Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Memorial Falls snowshoe

Katie at Memorial Falls

The hard work of getting above the upper falls

Perfect winter conditions
Normally you won’t find me writing about my latest snowshoe adventure in this space.
Heck, it’s backcountry ski season!
But, I can’t resist telling you about a great short trip we took Sunday in the Little Belt Mountains.
We put on our snowshoes to check out the very easy walk to Memorial Falls --- about a quarter-mile, on-the-level to two nice little falls less than a mile south of Neihart at the foot of Neihart Baldy Mountain.
Folks can do this on foot as well as snowshoes, but we decided we might want to go beyond the falls for a look-see. From the looks of high usage, this is a winter as well as a summer destination.
The falls themselves are worth the trip. They’re encased in a thin veneer of ice and the snow around them is deep. The falls lie within a very narrow canyon of volcanic rock.
The creek tumbles over rock and through thin sheets of ice and snow cover.
While it was spring-like outside the canyon, it was wintry within.
Once we had enjoyed the sight and sounds of the two falls --- we had worked our way up to the upper falls on the old, unused trail, testing the crampons on the snowshoes --- we decided to explore beyond.
It appeared as though a group of snowshoers had preceded us, having cut a wide, tamped down path. We followed it up to just below a ridgeline that leads to the base of Neihart Baldy. We figured we had climbed more than 1,500 feet from the looks of the highway far below us. The timber up there was skinny lodgepole spaced as though they were inviting a telemark skier with the skills to use them as a slalom course.
The snowshoe adventure reminded me of the importance to think beyond the marked trail if you want to enjoy the backcountry.
The following day we put on our backcountry skis as did the 8-mile roundtrip ski up Jefferson Creek to where the Chamberlain Creek Road comes in. There isn’t much elevation to gain on this run. It, too, is in a narrow canyon that follows Jefferson Creek. However, the terrain opens up from time to time in nice beaver willow bottoms.
At the 4-mile turnaround is where the snowmobilers come from above, although we didn’t see any on Monday.

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