make noise and excite the buffalo into a
stampede so when they get to the edge of the cliff, they have nowhere to go but over the cliff, landing on their heads. The
few that survive the head smash are killed because of the belief thatthey would be free to tell other buffalo otherwise. Fascinating!!!
That was a nice stop in the otherwise long day of travel. We crossed the border with falling temperatures as we pulled into
Helena close to 4:30 pm. The following morning we woke up to frost and 5 degrees. Vern warmed the car so I cold get in without
freezing before we headed out for the 5 hour drive to Jackson Hole.
The roads to Jackson
Hole, especially coming over the Teton Pass, we supposed to be slick with black ice. Up to that point they were termed "fair".
Overall, we found the roads to be good with "fair" conditions in the pass - except for the heavy snowfall that started
in the pass. Vern did a great job at gearing down and taking the 10% downhill grade slowly. We arrived into town uneventfully
and met some family for dinner. A light snow was falling - very pretty!
January 23rd - MUSH!!! I had so much fun mushing in Canada that I wanted to make a go of
it again. I found a dog sledding operator that did a full day out to the Granite Hotsprings and back. From the time
I arrived in Jackson hole, I tried to get in touch with the tour operator make the booking for this morning for the full day.
After several messages, stopping at the Chamber of Commerce and having them leave a message, a couple of emails and still
no answer, I had all but given up this morning that I was going to get to go dogsledding. I was pretty bummed about it, actually.
was Vern's first day at snowmobiling. He was off on his own adventure at the Togwotee mountain and continental divide
trail. I knew I would be too cold on a snowmobiling adventure so I had to pass and figure out my own trouble to get
I had received a text from Lori Fussell that she had moved into town and
to come in and meet her for lunch. I had planned to do that today as I had not seen Lori in quite some time. At 7:30
this morning, I received an email from the dogsledding company saying that they were sorry they were full and they did not
have anything available until Friday and that would only be a half day trip. I hit the delete button pretty quickly figuring
that was just a way to rub it in. Not five minutes later the telephone rang. It was the dogsledding company. Apparently, right
after they had sent the email somebody called who had already booked on the Full day trip for today and they got sick.
She wanted to know if I could make an 815 pick up at the hotel. Heck yes!
I donned all of my snow
gear as quickly as I could and I threw a towel and bathing suit in my backpack along with an extra shirt. I did not
have much time to prepare but I didn't care I really wanted to go. There were two busloads full of people, many of whom, much
to my surprise, we're from Florida and South Florida in particular. None of them happened to be on the full day tour but they
all got off on the half-day tour. The full day tour was only four people: a couple from South Carolina, an older gentleman
from Virginia, and me. The gentleman from Virginia, Alan, was supposed to make this trip with his neighbor and the neighbor
was the one that got sick. I told him to please thank his neighbor for getting sick on my behalf.
much to my surprise and delight, Alan had absolutely no interest in mushing. He just wanted to go for a dogsled ride because
he had had a double bypass operation and did not feel he was up to the rigor of mushing. Will you could not have made my day
One of the dogs sleds – the one lead by the guy – was a team
of 10 dogs. One couple went with him and the other drove their own team of six dogs. We started with the guide, David. He
was very interesting and informative and pointed out all sorts of wildlife along the way including elk, moose, deer and a
bald eagle. At the halfway point he stopped and let the couple behind a switch out positions and ask Allen if he wanted
to double much. Alan was very happy where he was, again much to my delight. We continued on to the Hot Springs being passed
on occasion by the snowmobilers who are also allowed to use the trail to access the Hot Springs.
Hot Springs is open in the summer and in the winter but in the winter it is only accessible by a 10 mile dogsled ride
for a snowmobile ride. When we got to the Hot Springs, the snowmobilers had already arrived - duh. Many were already
in the water and I decided to go ahead and join them. We had been told there was a "warm" changing area. I
guess everything is relative. The changing area was just out of the wind. It was very primitive, no restrooms, no heat, wooden
floors and a few books and bench seats. It's suddenly dawned on me then when I saw the distance between the water and the
changing area there was going to be a bit of a cold run in between. I had not run barefoot through the snow before and
I wasn't really sure I wanted to do it. I ran out a little bit and decided against it opting to stick my feet in my Mukluks
to go down to the water. Still about 10° but the wind was not blowing, which was very fortunate. The snow, however,
it was falling fast and furiously and in big flakes. You could watch the accumulation as you sat there in the Hot Springs.
After a bit of time in the nice warm water I decided it was time to make the mad dash up to the changing room. My towel and
shirt we're already covered with about an eighth of an inch of snow. … As were my Mukluks. I scooped out the snow stuffed
my feet in and made the run up the stairs into the changing room. Much to my surprise with my body all heated up from the
Hot Springs it was really not too bad of a run.
We had a hot lunch waiting for us down
by the fire next to the dogs. The fair was chilly, corn muffins, brie cheese and chocolate.… None of which I really
eat. But I was hungry and needed to eat something so I had a small cup of chili with a corn muffin and hoped that it would
go down OK. The digestion gods were smiling on me and everything was OK, fortunately. Once we finish lunch we swapped
sleds and packed Allen in the warm section of our sled and took off.
I cannot begin to adequately
describe the incredible day that I had today. The snow was falling fast and furiously all day. It was truly a winter wonderland
seen. We were running on a groomed trail on top of a 5 to 6 foot snowfall. You could look off to the sides of the trail and
see the deep blue eyes as if you were looking into the side of a glacier. The air was quiet except for the sounds of the running
dogs and the occasional scratching of the foot brake. I was happy to of had the earlier experience because our
trip back was much faster than our trip up. One reason was because the trip back we were descending from 7000 feet elevation
to 6300 feet elevation. But the other reason was that the South Carolina couple behind us had quite a few issues on the trail
coming up and we had to stop frequently to assist them and catch up. Most of the trip we made was uneventful except when of
the lead dogs, demon, got an ice pallet in her paw. It was very evident something was wrong because the rope suddenly
slacked and you could see her limping. I called up to David and he came back and cleaned out the ice pellets from her paws.
That happened one other time along the trail but other than that the dogs ran just fine. We had made a stop somewhere along
the trail fairly close to the end to observe a mother and baby moose. Alan got out of the sled take some pictures and
was very slow getting back in. The dogs were getting antsy, the rest of us were getting tired and Dave had to gently encourage
him along. After he got in and we got going he decided he wanted me to take a picture of him mushing. He had no interest in
mushing at all but wanted the photo op of Him looking like he was driving the team. I suggested we wait to the end
since we were very close but he wanted the spectacular scenery that surrounded us. There were tall snow covered trees, deep
crevasses and just the beauty and serenity of the area that was inescapable. I gave in and called up to Dave that we needed
a quick photo stop.
There are several cardinal rules and dog mushing. One is never
let go of the sled no matter what. The other is to always stand on the brake as hard as you possibly can when you are not
moving. The minute the dog feels that you were off of that sled they will take off running. I got Alan out of the sled
and carefully got him onto the brakes so I could run around to the front and take his picture. I did that without a problem.
As I came back to the sled I had one hand on the sled and 1 foot on a rail and Alan jumped off the brakes. With a lurch the
dogs took off running. Of course, I am not that heavy and there was nobody sitting in the sled so, needless to say,
the speed was pretty great. Fortunately, David was watching and ran over and jumped on the sled. I was following cardinal
rule number one and hanging on for dear life trying to get my leg up onto the brake but it was too long in the day and I was
too tired. What's David jumped on with a solid foot he hollered for me to let go and I tumbled off to the side where
he could jump on the break and stop the dog team. And all I had a good 50 to 100 foot drag. It was still pretty fun but
that is something that I would choose not to repeat. By that time we made one corner and we were at the final destination
of the kennel.
It was an absolutely amazing day one that I shall never forget.
28th - almost needed SPOT: We had been doing well throughout the trip navigating our way through icy passes, snow covered
roads and generally not the best driving conditions. Today was our last real day of vacation. We tried setting up a
snow mobile trip for Vern but we found out the operated out of Fairmont Hot Springs in Canada and NOT the one in Montana where
we were staying. Bummer.
However, my planned cross country ski trip was close, just outside of Butte and we could make that. Vern
opted to go with me because the google maps directions looked like it would be a pretty drive through the mountains to Homestake
had found the lodge on the internet and saw they had cross country ski lessons. Even though Thor pronounced me "intermediate",
I did not have that air of confidence about my skiing abilities as he seemed to have. Come to find out, I was right. We had
a noon reservation but left early to have plenty of sight seeing time through the mountains.
As we neared the Lodge
the roads became more icy, curvier and the hills steeper. It certainly did not look like the kind of road that the average
tourist would traverse for a vacation but we pressed on. We made the last turn, according to the GPS with .6 miles to go.
The road got steeper, the snow got deeper and we got stuck. I looked at the GPS figuring to walk the balance of the way only
to see that U-turn sign. The GPS did not have a good location and it was sending us on a wild goose chase. Now what?
I packed SPOt and the ePIRB in case we ran off the road and got stuck in a snow bank somewhere. I joked about the need for
it but really never actually thought we would use it. Kind of like bringing an umbrella so it does not rain sort of thing.
the car back and forth and finally got us moving backwards. We were planning on backing out the whole half mile until we found
a poor excuse for a turn around. Vern managed to inch the car around on a not so classic multi-point turn but we got out.
Once we got back to cell phone range we called the Lodge. She forgot to mention NOT to use GPS directions and directed us
to the proper directions on the web site. We made it back to civilization in time for my ski lesson.
Mandy was another good
instructor. The terrain and the groomed trails were vastly different than the Rendezvous Trails of West Yellowstone; at least
the one that I was on. By my own determination, I had been on the bunny trail and Thor graduated me to bunny trail solo. Now
I was on the not-so-bunny trail with real hills (remember that I am from Florida) and turns and (gulp) places where I HAD
to use the skate lanes and go back country trail blazing. Was this ever a different experience.
Thor had briefly taught
me a snowplow to stop but I never got fast enough to need it. Now I needed it, and fast. I practiced on the flats a time or
two then hit the hill. At the bottom of the hill was a relatively hard right turn. I had to slow down, go out of the tracks
AND make the turn. Two out of three is not bad. I opted to miss the turn and run into the snow bank. At least if I fell,
which I did, the landing would be soft, which it was. I pulled my ski out from under my butt and stood up smartly. Mandy was
amazed that I could stand from crash position as, apparently, most people "my age" cannot. I was proud: one proud
for standing up but more importantly that I crashed and was uninjured.
We continued on over hill and dale, through
the back country and now we had to start our way back up. I had done a little hill and knew I needed baby shuffle steps. Then
I started sliding backwards. A new technique was to be learned called herringbone. Basically you make a backwards pizza slice
(opposite of the plow move) and walk up the hill. That went well until the next hill that was short and steep. I started herringboning
my way up and slid backwards again, but this time at a rather rapid and uncontrolled manner. I went straight to my knees so
as not to lose all forward progress. Yet another technique - side-stepping - was the cure. But before I could side-step my
way to happiness. I had to stand. Again, I turned my skis sideways, dug in my edges and stood up smartly, once again impressing
Mandy as being rather agile and athletic for "my age".
This 1:15 lesson was a workout. More hills, more fancy foot
work. I never did have a long enough straight section to get a good strong rhythm going like I did in West Yellowstone but
I had a work out and felt darn good about it. I was pleased to have tried something that I never envisioned for myself. When
I was 15 I tried downhill skiing. Almost immediately, while trying to walk/turn to get to the ski lift, I stepped on my ski,
twisted my ankle and hit the ground. That was the end of my skiing. So 40 years later, I guess it was time for a second chance,
but at "my age", I liked the idea of cross country much better.
We finished our day with a nice soak in the
hot springs, laughing about the adventure and packing for the journey home.