The Moose Loop Trail just west of Pond’s Lodge in Island Park lived up to its name last week.
My sweetheart and I drove to Pond’s Lodge for a quick cross-country ski outing and made a pit stop at the gas station, using the facilities and buying their last box of Lorna Doone shortbread cookies.
We then parked next to the log cabin City Hall building that wasn’t being used because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The regular nearby trailhead parking was waiting to be plowed out.
The first loop leaving from the lodge area is called Moose Loop. It starts out near the Buffalo River and goes between the river and some vacation homes. The trail leaves the riverside for a bit but returns again after about a half mile or so.
The snow was at least 3 feet deep and nearly perfect for skiing. We followed a self-groomed trail for more than a mile and eventually came to the Island Park Reservoir Dam. Most of the Moose Loop trail is easygoing, but the trails leading out of the dam area become a bit more challenging with ups and downs and distance.
The Brimstone Trail, leading south along the Henry’s Fork River eventually connects to Harriman State Park after more than 10 miles.
We did see a few ice anglers on the frozen Island Park Reservoir off in the distance. One looked like they pulled in a fish while we watched.
If you want to skip the Moose Loop Trail and jump directly on the other trails, you can drive the access road across the Island Park Reservoir dam and park at a plowed trailhead just on the west side. This is Road 139 (Island Park Dam Road) just north of Pond’s Lodge.
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The Forest Service has descriptions of all these trails and a map on its website (search for Forest Service ski trails in the Pond’s Lodge area).
After exploring some of these areas, we returned the way we had come along the Buffalo River. About a half mile along the trail, we met a cow and calf moose coming down the trail toward us. The pair of moose had slogged up from the Buffalo River. After they saw us skiing up the trail, they stepped off the path and sunk in up to their bellies. They quickly stepped back onto the trail and were reluctant to leave it.
The moose pair had a definite comfort zone for goofy-looking cross-country skiers, and when we encroached on that space, they backed away.
When we saw that we were just pushing them along on the trail ahead of us, we left the trail and skied around them. They watched us warily and waited for us to pass around them. The calf was more intent on chewing on branches and twigs than worrying about what two puny humans were doing. The mom was more watchful.
It’s always fun seeing such enormous creatures plodding around in the wild. It may be just the roll of the dice, but I haven’t been seeing as many moose during the past few years of cross-country skiing. I’ve had some years when I’d see them on almost every outing.
Now is a good time to sign up for the Cache Valley Gran Fondo bicycle ride held on July 8 in Logan, Utah. If you sign up before the end of the month, the cost will be $55 plus taxes. After that date, the price climbs to $89. There are a variety of distances from 35 miles to 104 miles. I signed up for the 104-mile ride.
Two of my daughters talked me into some new mischief — signing up with them to do a half Ironman triathlon relay held in Sweetwater, Oregon in September. My youngest daughter will do the 1.2-mile swim, I’ll do the 50-mile bike ride and my oldest daughter will do the half-marathon foot race.
These and other events are great motivators for keeping fit and active throughout the year.