On just about every backcountry trip I end up forgetting something. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but turns into a real pain. For example, I’ve gone on multiple trips over the years and forgotten a spoon or a fork. Sure, you can craft a spoon out of a piece of wood, but you better make sure it’s not a piece of green spruce, or whatever you eat will taste like a tree.
One time I remembered all the food, the stove and the fuel, but forgot a pot to cook it in.
We had plenty of other stuff to eat, but it was still a pain.
This time around, it was an extra pair of socks. It wasn’t that cold, but the socks I had on weren’t just wet, they were soaked. It wasn’t life-threatening of course, but just made things a little uncomfortable.
We were at Two Medicine Lake on the first day of spring. It was a pleasant day for Two Medicine. The trademark wind wasn’t howling and the sun broke through the clouds as they skipped across the sky.
The only glitch was they were plowing the Two Medicine Road, which we hadn’t counted on. To start this trip in the winter (and early spring) you have to ski at least a little bit of the road before dropping down to the lower lake. The road isn’t plowed in the winter months, so to get to the campground, it’s about 7.5 miles. In the summertime, it’s a quick drive into the valley. With four feet of snow on the level, it takes a few hours by skis.
The plow guys were cool and let us past. About a half-mile further and we saw two bald eagles on the road and then it came into view — a dead calf moose.
The carcass was fairly fresh and had been torn apart by the birds. Judging from the tracks, some domestic dogs may have gnawed on it as well. Not sure how it died.
A bit further and we dropped down to the lower lake. If the wind isn’t howling, the lake is an easier ski than the road. And it’s far more scenic. The wind-swept snow was fast. I broke trail and the boy pulled a sled. I like to use a sled on winter excursions if possible. It’s a great way to lower the load on your back. We had the tents and the food on the sled, carried the rest of the stuff in our packs.
As the day progressed, it got warmer and warmer. Heading up the hill into the valley, the snow became softer and softer in the sun. Breaking trail through slush was no fun, but wasn’t awful either. Such is spring skiing.
At the lake, it was a winter wonderland. Drifts reached the top of the Two Medicine Store. We camped on six feet of level snow in the trees.
The thermometer on the backcountry information office said 60 degrees, sitting in the sun. It wasn’t that warm, but it sure was nice out.
By dusk, that all changed. Clouds rolled in and it started to snow. Snowed on and off all night, then cooled down, but never got cold enough to freeze the water bottles completely.
The next morning, there were 3 minutes of glorious light before it clouded up again.
The colder weather set the snow and the trip out took an hour less than the trip in. We ran into a ranger coming out. Showed her our permit. She asked how it went.
I wasn’t much in the mood to chat.
“Snowy,” I said.
She looked us over.
“Are you guys OK?”
“Yep.” I said.
We must have looked worse than we felt, because I felt pretty good.
Back at the truck I got a look at myself in the rear view mirror.
Hair was standing straight up. Face ruddy like I’d been on a bender.
Back home when I was unloading stuff I noticed a pair of socks set aside on the floor, right where I’d left them.