Wallman Trail – Rattlesnake Recreation Area

Winter hiking offers the bundled hiker the opportunity for solitude and challenge. The solitude comes from the lack of other intrepid souls and the snow dampening any ambient sound. The depth of the snow and unsure footing creates a scenario that can be challenging, especially when breaking trail on a steep slope. So, we took the Wallman Trail in the Rattlesnake National Recreation, which crosses a high between the Rattlesnake Creek drainage and Spring Gulch. We switch-backed up the steep face of the slope as snow squalls descend in waves with alternating glimpses of the Sun. Thanks to a great pair of boots, my feet stayed toasty and dry, my face on other hand was dripping with sweat as a considerable effort was required on my part to make the ridge. Once over the ridge, we descended into Spring Gulch was is home to several ancient apple trees (evidence of a past homestead that as long ago disappeared).

The real highlight for me as a bio-geek was multitudes of Snow fleas (Hypogastrura nivicola) crawling on the snow near Rattlesnake Creek. Snow fleas are beyond interesting to me. Snow fleas are a species of dark blue springtail. They evolved to have an anti-freeze-like protein that allows them to exist in sub-zero environments. They actually seem to enjoy the warm Sun shining on the frozen ground.

How far to go? Til the legs give out.

How far to go? Til the legs give out.

Sunrise in the Rattlesnake

Sunrise in the Rattlesnake

Glimpses of blue sky above

Glimpses of blue sky above

Rattlesnake Creek still has not yet frozen

Rattlesnake Creek still has not yet frozen

Long exposure on Rattlesnake Creek

Long exposure on Rattlesnake Creek

The skies remained undecided all morning

The skies remained undecided all morning

Decision made to to take on the Wallman Trail

Decision was made to take on the Wallman Trail

Snow kept falling off the pines

Snow kept falling off the pines

Sun comes over the ridge

Sun comes over the ridge

Sun and snowing

Sun and snowing

Trudging up the Wall Trail

Trudging up the Wall Trail

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Then the skies parted again

Then the skies parted again

Heading down into Spring Gulch

Heading down into Spring Gulch

Waterproof boots...you betcha!

Waterproof boots…you betcha!

Snow through the conifers

Snow through the conifers

Into the meadow

Into the meadow

Snow fleas!

Snow fleas!

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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