Craig's Loop

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An almost daily ski outing in our neighborhood, this loop has lots of variations and variety.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

It's been a couple weeks since I climbed a peak, but I'm not couch-bound.

We're blessed with the Jug Mountain Ranch system of groomed ski trails adjacent to our subdivision, and above that a (slightly confusing) network of abandoned logging roads on state land. Put some snow on that and you have the opportunity to ski pretty much every day just 5 minutes from home.

Because we ski this frequently (Craig, who keeps track, says we've already skied more than 100 miles this winter), I don't always take pictures. So for this report, I've blended a few different outings. Here's Tom and Craig, Finn and Dakota looking for deeper snow on the shady side of the system.

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Part way up you get a view of the valley. On the right day, this view includes a flashing light across the valley that I believe is the McCall airport. Trailhead

At this time of year, shadows are long most of the day. Here we are obviously off the grooming. If it's colder than 20°, Ruby wears a coat.

The sparkle on the snow here (click for the bigger version) is caused by hoar frost that forms after a few days of sunny high pressure. We've had lots of those this December.

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As we move higher on the hill, we get more views. Ponderosas replace the various fir and spruce.

Craig is marvelling at the distant view of the Seven Devils.

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That's Jug Creek. Don't step in it! At this time of year, you can't just ski across; it takes some careful sidestepping and shuffling to keep your skis out of the water. At today's temperature, wet skis will immediately ice up.

Tom made it.

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Craig, were you listening?

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Nice kick and glide skiing. The snow isn't deep yet, but it's still powder (and more of that silky-feeling hoar frost).

Thiking some of those were elk tracks, Craig put his critter cam up here and captured some really nice photos of cows. Bovine cows.

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There's a little brush to deal with, and several downed trees. But that just adds to the backcountry feel.

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Afternoon shadows separated by bright afternoon sunshine.

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As the loop wears on, and depending on the direction, the sun starts to sink.

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One option is the new backcountry route up Jughandle Mountain. Apparently this tree was overlooked when they cleared this trail.

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Higher up on the Mountain trail. The last few years have been very good to the brush on this road. And in early season, the "tank traps" create a challenge. Trailhead

Regardless of which way you turn the loop, it's up one way, down the other. So one usually gets a reprieve after doing the work. In good conditions, going back down the mountain is a blast. And we finish the downhill run on fast groomed snow.

 

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Craig was trying to figure out how it could snow when the sky was blue and the sun was out. Nature works in mysterious ways.

Map

Note: This doesn't show the FULL Craig's Loop, but it's an average outing.

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And another map. This one goes beyond the standard Craig's Loop for a total of 12.8 miles and 1970' gain.

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