Photos: Bill Schiess | EastIdahoNews.com
The chatter at the top of Ashton Hill while snowshoes were put on was muffled by the falling snow and the snow-laden trees.
“Wow – this is beautiful. Look at all the snow on the trees.”
“I think I put my snowshoes on the wrong feet.”
“We will have to trade off breaking the trail in the deep snow.”
“This is awesome.”
“Better hurry up, Bill. Did you bring poles?”
I had not brought poles and did not even fake the idea of trying to keep up with the experienced snowshoers.
It did not take long for the five women to leave me in the dust as they almost sprinted up the Caldera Rim Snowshoe Trail. I hollered for them to stop for a picture and after a slight pause, they were off again for a six-mile trek in the falling snow at the top of Big Bend Ridge on the Caldera Rim Snowshoe Trail.
I had got to the parking lot first, but once there, I was the tail end of everything else. But of course, they were there to see how many miles they could put in and I was trying to find things that gave me an excuse to stop. The falling snow was a great excuse to hike a short distance, get pictures and then high-tail it back to the truck to protect my camera.
The women are part of a loose group of about a dozen friends that try to do something together each week in the outdoors. Sometimes only two or three can show up and occasionally, a multiple-day trip will be planned. This trip was a morning snowshoe hike last Tuesday and my wife had invited me to “see if I would like to do it with her some other time.” It was the first time in about seven years that I had put on my snowshoes and they still fit.
The Caldera Rim Snowshoe Trail is a moderate trail with many ups and downs with two loops that follow the Island Park caldera rim and through a mature fir forest. The first or short loop is 2.6 miles that start at the turnout on the west side of U.S. Highway 20 at the crest of Ashton Hill and follows the forest road past the radio towers along the caldera rim. At a marked junction, it cuts to the south and then follows the terrain back to the parking lot.
The second loop or the perimeter loop continues past the junction, makes a 2.5-mile loop that leaves the caldera rim and follows the drainage back to the short loop. The trail is identified by signs of crossed snowshoes along the trail.
The Idaho Alpine Club has adopted the trail to maintain it, but it is not groomed and with each snowstorm, the trail almost disappears. The Idaho Falls Ski Club has a map of the trail on their web site.
Most wildlife has migrated away from the rim, but I found a place where coyotes and pine marten had dug deep into the snow to a gut pile from the hunting season. The only birds I saw were two ravens trolling the highway and a lone red-shafted flicker, braving the falling snow in the top of a spruce tree.
I went as far as I thought my legs could get me back to the truck as the ladies were gone in a wilderness of white and green.
“How was the hike,” I asked my wife when she got home.
“I absolutely loved it. It was so beautiful with all the snow on the trees. We will have to do it again.”
I guess it is time to get my legs in better shape because snow-dust is not Tinkerbell’s pixie dust.