Cold Feet are a Sure Cure for Cabin Fever by DJ Zor

Fishing is slow right now. I’ve struck out my last three days spent on the water. Though I’ve only headed north where snow lines the streams and creeks when stocked trout are easily had in the local ponds near my home in Phoenix. I’m not sorry that I’ve come up empty on fish because everyday on the water I learn something new. There’s that and the fact that a snow lined stream in an Arizona winter is a sight to be seen. Snow crunching under your wading boots, eagles circling above, bare cottonwoods surrounded by snowy pines, gentle riffles and small falls into clear pools. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Fish or no fish I haven’t wasted a day out there.

Today the plan was pure fun. Grab my buddy at 6:00am and head north for deep snow. See, I’ve been meaning to go snowshoeing for some time and schedule conflicts have dampened my fun since Flagstaff got their first good snow in mid December. Today things lined up. It’s my only day off this week, Tommy got a kitchen pass and Joel got some classes covered.

Tommy and I hit a mom and pop joint for some meat and eggs when we rolled into Flag then promptly got over to Peace Surplus to meet Joel and get Tommy some rentals. A couple of Clif bars for my pack and we were off to the trailhead. I doffed my jeans and sweatshirt in favor of some wool layers and proper outerwear and we got squared away to make the long trek uphill.

No dice. Signs at the break in the snow fence telling us something like “No pedestrians on ski slope”. So much for public access to trails, I guess Snowbowl takes precedence. No worries, Joel’s got a plan.

We follow his Wrangler to a new destination. Dashboard thermometer reads 6 degrees. With water and pack situations under control, we grab the shoes and walk over to the trailhead. Couple of bootprints and maybe some month old snowshoe tracks. With the mountain to ourselves we strap in and we’re off.

I’m immediately overcome with childlike feelings of sledding, snowball fights and attempts at backyard igloos. See I haven’t really played in the deep snow since I left the midwest for the navy almost ten years ago. I guess I did shovel a lot of snow in basic training at Great Mistakes, but this wasn’t reminiscent of that whatsoever. This was pure joy! Three close friends who don’t spend enough time together trekking atop 30” of powder in a seemingly untouched wilderness. A little ways from the parking lot all we saw were tracks from elk, deer, rabbits and so on. We spent the next few hours lolly gagging over rolling hills, through thick aspen and pine forest.

Caught up on family, common friends, opportunities both missed and taken advantage of, Tommy’s hiatus (of which I’m mighty jealous) and his new prospects for world domination (look out Phoenix, it starts in the valley and you’d better get on the train) and so on. Mostly we stopped often and took it all in. When we’d been far enough we turned and followed our tracks back to our beginning.

I never carry a camelback bladder these days, “big slam” bottles are my choice for water now since they’re light and pack well for backpacking. Today I decided to break routine and throw a bladder in my pack since it’d be a light day trip and I was packed really light. Well, it turns out six degrees will freeze the hose on that reservoir quicker than you can say Jack Robinson. It’ll also make your Clif bar resemble a popsicle. This was my first time out in my new MSR snowshoes. I must say that I’m pleased as punch. Very toothy and perfect for this sort of backcountry shoeing. I bought the 22” shoes with the intent of buying the add on 5” tails sometime soon. 22” was perfect for about 80% of the day’s trek. We got into some soft, fluffy powder for a stretch and I was doing a bit of sinking, but nothing unmanageable (with pack and boots I was probably a hair shy of 200lb today). Gaiters or waterproof pants are a must for this sort of thing and I’m not sure if you can rent gaiters. Something to keep in mind if you plan shenanigans like this in the snow. You’ll also need a free day use permit if you are heading out in the wilderness areas near Flagstaff. The lodge near Snowbowl has them on Saturdays or Sundays or I’m pretty sure you can contact the Forest Service for one. It’s free, but it let’s them know how many people are out and where since there’s no regular support in the backcountry right now and avalanche or injury, etc. are always a possibility. It’ll also serve as a reminder to make sure you’re equipped and ready for such an adventure in snow. It’s free, so do it. Another nearby option is the Nordic Center outside of Flag. I haven’t been there, but I know they advertise groomed Xcountry ski trails and designated shoeing trails. Something to keep in mind if you want to test the waters in a more controlled environment.

What’s the point of all this?

The point is I’ve been hearing about cabin fever lately and there ain’t no reason for it! Get out and find your nature. Waking up early for the trip shouldn’t be a problem either, a friend of mine told me “You can sleep when you’re dead”.

Categories: Arizona, Backcountry, Guest Post