GET OUT: Grateful to be in Granite

By on March 11, 2015
An unlikely March outing complete with scenic waterfalls and delicious snacks. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

An unlikely March outing complete with scenic waterfalls and delicious snacks. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – There are many places in this valley that offer a variety of day ventures. The most recent place where I have found both prolific exercise and relaxation lies south of the town of Jackson. Whatever I want to do, be it ice climbing or backcountry touring or extreme snowshoeing, this area is a playground of fun happenstances.

Even for those who enjoy endless cross-country skiing, anything is possible in this magical land. The only hitch is to get to the real goods you must travel via snowmobile or be an extreme skate skier. The “in” is about nine miles on an old road.

We began from town after buying lots of snacks and gas and making the big trek toward Hoback Nation. From there, we headed toward Pinedale and turned off by Granite Creek. The road dead-ended in a parking area, and I was impressed with the cleanliness and available bathrooms at the end of a Forest Service dead-end road.

The day was unusually warm for early March, and once our snowmobile hit the ground, we motored up toward Granite Hot Springs. From the main pool at the hot springs, we toured up the drainage. In the past, I have had long days meandering around, ice climbing into the unknown and skiing purposefully with no purpose. On this particular day, we decided on a destination by looking up from the bottom of the drainage, snacking, and discussing. It was simple enough and very to the point. The ski down was great and wonderful on some turns and breakable crusty on others. Grateful that the snow existed at all, party members were happy.

On the way down through the aimless flats, I stopped to change my snowboard into ski mode. Unfortunately, the gravity of the land guided me into “Wandering Moose Basin.” I had no choice but to stop and switch over while I eyed the hungry moose uphill. He didn’t seem to pay much attention to me, and simply chomped on the exposed vegetation, perhaps happy to be a free-forming wild animal in low-elevation, faceted snow. Still, I hurried so I could quickly move on and give him his space. Once I clicked back in, I relaxed and caught up to my skier friends further out.

From the silence of Granite Creek, we made our way back to the hot springs area. As we passed the cement blue pool, our empty thoughts were quickly filled with a variety of yipping dog barks. If you don’t enjoy the presence of four-legged canines, than you wouldn’t have enjoyed the end of our skiing experience. Piercing barks erupted, passing the tolerance thresholds of crying infants in the parking lot. I was with both dog lovers and dog haters, but the sounds made us pack as fast as we could and escape.

We headed downriver and found some pleasant hot springs. From there, our day mellowed out even though this was the peak of my experience. My toes, cold from crossing the river, were instantly warmed in the perfect temperature pool. Lying in the sun, I filled my belly up with fresh elk salami, Gouda cheese and gluten-free crackers. Topped with a little rose hip tea, my day could not get any better, or warmer.

I sat in the unadulterated pool, feeling the perfect temperature, basking in my perfect day. All was well. Some people came to join us in our little zone of the world; they were friendly, good-natured and almost as happy as I was to be there. The sun dipped behind the mountain, and we made our way back across the creek. My toes warmed up in no time as I put fresh socks on. The three of us snowmobiled out. We rode Canadian style; I sat in the front, basking in the glorious last light of the day while keeping an eye on my friend who was towing behind us on a small rope attached to a tiny twig of a stick.

I was half expecting to see mass amounts of dog poop on the track. It seems that while dog mushers cannot control the sound of their dogs, they certainly do a great job cleaning up after them. The smell of a poop-free zone was an unexpected yet wonderful highlight of my day.

All I have to say for this gloriously mellow day of powder skiing is that I am grateful to all of the humans I saw. Everyone was excited to be up in such a unique and special zone. There was no sense of “why are you here” or “how did you find out about this place.” All that I felt was a simple enjoyment of a nice day in an endless high-pressure spell. Although it may be difficult to find consistent snow in these conditions, it was a great opportunity for me to explore places I would otherwise never visit in March.

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