POMEROY -- The snowy flat just shy of Mount Misery was bustling with activity Saturday.
Linda Lundquist of Pomeroy minded two giant pots of chili while Brian Scoggin, also of Pomeroy, flipped burgers. About 100 snowmobilers mingled, chowing down on the hearty feast and soaking in the friendly sunshine. They also drew cards in the hopes of winning some cash at the Mount Misery Drifters Bucket Run.
But it was companionship more than cash that drew them to the outing.
"You get to see all the people you haven't seen in a long time, all the little kids that aren't little anymore," said Glen Davis of Pomeroy.
The Drifters are a dedicated group of Garfield County snowmobilers and a key cog in a state, federal and private partnership that maintains a system of trails and snowparks in the Blue Mountains.
The volunteer group works with the Washington Department of Parks and Recreation and the Umatilla National Forest to groom the 47-mile trail system. But that isn't the group's only reason for existence. Members also enjoy a good time, each other's company and helping others in their community. The bucket run is a mix of all three.
Snowmobilers congregate at the Rose Springs Snowpark and pay a modest entry fee. In exchange, they get a chance to take home a few bucks, mingle with like-minded people and help raise money for a good cause.
While snowmobiling from the snowpark to the Mount Misery Warming Cabin, they visit five checkpoints along the way, drawing cards from a bucket at each stop. The high and low hands, tallied strictly on the face value of the cards, not their poker values, are worth $100 each. Proceeds of the event go to the group's scholarship fund, which paid $2,000 out to local college students last year.
The red-capped Hardy Boys, brothers Kim and Ty Haugen, are institutions at Checkpoint 4 on Hard To Get To Ridge. They've been manning the spot for the better part of a decade and look forward to seeing friends and making new ones.
"It's fun, you get to meet everybody," said Kim Haugen of Asotin. "Everybody gets grouped up here."
It can be a cold job some years, but the sun was shining Saturday.
"You couldn't ask for better weather," said Sharon Slaybaugh, who was riding with her husband, Steve.
The Pomeroy couple reflected on the recent weather changes. If the run had been held two weeks ago, blizzard-like conditions might have kept people at home. If it was held any earlier than that, it would have been canceled for lack of snow.
As it turned out, Super Bowl weekend was perfect timing. There's about 6 feet of snow at Misery. It was more than enough for the run, but Steve Slaybaugh noted more would be welcomed.
"We still don't have the snow we need," he said.
Tom Lundquist of Pomeroy admitted it's been a frustrating winter, which started with what appeared to be bountiful snow in November. Those early storms were followed by a warm and dry December that kept snowmobilers at home.
"It's kind of depressing when it looks like you are going to get some good snow early and then it all goes away," he said.
Winter finally arrived though and delivered enough snow to cover rocks and stumps and set the stage for friends to play in the mountains.
"We have a lot of fun," said Kim Haugen.
Barker may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 848-2273.