Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snow Falling


Thanksgiving weekend. So nice to have extra time to do things, or just goof around not doing much. It's been snowing off and on all day, although it hasn't amounted to more than an inch or so on top of the old icy snow from last week.

Ken and I had a long weekend in Stanley at the end of October, and I haven't had a chance to write about it yet. Went up on Friday, and hiked out of Petit Lake to Yellow Belly lake. It was cold and there was bits of snow in the shadows at the trailhead. As we got higher the snow covered more. But the weather was good. Too bad we were feeling the altitude a bit. The trailhead started at 6,996 feet.

We finished mid-afternoon and relaxed in our hotel room until dinner time. We had dinner at the Sawtooth Inn in town. An old log-built hotel that's been there a long time. It's remodeled now, but still has low beam ceilings and plank floors. I had a polenta lasagna with elk & pork sausage. Really yummy! Especially after a day out in the mountains. Ken had some kind of pasta that was just ok. Still, it's a lovely place and we were lucky enough to catch them on their last night before they closed for the winter.

Saturday morning we went to the Stanley Bakery for breakfast. We were glad to find out their last day was Sunday. So at least we'd get a nice breakfast before heading home. We hiked out of Alturas Lake up to Alpine Creek Meadows. Alturas is at 7,016 feet, so this was a higher start. But having slept at altitude helped. We did better this time. Still, not far into the hike the snow got to be at least a foot deep. Which covers boulders, logs, and other trail hazards pretty effectively. So you really have to watch your footing as you walk, which makes the hike more tiring than it might be otherwise. As we got closer to the meadows we came to a point where the snow footprints of previous hikers ended. No one had hiked beyond that since the snow fell about a week before. But we've done this trail before, in late summer, and were hoping to reach a pretty area we remembered from last time where a creek crossed the meadow. So we pushed on. My boots are harder-soled than Ken's, so I was leading.

We were hiking along the sloping bottom of an uneven ridge of jagged peaks, with a creek below. You repeatedly pass through stands of trees separated by open areas of rockfall or meadow. As we were about to enter a thin stand of trees I came across a set of palm-sized rounded animal prints. My first thought was wolf, but it was just one animal. So our next thought was cougar. A rather chilling realization. It had come up from the creek, followed the trail for a bit, then headed off up the slope. Ken took pictures of the prints next to his own foot. I'm no expert, but these did not look fresh, the edges weren't crisp enough. Perhaps the day before or earlier. No matter, it was still a little disquieting to realize that in all likelihood we were the only people up here for many miles around. At least it was early winter, with plenty of food still around.

We kept on for another half hour or so, then stopped for an apple and some water, sitting on a fallen log in a stand of trees. I have to admit I kept scanning the slopes above us for movement. Didn't see anything except clouds moving in. By this time it was around 1pm. It was getting cloudier and colder, so we decided to head back. I have backpacked into wilderness for a week at a time, in bear country in the Sierras. My ex-husband and I came across a cougar kill left on the trail once - the noise of our approach scared it off. Even those near-encounters didn't get to me as much as this did. Not that I was scared exactly, but Idaho is a lot wilder than the Sierras, with a lot more wildlife and a lot fewer people, especially in late October. I could not shake the feeling that we were being watched.

Anyway, back down the hill we went. We reached the trailhead around 3-ish, just as it began to rain. Whew! Headed back into town and had an unexpectedly large order of tater-tots at the local lunch joint. By 6pm we were still a bit full for dinner, but didn't want to totally go without. So we went to the Stanley Kasino Club. It looks like a cowboy bar on the outside, but this was the last weekend in October and it was the only open restaurant in town. Fortunately there's a restaurant side and a bar side. We sat in the restaurant. I had a nice shrimp scampi. But this time Ken got the best dish. It was most amazing pasta carbonara either of us had tasted in a long time. Really really good. Prosciutto, mushrooms, mmmmmm! If you're in Stanley, I recommend the Kasino Club.

The next morning we woke up to snow falling. Very pretty. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Bakery, their last open day of the season. Then poked around taking photos, taking the dirt roads off the highway to get back into some of the scenery. Eventually we headed home. The clouds stopped after Garden Valley and we came out of the mountains into a beautiful clear fall day in Boise. It was a good trip.

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