|Me n Patches ready to hike, snowshoes on my back|
I turned the alarm clock off and went back to sleep. I knew it was hiking day but even that could not get me out of bed. I slept until about 8:15, then I got up made my tea had a piece of pumpkin pie and then threw my pack, snowshoes and lunch into my Jeep.
I made it to the trail head at 10:30am.. now that really is a late start when the days are so short, but what the heck, I have a good headlamp and a dog to help me hike in the dark. I was hoping to avoid using my snowshoes on this hike but I threw them in the Jeep just in case. My first glance at Mount Ellinor from highway 101 told me there was no doubt that I was going to run into snow today. The snow line was well below the lookout that I like to eat lunch at. But would I really need my snow shoes today?
The Skokomish valley just flooded out but on this day the road was mostly free of water and what water there was I could drive around. My kids absolutely love it when I plow through the water as fast as I can, but my kids were not with me so I drove around the water. From there I headed up FS 23, it did not take long at all before I was into the snow. A forest service truck passed me going the opposite direction in the snow. I was glad that the snow had forced me to drive slow, I normally speed on that road.
I reached the wildlife gate that marked the start of my hike and found myself in a winter wonderland. When I got out of my Jeep I found about 2 inches of nice crusty snow on the ground.. soooo would I need my snowshoes? I was only going to gain 1,000 feet on this hike, maybe I would not need them? Ah but I was going to head up a cold little river valley to an ice covered lake. I strapped my snowshoes to my pack and started down the road with Patches.
God I hate carrying snowshoes on my back, my neck instantly started hurting. I only went 1.5 miles before I put the snow shoes on. It felt like less work the carry them on my feet than to carry them on my back. Snow shoes on headed up the hill feeling good, now I remember why I love hiking in the winter. There was a cougar warning sign at the fork in the road.. hmmm should I really worry about that? I mean, it was just a sign made by a human, it was not an actual cougar sign like the fresh bones that I run across up there from time to time. I continued on but stayed a bit more alert than usual.
About 4 miles into my hike the snow finally got deep enough to warrant the use of snowshoes. So I was glad that I brought my shoes along. The trail was covered with overgrown low hanging alder again. The nice church group that went out there a few years ago and cleared the brush made this passage much easier. I’m thankful that they did that. But the going was still tough in a few spots.. Figures that now that I want to thank them I can not remember what church they were from, but when I wanted to bitch about them I figured it out easy enough. Oh well maybe they will still be able to Google this. It think it was the Shelton Valley Christian School..
On the way up I saw a rabbit, also saw lots of rabbit tracks, some fox tracks and some raccoon tracks. I also followed some deer tracks for at least a mile.
Right before I reached the lake I saw a beautiful scene, pure white sparkly snow all around me and snow covered mountains above me. I almost felt God, I was sure I was going to feel god when I reached the lake. But by the time I got to the lake the sun had slid behind chapel peak and snow lost It’s sparkle. If only I had gotten there 1/2 hour earlier I could have taken some beautiful pictures of the lake.
The forest service has been to the lake and they flagged the trail the leads down it. I was very glad for that, as the trail is hard to find in the snow, once you’re on the trail it’s easy but the start of the trail is not at all clear. The forest service is also removing an invaside weed on the lake shore and laying plastic and hay down. It might be really ugly to look at when the snow melts. I only noticed the edge of the plastic because Patches exposed it when she tried to go icebreaking. I ate my lunch next to a sign that asks folks not to disturb the area. Since everything was covered in snow,I could not actually see the area I was supposed to avoid, but I assume I avoided disturbing it by staying above the sign.
|Invasive weed management area?|
|Lunch above the sign|
|Not a good place to walk|
I made patches lay down and then I took off my snowshoes, and boiled a pot of water for tea and ate my second turkey sandwich at the lake. Patches refused to eat her parson’s nose (the part that went over the fence last) or meaty turkey bone. She only had eyes for my sandwich. Stupid dog! So I packed up her food for later. But I threw the bone back down right before I left the lake and then she ate it. I used one of those fish smelling tablets to boil my water, I forgot how slow they are. I need to go buy more denatured alcohol. I had to drink my tea as I hiked out since it took so long to boil the water and it was going to get dark soon. I left the lake at 2:30 pm and the sun was going to set at 4:30 and my Jeep was five snow covered miles away. There was no doubt at all that I would be hiking out in the dark.
I kind of wanted to get past the man made cougar sign before darkness set in, so I beat feet down the trail but my ankle went over twice, both times to the inside. I guess I should have tightened up my brace after lunch. I stopped to tighten up my brace after the second time my ankle went over. But to reach my brace I had to take off my snowshoe and my gator and untie my boot.. Wow, so many layers of stuff. I need to develop a habit of tightening my brace at the end of every lunch stop. After I tightened up my brace my ankle was just fine.
I made it past the man made cougar sign just before twilight ended. Then I hiked out in the dark for the final two miles. I took off my snow shoes about ½ mile from the Jeep. Suddenly the situation had reversed and I knew that it would hurt less to carry them on my back than to carry them on my feet. Yeah, I felt better with those heavy shoes off my feet! By then my legs hurt so bad that if my back did hurt I would not have noticed it. I was so damn tired that I was staggering and stumbling and could not even walk in a straight line without my poles. What happened? I love snowshoeing so much that I forgot how much it saps me. Even thought the snow was not deep and I was only sinking about 2 inches with each step, even in the deepest snow, my energy was sapped.
I put my headlamp on my head at about 3:45 but I did not turn it on until 5:30 because I wanted to save my night vision and I did not want to see any animal eyes reflecting in the woods. (If I can't see them, they are not there) I made it back to my Jeep at about 6pm; it was good and dark by then and my camera battery was almost dead so I took a few loooooong exposure pictures of the gate. Then I pulled my gaitors and boots off and put my crocks on for the drive home. I dove back slowly due to all the ice and snow on the road and the fact that there are no street lights in the wilderness. I only saw 4 other cars on the road all day, I thought there would be more people out there burning the turkey or having campfires and sledding in the snow with their kids.
When I got home I was so tired that I had to summon all off my energy to do my post hike, hike around town. I only made it as far as Safeway, I wandered around aimlessly inside of Safeway for a bit, bought nothing and then staggered back home and took a hot bath. The walk and the bath seemed to help; I’m not in too much pain today. My ankle feels fine. My muscles are sore but not as sore as they could be. My knee hurts though; my knee really did not like this hike.
Patches got worn out too. Normally she runs about 200 feet in front of me but today she staggered behind me, taking advantage of my tracks in the snow. She kept stepping on the backs of my snowhoes. I thnk all the sounds of snow falling off all the trees everywhere all day started getting to her. She kept startling hope that sound was something fun to chase, but instead it was alway just snow falling off the trees.
Anyway it felt good to get out there again and I’m thankful for my mobility devices, that is: snowshoes, ankle braces and snow tires. Gosh I love my Jeep. Funky and worn down as it is half the electric stuff does not work, it geysers oil out the fill cap, the paint is peeling off the hood, but it always starts, it never leaves me stranded and it takes me places that no car can go.
The weather was mostly perfect.
9.5 miles 925 feet elevation gain
|Patches refusing to eat her lunch|
|Long walk out in the dark following my footsteps back|
|Sundowned two miles from the Jeep|
|Patches says "real dogs don't wear sweaters"|
|This is not the sweet light|
|This could explain why I am so tired|