Togiak whined excitedly as we fishtailed into the parking lot. The snow was falling heavier than before. As she anxiously offered her best “malamute howl,” we trudged through the perfectly light Rocky Mountain powder, arriving at the snowmobile that would (we hoped) carry us the remainder of the journey home: two miles up a snowed-in road that wouldn’t be passable again until the mountain flowers were in bloom, sometime in July.
Fortunately, the snowmobile started right up. Unfortunately, the trail had become nearly impossible to see. Sighing with uncertainty, I was distracted by Togiak, who happily stuck her head in the snow, smelling for, looking at … who knows.
I called for her and gunned the heavy Polaris sled forward. She sprinted behind me as usual.
Fifty feet later I stopped, grabbed my goggles out of my backpack, placed them in the more useful location over my previously blinded eyes, and started the sled forward again.
Fifty feet later, I stopped again. The snowmobile, having no regular headlight setting, was always set on high beams. The combination of bright lights and the now-heavy snow made the trail virtually impossible to distinguish from the ravine that led so suddenly, and so definitively, down to the frozen stream below.
Still warm from the heat of the car, the pulls of the snowmobile cord, and the eagerness to get home, I wondered for a moment what to do. I tried to imagine the trail in my mind’s eye. How many turns were there? How many steep inclines up a hill? Togiak caught up to the stationary sled, leaning in to sniff my leg, making sure everything was all right. Was everything all right? A cold wind slapped at my face. Time to get going.