On a cold and snowy Friday morning last January, Bill and I headed toward Chief Joseph Pass in southwestern Montana to spend the weekend at the Hogan Forest Service Cabin. Our plan was to ski in on the 3-mile Shoofly Trail. At the trailhead we piled on our winter layers, struggled into our backpacks, and clicked on our skis. We had everything we’d need for a cozy weekend in the cabin: warm clothes, our sleeping bags, steaks, bacon, eggs, jambalaya mix, bagged salad, plenty of snacks, coffee, and bourbon as a nice reward after our ski. We headed off, following blazes on trees. After about 10 minutes of skiing, we couldn’t find any more blazes. We knew the general direction we should be going, but the gully we were following went straight uphill, and the going was pretty rough with our fully-loaded packs. I’m just not a fan of sliding backwards on a steep slope with 3o pounds on my back. And not having the reassurance of the blazes so that I knew we were at least making progress was making me pretty crabby. After about a half hour of struggling through the snow, I suggested that we give up on this shorter route, and head back down the road to the six-mile long route that, although longer, was a pretty gradual climb.
So, we headed back to the car, unloaded, drove a few miles down the road, parked, and loaded up again. This time, though, the going was definitely easier, the snow was deep and soft, and it was turning into a beautiful day. Six miles on skis with a loaded pack is pretty long for me, and by the last mile, I was absolutely ready for the cabin to show up. Dusk was settling in when we finally saw it – looking very tiny and far away as far as I was concerned. That last 45 minutes seemed pretty long, but arriving at the picture perfect Hogan Cabin made it all worthwhile.
We managed to get a fire going in the wood stove, and three hours later the cabin had actually warmed up enough so that we could take off our coats. The cabin is a plenty big for two people for a couple of nights, but it would be a little cozy for four, I think:
By the middle of the night we were so hot we had to open the door, so the stove worked just fine. The next day we took a nice long ski, going almost as far as the Chief Joseph cross country ski area. It was a great route: gradually uphill on the way out, and then a nice long downhill at the end of the day. It started snowing on our way back, and the snow continued all night. The cabin at night was beautiful:
It was still snowing the next morning, and we had coffee and eggs and fried potatoes in the now super-warm cabin while watching the big flakes pile up. We had to break trail through deep snow on the way out, and we were both ready to take off our skis and warm up the car at the end of the trail.