Many manys

Sherburne reservoir: how is the second-most beautiful valley in Glacier home to an abomination driven by farming things a hundred miles downstream which shouldn’t be seen west of the 100th meridian?  Our first wolverine site was up on Boulder Ridge, south of the Swiftcurrent Valley.

It was hot in the sun.

And cold in the wind.  Wind is the east-side speciality.

We thought the low-snow year would make for good biking.  In actuality, it made for good windpack.  We took the bikes for an optimism-fueled 600 meter walk, then hid them in the aspens.

The lake ice was direct, but a mixture of slate roof sastrugi, glare ice, and sticky wind buff which made for an excellent hip flexor workout.  Our outing up to the ridge and misadventure with bikes, combined with certain Canadians being late, meant we were skiing deep past twilight in to the ranger station.

The moon refracted off the dull ice and patchy snow, and lit our way into the teeth of a cold wind without headlamps.  Half-darkness, hoods humming against our heads, and the spilled-lumber clatter of skis on ice cocooned each of us against the rest and we made miles vaguely, in the fog of sensory deprivation.

Only moon shadows for company.

It’s been peculiar enough going “backpacking” while staying in cabins.  The Many Glacier ranger station, for reasons best left to the peculiar efficiency of a federal agency, is gently heated and electrified year-round.  We lamented not bringing brownie mix to bake in the 50s-era electric oven, and celebrated having a slumber party on the carpet in socks and long johns.  Sally and the Canadians were, ahem, rather silly, a state of affairs which well complemented the incongruity of our accommodations.  I didn’t take photos of the shenanigans; such luxury visually etched for the readership would be bad for my image.

The morning was achingly clear.  Once we plunged 10 vertical feet through the creek bottom and up the other side into the dark trees the temp dropped 10 degrees American and my nostrils quickly became crackly.

That didn’t last long.  By lunch the sun, low though it still is, had driven night’s cold from all but the deepest corners of the valley.

For at least two hours that afternoon we burned from the reflection on the snow, stripped down to a single shirt, and fought sticky snow in especially well-baked patches.

I brought the 145 Hoks, which were wildly overkill for flat lakes but feeling lonely in the basement.  I found some quality meadow skipping on the slopes of Lake Josephine and amongst the aspens heading up toward Red Rock Falls.

Soon the cold night loomed, and we retreated back indoors.  Sally and I had felt pretty good about our dinner the first night: red lentils and brown rice with vegetable curry. I prepped 8 different veggies and hauled a full can of coconut milk.  But Karen and Coleen beat us soundly with yam and scotch-chedder quesadillas with refried black beans, salsa, and guacamole.  For the second night in a row I was last place in the whiskey drinking department.

The last morning clouds moved in, fat flakes, and just to prove foolish our most certain prognostications: an easterly wind.  Weather telling us it was time to go back to that other world, the differences between the two making plain the fact that however improbable it might seem, we were the same souls whichever we were in, and thus ought to remember had in each of us the potential to be so many more, diverse, interesting things.


  1. Wow, sure wish that I lived there!

    A question about your Hoks. Would they be useful for skiing on relatively flat terrain at -30 to -40F, if coupled with their binding and a polar explorer type boot (e.g., Baffin Terrain)? Thank you.

    1. Mitch, I have no experience at those temps. The Hoks break trail in powder very well, though I suspect longer and skinnier skis would provide more straight line efficiency. As I wrote on Jaakko’s blog yesterday, the Hok’s niche is between the well-established worlds of nordic and alpine skiing.

      1. BTW: If you ride your Salsa Mukluk at -30 to -40F, those Baffin Terrain boots with BMX pedals might save your toes from frostbite. :-)

        The Lake Winter boots start to fail with extended time at -15F and below. At the Arrowhead Ultra, people have to add outside insulation and extra overboots to the Lake boots.

  2. Dave,
    I saw you mentioned y commenting on the Hok skis: ‘…As I wrote on Jaakko’s blog yesterday,…’. I’m not familiar with that blog. Can you reply with the link?
    Marty Cooperman,
    Cleveland, Ohio

    1. I’ve thought about buying a windpaddle for use with the packraft and lake crossings, but these last few ski trips have made me think it would be good year-round.

  3. Those are great pictures. I tried calling to see if you wanted to ski yesterday but maybe you were out galavanting in the Park???? Want to go tomorrow a.m.?

  4. Sorry for being late. and silly. and kicking your ass in both the whiskey and dinner making competitions. (okay, i am not really sorry for either of those last 2. i mean 3)
    hope we didn’t cramp your style too much.

    1. I’ll get over it. ;) If you cramped my style (such as it is) at all it was via cheek and stomach soreness as a result of profligate hilarity.

  5. Dave, it’s great to read about your progress on the wolverine research. My two backcountry encounters with those animals are some of my proudest memories (not that I had anything to do with running into them). Thanks for the ongoing support of such unique, fascinating creatures.

    Also, love the pictures, especially the first one.

  6. Hey Dave, went looking for you on Twitter today. Did you kill your account?

    I’m envious of your wolverine research trips. Great photos from this one. Wind-blasted ground blizzards are unnerving to me, no matter how “warm” it is outside, and your top photo captures the kind of topsy-turvy motion sickness of ground blizzards well.

    1. Fiona, it’s not a wide angle lens. Trick is to get down low (first photo, at around knee level) or climb up high (first skiing photo, ~100 feet up on a drift).

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