Trip report for Gold Creek XC Ski on December 5, 2020
The Missoula Nordic Ski Club is starting to develop a new set of Nordic ski trails in the Gold Creek drainage northeast of Missoula. I was aware of these as an inactive board member of the MNSC. They packed most of these trails in mid-November, and I did four exploration trips before this outing. Since there have been only light snows since then, I was able to follow the tracks with some guidance from KMZ files sent by the groomer. But there were still some stretches that I hadn’t done before this outing. We went to the Forest Service road 2112 (the East Rattlesnake Creek road which continues to Mineral Peak). The turnoff is 3.5 miles from Highway 200 and has a “Family Forest” sign. This seems to be a 4-wheel or all-wheel drive road in the winter, but one could ski up the road. There is a private road to the left at this parking place which is about 2.1 miles from the junction with the main Gold Creek road. From this parking place it is a fairly short easy ski down to the trail.
Right next to the cars we found fresh wolf tracks, and there were lots more for our first mile and a half of skiing. We also found where an animal, probably a badger, had attempted to dig out a prey animal near the edge of the road. And there were lots of other tracks.
We got to the parking place at about 10. We found about 2 inches of fresh snow which was surprising since Missoula hadn’t had any fresh snow. This made for good skiing except for one thing: the trails are on old logging roads, and the ski club did a good job of clearing brush, but didn’t do so well at clearing rocks off the road. They would have been fairly easy to avoid without the fresh snow, but we occasionally hit rocks and Julie fell twice due to hitting a rock. We went north on the trails until we came to a junction with an old logging road that went north across Spring Creek—we went to the end of the road and back. The road had not been packed but had blue flagging suggesting that it might be packed in the future. Then we did the loop to the northeast. We got off the packed trail and ended up close to the West Fork (FS 2103) road which might be an alternate parking place. We backtracked up the hill back to the packed trail. Then the trail crossed an open area where the snow was sparse and we had to walk in a couple places. The we went to the track marked 0.66 which was supposed to be a MNSC trail, but we couldn’t find any trail. So we went back to the junction where we had taken the out-and-back which crossed Spring creek, and skied back to the parking place the way we came.
This was a nice place to ski. If you just go out on old logging roads, you may find them clogged with brush, so it is nice to have roads that have been cleared of brush and packed. When we get significant snowfall, the MNSC will likely repack the trails. In future years, there are plans to develop parking places and to plow roads. There are a few moderately challenging hills but most of the terrain is not steep.
Participants included Julie and Dave Kahl, Suzanne Panzica, Peter Rice, Tom Statz, and leader Alden Wright.