Author Archives: Michael Stubbs

About Michael Stubbs

Michael Stubbs lives in Pocatello with his wife and three kids. He teaches English at Idaho State University in the fall and winter. In the summer, he explores Idaho by running trails, hiking, and camping.

Chasing Winter

It was February, and snow was hard to find—in Pocatello, anyway. Two weeks of temperatures in the fifties and sixties had stolen the white from the schoolyard and mountains and convinced my kids it was time for shorts.

But I was not convinced, and neither was my wife, Wendy. We shared our view with our three kids one evening and made a plan to find snow on President’s Day. We were going to put away our shorts and retrieve our sweaters and fleece. We were going to the woods. We were going to cross country ski. The kids agreed. When the day came, we packed the car with skis, boots, coats, kids, sled, and headed north in an attempt to recover winter and to make good use of the Idaho Park N’ Ski Pass we had purchased at the beginning of what looked like a promising season. Continue reading

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Or Not to Ski

When I backpacked thirty miles through the rough and rocky Sawtooth Range in July 2013, I met many people, from England, Oregon, Connecticut, and elsewhere. Last February, when I dragged the same backpack on a sled over a snowpack eight feet deep, I saw none of these people.

I didn’t even see the mountains. They were veiled in cloud. The only person I saw was my friend Will, whom I had convinced that skiing to Idaho’s Imogene Lake via the Hell Roaring Creek trail in winter was a good idea. Will had shared my summer view of this coldwater lake, which reflects the crumbling granite of the serrated Sawtooth peaks reaching all around to ten thousand feet. I had convinced both of us that the quiet beauty and isolation of the high mountain valley could be even better experienced in winter­­­—and maybe we would even see wolves. But that wasn’t how it worked out.

Perhaps we just picked the wrong weekend. The weather worked against us. The larger Sawtooth Valley, so reliably cold through most of the winter, was experiencing a warm spell. The snow that had fallen for two days before we arrived was slushy, thanks to the weather phenomenon known as the Pineapple Express. Our skis sank eight to ten inches with each forward kick. The lead skier carved a deep trough for the man who followed. Neither breaking trail nor following was easy. I had to shorten my ski poles to match the new difference in height between the trough that I stood in and the snow at my sides. And when I stepped out of my skis to adjust my gear, I sank past my waist and floundered desperately in wet snow. Continue reading

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On the Beach

I spent many summer days of childhood on the beaches of Redfish Lake, but never camped so close to its waters as Point Campground.

My family always stopped at the lake on our way to a scout camp near Alturas or a friendly neighbor’s cabin on a winding mountain creek. My wife Wendy, who grew up in Oregon, selects our campsite there in blind hope, after listening to my vague childhood memories. We aren’t too sure what to expect. We pay our fee, and a couple weeks later, we make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Stanley.

The truth is, June is probably too early for a camping trip to the Sawtooth Range. These peaks often hold their snow through August, and campers can expect temperatures to reach freezing in any month, should the weather so decide. Nevertheless, the sights, sounds, and smells of this part of Idaho are hard to resist. I have finished teaching a spring semester at Idaho State University, and we cannot help but look for refreshment in the mountains. Perhaps the empty online calendar on which we reserved our tent site should have been our clue that we were jumping prematurely, but in June, life in Pocatello is already hot and sweaty. The kids are out of school and fill the house with noise and mess. Given that almost all campsites were already reserved through mid-September when we made our selection, June was the time for us to go. Continue reading

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