Today we took a break from XC sking and headed to Cooke City. After last year snowmobiling the trails of West Yellowstone, MT I was looking forward to another fun experiencing using the snowmobiles to get into the backcountry for snowshoeing.

We rented a two-person sled from Cooke City Motorsports. Immediately we were warned that avalanche danger was extreme. The gentleman was comforted when I informed him I was AIRE trained and had becons, probes and shovels. He showed us on a map the places to avoid and suggested we visit some lakes where there was a warming hut. Adam and I suited up in heavy duty jackets, pants and helmets. Before we left the gentleman warned up to be careful of the sledding getting stuck since it would be impossible for only the two of us to get it out since the sled was massive. He said he’d look for us it we were out past 5:00pm.

Off we went down the Beartooth Hwy taking the turn off the wide main road by Colter Campground for the lakes…as it turned out we ended up somehow at Goose Lake which was not on the map at all (we were supposed to go the Mud Lakes). In my attempt to make a multi-Point U-turn the back end of the sled dug itself deep into the fresh powder. Shit!

I pulled forward into the snowbank on the other side. Then back. Then Forward. We dug in the snow. We stamped it down with out feet. We dug ramps. We picked up the back end and rotated it. We rotated the front end. Pulled back and forward. Repeated…. and eventually we got the sled free! It only took an hour!. Always fun to have an epic.

We decided to drive back to the Beartooth Hwy and stick to that road which was wide and groomed. The Bearooth Mountains were forbidding against the blue winter sky. Pilot Peak’s summit tower pierced the heavens like an arrow commanding the entirely of the craggy range. We turned around at the Junction with the Chief Joseph Hwy.

Adam took a break in town while I drove the road two more times passing a bison grazing near the track. It was good for me to be alone with my thoughts. I had recollections of Eric. Little things. Like how he used to say “I want to play” and “That sounds like a personal problems”. I remembered how much fun he had on the snowmobiles last year going through the deep powder and over bumps. How he got stuck and had just simply picked up his sled. These memories don’t make me sad. They make me smile. They are a part of me. They are gifts he gave to me. And he also gave to the gift of not forever living memories, but the drive to create new ones. And I discovered as I left the cold (coldest its been so far here) sear the bits of unprotected flesh on my face that the path I choose next will not be the path we would have taken together. It will be a new path. My path. Not our path. But a path along which I will still be guided by Eric. He brought me to where I am today and, though now I choose my own way, he will trail me.

And when Adam and I drove home today we passed a carcass in Lamar Valley. On the hill above us the Lamar Canyon Pack of wolves laid in the snow digesting their meal. “Thank you Eric” I thought to myself. The wolf is powerful, intelligent, fierce and compassionate. Eric was like the wolves. But wolves more forward. They move on to survive.  I am moving on too. I am following the herds of elk as they migrate to new land. And in that new place I will find my peace, happiness and my love again. A different love…. but still love. And I will be home again.

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