Big Timber, Mont. – “This. Sucks.” I think to myself as I carefully place one foot after another on the hard, icy snowpack that has taken over my pleasantly dry dirt trail. “Why do I do this to myself? Why do I enjoy this?”
It was late-October and a nice day hike in the mountains had been on my To-Do list for weeks. Finally, the boyfriend and I were able to escape to the mountains one Sunday morning. According to the local weathermen, it was supposed to be the last day of nice weather before our first winter storm of the season hit. Perfect – we thought.
We hadn’t been to the Crazy Mountains in awhile, located off of Interstate-90 near Big Timber, so we decided to hit-up one of our favorite trailheads that would take us to Twin Lakes – about 4.5 miles in. Complete with blue skies, sunshine and crisp fall air, it was the perfect October day. We walked along Big Timber Creek, where we noticed a thin layer of ice crystals was already forming on the frigid water, and enjoyed the thunderous white-water of Big Timber Creek Falls. Aside from the occasional chipmunk, it felt like we had the whole mountain to ourselves. I love that feeling.
About a mile into our journey to Twin Lakes, we started noticing patches of snow along the trail. “Ooh! Snow! That’s fun,” I said to myself.
Famous last words.
Soon those little patches of bright white snow were swallowing the brown, dusty dirt trail that I had become quite fond of. Before I knew it, we were trudging our way through snow that was more than a foot deep. (Luckily, we were on a pack trail, so the horses that had traveled this area before us made some nice hoof prints for us to walk in.)
We kept telling ourselves that the snow would dissipate further up, maybe in a more sunny area. Ha! Funny how we can try to trick ourselves into thinking certain ways. As if the snow would really get lighter the higher we climbed.
Judging by the hard-packed, almost ice-like conditions we were walking on, the snow was clearly from a storm weeks prior to our hike. I chuckled at myself for thinking that because we’ve had such lovely fall weather in Billings, it would be just as nice in the mountains. In reality, it was the end of October. The odds of there NOT being snow in the mountains in October are slim to none – regardless of how nice it is down in the valley.
Finally, we made it to our destination. The lake was nearly covered in snow and we were limited to the trail the horses had created before us, but the amphitheater of granite peaks was as breathtaking as ever. It was in that moment that I remembered why I “do this to myself.” Sitting there on a snowy log, taking in the majestic, jagged peaks and the noise of nature (or lack-there-of), it was all clear again. This
is why I enjoy hiking and escaping to the mountains. And no, it doesn’t “suck” but yes, hiking can be challenging and tiring at times. However, no matter how snowy, muddy, slippery, rocky the trail is… it’s always worth it in the end. Happy trails.
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