February 11, 2011

Musher Mania & Snowshoe Softball

Debi Terry
The Express-Star


Believe it or not, there is a land not so far away where snow is welcome and outdoor winter sports and activities are just part of everyday life.

The recent winter weather we've experienced, specifically the snow, brought back memories of the five years we lived in southwest Wyoming. It wasn't all fun and games – like I discovered I'm claustrophobic in a white-out blinding blizzard – but I have some good memories living at almost 7,000-foot elevation in the Rocky Mountains.

In fact, just this last week was the annual running of the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race (IPSSSDR), which, in the community we lived in, was fondly known as "Musher Mania." The sled dog race begins in Jackson Hole, Wyo. and winds through Lander, Pinedale, Big Piney/Marbleton, Alpine, Kemmerer, Evanston, Bridger Valley and nine days later ends in Park City, Utah.

As editor of the community newspaper I enjoyed covering all the events, which included snowshoe softball, the flapjack frenzy and the human sled races. All good times and held outside no matter what the temperature or how much snow is on the ground.

Most everyone there drove some sort of 4-wheel drive vehicle – you had to or you would be staying home from November to January every year! Of course, money and equipment were in place to help keep the roads cleared as much as possible. I remember one year when the town spent three days hauling away snow from the main streets in several dump trucks. Good times.

Well, of course, the best of times was trekking up to Deadhorse Trailhead in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which was at about 8,500-foot elevation, and waiting for the sled dog teams to make the bend and fly over the hill racing for the finish line. It was an awesome sight. You just had to dress like an Eskimo to stay warm.

Other good times included going on the school field trips with my boys to Beaver Mountain in Utah for the annual ski trip. Beaver Mountain is in a beautiful area and those trips were definitely good times – all out in nature's winter wonderland.

Most everyone had a snowmobile or two or three or four and spending the day snowmobiling or even heading for the back country was a big pastime. I didn't get to experience a snowmobile trip, but that's on my list to do sometime. I did get to drive a 4-wheeler around through some awesome country up in the mountains at Meeks Cabin Dam. Good times.

Again, it wasn't all fun and games, though. I remember the morning I stepped outside to go to work and the air temperature was a minus 27 degrees – actual air temperature, not wind chill.

It was so cold it took my breath away. It was so cold it hurt. It was so cold it seemed like you could actually see the ice crystals in the air. 

The car groaned and clunked to a start. I had heavy coat, hat, gloves, scarves – the whole nine yards – on, but reached in to grab a lightweight windbreaker to take in the house. 

I knew no one would be needing that anytime soon – say maybe in three or four or six months.

It was so cold that the windbreaker felt like it was literally going to crack into little pieces. Not so good times.

On second thought, a little nostalgic winter trip down memory lane has been nice, but I think I'm ready for those warmer days.