The grass is always greener, right?

In northwest Montana, it’s now dark by 5pm, mid-elevations are starting to fill in with snow, and roads are closing. For me, the antithesis is four months ago, when temps were kind, there was more daylight for hiking than my feet could take, the country was as open as it gets, and miles came fast and easy. The South Fork of the Flathead is Montana summer, distilled.

These guys would agree.

Looks like they packed in Lodgepole Creek, manhandled down Youngs, and floated out to Meadow Creek. I’ve got mixed feelings about horses making wilderness smaller, and negative feelings about how outfitters run amok in the Bob, but as I begin a mental list of priority 1 trips for next year giving the South Fork the time it deserves comes quickly to mind.

In many respects the dark, quite days at the end of the year are a blessing. Time to rest, reassess, and plan. What do you want to do in 2014?

For me, the possibility of moving to Utah colors everything. (Nothing is certain people, so quit freaking out. (Ali.)) It’s a great antidote against local contempt. If you might be around forever, you can keep putting stuff off until the year after next forever.

First thing that comes to mind in this regard is the Maah Daah Hey trail. I’ve wanted to ride the whole thing since I first rode part of it 8+ years ago. The logical way to do this is to start in Medora, packraft north, then ride back south. This requires higher spring flows to be fun, but also dry soils to avoid the heinous mud. Ergo, a flexible 5 day window in late March or April. A trip like that creates a whole cascade of training goals back into January. And suddenly the year starts to take shape. Planning ahead is how seriously shit gets done. I recommend it.