One afternoon in late February I found myself alone at the entrance to Shoshone Falls gazing at the trickling behemoth. The road was chained closed and all I saw were cross-country ski tracks carved into the fresh snow. I left the quietness of the waterfall to search for others enjoying the outdoors on this pristine winter day.
As luck would have it, when I arrived at Auger Falls, I found two scrappy men unloading their fat bikes onto the salt-colored dirt while their dog sniffed the shrubbery. Even more impressive was the coincidental identity of one of the gentlemen I encountered.
“Where’s your fat bike man?” he asked me as I stepped out of my car. “It looks like you needed to bring your bike.”
“Well I actually left my 29er at home since I just came out to photograph the waterfalls,” I said.
My mind was racing with the glory of actually finding people willing to explore the trails on this chilly day and I had not grasped what I’d actually heard.
“Wait, are you Jonathan?” he said after a brief conversation about the weather and conditions.
Chuckling ensued as we shook hands.
What was the chance of meeting John Twiss — the College of Southern Idaho’s recreation director — on the trail at Auger Falls? Now I have a face to attach his name to. Our previous correspondence had paid off.
Talk quickly turned to action as I ran ahead of Twiss — along with his brother Dan and Copper the Outdoor Rec. mascot — looking for positions to post up for action shots. The snow crunched beneath my boots sharply as I ran.
The sound of tire tread on snow grew louder as the riders approached my every perch. Whizzing by in the crisp air, each exhaled cold clouds of breath into the canyon as Copper led each section of trail.
After 45 minutes, I had run close to two miles, stopping only to check on my new companions and plot my next shot. Nearing the end of the adventure, we took shelter behind a rock outcropping. The huffing and pedaling ceased while we discussed craft beer, other riding adventures and the gorgeous day. We exchanged high fives and made future plans as the conversation wound down.
“Now you know how fun these are, man. You gotta get yourself a fat bike,” Twiss said with a smile. “But when we go out next, we got you covered.”
I laughed in response as we parted for the day. What started out as frustration turned into fulfillment.
“For these guys,” I thought, “this might be the last snow ride of the season before spring creeps into the valley.”