Galena was once the largest town in the Wood River Valley. Its namesake lead ore—a profitable source of silver—created a bustling town of 800. Mining it was challenging work in harsh mountain conditions. With no stage lines to the area, life was very isolated. The only mail was delivered on snowshoes once or twice a winter.
Snowshoeing around Galena Lodge these days is less work—and more fun, particularly with an expert guide. That’s the idea behind the Lodge’s “Snowshoe with a Ranger” tours, which take place weekly on Thursdays through the winter.
The “Snowshoe with a Ranger” program has been a staple in the valley since the late 1980s. Various rangers and Forest Service volunteers have led tours over the years. Tours have varied in length and style. Each tour has a different emphasis, based on the tour leader’s research.
Susan Kranz, who has led tours since 2006, focuses on winter ecology and animal tracking.
“In the early mining days, people were very attracted to the mineral resources and the beauty of the area,” Kranz said. “However, those resources only lasted so long. Over time we have learned that animal and plant species are an important part of our ecosystem and it is up to us to keep a balance and an understanding of these species, so we can protect and conserve resources for generations to come.”
Visitors on the tour can learn about winter animals in the area: how to identify their tracks, how special adaptations help them to survive the cold winter months and how important they are to the ecosystem.
“Snowshoes help to keep you on top of the snow, but also help you to slow down and observe at a slower pace,” Kranz said.
Snowshoers will look for various tracks and identify what left them based on size, shape, width and gait, searching for the habitat of particular animals. If participants are lucky, they may catch a glimpse of a snowshoe hare or pine marten. They also learn about various evergreen trees and bird species and how each have a special place in the circle of life.
“We are all interconnected,” Kranz said, “and the best way to learn about the flora and fauna of the area is to get outside on snowshoes, while getting some fresh air and exercise.” ￼