Since we didn’t go anywhere over the MLK holiday, I was beginning to get antsy between our failed St. George trip and my solo trip to Austin at the end of February. For Presidents’ Day weekend I wanted to get out of town. I was tempted to go south to Moab, but the weather forecast was iffy; I didn’t want to get my hopes up just to have them dashed by rain and snow again. Instead, Zach suggested we go the opposite direction to guaranteed snow and cold air in Sun Valley.
Though we’ve visited Sun Valley several times now, we’ve never gone in the winter. Like the Wasatch Mountains, they’ve had a banner year for snowfall. It was evident as we rolled into the Wood River Valley after a recent snowstorm. It was the most snow we’d ever seen!
We stayed in Hailey instead of Ketchum (cheaper, closer to Sawtooth Brewing) and each house was protected by its own snow-walled fortress. Our Airbnb host had cleared a path through the snow to our entrance, and it must have taken her hours. The snow reached well above my shoulders. But our timing was impeccable. We had clear sunny skies for the majority of the weekend.
Our plan for the weekend was simple: snowshoe at Galena Lodge, drink great beer, eat delicious food. As I discovered last summer, the Blaine Co. Recreation District (BCRD) has downloadable maps of all its trails. It’s an incredible resource. I downloaded a ton of snowshoe trails both at Galena and elsewhere around Ketchum just in case we got ambitious.
On Sunday morning we set out for Galena Lodge. Originally founded as a mining town, Galena has gone through several iterations. At its height there were 800 residents with hotels, a market, and a saloon. Galena could have ended up like many other small mining towns in Idaho and Montana, but when the miners left, the fishermen and hunters moved in to recreate in the newly formed Sawtooth National Forest. The Galena Store became the last outpost in the Wood River Valley before visitors ventured into the wilderness. The property remained in the same hands for over three decades before it went through a succession of owners. In 1994, after Galena had been closed and abandoned, a community campaign raised the funds to purchase the land and donated Galena to BCRD.
Now operated and maintained by BCRD, it’s a hub for nordic skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. They have 50km of ski trails and 27 km of snowshoe trails. They also have yurts which are available in both winter and summer. (Zach has his eye on doing that sometime…) Dogs are allowed on all of the snowshoe trails and some of the ski trails. But our dog is not interested in winter hiking, so we left him at our Airbnb. Sorry, Tru!
Snow was forecast for Sunday, but it was sunny when we arrived. I bought our day passes ($5/each) and got some advice on which trails they recommended. I wanted to do a longer trail in the morning, break for beer/food at the lodge, and finish with a shorter trail in the afternoon. They recommended starting with Rip and Tear and connecting with Tilt-A-Whirl to loop back through Senate Meadows to the lodge.
The loop took us just under 2 hours. It was the longest snowshoe we’ve done at 3.25 miles. The weather was perfect for the entirety of our hike, but when we reached Senate Meadows we could see the snow moving in behind us.
Though snow was approaching, the warmth of the sunny patio was irresistible. We took a break for a beer and some snacks while we cooled down.
By the time we were ready to do our next hike, a tranquil snow had begun to fall. We embarked on another trail combo across the highway – Cowboy Cabin & Valley View. I imagine the views would have been pretty nice had it not been snowing. Even so it was relaxing and enjoyable to snowshoe a little more before calling it quits.
Shortly after we left Galena Lodge, the sky cleared up and we left the snowfall behind. It was a pleasant drive back to Ketchum where we stopped for a couple beers at one of Hemingway’s old haunts, The Casino.
Even though it was a relatively simple weekend, it was nice to get out of Salt Lake for a while. It wasn’t Truman’s favorite trip, but he’ll have plenty of hiking opportunities as spring brings warmer weather and snow-free trails.