Pine Forests with Stark Contrasts

Becca, Backcountry Ambassador

The only sound I could hear was the thump of my snowshoes flipping up powder onto the backs of my legs, and the rhythm of my breath, sending clouds of air from my mouth into the winter scene around me. Only one more big uphill push and then we would be at the forest service cabin the group would call home for the next days. Wyoming winters can feel long and desperate if you don’t get outside, and a friend had offered me a pair of snowshoes for the season in an effort to get us exploring the trails that we usually only saw during the summer months. When we got to the cabin, the snowshoes were stacked outside, socks sat by the wood stove to dry and additional layers of down were piled on.

Despite growing up in Colorado, I’ve never considered myself a winter person until I lived in Wyoming, which by pure nature of the long cold spells, coerced me into having to find additional sources of exercise other than rock climbing and summer backpacking. Also, being a photographer and writer, there was something really romantic to me about hiking through the pine forests with stark contrasts of snow layers.

That night at the cabin, I put on every layer in my backpack, packed a thermos of cider and strapped on the snowshoes to go hike and find a good place to take photos of the stars. The Milky Way was out, and sit right above a frozen field down the hill. After shooting a couple photos, I raced back inside to join the rest of the girls for marshmallows roasted in the wood stove.

I think the most memorable part of the trip to the forest cabin, tucked away in the Snowy Mountains of Wyoming, was that it was the first time I realized I loved winter. Snowshoes made the backcountry accessible in the way that I loved- through walking – and really opened my eyes to the options beyond spending a lot of money on ski passes and lift tickets.

Now I live in Montana, where the winters are just as long (but much less windy) and I’ve used snowshoes as a means to get to ice climbing spots, my favorite forest service cabins, and to take photographs of winter activities.