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Stick Season

A hike to find the first signs of winter. Hockey skates in tow.

By: Iz La Motte + Save to a List

In the Northeast, the few weeks between fall & winter is dubbed “stick season”. For me, this period was always marked by (not so) patiently waiting for snow to blanket the ground & for ski season to begin. Now, living in Utah, the anticipation that comes with this time of year remains the same. Temperatures start dropping, small storms find their way into the mountains but winter has yet to leave its mark.

As I grow older I am learning the importance of making the most out of all moments. Life is too short to spend time waiting for the next phase to arise. So this year, when my partner, Toohey, proposed the idea of going skating before the next storm covered our favorite alpine lake in the Wasatch Range, I was all in. With our second-hand skates strapped to our packs Toohey & I, along with our friends Slater & Chloe, hiked the two miles to our destination. At an elevation of nearly ten thousand feet, we were determined to find signs of winter.

As we approached the lake’s plateau, we took turns making loose bets on whether or not the lake would be frozen. The temperatures had been low in the mountains — but had they been low consistently enough to produce the conditions we were hoping for? 

Our first sight on the lake was met with audible responses from each of us signaling nothing more than our varying levels of uncertainty. We’d have to get to the water’s edge to know for sure.

As we circumnavigated the lake’s shore it became clear that the west side looked to be our best bet. After inspection, Toohey & Slater, both eager for a successful mission, volunteered to test the ice first. One at a time they placed one foot followed by the next — spreading their weight wide & using hockey sticks to disperse themselves further — and found that the ice was in fact supporting them. 

Game on! Our crew was cruising on the ice (well, cruising in our varied ability levels). Toohey who played rec hockey back in his New England hometown was skating circles around the rest of us who have worn skates just a handful of times. But hey, if you ask me I felt like Michelle Kwan by the end of the afternoon. And most importantly, we were skating on frozen water which means we did in fact find winter. 

And through it all we only had one casualty — a fresh raspberry on Toohey’s hairline from a brief encounter with a boulder on the shoreline. He’s taking it as a mark of a successful mission & a day we won’t soon forget.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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