After Marc fixed us eggs and a big bowl of grits, Eric and I drove 20 miles North on 191 to the Bighorn Pass Trailhead in the Gallatin National Forest, part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Marc had given us a topo map and described his latest experience on the route. It seemed that after crossing the Gallatin River folks cut track close to the shoreline over the sage brush… this skiing requiring punching through sage potholes. He suggested he go further inland beside a hill where there were smooth meadows. Marc also mentioned a place further upriver to cross for the return journey making a loop.

The day was cloudy and thick snow fell from the sky. It was the first day of snow since we arrived in Montana. Now it truly felt like a Yellowstone winter! Track was cut and we followed it to the shore of the Gallatin River. The track turned right and followed the shoreline. We saw a sign for a crossing over the frozen river after just under a mile, but the track for the crossing was weaker than the tread that continued to follow the river. Eric suggested we following the deeper track so we journeyed on.

The weather was most indecisive. The sun would break the clouds and warm us only to disappear behind another cloud with a blast of wind and snow. Mist carpeted the Gallatin Range one moment and then lifted the next revealing the majesty of the mountains. Several tracks broke off the track we followed… it seemed folks where just carving their own way instead of staying on an official trail. We stayed beside the river… we were now by a section that was very unfrozen and rippled with life. Clearly we had passed the second crossing point, but it didn’t matter to us. We found some fox tracks  that led to a gaping hole in the snow… a sign of the fox hunting mice beneath the snow.

The trail along the shore turned inland eventually. Eric and I each cut trail along the river for 1/2 hour each before heading back toward the trailhead. By now it was about 1:30pm. The sun had lost it’s battle with the clouds and snow. The wind was blustery and swirled snow around us. Out tracks from only an hour before were partially or, in some areas, fully covered! Luckily the snow beneath was hard packed and we were able to glide quickly. We decided to cross over the ice at the crossing sign we had seen earlier since it was still too early to call it a day. We skied along the opposite shoreline  seeing early what Marc had mentioned about the sagebrush trails.

By the time we returned to our car it was 3:30… it was time to head back to the trailer for a hot shower and hot meal.

 

 

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