As a native of the Midwest, I believe that Central Montana is ideal location for raising kids. I wish I could have grown up here. But like anywhere, kids activities can dictate a lot of the family schedule. Spying an opening in the calendar on a upcoming Saturday in February, we decided to take my girls and some friends on an adventure.
Snowshoes for kids have become really affordable and reliable in the past few years and are a great way to enjoy winter. Taking a quick peek at the forecast, sun and reasonable temps looked perfect. There were going to be little ones in our group this trip, so we opted for flatter terrain. Great options for small kids in the area include Jefferson Creek, King’s Hill around the campground, Silvercrest Trails; all in the Little Belt Mountains. We opted for Roger’s pass on Highway 200, about 45 minutes from Great Falls. The north side of the road, has great snowshoe terrain and is really steep. Fun workout, really pretty and I found a bobcat den on one trip. However, there is a forest road on the south side of the pass that starts just behind a guard rail. This was the perfect choice for moderate grade and nice views.
There is a science to these trips with the sub-10 year old crowd. Whatever you do, bring hot chocolate and snacks. Adults, in front of the train, stomp down a nice trail so that little legs can follow on a well worn path. We were breaking trail in about 2 feet of fresh powder in places, so a great workout for the bigger folks. Also, take a minute to look at animal tracks and discuss them. We have seen deer, moose and wolf and its always fun to talk about what they were doing. After an hour or so of elevation gain, everyone stomped down a wide area in a wind break to serve as our day camp. We immediately dispatched all the littles to find sticks, old branches and logs for a fire. They love the activity and usually collect more than needed. Next, they were dispatched to find dry needles, old man’s beard and pine cones for fire starters.
The littles were off to sled and slide on a sidehill. That gave a minute to work with my older daughter on some fire-craft; an important skill if you spend time outside. We shaved down a dry stick for some wood flakes, added that to an old man’s beard nest with needles then we prepared a bed of pine cones and a teepee of dry sticks. From my pack, a ferro rod and a cotton ball soaked in Vaseline (I carry about 20 in an old pill bottle). Instant ignition and a warm fire ensued.
Hot Chocolate, snacks and even some hot dogs make a fun break before heading back to town. Winter is incredibly beautiful in our region. Taking a minute for an adventure this time of year provides fresh air and vitamin D to help shake off that holiday hangover.