As I type, the sun is shining in between snow flurries on a late March morning, and I've already tidied my yard after several very warm (for the time of year) weeks. Fresh snow could fall and settle at any time between now and May, but the coldest days have almost certainly passed.
Lake City is a small town, and in winter the population drops to around 400 people. Tourist-oriented businesses close, and the residents are especially appreciative of businesses such as the Packer Saloon and the Mountaineer Theatre through the quiet months.
In town, the streets are deserted, but there are many signs of life in the wilderness nearby. Freshly fallen snow is useful for tracking our furry residents. From mice to mountain lions, each species leaves distinctive tracks. This year I've been surprised at the high mountain locations that I've encountered moose prints, but each set of tracks always tells an interesting story.
Winter activities here include skiing (both downhill and cross-country), ice climbing and (my favorite) snowshoeing. On snowshoes, I can go everywhere I would usually go in summer, even though it may take twice as long!
The wilderness takes on a very different look when snow blankets everything. While the mountain summits are still easily recognizable, narrow forest trails can be difficult to find, and the backcountry adventurer must have a good sense of direction! Wilderness rewards those who make the extra effort with some stunning views.
During the quiet days of winter, and when I'm not shoveling snow or exploring, I work on design projects for the coming year. The beginning of 2017 has been no exception, and my biggest From The High Country project ever has just been sent away for production! Lake City Landscapes is my most ambitious book yet, and features a hand-picked selection of my personal favorites. It's now available for pre-order. I'll tell you more about this and other new products in a separate update later this spring.
Earlier this week, I hiked up to 11,000 ft in the forest and was pleased to find the snowpack is still quite deep, even though my yard in the valley is turning green already. Snow lies in patches at 9,000 ft, and the familiar scents of juniper and coniferous trees drift through the forests up to nearly 10,000 ft. Most terrain above that is still firmly in the grip of winter, but that will change over the next few weeks.