pathway stroll wards off winter blues

By Jim Stanford on December 5, 2011

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View of Flat Creek, as seen from newly plowed Garaman Trail.

Cheer up, it’s only -13 outside.

Wouldn’t want to be in Rafter J subdivision this morning, in a home heated by electricity, as the power is out and the cold is hampering repair work.

In these frigid, short days, a time of transition before ski season fully sets in, it helps to get out of the house or office and just walk. Even a 10-minute stroll in the sun can do wonders for one’s disposition.

That’s why I’m grateful to the anonymous donor who has made possible the plowing of the Russ Garaman Trail behind the west Jackson post office, along Flat Creek. This is a move whose time has come; grooming the pathway in years past for nordic skiing was a lofty goal, but Wyoming is not Norway, and hardly anyone ever skied to school or work using the trail.

The plowing makes walking a lot easier, and makes the path a viable transportation route to, say, FedEx or Sunrise hardware on South Highway 89.

For as much progress as Jackson has made, laudably, in recent years building “complete streets,” walking around town remains difficult in winter. Even where sidewalks exist and are maintained, snow and ice can make footing treacherous, and pedestrians often wind up stepping carefully along the edge of streets. For four or five months of the year, many routes are hazardous to navigate.

And then there is the small but growing number of hardy souls pedaling their way year round. Every time I see one of these cyclists, braving black ice and frostbite, I nod my wool-and-down-swaddled head in admiration.

Town and county leaders are meeting today to consider plowing more pathways, such as along highways 89 and 390 (although some sections would be groomed for skiing beside the plowed path). Given my experience in town, this makes sense. I’ve heard grousing from friends who live on the West Bank or in Melody Ranch and complain they can’t use the paths simply to get around.

The onset of winter can be suffocating. It’s hard in a town where everyone seems to be happy all the time, and especially “stoked” for ski season, to stay positive. As much as I enjoy skiing, I, too, struggle at this time of year.

That’s why, whether walking cross town or taking a short stroll between running errands, I head to the Garaman Trail for a breath of fresh air, sunshine and peace of mind. The sinuous curves of Flat Creek and sound of water rushing over rocks always lift my spirits.

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Posted under Politics, Sports, Town Government, Weather

3 Comments so far

  1. Chad December 5, 2011 2:20 pm

    I suggest we groom the pathways so that both nordic skiers and walkers can use them – yes, groomed/compacted snow can be walked on. By plowing, only walkers can use it. Cyclists are out of the equation in winter. As a compromise, perhaps groom only within a half mile of the groomed loop at the school fields so the residential areas near by can clip in at their front door and go.

    And if Wyoming were like Norway, would we be better or worse off?

  2. js December 5, 2011 5:00 pm

    With the exception of Paul Vogelheim, the county and town voted to go ahead with the expanded plowing and grooming program on a trial basis this winter, paid for by private donations. For specifics on how various segments would be managed, click on “Pathways winter level of service” staff report here: http://tetonwyo.org/minutes/meeting.asp?min_id=4973
    (The joint boards chose “gold” level of service.)

    At issue is using the pathways more for transportation than recreation. And if it’s a pleasant way to get around, well, there’s benefit to that, too. Certainly easier and safer on some routes.

    A minor clarification: Plowing of the Garaman Trail is part of the pathways budget. The county apparently agreed to plow it and groom the Three Creek path instead.

  3. Diane December 12, 2011 12:08 pm

    Jim, you hit it spot on. The pathways are good medicine for winter. As someone who doesn’t ski right now due to knee problems, riding the Pugsley on the pathways or cruising icy roads on my studded mountain bike tires I enjoy fresh air, exercise, 360 IMAX mountain views and I never have to start a car.

    If you dress right, cold isn’t an issue. After an hour tooling around the Westbank on my bike; up Fish Creek, on the Centennial and Moose-Wilson Pathways and up and down the Snake River dikes I’m ready to dig into my cozy cabin, sip a hot toddy, sit by the fire and wait for reruns Gunsmoke. Pathways are good for the soul.

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