16 February 2015


This past Friday was a glorious day in Montana. The sun was shining and everywhere you looked snow was glistening. A perfect Friday the 13th. We could hardly pass up the chance to walk in such splendor. With no destination in mind we headed out on highway 93.

On a whim we turned off on the road to Upper Whitefish Lake in the Stillwater Forest. In winter, unbeknownst to us, the road is closed to all but snowmobiles. The road is groomed for snowmobiles and looks to be a great place to enjoy the sport. As luck would have it, we are having the longest, warmest winter melt we've ever experienced, for Kinsey that's 14 winters. The melt usually last about ten days. So far, this one is a month old. As a result the snow is receding at a rapid rate.

There is a staging area just a few hundred feet in from the highway. Only few trucks were parked. The conditions did not look at all good for snowmobiling. The track was bald or slushy. Even though the road indicated it was closed, except for snowmobiles, it didn't specifically say anything about foot traffic. If conditions were different we wouldn't recommend walking this road. You'd risk getting mowed down by a snowmobile. It would definitely be dangerous. We made the decision to do it anyway because there wasn't likely to be much traffic and what traffic there was you would be able to hear coming a mile away in the silent Stillwater Forest.

We walked a little more than three miles in. In that time we saw exactly one snowmobile. We heard him coming in plenty of time to place ourselves far out of his way. It wasn't hard. He was hugging the edge of the road trying to stay in the snow. He didn't look like he was recreating. He was towing a sled with gas cans and a propane tank. Looked like he was on a supply run to us.

Stillwater Snowmobile

Even if the walk was slushy it was beautiful. With only one snowmobile to break the silence it was like having the forest all to ourselves. That's one of the things we love most about this part of the world, there are millions of acres of public forest and very few humans out in them.

Stillwater State Forest 2-13-2015

Stillwater State Forest 2-13-15
We also learned that although we were in the Stillwater Forest some of the time we were not all of the time. A lot of the land the road passes through belongs to Plum Creek Timber who allows the public to enter their property as long as they are proper guests. We hope the people who use the road are respectful.

Plum Creek Timber
And, of course, no post would be complete without a photo of moi. Dang I am pretty. I mean get a load of those eyes!

Molly Montana Stillwater Forest 2-15-15
So, here's what we learned. If you like to snowmobile this looks like a great place to do it when conditions are good, which they are not at the moment. If the conditions are good you do not want to walk here in winter. It would be dangerous for everyone. This is a road we are putting on our to do list for this summer. We'll report back what it's like when the hiking is good.

Ciao for now!
Molly Montana

©Kinsey Barnard

No comments: