Option 2 it was.
Years and years ago when I used to ice climb regularly, I once brought ice skates in addition to climbing gear to Lake Louise in the northeastern Wind Rivers outside of Dubois.
On that long-ago winter trip, on day one I climbed an intermediate, multi-pitch ice climb, The Gully, just above the lake. That night was spent in a tent on an isthmus that pinches Lake Louise in half. I didn’t put my skates inside my sleeping bag, but did wrap them inside a puffy jacket.
I woke up the next morning ready to channel my inner Nancy Kerrigan.
Remembering how beautifully smooth a frozen Lake Louise is, last week I decided to once again try my luck with backcountry ice skating.
The hike to Lake Louise can be done in regular hiking boots. At most there were several inches of snow on the trail.
Lake Louise is two miles, 800 vertical feet, an hour away, and, if your hike is anything like ours, several slips on glacially-polished granite from the trailhead. (As you get closer to the lake, the rock is more and more polished. By the time you’re at the lake, the rocks are counter-top smooth.)
We heard the lake crying out well before we reached the boulders ringing the shore. Did you know lake ice makes sounds? (This link has nothing to do with Lake Louise, but the sounds are similar to those I’ve heard there.)
I’ve heard Louise moan before — a deep, rumbling that I anthropomorphized to her emitting sighs of contentment — but this was a different noise. A giant creature living beneath the ice was alerting us that it was trapped. It pounded on the ice’s underside every minute or so.
Maybe not really, but that is what it sounded like.
So Lake Louise wasn’t quite as smooth as in my memory. The ice had buckled and there were minor crevasses around the edge.
Once past the edge, there was a 60-foot (or so) diameter patch of dark, clear ice a Zamboni could not have improved upon. Even though the ice was at least a foot thick, the pounding coming from below was disconcerting. I knew I couldn’t fall in, but my instincts were hard to override. At every pop I froze.
I glided around for 15 minutes or so, never quite working up enough courage to try a one-footed spin, but enjoying looking up at the mountains all around.
The ice skating wasn’t epic by any means, but it gets points for atmosphere.
To reach the Lake Louise trailhead: Go 3.8 miles past downtown Dubois until you see a small sign indicating a Wyoming Game & Fish Department fish hatchery on the right. Turn there. Take a left at the road’s first fork and a right at the second. The road ends at the trailhead about 8 miles back.
A 14-year resident of Jackson, Dina Mishev is the author of Total Tetons, an app available in the iTunes store. She is also a host of the Wyoming PBS show Wyoming Chronicle and is always looking for interesting people to interview. Email her if you've got any suggestions.