Most corners of the world have been explored by now, but you don’t have to be the first person to plant your flag in some remote region to be an explorer. Take Jackson Hole, for instance. Anyone with a pair of snowshoes, some beef jerky, and a little tolerance for cold can embark like the polar explorers of old into the great wide wilderness. Like I did last week when my brothers, my dad, and I went ice fishing on Jackson Lake.
After stopping at Flat Creek for final supplies (this isn’t just self-promotion; our location really does make Flat Creek an ideal base camp for anything in the direction of Grand Teton National Park), we drove to the Signal Mountain Lodge. We, however, weren’t destined for any cozy beds. Most of our gear was strapped to our backs to be carried toward our destination. In good spirits, we left our car and set out onto the frozen Jackson Lake.
The first mile or so was somewhat slushier than we might have hoped, and it’s a bit unsettling feeling to be striding across solid snow, knowing there’s a million gallons of freezing water beneath you, and then suddenly sink six inches into Jackson Lake with a disconcerting slurp. (To say nothing of the slush that gets in your boots.) Still, we maintained our good spirits as we made our way three miles to Marie Island. Or rather, just off the coast of Marie Island, because you can’t ice fish on an island.
By the time we reached the island, night had fallen, which lent an almost mystical quality to our journey. The world was totally silent but for the crunching of our snowshoes and the occasional howl of distant wolves. There we met our dad and a brother recovering from a hamstring injury, who had taken a snowmobile from Colter Bay rather than trek across the ice on foot. While our dad busied himself with drilling holes in the ice and waiting for fish to wander past, the rest of us gathered around a small gas heater to boil water for freeze-dried meals.
We turned in for the night, burrowing down beneath every layer we had brought with us, dreading the inevitable moment when nature would call in the middle of the night, summoning us from the relative warmth of our sleeping bags into the frigid cold. At one point, I did get up after several attempts to ignore the growing pressure in my bladder, cursing the Powerades I’d consumed the previous evening, and staggered out into the night. The wolves were louder than earlier, prompting me to conclude my business as fast as possible.
In the morning, the fishing wasn’t great, which wasn’t a huge disappointment because (nobody tell my dad), none of us were really there for the fishing. For the brothers, it was enough to get together, enjoy each other’s company, and take cool pictures. We gathered under the canopy to play a card game with the heater on and then packed up again, leaving nothing but our tracks and a lot of trampled snow behind us.
What adventures are you going on this winter? Tell us in the comments.
Ryan Kunz is a copywriter and freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including media, the outdoors, and whatever else strikes his fancy. He enjoyed sleeping his nice, warm bed the night after he got back.