Busy busy busy. Original posting should resume before long. Mea maxima culpa.
****I (Mitch) have every other weekend off, and I'm trying to get us in the habit of taking a little trip on these weekends whenever we can. The inaugural trip was a jaunt down Rock Creek, a blue-ribbon trout stream less than an hour east of Missoula. And who doesn't love driving on a one-and-a-half lane icy road that drops directly off into a frozen creek on one side and is also littered with rocks?
That's me on the ice showing Melissa that it's plenty thick to walk on by jumping up and down on it. I'm told four inches of ice is enough for a person, and a foot is enough for a truck. This ice was at least eight inches thick. [I've since learned--not the hard way, thankfully--that river ice is a different creature than lake ice and that it's not such a hot idea to walk on river ice, at least if the water underneath is deep (it wasn't here).]A little way up the road from our camp at The Dalles is the trailhead for the Welcome Creek trail, a 5-mile hike into the Welcome Creek Wilderness.
Our first day we just scrambled around the suspension bridge across Rock Creek and then back to camp. The rocks in the background are the feet of the Sapphire Mountains.
Her fears assuaged, Melissa does a dance on the ice.
There wasn't much snow in camp or on the roads, just ice; all that white is ice. Our fire ring was completely filled with a giant cylinder of ice. We tried building a fire on top of the grate, but the embers just fell through. So we put a bunch of wet boughs between the grate and the ice and later had a nice fire and grilled hot dogs on it. Note Ludwig's brand-new chains, on this, their maiden voyage.Walking around the campground (which we had to ourselves) we found this deer skeleton. A little way away we found its fur and a leg, complete with hoof. I wonder if it got hit by a car, wandered into the campground injured, and was ambushed by coyotes. Or maybe it got shot, ran off, died, and was picked apart by crows. In any case, Melissa took about 40million pictures of it, but I'll spare you the totality of her weird obsession and just post this one.
Melissa isn't grossed-out enough to not enjoy her morning tea.
After tea we walked to the trailhead. We'd rented snowshoes because we weren't sure what conditions to expect on the trail. I hadn't planned very well, as we had nothing to carry the snowshoes in when we weren't wearing them. Fortunately, they fit nicely inside our camp chair bags. This narrow bridge spans Welcome Creek just upstream of where it empties into Rock Creek.
At one point beavers dammed the creek with a damned dam, and the resulting pond put the trail under a couple feet of water. We had to go up the side of the mountain and around this obstacle. The side of the mountain was a rock field covered by snow, so on went the snowshoes.
Melissa was a natural snowshoer.
The actual trail was covered in ice, not snow, so the snowshoes weren't really needed on it, and we were worried about bunging them up on rocks and such. But without them, my boots didn't have near the traction they needed so I could negotiate the ice, especially on the steeper stretches. After falling and breaking my wristwatch, I decided I'd had enough and we turned around. We plan on buying some shoe chains for future hikes like this. The above shot is Melissa below a ginormous lodgepole pine or a ponderosa pine, I don't know which. [Update: I know the difference now, and that tree is a ponderosa).]
Back at the trailhead parking lot, we decided to boil up the rest of our hotdogs. Past instances of boiling water inside Ludwig in wintertime had proven problematic, so we set up our portable camp table and cooked outside. It was pretty warm the whole weekend, probably no colder than 30 degrees or so. A guy in a VW Vanagon Synchro Westfalia (a 4-wheel drive camper) stopped by and talked to us, and implied that we were crazy for taking a VW as old as ours on this road. I directed his attention to the chains. With them, we didn't think the road was all that bad, frankly.