Tuesday, February 23, 2010

solo ski day

On Sunday I hitched a ride to Madison with a friend who works at the warming hut there. It was freezing when I woke up--it was -22, without any windchill factor--and her snowmobile wouldn't start. We zipped off after it finally started, and it was so cold that the plastic face shield on my helmet was completely frosted over the entire way to the junction.

I planned to use the warming hut as a base, snack a little, ski a little, repeat. I was still thawing out, drinking hot chocolate, when one of the guides from West offered to drop me off at the top of Firehole Canyon. I grabbed my boots and skis, and hopped onto his bus. There were six people with him, out for a day tour of the park, and they weren't quite sure what to make of the girl who hopped on and then hopped off in the middle of nowhere.

On the way up, we passed two bald eagles, and the guide pointed out this cave that he called "Bigfoot's Cave"--I'd never noticed it before, and he said there are always bones there (these look like elk bones.)

I took my time skiing down the canyon, so that I could stop and take a few pictures along the way. The sun was out and it was (finally) starting to warm up.

There was no one else out, and it was completely still and quiet, save for the sound of the river.

As I came around the final turn I saw a coyote making its way along the river bank. By the time I managed to get my camera out my backpack he had moved on along the river, jumping over fallen logs.

Before I skied back to the hut, I stopped at the Gibbon Meadow overlook;

after a few minutes of standing still, a bald eagle flew overhead.

After a quick lunch, I took off with a ranger to check out animal tracks in the snow on a short loop she created out the back of the hut/ranger station. While we were strapping on our skis, a coyote darted across the meadow below us. As we took off, he watched us, we watched him, until he finally darted past us and went on his way.

After skiing with her for about 45 minutes and studying tracks in the snow, I took off on my own. I started by following her ski tracks, then took off through the Madison campground, where the snow came up over my knees as I tried to break trail. After I broke out of the snow and left the campground, I skied along the Madison River and caught up with the coyote again, who was mousing along the bank.

I made it out past Harlequin Lake and then decided it was time to turn around and head back towards Madison junction and the warming hut.

As I came back towards the campground, a herd of elk were grazing near the river,

and I had to detour around them by skiing up the road. A group of snowmobilers were stopped, watching the elk, until they decided to watch me instead--a couple of them even took pictures of me. I'm sure the photos of the crazy skier lady will make for some fun vacation memories.

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