altitude slickness

The Backyardigan

There’s nothing quite like a looming Big Trip staring at you from the calendar to inspire a Little Trip outside to get some miles and elevation under you… A couple weeks ago the weather was just perfect for a quick leg stretcher up one of the hills just behind the house. I didn’t have any pretense of being in shape, but wanted to see how it felt to climb something steep in the snow and to take advantage of the sun before the weather was supposed to come back in the next day. Prater Canyon sits directly to the west of our home in Star Valley Ranch, so it was just a quick drive up along the golf course to the mouth of the canyon. It’s a pretty rugged bit of country back there – you don’t see the jaggedness of the cliffs until you actually get back inside the walls of the narrow slot, or can get up on one of the shoulders of the neighboring hills – but it’s quite impressive.

The snow was packed down pretty well at the entrance to the canyon from the snowmobiles, and as soon as I stepped off to the north I was post-holing up to my thighs before I could get up on the steep stuff. It was already starting to melt out a little on the lower slopes as they’re so steep with a southern exposure, but with my big boots I managed to quickly get up into the more solid snows above. A small herd of deer was sitting above me in the shade of a scrubby-looking bunch of trees, but soon began to traverse back around when they saw me coming up. There really wasn’t much to this trip, other than a lot of zigzagging across the open snow and trying to keep a good pace. I stopped to take a few photos and managed to drop my camera case with the extra battery and memory card, which tumbled down for quite a while before I lost sight of it. It left a good trail though in the snow and I figured I could track it down pretty easily on the way back down.

Reaching the top of the main shoulder I turned and took a number of shots of the spreading valley below me. I had brought up a two-way radio and called up the family to go out on the porch while I used the signal mirror I’d brought and said hello with a few sun-flashes. The mini-summit where I’d landed leveled out only for a few yards before heading back up into the trees and onto higher elevations, but I needed to get back to my Saturday so I ate a quick bagel sandwich and headed back down, plunge-stepping back into my tracks and trying not to tip over forward on the steep sections. I quickly found my camera bag and shuffled back to the car, with only a mile and a half under me, but almost 1700 feet of elevation gained which felt pretty good. It was mostly just nice to get outside in my own backyard and enjoy the warmth of the sun on my back while the wind kept things nice and cool as I climbed. I’m going to need to pick up the pace if I’m going to be ready for any kind of Big Trip this summer, but it was a good little stretch that was worth the few hours away from home…

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