Winter in Bozeman this year has not really lived up to that seasonal title, with a long stretch of February days with temps hovering around 45° and sunny. Every inch of snow in town disappeared, and most of the foothills on south facing slopes were bone dry. Nowhere in sight were the piles of snow and subzero temperatures we are used to this time of year.
With the gift of great weather present, my urge to get outside and hike the hills took over and kick off an early training session, getting ready for September, steep mountains, bugling elk and high ranging mule deer.
The first outing is always the most painful, with legs and lungs not ready to tackle the steep way up our local hiking area, the “M”. My preferred route that mixes the best of steep hills, loose gravel and finally moderate rolling trails through the timber takes about 60-70 minutes round-trip, and gains roughly 2,000 vertical feet on the way to the turning around point. Patches of ice remain in the timber, reminding one to pay attention to the trail and footing.
I was able to squeeze in about six or seven good hikes, the last two with my pack on for a bit of extra weight, and get back into the groove of covering a lot of moderate terrain with moderate output, for long stretches before the snow and single digit temperatures returned, reminding all of us that we are in fact still in winter. I have not found any gym work or treadmill time that can better that kind of activity, at least in preparation for fall and the rigors of backcountry hunts.
Don’t over-think it on those first training days. Grab your pack, lace up your boots and log some miles. Remember what it is like to move over rough terrain, pace yourself, and get your feet, legs and lungs “mountain ready”. Slow and steady. There will be plenty of time to truly push yourself, target your training and be ready for opening day.