Strange times.
It’s been a weird autumn – Starting in September we were hit by several early-season winter storms, my dad passed away in November, and then I jumped back into teaching in December (after retiring in June). It simply wasn’t a good fall for me to do blog-worthy hikes – nor has adventuring been a priority for me these past few months.

A new way to enjoy winter.
In mid-December I became the new science teacher at Hays-Lodge Pole High School on the Ft. Belknap Reservation in north-central Montana, just 40 miles south of my hometown (Harlem). As much as I’m looking forward to teaching there, it was great to get back to Helena for a nice long Christmas break. I enjoyed taking the dogs out for daily hikes in the south hills, and even made it over to explore Falls Creek near Augusta. But the highlight of my two weeks at home was the time I spent Nordic skating on the Missouri River near Helena.

It’s becoming a “thing”.
The popularity of Nordic skating has grown immensely over the past few years in western Montana. Those of us who live in Helena are especially well-positioned to enjoy the sport – We have several lakes and reservoirs nearby, plus the valleys don’t get as much snow as our mountains do (skaters don’t like snow on their ice). Canyon Ferry and Hauser Lakes (reservoirs on the Missouri River) are especially popular, and both are within 30 minutes of Helena (see video below).

The right time for some ice time.
I’d been watching the weather forecast and the “MT Icebuds” Facebook page for several days, waiting for the ice to thicken, the Sun to come out, and the wind to calm down. Finally on 12/30/19 conditions were right, so I drove out to the Silos Recreation Area 26 miles south of Helena for a perfect afternoon of skating on Canyon Ferry Lake. It was so much fun that I decided to go out again the next day – this time to a different section of the river; Hauser Lake near the White Sandy Recreation Area (17-mile drive from Helena). It wasn’t as sunny but the ice was great again, and I was joined by a friend (Murray). To get a feel for what it was like, take the Photo Tour. Be sure to read the captions.

Get out there and enjoy the winter! -Rod Benson

NOTE: This post is dedicated to my dad, Keith Benson (1930-2019). Dad was a loving father and husband. He was super-dependable, providing support and encouragement for my siblings and I throughout our lives. Thanks, Dad.

Below: Here’s the video that got me interested in Nordic skating. It was made in November 2018, and it shows skaters on Canyon Ferry Lake.

Have Passion & Determination in Life from iFLYBIGSKY on Vimeo.

Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.