It’s still snowy up in the hills

Just when the snow starts to melt off in the high country, another spring storm comes through and drops another few inches. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get off the beaten path.

Up at 8, 9, or 10,000 feet or higher, Wyoming’s still a winter wonderland. Some areas are blanketed by a couple feet of snow, and the fishing’s still no good, unless you want to drag your ice auger all the way up there.

But don’t let a little white stuff keep you from enjoying the backcountry. One of the best things about making an early trip to the high country is the lack of other hikers. Only the hardiest of souls make the trip before the snow melts, so you’re likely to have the place to yourself.

You may have to pack a little heavier than you would if you waited a month or two to get out in the wilder parts of the state, but you can still get there with a little effort. Leave the summer tent at home and carry the four-season variety. Take the heavier mummy bag.

And be sure to pack your waterproof outer layers, a cold-weather coat, a pair of snow pants, a few sets of gloves and two or three wool stocking caps. But you’d probably take those things along even in the warmer months. The weather in the Rocky Mountains isn’t always very predictable.

As with any time you venture into the woods, make sure someone back in town knows where you’re going, when you plan to return, and where you’re likely to be at any time between when you leave town and when you come back home. If a storm prevents you from returning at the appointed time or if something happens to you while you’re out, the time searchers save by not having to turn over every rock and look under every bush could mean the difference between life and death.

And make sure you have several methods for starting a fire. A fire will help you melt snow for drinking water, boil water to make it safe to drink, provide heat you’ll need to stay alive, signal your position to searchers, and even give you a bit of companionship. Take matches in a match safe, a couple of lighters, and some cotton balls coated in Vaseline to use as tinder. If you’re caught out in the woods when Mother Nature decides to remind you that winter’s not quite over in the high country, you’ll be glad you brought them along.

Enjoy Wyoming’s wilder corners, but stay safe.