It might not have been warm in Great Falls, but it was roasting at the Sluice Boxes State Park, where Katie and Susan W decided to snowshoe. The car showed 48 degrees by the time we returned to the cars, and we were sweating, wishing we hadn't worn our Cuddle Duds.
We left town at 8:15 and got on trail by 9:15 after a quick drive to the top trail to see if the pull out was plowed, which it was. Then we headed back down to the bridge and began our hike.
To snowshoe the Sluice Boxes, conditions must be perfect: enough snow and frozen creek. It can be a muddy mess or the creek not solid enough to cross, which is required, four times.
The sun was out and we had fun exploring the old buildings, smelter and machinery from the old mining days as we hiked along the old railroad bed of the "Fish" train that ran between GF and Neihart, through the old town of Albright.
The creek had solid crossings, although as the day wore on, and we returned, the ice had noticeably melted.
We saw many animal tracks and scat, including a big cat, that appeared to be living in the grotto/cave as its tracks and scat were at the entrance. We imagined it might be sleeping in there as we passed by, a scary thought. We saw several places where it had bounded down the hills after deer and two places where an altercation had taken place, the snow packed down and tracks and evidence everywhere.
The beauty of the cliffs, the creek and snow can't be overstated. We even saw several eagles soaring overhead. A flock of chickadees kept us company as we had lunch. We turned around when we came to the first ruined trestle as climbing down among the scattered boards we deemed too hard with not being able to see our footing beneath the snow.
Several places were a bit iffy, especially on the return as the snow rapidly started to melt, making it hard to trudge through. Both of us felt our muscles at work in these tough snow conditions, such a change from the morning when we had had fluffy powder.
Overall, we had a great day and were so happy to be back outside again after a month of below-zero weather. On a side note, we came across a back country skier, who had never been in the area before.