The Caboose is Loose
Sunday morning dawned cloudy and cold, with a few hangovers in the works too. Wade and I rallied out of the A-frame and down to the lodge to pick up the raft. We got back, picked up the crew, and outfitted everyone in chest waders, and multiple jackets. A little May snowstorm wasn’t going to slow us down. We got everyone ready and proceeded to launch the boat.
That’s about all there is to that story. DSLRs, spring storms and raging rivers don’t mix well. Suffice to say our float might have turned into a booze cruise, with a midday stop at the famous Thompson’s Corner. The kind of bar you can keep a 6 month tab at, and they won’t even mention it! Day 3 dawned much like Day 2, except that we gathered up our ski gear, snow tires, and gusto and steeled ourselves for a day of exploration. We made it about 15 miles in on dirt roads, yet still fell short of our trailhead by 4 miles. This meant one thing, lots of flat skinning.
Skinning through the snow and clouds we eventually made it to our destination, Twin Lakes, the headwaters of the big hole and the last lake before you reach the continental divide.
BONUS POINTS. Trivia, what landmark separates the boarders of Southern Montana and Idaho? If you know the answer light it up in the comments section.
Twin Lakes was beautiful and one could tell that it would be a glorious place to camp in the summer months. There was still several feet of snow that needs to melt before anyone of note is going to move back into this cabin.
The start of our skin was at the bottom of Twin Lakes, and in the summer time the outlet stream crossing is trivial. This time of year the stream was a raging torrent, not to be crossed in ski boots. This left us only one option. A lake crossing. Lake crossings in spring are always tenuous. The ice is melting, sometimes from the top and bottom, it’s hard to pin point the ice depth, and often time currents start in the ice so you can find yourself with areas that look covered but with little to no coverage at all. We took solace in the fact that the lake was only a few feet deep – meaning if we did go in the drink we’d at least be able to stand up. So with the gusto of the young we put our heads down and shuffled! Minus some creeks and groans all went as planned and we were able to continue on our way.
We skinned long and hard beyond the lake crossing, up a few ridges, and towards treeline.
Along the way we found some bright green moss covering the freshly melted out trees.
That’s no lichen.
Once above treeline we could tell that the surrounding mountain could provide years of exploration.
This is the kind of place that necessitates an overnight pack or a snowmobile – or both! We’d barely broken treeline, and it was already well past midday.
With the sun starting to come out, the warming new snow, and the late hour we decided it was time for retreat. And rightfully so. For the first thing I did on the photographer turn (meaning the first turn of course) was to pull out the entire hill side. Here you can see Wade skiing forwards, and looking backwards, keeping a close eye on his fresh snow slough.
The caboose skied last (of course) and put on a show for the rest of us.
I don’t often do this, but here’s a full res copy of our damage. I’ll be real honest here. Everyone negotiated this safe and sound, and this was planned. One of the steps in evaluating and negotiating avalanche terrain is mitigation – which we did be clearing the slope out before we started skiing it.
Feel free to click through for the full size.
We retraced our paths, and ended up logging over 15 miles of overland travel for the day. Pretty big considering we’d had fun filled days of cowboying and boating in the days prior. We finished off the weekend much like we started it. But instead of sunrise we found sunset, and instead of missed clay pidgeons we found nothing but perfect accuracy! Well, sort of.
I hope you enjoyed this read. It’s not quite the traditional FIS experience, but it’s certainly representative of the fun we have here in Utah and the greater Wast. We’re not the only ones getting after it, check out Pete‘s footage of flood surfing in Vermont, and Sam‘s trip up Rainier for some other great reads.
Read about the author: Porter Haney