GET OUT: Zoomin’ to the Box Y Ranch
My speedometer hit 74 and stayed there. I had passed the teeth-shattering washboard section of Greys River Road, hooked a right at Squaw Creek where I took the cutoff toward Stewart Peak and now, back on the flat track of the groomed Greys River Road, I was haulin’ the mail, yo. My 1997 Polaris RMK 700 was a dog, weight wise, but that motor was built to run forever.
I was hungry, and lunch at the Box Y was still 15 miles off, due south.
I snowmobiled alone and I sucked. I got stuck all the time. I learned fairly quickly that being tentative on the throttle gets you into trouble. Running wide open at the first sign of trouble got me into even more.
Every time I came upon the Squaw Ck.–Murphy Ck. cutoff I could feel it calling me. “Take me,” it cooed. “I offer adventure the boring road could never equal. I save time, too. I’m a shortcut.” Yeah, a shortcut to ruin. After five miles of washboard so vicious my hand-warmers had rattled their way loose, I didn’t need much convincing to hit the powder.
Climbing Squaw Creek in the summer on the timber road is frightening enough – it is eroded away in sections, making for some wall-hugging, cliff-hanging travel. But the real trouble, for me, was the summit. Somewhere near Stewart Peak, the trail tops out and sledders have to find their way to pick up the North Fork of Murphy Creek to head back down and pick up Greys River Road again.
I could do alright in the well-travelled track heading up, but when the snowmobilers before me dispersed in all directions at the top to go play in the powder, I was lost to pick up the trail. In the hesitation to locate the Murphy Creek drainage, I would inevitably get stuck. You can’t ’bile while reading a GPS.
After much digging and cussing I would eventually find my way down and out. Once on the wide open road, I was running like my hair was afire for lunch at the Box Y. I would convince myself the kitchen was closing in 10 minutes and, brother, did I pour the coals to that Polaris.
Past Dead Dog, Lost, and Porcupine creeks and through Grizzly Basin, I was hell bent for a burger. I blew by Indian Grave Flat loud enough to wake a few Shoshone warriors making their eternal rest there. Man Creek, which carries the melt from Man Peak, was a blur on my right. Moose Flat Campground, home to a dozen bloated RVs in the summer, looked eerily quiet for the two seconds it was in my field of vision.
I slowed to a sensible 65 mph to navigate a stretch called the “The Elbow.” Then I halted.
There was Blind Bull on the left. Known as a sledder’s paradise, the drainage offered endless open space and powder on the way to an old abandoned mine and pitiful-looking lake at the saddle to North Horse Creek. I had visited the mine the summer before and crawled into one of the shafts that led deep into the earth.
Oh, what the heck.
After an hour of getting stuck up Blind Bull and warming up briefly in the patrol cabin up there, I was on my way back to the Box Y for that overdue lunch appointment. Man, did that cheeseburger taste good.
Photo cutline: All that digging and getting unstuck works up an appetite for Box Y
lunch. Photo credit: Jake Nichols