The Honey Hole
Photos by Nick Reedy
The Honey Hole
It’s early Friday afternoon and I have had just about enough of work for the week. While the emails and problems continue to roll in and pile up my mind begins to drift further and further away from my desk. I glance out the window and gaze longingly at the snowcapped peaks. Tomorrow cannot come soon enough I think as my computer dings with another incoming email alert.
It’s a hot day in mid-February. High pressure has ridged out any snowstorms for the last 2 weeks. The unseasonable warmth has me begging to get my mountain bike out and rip around the foothills on perfect dirt, but my true love is to be among the high peaks in hidden canyons where it’s cold. There may still be a small patch of hidden powder to be found and I think I know just where to go to get into it.
When the weather turns like this we find that snowmobilers fall into 2 groups of people. The first is the give up group. The “I am over it” group. This group of sledheads tend to park the sleds in a corner of the garage and pull out the boat, motorbike, or mountain bike for that spring clean and tune-up. They think all the good snow has been found, tracked, and marked up by the growing amount of snowmobilers into the ever shrinking rideable lands. Who can blame them? Mountain biking tomorrow sounds amazing and I could take my son out rock climbing as well.
The second group of sledheads turn into the go-get-it group. The “Make it happen” group. This group will often follow those tracks into an unknown canyon looking for that last shred of pristine powder. They take the opportunity to climb their sleds up to that mountain peak they have been eying all winter. They wonder what that stretch of land between this canyon and that ridge might hold and dare to venture into the thick trees to find out.
The problem with this second group is that as they are often exploring and pushing into new places, they tend to find others’ honey holes. I remember a few years ago stumbling down a ridge one spring day such as this into a vast bench full of sparsely placed aspens. Boondocking for days. Untracked, unnoticed, a hidden gem. We explored about half of it and left the other half for another day. We continued to use the reserve occasionally throughout the next couple years as a go to place when everything else got tracked out, for years we had it all to ourselves. But snowmobiles leave tracks. Years ago it wasn’t an issue because you need an extreme amount of talent on those old sleds to get into some places. Nowadays 85 year-old men on new lightweight and powerful sleds are going places they hunted on horseback as boys. It’s just too easy to get places with these new sleds.
Somebody from this second group of explorers followed our tracks one day. It was like a bear finding the honey pot. It became their primary riding area. No longer was it a boondocking paradise held in reserve, it was now get to it first after a snowstorm before someone else does area. I have never seen the groups in there. I don’t blame them we are all after the same thing. It’s not mine or their land to kick each other out of. I am sure they are disappointed when we track it up just like we are when they track it up. But in some ways I feel a sense of ownership to the area. We were the first in there on sleds. We made it possible. We laid first tracks. Alas, I know it will be all tracked out before we can get there tomorrow. Another honey hole laid to rest.
And so my mind drifts to some areas that might still hold a few untracked lines and how we might get to them. In our search for new areas we have become conscious about leaving tracks. We have evolved as a subgroup of the explorer species. We want to protect and preserve our honey holes at all costs. Often times we will take the most ridiculous hard lines in to an area so as to discourage anyone from following our tracks. I have watched people turn around when the see they have to do a mandatory 10-foot step-up jump. I have watched others spend all day fishing a sled out of a creek bottom they couldn’t side hill above. These groups don’t come back. Other honey holes we do not visit unless conditions are prime and we know it will snow that night or the next day and cover our tracks. Those are the most prized areas. The areas so amazing that you cannot risk even putting photos on the web for fear someone might recognize a feature and start their own exploration in to your sacred zone.
I think back to the aspen land bench and chuckle to myself… despite the unknown explorers best efforts and years of tracking up the aspen bench area, they still haven’t made it past the “fake” fallen tree at the far end the leads up a side canyon into an untracked honey hole full high elevation sheltered pow stashes… and I know exactly where to go tomorrow to beat the spring time blues, if I can make it through the rest of this Friday and this ever growing pile of emails.