Sunday, May 27, 2012

Still More Snowmobiling the American West, 2003-2008*

Our longest and most memorable trips were in Wyoming. There were many side trips, in the Wyoming Range south of Jackson, to a hot spring in the Gros Ventres, and to Yellowstone itself. But the best was the Continental Divide Trail, which partially envelopes the Wind River Range. And twice we did this the hard way, starting in Ashton, ID, taking the Grassy Lake Trail some 40 miles to Flagg Ranch, then down through Grand Teton National Park, and over to Moran Junction, WY, to pick up the vast network of trails radiating from the CDT. These and other outings on the CDT were multi-day trips, staying in motels along the way. The years we did the CDT were light snow years, and the snow generally gave out well short of Pinedale. It was still incredible.
Yours truly, before Old Faithful

One of the many thrills of Yellowstone was the bison herds
seemingly everywhere; more than once we encountered a
herd approaching us on the road; the procedure is to pull
to the side, turn off the motor, be still, and let the giant
beasts pass; they herd their young away to the other side
and apparently do not feel threatened by humans not on
foot; it's a little unnerving, at first, having these wild animals
brush past you; but also unforgettable

At the Blind Bull Warming Hut, in the Wyoming Range;
warming huts occur throughout most of the trail systems,
sometimes maintained by the state or county, more often
by the local club

Crossing Grand Teton National Park

For many miles in GTNP, the snow was plowed high above
the road and a snowmobile trail groomed along its top

Dawn outside our motel near Dubois, on the CDT

One of the best things about snowmobiling in Wyoming is
the quality and reliability of the grooming; early morning on
the CDT

Passing--quietly--by a national elk refuge on the Green

Green River Lakes with Squaretop in the background

Closer up--a glorious place in any season

*from the Archives of the Sherouse Family Digitization Project

More Snowmobiling the American West, 2003-2008*

Most of our scores of outings were close to Missoula...Seely, the Lubrecht Experimental Forest, Skalkaho Pass out of Hamilton, the Cabinets, and the maze of trails emanating from Lolo Pass. Always our favorite "short" trip was from Lolo Pass to the Lochsa Lodge for lunch, making a sizeable loop back to the Pass. But our outings often involved greater distances, driving down to West Yellowstone and then snowmobiling to Two Top and into Island Park and the Henry's Fork (of the Snake) area and beyond in Idaho. On a couple other occasions, we drove to McCall, Idaho, and used it as a base of snowmobile operations.
Plenty of snow in Idaho; Vicki poses for scale

Henry's Fork

Vicki at the Idaho/Yellowstone border

Mesa Falls, Idaho


Approaching the summit of the big mountain/ski area near

The airstrip near Warren, Idaho

The Winter Inn in Warren

Relaxing at the currency-papered Winter Inn

Vicki presents...the Tetons, from Idaho

*from the Archives of the Sherouse Family Digitization Project

Snowmobiling the American West, 2003-2008*

We moved to Missoula, Montana, in 1995, first me, then Vicki and Rachel, in 1996. It snows in Montana, a lot in the high country, some years, not so much really in the western valleys, except a couple years. We figured quite early that a winter recreation would be handy, and the logical choice was skiing, the cross country variety. This delusion lasted one lesson, at the end of which I fell and broke and bruised some ribs. Laughing was very painful for a couple months. The doctor prescribed snow shoes, and the next winter we began going out on weekends to get experience in our brand new Atlas snow shoes. The thing about snow shoe-ing, we noticed, is that it doesn't take you very far. It's really great aerobic exercise, but you're basically slogging along at 1 mph. On short winter days, this means you're never going to get more that a few miles from the parking lot. Unless, of course, you plan on over-nighting in a tent with sleeping bags and all the other paraphrenalia required for comfort. And survival.

Sometime in the late 90s when Rebecca was visiting for Xmas, the four of us rented a couple of two-up snowmobiles and spent a day snowmobiling around Seely Lake and the Swan Mountains, not very far from Missoula. Vicki has always been the driving force in our snowmobile adventures (though rarely the driver), and she was intrigued. I was rather more impressed with the noise and sickening pollution of the two-stroke machines and with the snowmobiling "culture" generally.

A few years passed, and then we spent another weekend examining the snowmobile thing from West Yellowstone, with two exceptional days in the Park. The rental machines, even then in the early 00s, were the new and relatively quiet four-stroke machines. I was impressed. The Park had not yet required them, but the matter was under discussion, and one could see that if snowmobiles were allowed at all, they would have to be the four-strokers. 75dB. And far less pollution than any of the three million cars, busses, and trucks that traverse the Park annually. And then there were the extraordinary sights to see and experiences to have on the trail. We both were impressed.

So much so that we bought a 2003 Bombardier, a two-up Grand Touring Ski-Doo, with a 1000cc Rotax engine, that had a season's prior use as a rental in Yellowstone. Very light use and low mileage. And then we rigged it up with gear and saddle bags and everything we figured we would need for longer distance snow touring and emergencies. And bought the obligatory snow suits and helmets and boots and gloves. (Beware any hobby that requires a special wardrobe; especially with 12v connections for heat). And a trailer, first the cheap, light open variety and then a more substantial, enclosed 12 footer. We already had a small 4WD truck/camper. And then we spent the next five seasons snowmobiling all over western Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, paradise for anyone interested in "getting out there," mountain snowmobiling and seeing some of the West's great sights in winter.

In five years of this, we never encountered any friends, colleagues, associates, or even acquaintances who were into snowmobiling. (Except the superintendent of Yellowstone, but that's another story.) The disapproval (and misunderstanding) was always a bit less than overt among green friends and associates. My several NPS friends did give me a hard time over it, now and then, but it was always good-natured and cognizant of the fact that we owned probably the only tree-hugging four-stroke machine in Montana at the time. And, unlike practically everyone else, winter had become our favorite season!
Our truck and trailer in the later years; except for the year
I turned the truck over on Homestake Pass near Butte; both
sold in 2008, when we sold everything...except the
snowmobile itself, which remains in storage in Missoula;
and for sale...

Vicki on our rig, the Swan Mountains in the background;
we made many trips to Seely and environs, and several
times did or tried the long run from there to Lincoln

Snowmobiling somewhere in Montana

Plenty of snow most years

On the summit of Big Mountain, a ski area near Whitefish

Near West Yellowstone, the Tetons in the distance

Vicki playing in the snow

Me resting

Alas, it was not all fun and games; a 1000cc machine, with
two people and much gear aboard, is heavy; it took us
quite a few tries to learn that we could never ever get off
the groomed trail; here I am digging us out on the Grassy
Lake Trail, which connects Ashton, ID with the Flagg
Ranch in WY, more about which anon

After too many of these experiences,
riding mostly alone but frequently
benefiting from the kindness of other
snowmobilers, we finally bought
and carried a winch, which we used
more than once; a lot more than once

*from the Archives of the Sherouse Family Digitization Project

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Still More Europe, 1979*

Gruyere, or was it Emmentaler?

At length we did make it to Venice and
a few other towns in northern Italy

And then back north to Salzburg, in Austria, the ancestral
Scheraus home

And still further back north, to Bayreuth and Wagner's
Haus Wahnfried, back in the days before the "no fotos"

And then, moving right along, through the Rhine, etc., to
Merry Olde England

Taking the same shots at Canterbury I did when I was last
there, in 2009;  comparing the 600 35mm slides I took in
1979 with those of the last few years in Europe, I am struck
by the many similarities in subject, composition, etc; I am
not quite sure whether to be pleased or concerned

We spent most of our time in or around London; this was about as
close to Scotland as we got in 1979

But we did make it up to Stratford

And out to Stonehenge, back in the days when you could
walk right out to it and touch the stones; the beginning of
our megalithic interests

All in this brown (ick!) Austin Mini, rented for a week; it's
amazing how much crap you could pile into a Mini

The End

*from the Archives of the Sherouse Family Digitization Project

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More Europe, 1979*

The d'Orsay wasn't in the train station in those days

Montmarte, Basilica of the Sacred Heart; still where it
was then

No longer there department: the Cafe Wagner (commemorating the infamous
Paris  debut of Tannhauser) across from the old opera; I remember a young
store clerk laughing at our pronunciation of "opera"

And on to Versailles

And the Loire...

With many fine pique-niques along the

The amphitheater at Autun that we skipped last July

Our first visit to Lauterbrunnen

At the cemetery in Zermatt, the grave of the famous Swiss guide Michel Croz,
who died in the Matterhorn's first descent

After three days and two freezing nights, this was all we
got to see of the Matterhorn

To be continued...

*from the Archives of the Sherouse Family Digitization Project