After the Storm

In winter, nearly any visit to the place I call home for six months of the year carries a sense of excitement, but the last drive to Island Park was more of an adventure than I had planned for.

Though only thirty-five miles in distance, the trip from St. Anthony to Last Chance was not the usual relaxed uphill journey through the pine forest of Ashton Hill and on across the sage covered flat bordering the Harriman Ranch.

Only recently recovered from a big winter storm that closed roads, shut down schools, and stranded travelers for nearly a week, U.S. 20 was an icy corridor bound on the edges by five-foot snow banks where speed above forty miles per hour took on more than slight risk. Obscured by low hanging clouds, the view looking north did not include the snow-covered peaks of the Centennial Range and the high Yellowstone Plateau was obliterated as well.

With the normally thirty-minute drive more than doubled by the road conditions, I arrived at Last Chance more relieved than excited, but the tension quickly drained away as I turned onto the old highway along the Henry’s Fork. Though flanked on the edges by tall drifts, enough of the river was visible at Blue Creek to observe the random dimples of trout rising to midges just below the mouth. Checking on the cabin was the first order of business and though resting beneath three feet of snow, all appeared well on our summer property.

Highlighting the day was a stop at the TroutHunter where a notable makeover was well underway. In a dismantled fly shop, conversation with Rich, Jon, and several staff members took on a distinct echo in the emptiness that would not be filled until spring. Ushered upstairs by the justifiably proud owners, my eyes were treated to gleaming new office equipment and furniture contained within freshly painted walls.

Contrasting a near vacant fly shop, the adjacent Bar and Grill bustled with a mix of locals and visiting snowmobile enthusiasts engaged in spirited social interaction including food, drink, and lively conversation. The next two hours were spent catching up on the news and gossip of the mountain community while visiting over beers with a sizable representation of the TroutHunter family.

With evening approaching and a thirty-mile drive lying ahead, I drove south out of Last Chance beneath clear skies and a warming sun that had cleared the road of dangerous ice. Unlike the white-knuckle trip north earlier in the day, my return to St. Anthony was a peaceful downhill journey through the sparkling residue of the recent storm.

Though certainly disruptive to human comfort, a great deposit of snow in the high country is a celebrated event when its value is translated to a beneficial contribution to
the Henry’s Fork. More is bound to come and it will be received with gratitude equal to the gift so recently received.