Angela Jamison is a native Montanan and she grew up in beautiful Bozeman. I'm the mother of two girls and write a blog about our life here and taking in the simple pleasures of family and food.
A few years ago I finally figured out the key for me to enjoy winter in Bozeman was to not let the season stop me from getting outdoors. I used to think hiking was only for the summer months…when the air was warm and the trails were bare and dry. Then, we had a mild winter and because of that I continued to venture up to the mountains later into the season. One time led to another and then another and before I knew it I was full on into this winter hiking thing. Suddenly it didn’t seem so long between seasons and I found the amazing beauty that comes with a snow filled trail. For one, they are quieter. There are little to no tourists on the trails (those that are here are staying up in Big Sky most likely) and the locals that are on them aren’t the fair weather kind. They’re the ones, like me, who realize we can hike 365 days out of the year around here! The trails are also quieter because in the cold everything sounds calm. There aren’t birds chirping in every tree…just your boots crunching on the snow. It is so very peaceful. I continued to enjoy these hikes with the same ease I did in the summer time…simple and easy, throw on your boots and hit the trail. Maybe add an extra layer or two and you’re good to go. I noticed people on the trails wearing yak tracks or spikes on their shoes and thought it seemed odd. If you couldn’t handle a little ice and snow on the trail then wait until spring. Silly me.
I think I was resistant in the beginning because like I said, I loved the ease of hiking. The hobbies I am into require no more than one thing…yoga-grab a mat…reading-just a book…drinking wine-you only need a glass…hiking-put on your boots. If something gets more complicated than that I lose interest. (Seriously, I get annoyed at yoga when they ask us to grab blocks and a strap). Having to go to the store to buy something else to get up a trail seemed unnecessary. Yes, occasionally I found a trail a bit precarious, but I just took my time. When the whole family went hiking it became a bit of a joke. Husband complaining that I only liked taking them on trails that were crazy icy and kids thinking it was a new form of ice skating/sledding scooting down a trail on their booties. I heard co-workers and friends rave about the ease of hiking in yak tracks, yet still held back.
This year I gave in. I finally realized that if I wanted to continue to hike throughout the winter I needed to be better prepared. A couple months ago I headed to the M for a quick hike up. I only got a couple of feet up before realizing there was no way I was going to make it up, it was too icy. I hung my head, turned around and passed two older ladies strolling up in yaktrax as if they were mall walking. Hmmm…maybe there was something to this. Not wanting to give up the beautiful morning I went across the street to Drinking Horse, thinking that it gets less traffic and maybe wouldn’t be quite so icy. It was promising at first, but halfway in, things got dicey. I didn’t want to turn around so slowly, slowly I made my way up…moving to the side every so often so others could pass me (in yaks of course). The way down was comical…trying to go slow but then hitting a patch of ice and reaching out for the closest tree to stop my fall. By the end of this morning I had made my mind up…it was time.
The next week I made my maiden hike in yaktrax. I was ready to test them out, only to be met by a trail that was freshly covered in snow and in no way needed yaktrax. I immediately went back to my old way of thinking that they were unnecessary. Next one was up in Big Sky where we got to a point where the snow was so deep we were post holing and I ended up losing one (not to worry, we found it on the way down!) Finally the next week I made it back to the M, knowing it would be the ultimate test. I breezed my way up the icy trail and knew I was fully converted to being a fellow yaktrax user. Not to say there wasn’t still comedy in my hike…on the way down one of them shot off my foot like a rubber band and went tumbling down the mountain side, Cheryl Strayed-losing-her-boot-in-“Wild”-style. I went chasing after realizing it was only the third time I’d used them and the second time I’d almost lost one. (Perhaps I need the kind with a strap??) I suppose winter hiking is always slightly comical…whether I’m sliding down a mountain or chasing a yak track…as least the trails are quiet so no one sees me.
It took me awhile, but I get it. If you want to get out and enjoy Montana in the winter, there is more needed than in the summer. It’s just too bad that now that I’m a yaktrax believer, the trails are quickly going bare from all the unseasonable weather we are having. Oh well, there are many winters to come…