26 December 2016

Stardate 2016.981

Christmas Eve 2016

One week ago we finally received some additional snow. High temps had to struggle to reach single-digits, and lows crept dangerously toward minus 15 Fahrenheit. Then, as often happens, we received high temps in the mid- to upper-40s along with a massive melt over two days.

This allowed me to venture up Waterton Canyon on the Black Pearl until the snow and ice brought me to a slippery crawl. The canyon has been sporadically open for the last several months while an upgrade to a water diversion dam and tunnel has taken place. It may be seen in the background. The canyon's resident bighorn sheep were out and about, too.

There is a short length of access road in the frigid "narrows" that receives zero sun this time of year.

The Strontia Springs Reservoir dam had a cold silence to it, as if dormant.

One of the larger rams has a fresh battle scar on his left horn. When I first started riding this canyon, there were four massive rams. I named them Gigantor, Broken Horn (part of his left horn was gone), Mutt and Jeff. They were always together. They appear to have disappeared in recent years. I do see some hints in the current lineage of larger rams as to who fathered whom. But the big four are no more... sniff, sniff.

Riding Joint Trails 1776/800 to their separation was my plan for the day.

The lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forest was dark and gloomy at its entrance.

I didn't get much farther up the trail due to snow and ice, primarily the latter.

Below is a pinwheel; it's the result of dry snow (last week's cold snow) becoming wet for the first time (current warm temps). In an alpine setting, such as backcountry skiing, pinwheels are indicators it's time to get off the steeper slopes. Pinwheels often cover an entire hill slope. Pinwheels are mostly seen in higher altitudes in late March and early April when mountain snow conditions are changing from winter snow-pack (cold) to spring snow-pack (wet).

It's green, green, green... It' amazing how resilient forest understory is to snow and cold.

Shortly after my turnaround, I was back on the service road and heading down.

These medium-sized rams look tired; perhaps a bit dejected because the larger rams are getting the girls!

As the sun retires, so too does the temperature.

Well, there you have it! Thanks for sharing my Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!!

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