Each January for the past few years, the Alpine Club at WSU has made a trip to stay at the Lochsa Lodge near Lolo Pass for one of the first weekends of the term. The Lochsa Lodge is located just off Highway 12 near the Lochsa River. This year we went over the three day weekend created by Martin Luther King Day and spent Saturday and Sunday night at the lodge. Lolo Pass recreation area is a short drive from the lodge in one direction while Jerry Johnson hot springs and its warm pools are a few miles down the road in the other direction.

After leaving Pullman Saturday morning we arrived at the Lodge a little after noon (it's about a 3.5 hour drive in good conditions). Many people headed up to the pass for an afternoon of skiing, but I did not have skies and didn't feel like going snowshoeing that afternoon, so I stayed at the lodge. I did not spend my time idle, however. I was interested in building a snow cave since I had never really built one before, so I made a large pile of snow near one of the cabins and then proceeded to dig it out. It only took me a couple of hours to build up the pile and then dig out a space large enough for me to lay down in or sit crouched. It was not that hard, though I think it would have been much easier if there had been someone else to help remove the snow, especially when I got inside further. I was not really intending to actually sleep in the cave, but that evening at the last minute I decided that I might as well. I was told that it was important to make sure the ceiling of the cave is quite smooth so that the melting snow would not drip on me while I was in there. I tried to make the ceiling smooth, but it was a daunting task. Fortunately, I did not really warm the air up enough for it to be much of a problem that night. I was quite comfortable sleeping in the cave, the ultralight thermarest I used on top of an cruddy old closed cell foam pad seemed to provide plenty of insulation from the snow I was laying on, the snow conformed well to my body when I was laying down, and my sleeping bag kept me quite warm. In the morning when I first got up I decided to leave my stuff in the cave and pull it out later. Later I crawled part way in to grab stuff and pull it out and as I was wiggling back out of the whole, I heard people telling me to wait a minute and stay there. I was not sure what they were talking about but when I got my head out of the cave, I figured it out. A couple of different people were scrambling to grab their cameras and take a picture of me halfway inside the cave. No worries for them though, since I had to go back in and grab the rest of my stuff.

On Sunday, a couple of people drove to a place in Montana to go ice climbing, but most of the people went skiing again. I had only brought snowshoes and so Leslie (another club member who didn't have skies) went up to Lolo Pass to go snowshoeing. We made it up to the top of a place called Mt. Fuji (though it doesn't look much like Mt. Fuji to me) and headed back. It took us about 3 hours round trip (I think) and we made it back to the parking lot just after it started to rain. We saw a couple of flashes of lightning on the drive back and later heard from the the others who had been skiing that they had been pretty near to the lightning. When the others returned from skiing, we all (except for the ice climbers who were not back yet) wnet down to Jerry Johnson hot springs. The hot springs are about one mile away from the parking lot along Highway 12. The springs are a popular location and there was a well packed trail through the snow. The first hot springs is right along the river and it forms a small falls which falls into a pool that is basically a part of the river. As a result, the pool ranges from warm to cold, though you can sit right underneath the hot water pouring over the rocks (however, there is not a lot of room for multiple people). Last year I had spent my time in this spring, but this year I went on to the main set of pools a little further on. The main part of Jerry Johnson hot springs consists of a series of pools in a relatively flat open area. There are a few pools which are large enough for multiple people and the largest of these is also he warmest. It was this pool where most people started out. I decided to go to a pool a bit closer to the river. Over all it was cooler, but there was a place I could sit where the hot water came out from the ground (I think that the pool was not so hot overall because it was fairly close to the river and some of the cold water seeped in). Small bubbles of air rose along with the hot water, creating a pleasant effect on the skin of my back as I relaxed in the warm water.

Maybe it was the hot water going to my head, but after a while it seemed like a good idea to jog back to that first hot spring where the water pours out over the rocks. So I climbed out and jogged down to that spring wearing only my shorts. I was plenty warm, but my feet started to get cold by the time I got to the spring (it's probably 150 meters down the trail). The sharp rocks around there didn't feel so great either, but they were tolerable (I discovered later that I bruised the bottom of a foot while doing this). After soaking a while under the water pouring over the rocks, I jogged back up to the pool where everyone else was. It was not too long after this that we were joined by a fellow named Tom and his wife of one year (it was their anniversary). Tom was a funny guy, or he was that night, anyway. Vlad (a graduate student originally from St. Petersburg, Russia) suggested that we go down to the river and sit in it for a few moments. I thought that was a good idea and so that's what we did. It's an interesting experience to go from warm spring water to icy river, I would recommend it to all who have not tried it. After getting out of the river we joined John and Enique in the pool I had originally started in (they had moved down to that pool earlier to have better access to the river). A couple of more times into the river and then back into the hot springs to warm up again was enough and Vlad and I went back to the other pool.

Sunday night I spent the night in the loft of one of the cabins. It was so hot in there I could not get to sleep easily and ended up staying awake reading until 3am. (I finished reading Snow Bound by Ladd Hamilton, which is about the Carlin hunting party of 1893 who got stuck along the Lochsa River not too far from the Jerry Johnson hot springs. An early winter and their desire to keep hunting rather than get out led to big trouble. Things were also complicated by the fact that the camp cook was desparately ill. It was an interesting account.) Finally I managed to get to sleep, but I think I can safely say that I had a better night's sleep in the snow cave the night before. Monday morning most of the group went skiing again, a couple left early to get back to Pullman, and three of us stayed at the cabins. It was a beautiful day and the mist that moved along the river allowed for some very nice displays of light shining through the trees.

My pickup was the last one to leave since we had to wait for someone to open up the store so I could get a little gas. On the way back we got stuck behind a tractor-trailer rig and another car going 30-35 miles per hour. The signs say 77 miles of winding road, and they are not joking. It took us well over an hour and a half to drive 60 miles or so before the truck pulled over and let us by. That was one of the less exciting stretches of driving I have ever been a witness to. Oh well, I think it helped out my gas milage for the trip (which was about 30 mpg, pretty good for an old toyota pickup, I think).

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