Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Celebrating Christmas and New Year's in the backcountry

On New Year's Day, Little Dog and Summit peaks crown Glacier Park at Marias Pass.

Since posting Christmas Day I've been quite busy in the backcountry skiing and snow-shoeing.
There has been three trips to the Little Belts and a three-day holiday near Glacier Park with East Glacier the base.
Son-in-law Matt Pruett at Memorial Falls
We took children to Memorial Falls in the Little Belts on snow shoes, always a treat, sweetened with a stop at the Spa in White Sulphur Springs for a soak.
There was a day of tele skiing in Jim Heckel's favorite spot in the North Fork Deadman bowls.
And, then a return to that same area with a ski-through class Deadman trip.
Above 7,000 feet the snow was about as good as I've ever seen it; great powder sitting atop a hard base.
Wayne Phillips pulling a turn in North Fork Deadman bowls
I kept my equipment malfunction streak alive when Wayne Phillips busted a binding on the Deadman ski-through.  He quickly fixed it with duct tape and skied as if the break hadn't even happened.
A few days later I broke a ski pole in Glacier Park and had to trade snowshoes for skis to get some exercise.
My wife and I stayed at Dancing Bears Motel in East Glacier over a three day end of year/New Year celebration.
We were relentlessly pounded by strong northwest winds while there, beating it over to Essex and West Glacier to get into better powder and calmer atmosphere.
However, we began the New Year with ski trips on both sides of Marias Pass ---- on Pike Creek to the south and Autumn Creek to the north.
The better snow was in the Pike Creek area.  We escaped the wind by staying in the trees.  The temps never rose above 20 and the winds made it seem much colder.  Autumn Creek had been hammered pretty hard by skiers and shoers, many who had come up on guided tours from Izaak Walton Lodge in Essex.
Katie crossing suspension bridge above Ole Creek in park
There is considerably more snow on the west side.  Much of the east side snow is being blow away and many ridge tops are bare.  The winds created day-long plumes of snow that rose above the mountains in white veils.
We shoed Ole Creek in the park to the base of Scalplock Mountain one day and Fish Creek near Apgar Village up the North Fork Road the next day.
Katie near Lake McDonald on Fish Creek trail
East Glacier is pretty dead this time of year.  The Two Medicine Grill was the only place in town to grab a meal unless you counted the Firebrand down the road.  You could find pizza and baked goods at the Mercantile.  Everything else was pretty boarded up.
We were delighted that the Dancing Bears offered a pretty good continental breakfast as well as acceptable digs.
We had nice visits with inveterate outdoors-lady Laurie Littner, who waits at the Grill and Terry Sherburne and his mother Doris, who run the Mountain Pine Motel during the summer.
Lucky for us, the Izaak Walton isn't too far from East Glacier and we had a couple of outstanding meals, including the New Year's Eve three-course special that included a polenta, butternut squash bisque and Flathead cherry cobbler topped with ice cream.
Back in East Glacier the wind serenaded us non-stop.

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