Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A February! Glacier rain out, but weekend salvaged

Approaching Porphyry Lookout in the Little Belts on the Ranch Creek run
Tip the snow dog  from the Neihart grocery joined us on the trip
We received a welcome Groupon for the Tamarack Lodge near Hungry Horse over the Presidents Day Weekend and looked forward to some Glacier Park shoeing and skiing.
What we hadn't anticipated was the crummy West-side snow and a Saturday night rain storm that drove us inside.
The lodge is rustic and needs some up-dating, but was pleasant, although there are no services such as food. It sits right off U.S. 2, but there wasn't much traffic and I slept well.
To eat, we headed into Whitefish to see the beautiful people coming off Big Mountain and enjoyed shopping for a restaurant before settling on Latitude 48, which has an open-fire oven in the visible kitchen for making pizza.
I ordered a very thin pizza made with a beet puree and goat cheese and was served an amazing beet salad. The pizza has to rank among the best I've ever had.
On the way over to the West-side we stopped at Marias Pass and snow-shoed Autumn Creek from east to west, stopping in the Blacktail Hills not far from the opening below Elk Mountain.  The snow was wet and heavy and we worked hard for three hours.  While the scenery was beautiful, if cloudy from the incoming snow/rain, I didn't enjoy myself that much because I kept thinking how much more fun it would have been to be on my backcountry skis.  I've yet to figure out the advantage to snow-shoeing over cross country skiing.
Katie at Marias Pass near Glacier Park
On Sunday morning we enjoyed a very leisurely breakfast at the Cenex station in Coram where we were served enormous helpings of food, some of which was saved for lunch.
We took a quick trip into Glacier and went up McDonald Lake shoreline nearly to its end near the lodge and turned around because like near Hungry Horse, it was too sloppy and the snow too scant to ski.
At this point we decided that we had made a mistake going there when some of the best powder snow in the state is just south of Great Falls, so we decided to head back home.
On the way, we once again stopped at Marias Pass, this time heading into the Badger Two Medicine up the Pike Creek Road going as far as Flattop Mountain.
I dug a snowpit and found the snow very stable
The rain below on Saturday had put some six new inches of powder on the pass and we had terrific snow for our snow-shoe trek up Pike Creek.
I have to admit that part of our decision to return to Great Falls was to enjoy the finale of Season 3 of "Downton Abbey" on PBS.  The Tamarack Lodge did not carry public television.
It turned out to be a great decision, because we enjoyed the program and the next day, the Presidents Day holiday, I went up to Kings Hill where I had a chance meeting with Neihart postmaster Jasmine Krotkov who was looking for someone to join her on the 11-mile Ranch Creek run.
It promised to be a sunny powder day, so I decided to do the run.
Hard to beat snow like this!
There was about six inches of new, fluffy powder and the temperature was in the low 20s and the powder didn't cover the great tracks we had laid down on this run a couple of weeks ago.
This route normally takes about 5 hours to ski, but we did it in 3.5 hours because the conditions were so perfect.
I had salvaged a weekend!

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