Leap Day 2020. As my mom observed, we spend three years leaping over February 29, those should be the leap years and this should just be a regular year.
How many months have 28 days?
Answer: All of them.
Road trip to the Big Hole. As I described in the resent post “May Creek Cabin“, the Big Hole is a mecca of entertainment for the adventurer. On leap day we took a day trip back for more adventures. As winter is trying to morph into spring the snow is less and less in the 50 degree days. What snow there is, is turning to a solid mass of ice in the 20 degree nights. A cycle of melt/freeze creates difficult snow adventures. But not on leap day 2020. We left the house with the car packed full of cross country ski gear, hot soup, more snacks, large down coats, swim suits, flip flops and a towel.
First stop, Gibbons Pass Road at Lost Trail pass to cross country ski. Two things about Gibbons Pass Road: First, this is one of those places in America that honors a person in history, General John Gibbon, a war “hero” who lead the genocide of the Niimíipuu Indians (renamed the Nez Perce by the French for their pierced noses, although it was only the Chinook Indians that pierced their noses, so a complete historical misnomer). Now, Gibbons Pass is just a place name for most people who don’t give it a second thought as to the history behind the naming. This makes my heart sad.
Second, Gibbons Pass Road is my favorite example of “can’t we all just get along”. This multi-use area is professionally groomed on a regular basis. On a busy Saturday you will find cross country skiers, skate skiers, fat bikers, show shoe-ers, snow mobilers, and the occasional dog sled team. Everyone respects each other’s chosen venue of outdoor winter recreation. Dogs play, people wave or talk or at least smile as others go by. It’s a beautiful example of a wide array of backgrounds, political beliefs, retired people as well as families all respecting the resources the natural world has to offer. This makes my heart happy.
On this particular Saturday, it was 25 degrees and snowing. There was two inches of perfect snow on top of the groomed icy snow pack. It was perfect. We had a schedule, but that schedule was out the window, as soon as our skis glided effortlessly and quietly through the freshly fallen snow. This out and back trek brought us back to the car for a Hydroflask full of hot white bean soup which I devoured for it’s warmth and calories.
A quick change of boots and dry hats and gloves and our biggest down coats and we were on our way to our first Ski Joring event (as spectators). Wisdom Montana is a town of 98 people and an elevation of just over 6200 feet above sea level and 277 days a year that the temperature hits below freezing.
The ski joring event takes place just outside of town at the Wisdom Airport. Ski joring consist of a slalom course with gates, jumps and a grab the ring off the pole obstacle for skiers (or snowboarders) while being pulled through the course by a horse and rider. The place was packed with participants and spectators. The tailgating parties were in full swing with barbecuing, consumption of alcoholic beverages and lots of visiting. Even 25 degrees, mostly cloudy and a bitterly cold wind didn’t deter this group. (That’s a pretty mild day for the Big Hole.) And you could head over to the beer garden where you could purchase hot coffee and Kahlua, hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps and of course, jello shots. The food truck was an enclosed snowmobile trailer with the side door open where people stood in line for kielbasa sausage, chips and cinnamon rolls. The announcer booth kept you informed of the upcoming contestants and their times. Mostly the electricity to the booth kept going out which didn’t seem to make or break the event. Just down another jello shot and call it good.
Next on the agenda, a soak at Jackson Hot Springs in Jackson, Montana. This town of 111 has a commercial natural hot springs. I’ve been going here for almost 30 years. It has changed owners 3 times but the place has not changed one bit. Same concrete pool, same weird changing room in which the door opens out to the second floor above the bar, oops, cover up, the door is opening. Oh. Wait. They did pull up the red shag carpet in the changing room, that was a plus. Going from the inside to the outside to the pool is always a challenge. Having the tips of your hair freeze is normal. And getting back out soaking wet is another hurdle. But all worth the effort to get to relax and soak in the warm water on a cold day.
Another good day of Big Hole Adventures. And what’s a good book to go with Big Hole adventures? (I’m not kidding this place is really called the Big Hole). Ivan Doig’s “Last Bus to Wisdom” and “The Whistling Season” or “The Big Sky” by A. B. Guthrie Jr. or “Tough Trip Through Paradise” by Andrew Garcia or “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose. I’ve read and recommend all of these books. Quarantine yourself with a good book.
How do you get down from a horse?
Answer: You don’t. You get down from a duck.
More great book recommendations and other adventures can be found at Wild About Books.