22 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: Full Moon Skiing at -20 deg F

Woke up to a Martin Luther King day with the thermometer on the porch showing about -20 deg F. Radio said the airport (down on the flats, where the cold air settles) was -34 deg F. That's chilly, and the Toy started only grudgingly for it's trip to Dick's Auto for a little maintenance. As always, I had planned to ski the full moon. But my plans were easily frozen by a weather report calling for even colder temperatures that night.

I decided on an afternoon ski and waited until the air warmed to -15 deg F in the early afternoon to head up to The Moulton. As always when it's cold, the old LandRover cranked slow and gave every indication of not starting, but then the spark caught and it fired to life. I waxed with Swix Polar, and even that made for slow skiing. Surprise, though, near sunset when RTD and I finished The Yankee Boy loop and made ready to ski down to the parking lot, the air had warmed to -5 deg F.

That happens in our valley sometimes, as warm air slowly makes its way up to the higher elevations from down valley places such as Deer Lodge (i.e. the "lodge of the white tailed deer," as the indigineous people called it).

Still, I was surprised when Andrea Stierle called just as Jan & I were sitting down to supper to ask me if I was up to ski that night. "Well, sure." And so RTD and I joined Don and Andrea, as did fellow Frigidaironaut Mike Stickney.

The air was so clear that neither the lights of Butte nor the stars seemed to twinkle. The moon lit the landscape of Big Flat (aka Moonlight Flat) with that brilliant yet eerie light that collapses great distances. Butte is ringed with mountain chains of the Great Divide: the Tobacco Roots, Highlands, Pioneers, Pintler, and Flint Creek ranges stood brightly on the horizon, appearing to be a short hike away.

After our ski we stopped into the Stierles' cabin, enjoyed the warmth of the wood stove and a hot cup of tea, and talked in that easy way of tired, old friends. Back in the parking lot, as Andrea observed, "One of the loveliest sounds of winter – your truck starting when you are several miles from town and it’s -18!"


The Moulton: Montana's Finest Cross Country Ski Trails

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