Damien and I originally planned to spend the three day weekend in Canada skiing some big peaks. However, by Friday a large storm was developing that promised massive snowfall. Over a foot of snow covering the existing solid icy layer meant high avalanche danger and it was no time to mess around on steep slopes. In Washington danger was high even below treeline! After pouring through all of our guidebooks for something that would take up three days and be safe, we opted to revisit a trip from a few weeks ago that resulted in getting delayed by avalanche control for 2.5 hours and my keys getting lost in the snow! Damien and I decided to return to Mazama and complete the circumnavigation around Goat Peak via xc ski. In addition, we added a side trip to Black Pine Hut making it a three day tour. To avoid getting caught behind avalanche control we drove over Stevens Pass on Friday night and slept in a pullout an hour short of Mazama. The snow began just as we pulled into the Mazama Store Parking lot Saturday morning. So far this trip was going back better than last!

Damien and I departed the Goat Creek Snopark at about 8:30am. It was snowing furiously already, but the track was freshly groomed so it was easy to cut through the fresh powder… at first. One large group of snowmobiles passed us mid-morning. About an hour later their tracks vanished as the rate of accumulation sped up. In fact, by early afternoon Damien and I found ourselves pushing through knee deep snow.

Battered by wind, cold, trail breaking and unrelenting snow, Damien and I were exhausted by the time evening came around. We set up camp about 9 miles into the loop just short of the Yellowjacket Junction. Damien and I had debated the merits of different tents for this trip. The single walled Eldorado was warmest and best for the stormy weather. However, the single wall construction created an environment full of condensation that often resulted in a damp a sleeping bag. Not  a problem on a single night winter trip, but a huge problem on a multi-day. We could bring the light weight pyramid tent, but it required a lot of space which this route doesn’t always provide. Finally, there was our tree season REI Quarter Dome. Not the warmest, but smaller with good air flow. In the end we decided on the quarter dome combined with a tarp tied to the trees to make a awning.

With camp set up we crawled into our sleeping bag, intending to take a ten minute nap before starting on cooking. Somehow 10 minutes became 4 hours! At 9:15pm, Damien and I finally emerged from the tent wondering where all the time had gone. While we began to melt snow and I reached for my food bag. Normally I zip the smell proof bag shut and keep it in the tent with me in the winter. Since I antispated having dinner after our ten minute nap, I’d left the bag unzipped outside. Now, I discovered little holes nibbled into the sides. Immediately I checked the status of my cookies and scones! Untouched. Phew! I inspected the remainder of my less appetizing foods. Three tiny bites were taken from a snickers bar that I hated anyway. No further damage. I guess my food wasn’t appealing. With food and water in our bellies we returned to the sleeping bag to endure a chilly night.

The next morning Damien and I were awakened by a engine sound of sorts. Confused, we opened our eyes just in time for lights to filter through the walls of the tent and then vanish. It was the groomer! No breaking trail today! We broke camp at 9:00am after a proper breakfast of tea and scones. The snow stopped overnight, but it was still cloudy as we skied the final half mile to the junction on the smooth track. Of course once we arrived at the junction and turned toward Black Pine Hut we were once again skiing on ungroomed trail. However, it seemed this section of track was wind blown as the snow was not nearly as deep. We continued along the scenic route for several hours until reaching a “you are here” snowmobile sign. Apparently, we were at Yellowjacket Pass and had passed the hut! We were not sure how this could be possible. Was the sign wrong? In the end we opted to head back toward the Goat Peak Loop since it was getting on to late morning. We didn’t see the hut on the way back either.

Damien and I rejoined the Goat Creek Loop in early afternoon. The untouched groomed snow we’d left earlier that day was now completely tracked over. Also, a smoldering fird crackled in a giant sinking hold in the snow. We’d noticed firewood stacked at all the junctions since we arrived the day before. Was there some kind of event? What happened while we were looking for Black Pine Hut? It was all a huge mystery!

Damien and I continued up loop in light snow and dropping temps. Although this is the steepest section of the route, it didn’t seem nearly as aggressive as it has in the past.We didn’t end up sliding backwards at all this time. Maybe the snow quality was better? We reached the Goat Peak TH in early evening and were greeted by another abandoned, smoldering fire. So odd. We opted to camp at the TH and ventured into the forest to find a protected spot. We didn’t set up our tarp since the snow ceased. Our sleeping bag was dry, but not especially puffy. Some moisture from condensation must of crystallized in the down causing it to lose loft. We both knew that the temperature was expected to drop throughout the night as the skies cleared. It would be  a frigid one!

Damien and I cooked dinner and melted water right after setting up camp. No 4 hour nap this time! Sleep was sparse that night. We’d fall asleep and get woken up by shivers. I don’t think it got above freezing in our sleeping bag. Our boots and fuel canisters we were kept inside the bag had a nice layer of frost on them the next morning. I believe we used only our puffy coats/pants and each other for warmth. When I emerged from the tent under blue skies the next day, my nose hair froze. Below freezing.

Damien and I took unusually long to break camp. We first had to contend with thawing our scones that had morphed into solid stone overnight. Next there was the rock hard boots that needed thawing and warming the fuel canisters. Everything takes twice as long below zero. Eventually we did get underway. Damien and I carried our skis into the sunshine down the toboggan run that is too steep for xc ski for about .25 miles until reaching the lower road. With our skis back on, we glided in brisk sunshine admiring mountain views that were hidden earlier on this tour. The snowmobiles from the day before created a wonderful track and we easily glided down the decline sections making fast time of the 15 miles back to the Goat Creek Snopark (2:00 arrival). To my delight my keys were still in my pocket!

 

With high avalanche danger, Damien and I thought it would be a great weekend to do our annual xc ski around Goat Peak in Mazama. This 28ish mile loop has little to no avalanche danger and required a 5 hour drive. Thus, we were in the car at 2:30am Saturday morning. We saw before leaving that avalanche control was in progress at Stevens Pass. It started at 2am and was expected to take 30-120 minutes. Damien and I figured it would be wrapping up by the time we arrived. This was a very incorrect assumption. We waited for the road to re-open for 2.5 hours! In addition, once we continued on our merry way we could not travel more than 45 mph for the rest of the journey due to a snow-covered and very slick roadway! By the time we arrived at the Goat Creek Sno-park it was 11:30pm. We’d spent 9 hours driving! Needless to say we were behind schedule!

Damien and I still hoped to push through and make it to the high point of the loop, which is the Goat Peak TH, at 5600 feet (only accessible by snowmobile and foot in winter). It is roughly 12 miles into the loop with 3700 ft of total gain. We were certain making this camp would mean skiing well after dark.

As expected the trail was broken in by snowmoblies earlier that day. However, traffic was low and the heavy snow swiftly concealed the tracks. For the most part we found ourselves breaking through a fresh layer of snow. It didn’t cause much of a hindrance though. The only issue we contended with was when I discovered that the car keys were no longer in my pocket! The inside zipper of my jacket was open. The only time I had removed it was to take off some layers, which was naturally 2 hours prior. We descended back to the spot in 30 minutes and located the keys buried in the snow. But now we had to re-climb the trail setting us back an additional 2.5 hours.

We knew that we could make it to our alternate camp at the Overlook at around 4,400 feet if we pushed into the night. From there the loop was still possible in a long day. Damien and I pushed onward through the fatigue that plagued us as the sun set. Sleep deprived the miles dragged by in slow motion. Finally, at 7:30 under bright moonlight and a clearing sky we reached the “overlook” camp.

Gleefully, but groggily, Damien and I began the process of setting up our home for the night. Pleasantly, the heavy snowfall wavered making setting up the tent less tedious as stars twinkled above. We knew this was only a temporary lapse in the precipitation. More snow was expected. With barely enough energy to hold our spoons, we finished dinner and turned in for the night with the lights of Mazama homes far below us in the valley.

Only .4 inches of snow was expected to fall overnight. The next morning we found 3 inches and heavy flakes still pouring out of the sky. Following a discussion, Damien and I decided not to complete the loop. We did not know if the back side of Goat Peak was groomed by snowmobiles. Normally this would not be an issue if we were starting from the higher camp, but additional uphill mileage and the unknown conditions caused concern. Also, Damien expressed some hesitation with the high avalanche danger since even more snow than antispated.  Instead, we opted to ski to the high point at Goat Peak TH, and then descend the way we’d come.

From the overlook camp the trail continues upward for about 1.5 miles and then drops 300 or so feet. This is a nice break, but also a reminder or the extra elevation you have to regain. Two snowmobilers with AT skis passed us. We saw their skin track and parked snowmobiles a bit further down the trail. Damien and I were surprised folks were skiing in the high avalanche conditions.

The final switchbacks up to the high point are the steepest section of the trek and the snow covered road seemed rather endless. The snow was also deeper here both from being untouched and from the deep wind drifts. After a brief break at the trailhead Damien and I skied back down. Even with the uphill section it took only 2.75 hours to ski the 12 miles back to the Goat Creek Snopark. Such a difference from uphill!

 

 

Last year Damien and I did this 27.5 mile xc ski trip in three days. The trails makes a circle around Goat Peak (clockwise). We started late on the first day and ended pretty early on the third day, so we thought it might be fun to do the same trip in 2 days. The first day would be all uphill the 2nd 80% down hill… and this time we would get an early start.

Just as last year the temps were frigid and ranged from about 0-10 degrees. We started at the Goat Creek Snopark at about 8am after grabbing a quick snack from the Mazama Store. The trail is not a dedicated xc trail, but a multi-winter use motorized trail. Thus, snowmobiles also use this route. We have always found these user to be very polite and simply step off to the side whenever were hear them coming up the trail. The only troublesome thing is the exhaust fumes of the sleds as they pass. The snow was in good condition though we didn’t get much glide since the trail was uphill. After 3 miles we turned left at the first junction marked for the Goat Peak OL. A few hours later we passed the overlook that was the site of our camp last year at around 1:30pm and admired views of The Gardiners and Silver Star before moving on. Shortly after the overlook the trail descends for about .7 so we had fun slide downhill before the next push up. The ski to mid-point of Goat Peak Lookout TH parking lot is increasingly steep and requires some herringbone technique and sliding backwards. We made it to the parking lot in the dark and made camp in the forest just off the Lookout Trail a few yards in.

The next frosty morning we did not snap on our skis. Instead we carried them down the next .5 mile section which begins just behind the parking lot bathroom. This section fo trail is too steep for xc skis to handle and resembles a toboggan. It is narrow as basically groomed out every winter as a connector to a lower road forming the loop around Goat Peak. Its narrow and I wouldn’t want to be in there at the same time as the sleds so we were happy to do it first thing. Once down the hill and on the next road we put on our skis and glides on flat ground for the next 3ish miles traversing the side of long ridge before dipping into a ravine and circling around to ski back around the other side of the valley. There are two major overlooks/wide areas. After the second one the trail pretty much angles down for the remainder of the tour with varying steepness. There are several junctions and the general idea is to turn right at each one. Due to the downward angle we completed the loop at 12:30pm even though it had been 14 miles. So this year it took us 1.5 days!

Last year Damien and I attempted this 40.2 mile ski tour. However, we were met with the grueling task of breaking trail through over one foot of, thick powder and thus only made it 24 miles. Not to be deterred, we decided to try again this year with hopes for better conditions. And we got precisely that.

We started out on the morning of Christmas Eve under partly cloudy skies at Silver Creek Snopark and skied under the Mount Rainier White River Entrance sign. The road is closed in the winter, but open to recreation. The way was well traveled for the first 2.5 miles and ran across one other skier who turned back at mile 60.  Beyond that the tracks faded and we were left to break trail through pristine snow. However, unlike last year there was firm base so we only sunk in about 5ish inches as we broke trail. This was a huge improvement from the year before. In fact we reached the White River Range Station at about 11:30am. Last year we reached that point at 3:30pm and felt destroyed!

We continued on part the station under tall tree beside the White River Catching glimpses of Little Tacoma high above. At about 1:00pm we pasted Shaw Creek which had been our first camp last year. Further down the road  at ten miles for us we reached the next junction. We turned right on the Rd to Sunrise. We figured we’d ski to about where we turned around on our second day the previous year. We ended up setting up camp about .5 miles down the rd for last years turnaround since found a perfect spot. So in one day we traveled what had taken us two days last year. It truly showed what a difference conditions could make.

On Christmas Day we continued up the long switchbacks to Sunrise. We expected the trail breaking to get worse as we got higher, but for some reach it seemed easier. It was a clear day so we were granted majestic views of the Tatoosh, Little T and Mount Rainier the whole way. We decided to drop off our camping gear at Sunrise Point so we could watch the sunrise the next morning and also cut off some mile from what would have been at 20.1 mile day. Then we continued the final 3 miles to Sunrise Lodge. There was some drifting on the final switchback of the road, but it really didn’t slow us down. We reached Sunrise Lodge at sunset. It was amazing to have the area all to ourselves. No people milling about. Silence. It was a truly magical Christmas Evening in pristine solitude.

We skied back to Sunrise Point as darkness fell turning on our headlamps only were it became difficult to see the track. A bitter cold crept in and we hurried to ut on our puffys when we arrived back at Sunrise Point. We devised a plan to walk up and pack everything the next morning and then enjoy the sunrise before heading off. We also had some cell service and discovered that a storm would be moving in Monday evening, so we wanted to get an early start.

We had everything packed by 6:45 except our sleeping bag and pads. We scurried inside to watch the sunset. Heavy clouds hid most of the colors, but it was still wonderful to cuddle in the open air as ski grew light. And as we skied down Mount Rainier glowed a soft pink in the morning light.

We didn’t coast down to the junction as we expected, but we still had plenty of glide all the way back to the Ranger Station. From there it was about 1.5 miles uphill until the next junction were we were able to mostly coast for 3 miles. Then the final 2 miles we skied with good glide making it back to the car at 2:30. It was sunny were we drove out of the parking lot, but about 30 minutes later the ski dimmed and rain bounced off the windshield. We found out that there was a winter storm warning. Turned out we hit the weather window just right!

Avy conditions were considerable on all aspects this weekend. We spent Saturday skiing inbound at Baker, but with our AT set ups to get our muscles flexed for the backcountry ski season. Then in the evening we broke out our XC skis and headed down Razorhone Rd from the Salmon Ridge Snopark. Snow was falling pretty heavy and there was a good base of snow already on the track. I don’t  think it has been groomed at all this year. We set up camp for the night in a clearing not too far in. In the morning we continued on the road breaking trail through deep, fresh powder for about 2 miles until some others skiers passed us and broke trail up until the road washout at 3.5 miles. There is a pretty deep water filled trench. Probably passable with some finesse, but the road ended in another .25 mile so I wasn’t worth the risk of going for an icy swim for us!

Lots more people were on the trail on our way back and the snopark parking lot was pretty full. I guess folks wait for the early risers to break the trail!

The past weekend was not our usual due to the Superbowl on Sunday. We ended up compromising as I naturally wanted to spend both days in the backcountry and Damien wanted to watch the game. Thus I spent Sunday at MT Baker Ski area while on Saturday we went out together on the Nason Ridge XC Loop.I’ve did this 15 mile XC ski trail two years ago and it was very much not groomed. This time the groomers had gone just an hour before we arrived so everything was fresh.

We started off at probably around 7:30am from the Kahler Glenn Sno-Park (Special groomed sticker required). The trail can be accessed by crossing the street and skiing along the track in the Kahler Glenn Golf Course. There are a few blue signs that direct the skier toward Nason Ridge, but the general idea is to keep going in the direct of the giant ridge in the back of the course. The track crosses a few streets. Just before the actual Nason Ridge Trail Begins there is a sign that indicates that there is a huge hill ahead which is hard to climb in skis. There is a little make that shows a recommended route to take along the plowed road to access the trail instead. We walked along the road as recommended to reach the Nason Ridge Trail.

The Lower Nason Ridge Trail gradually climbs along the lower side of the ridge with little elevation gain. In fact it is mostly flat. Conditions were very icy though since it was intermittently raining. Thus whenever there was an uphill section we tended to slide back a bit. Still the clouds were high so we were afforded views of the surrounding mountains. After about 3 miles there is a junction in the track starting the loop portion of the trail. We took the right junction.

From here the track gets much steeper. Some herring-boning, but mostly the angle was just enough to ski normally (still slipping a bit due to the rain). The trail climbs 1500 ft to the top of the Nason Ridge Plateau and then curves right. There are some wonderful views at 3000 ft. The high point is 3200ft but there are less views on that side of the ridge. There area  few maps sprinkled along the way as well. About halfway through the loop there is another intersection. Turning right will take you on a mini loop and then back on the main track. We bypassed this and continued left.

The trail descends rather steeply at times making for some nice gliding. There are switchbacks so care must be taken making sharp turns while traveling at high speeds downhill. The warmth of the day had softened the snow by then though and ski conditions were awesome. We ended up back at the car at about 3:30. Not bad for a 15 mile day!

This was a transition day as we needed to drive to Bozeman and begin the second part of our winter adventure vacation. We wanted to be off the trail at 2pm so we could pack up camp and head back north at a decent hour. We decided to ski the Chittenden Rd Loop again figuring if we began early enough we’d get back in time and still get in 10.6 miles.

We started in the dark by headlamp. It was once again a cloudy day, but this time the winds were not fierce. We moved quickly along the track which barely had any new snow. This time we didn’t pause at Calcite Springs or Tower Falls. We just kept moving opting to once again go clockwise around the loop.

We did not see any wildlife, nor did we take time to stop for breaks. The trip ended up being an endurance test. How far and fast could we really go on xc skis? It turned out that the answer was 10.6 miles in 4 hours!We returned to camp and packed up our home. It’s always sad leaving especially when I knew were would not be at a hotel and not outside… but at least our vacation wasn’t over yet! Plus, Jan 20 marked the ten month Anniversary of Damien and I… something  to celebrate along with the fact that the next few days would be filled with climbing waterfall ice!

I’d never completed the entire Blacktail Plateau as an out and back. I have down the entire trail in in two sections. Last year I attempted an out and back with Adam only to have to race back when we saw a massive heard of bison coming our way a long the trail. We hoped to complete the 16 miles uninterrupted this time and we nearly did.

Clouds hung low in the ski as we began to ski just as light began to bath of snowy landscape… though the sun never did appear in the sky that morning. We began the trail at the east entrance which climbed to the high point known as “The Cut” in 2 miles and 900ft gain. Ski tracks were visible on the trek, though they were lightly covered by about 1.5 inches of fresh snow. The beginning of the trail is relatively wooded so we expected no bison issues during this part… but of course nature had other plans. Two bison were grazing right beside the trail in the woods. Com contemplated making an arc around them, but the snow as too deep and there were too many fallen trees to navigate off trail. We stood and awaited talking loudly. The bison stared at us and then continued their grazing… it took 15 minutes but eventually they did move far enough from the trail to pass safely. With a sigh of relief we continued on. The view from the cut wasn’t very vast since clouds hung low on the mountains and soft snowflakes fell from the sky. We didn’t mind though. It felt like the wilderness.

From here the track enters what I like to call “The funnel”. There is a steep slope on the right and a steep drop-off to the left. It is not a place you want to come across bison. Luckily we passed through this area without incident. From here the trail enters the high plains of the Plateau. It didn’t take long for a bison to appear on the trail. Out in the open now it was easy to navigate around him in a big circle. We passed by some distant elk as the trail traveled up and over slopes of the grasslands  with a net loss in elevation. For a moment I saw a distant creature too small to me an elk or bison. It moved like a canine, but was too big to be a coyote. I can only assume it was a wold because it disappeared swiftly on the other side of the ridge.  We came across another pair of bison grassing on the trail. We had to cut track over a steep slope to get around these two, but we manged it without too many problems. Now and then the ski tracks would vanish; windswept. But we did manage to stay on the trail  though it was tricky at times. Several bison herds grazed at a safe distance and the sun began to shine around 1:00pm. Near the “shortcut” junction we found fresh bison tracks on the trail, but the herd was no longer in sight.  We did see a nearby younger bison bolted unexpectedly into the forest even though we were rather far away. I don’t know if we startled him or he was running from something unseen by us.

About 1 mile from the trailhead we ran into another bison too close to the trail to pass. We had a decision to make. He would be in the area for some time it seemed and we’d have to deal with him on the way back. There wasn’t much interesting left on the trail as it follows near the road the final mile. We were discussing whether or not to call it at the 7 mile mark when the bison began meandering toward us. We opted to just turn around at that point and climb back up to the plateau. The sunshine did not last long. On the upper plateau we found ourselves immersed in the Yellowstone Winter.  Wind whipped around us creating deep drifts and covering our previous tracks from just 20 minutes earlier. Thick snowflakes fell from the darkened ski. It wasn’t completely like skiing in a ping pong ball, but it was close.

Luckily we did not run into any more bison on our return trip. However, I finally saw something I’d wanted to see for years! A coyote not far from the trail leaped high into the air and plunged face down into the snow. He camp up with a mouse!  I didn’t make the entire trail once again, but I came very close this time! We returned to camp in time for the sky to clear and reveal a beautiful sunset over Bunsen Peak. The night was still and starry. Was it the calm before the next storm?

We had originally planned to do the Blacktail Plateau on our second day, but after my alarm failed and then starting out at the Petrified Tree Trail-head by mistake we decided to do the shorter (10.6 mile) Tower/Chittenden Road Loop XC ski. We parked at Tower Junction and skied onto the closed Rd to Tower Fall. This is the first time I did not see any Bison hanging out near Rainy Lake. The trail ascends gradually passing by Calicate Springs Lookout which displays a lovely view on the Yellowstone River, Black Canyon and hot springs steaming on the cliffs. From here the track passes under a massive rock wall. The ski track is on both sides of the road, stay on the left side to avoid rockfall. At 2.5 miles the road reaches Tower Fall. The waterfall was mostly frozen (some water still rain behind the ice. Damien and I contemplated how one could access the bottom of the falls to climb in before continuing on to the Chittenden Road section of the loop.

You can go either way around the loop. Beta suggests going up through the campground counter clockwise to avoid a steep downhill descent… but we wanted to do a fun fast descent so we went clockwise continuing on the Rd to Canyon. The day remained cloudy as we traveled the road. The trail was not freshly groomed, but the ski tracks were still visible as were tracks of 3 foxes using the road as a corridor. We followed the little paw prints in the snow slowly uphill. There was one section of track were the snow got very sticky on the skis and wax didn’t help. The problem went away though after .25  miles. About 2.75 miles from Tower Fall I spotted a large figure lounging under a tree beside the trail. A large male bison. We were a safe distance, but still backed away. He saw us and stood, glaring at us for disturbing his mid-afternoon rest. I think he was hoping we were just leave, but then a few other skiers showed up. He reluctantly crossed the road and moved on to graze a safe distance away.

We continued on taking the next right through an open gate where there is a little box labeled Carcass Log. The trail was indeed steep downhill, but not so much that you could loose control on the skis. We descended 2.6 miles in 30 minutes! It was a fun ride down!

We once again reached Tower Fall and headed back to Tower Junction which no further wildlife meetings.

 

We drove through the famous Roosevelt Arch at about  8am on Saturday morning after driving through the night from Seattle to Yellowstone. We were immediately greeted by an onslaught of wildlife. Bison herds on the rd, hordes of elk on the plains and big horn cheep high on the cliffs  before we even reached Mammoth Hot Springs. We were eager to start skiing, but first we needed to set up our home for the next five days.

As expected the Mammoth Campground was hardly as crowded as it is in the summer. Only a few hardy souls dared to camp in the Yellowstone winter… though the weather was anything but harsh. It looked liked 25-35 degrees with light snow over the next few days. We’d opted to bring our 3 season tent for the extra ventilation. Our single wall winter tent would collect way to much condensation without steady winds. Our setup worked well over the next few days. A blow up mattress, then closed celled sleeping pads, then sheets, 2-person sleeping bag, down blanket and Mideast blanket. We might have been a little too warm some nights!

After setting up camp we headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs which is also park Headquarters. After a quick look around the visitor center and lower terraces we drove a little further up the road to the Upper Terrace Loop. This is a short and sweet xc ski loop around the upper terraces. It was Damien’s first experience on a groomed xc ski track as well. The trail was in good condition. Some sections were void of snow, but some green rugs were placed over the bare payment as bridges. The track passes both active and inactive springs bring heat to an otherwise frigid environment. I suggest doing this 1/25 mile trail counterclockwise. This way is gradually uphill ending with a fun slightly steep downhill.

After the Terrace Loop we decided to head over to Lamar Valley for the rest of the day. We pulled near the Buffalo Ranch where several folks were looking through scopes. It turned out they had spotted the Molly wolf pack lounging in the snow in the distance… all 15 pack members. They let us take a look at the toughest pack in the park; tiny black dots in the snow.

From there we moved on to the Lamar River Trail and did a quick ski in that area before moving on to the Slough Creek Trail which is 2.25 miles. This trail is not groomed but was packed down well by snowshoers. The ski was uneventful as far as wildlife and thick snow fell around us as evening set in. It was time to return to camp for mountain house dinners.