The Deep Snows of Lolo Pass

Silence, absolute silence. Not even the croak of a raven breaks the stillness of this white landscape. Deep, light snow covers everything up here near 6,000 feet. Snow ghosts surround me with their bowed tops. As I step forward only the muffled “woomph” of the snowshoe results in any sound. It is so quiet that I can almost imagine that I hear the unheard hum of the earth itself. The snow is entirely untracked, other than the trench of a trail behind me. The sun shines meekly through a thickening sheets of clouds. The landscape seems largely empty and untouched.

However, this is not true. Much the forest here has been clear-cut, although the forest is growing slowly back.  This was once a wild and untamed place where the Nez Perce passed through as they made their way to hunt buffalo. Even caribou once roamed this high, flat pass, and not in some distant past, but until the 1950s. In the mind’s eye, I can see a small band of mountain caribou passing under the lichen-enshrouded firs. This point is the high point of the Lolo Trail, where following the Nez Perce trail, the Corps of Discovery (Lewis & Clark Expedition) were led by Old Toby, a Shoshone war chief and dog warrior. They were followed by many other explorers and mountain man in the coming years. One of these early white settlers is responsible for the place-name of Lolo. His name was Lawrence which became LouLou, or Lolo.

This is a placed filled with ghosts of all forms. Snow ghosts, native spirits, and the ghosts of the past.

The Sun makes an appearance

The Sun makes an appearance

The snow ghost

The snow ghost

The Glade

The Glade

Panoramic view of the Glade

Panoramic view of the Glade

The lone boulder

The lone boulder

Crawling snow ghosts

Crawling snow ghosts

My Tracks coming around the bend

My Tracks coming around the bend

Heading home

Heading home

Long winter shadows

Long winter shadows

Golden glow of the fading light

Golden glow of the fading light

Written by Radd Icenoggle

I am a native Montanan, who has spent a lifetime as an outdoors and wildlife enthusiast. I earned a degree in biology with an emphasis on habitat relations. During my studies, I had the great fortune to research and compose a thesis that explored the effects of slope aspect on...
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6 Comments

Montucky

I go to Missoula very infrequently, especially in winter, but perhaps we can get together sometime during the next year, Radd. I would like that!

Terry

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Scott (@NESASK)

Gorgeous country and photography. I just got some new snowshoes myself and am enjoying being able to get out in the stillness of the forest and the deep snow. May your backcountry treks be blissfully free of the whine and roar of snowmobiles 😉

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