It started around the wood stove.
“Presidents could be fun”, said Jared. Adam agreed.
“No Presidents”, I said. “I’m not into it.”
This conversation went ’round a couple times until we agreed: a backcountry ski tour out Mint Valley trail, exploring one of the side valleys.
And so we set out, Adam and me, Emily, Jared, Liz and Derek, and Jussi and Raul. It was cold and sunny as we made our way down Mint Valley, across the Little Su and began our way up a side ramp.
The tour up was pleasant and uneventful. Fresh snow had fallen recently, adding excitement to everyone’s good vibes from exercise and vitamin D. Here and there were clues of wild life – small game tracks, a large bird’s wings where it must have snatched up a vole or other small snack. No signs of life as our team approached the basin and end of the hike up.
We sat in the sun, soaking it in and enjoying snacks and trail beers. It was the usual banter: gear, conditions, landscape, what to do for dinner… Until someone asked about the name of the valley we were in.
“It doesn’t have a name, we just called it Cannibal Valley”, Jared said. “The valley is on maps of course, but if anyone’s been up here before…”
“They haven’t made it out to talk about it.”
An uneasy silence fell over the group. I thought I had seen a figure on the ridge on the way up, but was assured it was just a tree. But was it?
The bright sun wore down any lingering tension about missing skiers and mysterious figures on ridge lines. We played in the backcountry; a few heading higher up for a steep line, a couple transitioning from snowshoes to splitboards and the ladies dropping in first.
We skied out through meadows and alders, laughing at missteps and tumbles. It wasn’t until we made it back to the Mint Trail, that I turned and looked at the vividly contrasting alpenglow and dark shadows and wondered… What, or who, exists in the shadows of Hatcher Pass?