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Snowshoeing: Discovering Yellowstone in Winter

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Some winter adventurers go above
the trees, into the big sky, and glide
through the powdery paradise of
Lone Peak; some painstakingly contemplate the cardiovascular benefi ts
of cross-country skiing on one of the
area’s many groomed trails; and some
of us delve into the blustery and glittering
wilderness on snowshoes.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Yellowstone
during the summer, working as a
barista. After those seasons ended, I
returned home to Tennessee’s bland,
rainy winters, sinking into nostalgia
when I couldn’t lace up my boots and
gawk at mesmerizing vistas whenever
I saw fit.
So, when the opportunity arose for
me to avoid my mom’s shabby sofa
in Tennessee and instead live in
Montana year-round, I was elated. I
also felt uneasy, because I have never
skied. I knew the couple inches of
cursed snow that fell in Tennessee
every year were nothing compared
to what these skies promised. I knew
Montana winter would make everything
I knew of that season seem
trivial and ridiculous. But I was going
to be near the wonderland that stole
my heart four summers ago, and I was
not about to let some white fl uffy
stuff deter me from recreating in my
new home.
This winter, my first in Big Sky, I’ve
spent many subzero mornings trying
to extract my two-wheel-drive pickup
from Crown Butte Drive’s ditches.
When I first purchased snowshoes,
I thought their alloy frames looked
awkwardly shaped and odd.
The next weekend, I took my inaugural solo snowshoeing adventure in
the Yellowstone backcountry. I drove
to the Fawn Pass trailhead in northwestern Yellowstone. My truck was
the only vehicle in the lot on the gorgeous,
clear and frigid day. A moose
drank out of an unfrozen rivulet beyond the pavement, and I translated
it as the beginning of a memorable
I watched the
moose as I strapped
on the snowshoes I’d
blindly invested in, hoping
they could carry me to the same
kind of fond memories my hiking
boots had in summers past.
I sallied on, into the trees, without
any idea what to expect. Right away, I
noticed the silence. No birds chirping,
no brooks babbling, no wind—
only the thwack of my snowshoes
breaking the surface of new snow.
When I paused to sit under a tree for
a snack, I lost my balance and fell into
an impossible position in two feet of
snow. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able
to escape.
Then, a slight breeze brought the
hoary contours of the earth to life. I
stopped in wonder. The sun blazed
cold and brilliant behind a transparent
cloud. Its strange, slanted light
animated snow skimming the surface
into phantasmagoric spirits. The
lodgepoles whispered, and Yellowstone became something entirely
new to me: a wintry wonderland, not
only void of the sound of life, but a
place with true solitude. It surely is
an amazing thing to have the opportunity
to be the only person on earth
outside of your front door.
Eddy Murphy is originally from Nashville. He lives in Big Sky and enjoys
hiking, fishing and live music.

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