Posted by: highmountainmuse | October 8, 2009

A ride in the snow

Riding home in the snow

Riding home in the snow

The snow lets up enough to give hope for the promise of sunshine and mud just as I step into the saddle. I roll up my waxed down jacket, tie it onto the back of my saddle.  I know I will need it again soon. Once more, off to the high country to check on a camp, to see about damage from the snow and a bear.  I imagine there will be little problem from either one. I fear more the slippery trails and the footing of a fresh horse.

I ride alone today, though not truly alone as I am with my little stud horse.  At first, there are wide and sloppy tracks of an earlier wander out in the storm, an ATV that had broken through the fresh snow up to the creek crossing, two miles up from the ranch.

We cross the creek and fresh tracks disappear, only the shadow of tracks from the elk plentiful under this new layer of snow, a stark white path before us. The elk have been moving.  Down the mountain, they too know winter is coming on fast.  Further up the trail, we spook up a cow and calf elk, alone and frightened.  Their herd has descended without them. The baby is small.  I wonder if they will make it.

In the middle of a squall of snow and freezing rain, I hear the song of the grosbeak. A bare and barren tree decorated as if for Christmas with their beautiful voice and red heads like jewels in this cold, dark mountain land.

We ascend to an elevation of about 11,500 feet.  The snow is not as deep as I feared and seems to be letting up.  Another break in the clouds.  I can see up to the end of the canyon, shades of white and grey and black timber.  Layers of mountains, layers of clouds. I am swimming in this wild sea of rock and earth as I turn my pony back down and follow our solitary tracks home.



  1. I will always remember our ride in the snow with you a couple of years ago. It was a wonderful & strange combination of beautiful, thrilling, scarey and miserable. It was truly one of the great times my life – how quickly the memories of the beauty and thrill overshadow the cold miserable part! Thanks for taking us there again.
    Cyndee & Phil

  2. Cyndee & Phil – I will never forget that ride. It was beautiful beyond belief, and very frightening as well. It is the ride that taught me the importance of good gear and being prepared. Yesterday I rode in snowpants, arctic muck boots, and layer upon layer… I take no chances now!Hope you two are great, and that your ride last week was awesome.

  3. Your stories about riding in the snow makes me think about long pasted hunting seasons, and make me homesick’

  4. Your ride sounds great but dangerous .Sometimes it takes danger to make you injoy just being alive . Be safe and keep writing and taking pictures .They have became the high spot of my day .I will E Mail you a story about one of my bear incounters that i was sorry the way it had to end

  5. Floyd, we were out in the snow early this morning feeding the cows and horses on the lower pasture. I looked back up the mountain and saw your summer cabin peeking through this heavy bank of clouds, then a part of Pole Mountain peeking through above that. Very little else could be seen. It was beautiful – wish I had my camera with me, you would have loved to see it.

  6. Don, you’re very right: sometimes it takes danger to make you enjoy just being alive.
    I look forward to reading your bear story…

  7. We’ve had snow on the mountains here as well. Fortunately I was just below the snow line and missed it this last storm. I say fortunately as I’m no where near ready for winter. We still have to get the final section of the barn roof finished and, as usual, we’re way behind schedule. Love your post.

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