The snow was deep, the mountain air cool, the ridge frighteningly steep in places and my sweat was pouring. Fresh mountain lion tracks in the snow and the bawling of the hounds ahead urged me on even as I wondered how smart it was to bring my 8-year old daughter along. One look at Sydney’s flushed cheeks and excited smile, though, dismissed that question and refocused me on the task at hand…catching up to the hounds that were bawling “treed” just up the canyon.
The idea of a winter backpacking adventure had borne so much promise, excitement, and intrigue while hatching the plans back home, next to a piping hot, cast iron wood stove with a steaming cup of Seattle’s finest at hand.
Two weeks later, hunkered in a flimsy tent, tied off with 550 cord to multiple trees, bracing against 50mph wind gusts carrying chill factors far below zero, the challenge was no longer theoretical, but palpable. In retrospect, I did almost everything wrong on that trip. I brought a tent that wasn’t up to the task, carried too much food and clothing, and learned the hard way how ineffective melting snow as a water source can be. However, I walked away from that first adventure with a desire to get it right and the sense of satisfaction that comes from passing Mother Nature’s impromptu, high consequence tests.
Several years and many trips later, I’m still no expert, but I’ve been deeply bitten by the cold weather camping bug, have the memories and scars to prove it, learn something new about myself and the process every trip and embrace the solitude and breathtaking scenery that comes with exploring the backcountry in Montana’s most unforgiving season. Sound like fun? Read on… Continue Reading
I know this is a a simple video… 16 seconds of nothing but drifting smoke on an occasionally gusting wind, that can be heard working it’s way through the trees and coffee getting blacker & gaining more flavor with each burbling perk in the pot. I think that’s why I like it; because it brings me right back to the high mountain lake I had backpacked into the night before I shot this video and the chill air of the morning as I waited impatiently for this pot to finish percolating.
Crazy how even now as I sit in my comfy chair at home, I can feel the heat from the dying coals of the driftwood fire and smell the combination of clear air, woodsmoke and cowboy coffee from that morning on the mountain.
It’s memories like this (and the dulling of the effort induced pain of the backpacking trip) that keep me up nights planning the next adventure and missing early mornings in the high country. Soon enough, the mountain peaks will shed a winters storehouse of snow, the passes will open, ice will thaw, trout will rise, and my coffeepot will earn another layer of campfire soot on the shores of a nameless lake.
I can’t wait! See you on the Mountain.
How hard can ice fishing be, right? The first time my warm weather fishing buddy and I attacked the ice fishing scene, we did it with an axe and a couple of full length fishing poles. The resulting comedy of errors was both hysterical and immensely frustrating, ended with a tiny crappie frozen to the ice and embedded a desire to get it right.