In the winter, the road to the yurt is plowed about half the way up, to just beneath the leaning, bone-white ruins of the old mine. This means two things: first, to get to the yurt, you need either a snowmobile or a whole lot of determination, and second, when you make it to the yurt, you’ve got the whole mountain to yourself.

The cold and the silence here in the winter hang like a curtain over the forest, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the miles and miles of empty roads and deserted tracks, most of it completely untouched.

It’s the mornings right after the last night’s snowfall that get me. Big, clean, white drifts that blanket the world, making it seem new and fresh, like a clean white sheet of paper. The mornings where the sun shines a blinding silver off of the snowbanks—that’s when I suit up and hop on the snowmobile.

You don’t know the feeling until you’ve done it yourself. It’s a rush, a mix of adrenaline and pure joy that courses through you as you fly up the road. The snowmobile growling as it pulls you across an empty forest, climbing up and rushing down over the trackless mountainside. It’s like riding a rollercoaster you’re building as you go along, and it goes anywhere you want it to.

This is what explorers must’ve felt like, I always think as I crash across the snow-bound slope. Giddy, happy, full of dumb curiosity. Filled with nothing but the urge to see where the path goes as it disappears around the next bend. Infinite possibility, and nobody calling the shots but you.

Back at the yurt there’s a fire in a nice wood stove, thick sweaters and stocking feet, and nice, kind quiet in which to sit and watch the snowfall through the skylight with a cup of cocoa. But the sun’s still high in the sky, and there’s a ridge just up ahead. Sitting on the humming snowmobile, I always think—what’s behind it?

Well, shoot. I think it’s time to find out.