OK, now we have real winter. Snow piling up the last few days and below zero temperatures predicted for later in the week. This is the time to be thankful for a full woodshed or propane tank and a well-stocked larder. If you have those things you can curl up on the sofa with a good book and not have to venture outside.
Good thing too. We currently have high danger of avalanches in the backcountry and several deaths reported in Montana. None in the North Fork and we hope it stays that way.
I am not opposed to outdoor winter activity. When I was younger my friends and I often went winter camping and our favorite trips were in big snow storms and below-zero weather. The trick is to be properly prepared for the worst weather and then it is really fun. Not fun to have cold feet or to freeze your nose.
I still have some of that gear but not much desire to use it. My favorites are my Dad’s WWII mountain tent which could be closed up tight with round ventilators at each end. Another favorite, also part of my Dad’s 10th Mountain Division gear is his hooded alpaca-lined coat. The coat reached clear down to your lower calves and could keep you warm in the coldest weather. Only drawback was its weight. With food, pack, sleeping bag and other smaller stuff along with the coat, snowshoeing was a sweaty affair. Probably couldn’t do it today.
Besides proper gear it is always wise to check weather reports and avalanche danger for the area where you want to camp. Never go alone. If you get hurt with several feet of snow on the ground you may not be able to help yourself. Also, make sure people know where you are going and when you will return. If you get lost, Search and Rescue will certainly look for you. It will take a long time if you have told people you are going up the North Fork or maybe the South Fork. If you say Red Meadow Lake, searchers can be there in two or three hours compared to days if they have to look for your car “somewhere in Flathead County.”
As some hunker down inside and some enjoy winter recreation outside, NFLA volunteers are working hard to put together a summer schedule. Current focus is fire awareness and training. Best time to train is before fire season, same thing with making your property firewise. When fire comes, it is too late to clear a fire break around your house or escape route. The NFLA works hard to educate and inform landowners and folks will always try to help. In the end it is the landowner’s responsibility to prepare their own property and evacuation plan. Talk to your neighbors!
Larry Wilson's North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.