Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Snowed out at Snow Lake

Elk Creek culvert washed out already

Okay I drove my car across the causeway, Yay the gate is open up.gifup.gif
and was able to drive all the way up to the wild life gate at 1,700 feet. It felt so strange to drive down a road that I had walked down so many times in the past few years. 

edited to show failure

I parked at the gate and hopped on my bike. My pack stows nicely in my REI around town pannier.. I then headed up the road on my bike. The wash out at Elk Creek has already washed out!!! That brand new culvert failed! The culvert buckled and water is running under it. I was however, able to push my bike over the washout. No one will be driving there though..

I must have been pretty quiet on my bike because I surprised a big black bear that was casually walking down the road. It was Ralph the bear!!! It had to be Ralph.. I mean I was above 4 stream on the road where Ralph lives!!! OMG!!! I saw Ralph!! biggrin.gif I had to put the brakes on hard to keep from hitting Ralph. Ralph looked up and saw me and then froze and then he was frightened by my squealing brakes so he ran away down hill in the woods towards Staircase. I did not have time to get a picture.

I did not have Patches the wonder dog with me as she was moving really slow after yesterday's hike. I fear she is getting old.. frown.gif

Anyway I rode and pushed my bike about 4.5 miles to the Snow Lake outlet stream. I had guessed that the trail would be near where the outlet stream crosses the road. Shortly past the stream I found an interprative trail in the middle of no where huh.gif It had signs with names of trees, darn I was hoping one of those signs would say something about the lake.

I found a little faint boot path going off the interpretive trail and I knew I had found the trail to Snow Lake. The weather was mixed rain and snow where I stashed my bike at 2,200 feet. I figured the snow was not going to stick, so I was unimpressed by it.

Soooo I headed up the faint boot path, wow, I'm really getting good at finding trails! I saw bare roots and knew that was the trail. I needed to gain 1,300 feet in 6/10ths of a mile to reach the lake, so this was a rather steep trail of roots. I pulled a muscle in my arm when my feet went out from under me and I caught myself with my trekking pole.. it's really going to hurt tomorrow. It really hurt at the time but I figured it was one of those kind of injuries that needed to be moved to keep it from getting too stiff.

As expected, the snow got a bit deeper as I headed up the trail, it was even starting to come down REALLY fast.. no big deal.. Snow Lake is at 3,500 feet.. there can't be much snow that low right?  Big loud scary snow bombs starting crashing in my foot steps.  That meant the snow was melting right?  Some of the snow bombs were so big that I was worried they could injure me if they hit me.

  I had my gaiters, I could see the trail, I was well on my way to snow lake. Then I lost the trail and started floundering on a snow chute.   The chute was between a big rock and the ravine of the outlet stream.  I could not find the trail and stuggled for quite a while.

Then at about 3,300 feet just 1/3 of a mile from the lake and just 200 feet in elevation below the lake the snow got really deep.

The snow was so deep that it went over the top of my OR Crock gaiters!! My gaiters kept the snow out and my feet were dry... but I was floundering in the snow.. I was slipping and sliding and falling down.  I had no idea where the trail was and I still had 1/3 of a mile to go... also my batteries on my SPOT messenger had gone dead, so if I had a problem out there alone I would been.... well out there alone.

The snow was all powder with no base. There was nothing for my boots to grip and the terrian was rough and steep.

I  got sick of swimming in the the powder while slipping on the roots and rocks below so I turned back.  I had trouble seeing my tracks on the way out because the snow was filling them in.

The trip back down was fast, a little too fast in a few places where I fell.  At one point I went sliding down the trail and I thought I was going to slide for miles, but I stopped with a big THUMP after just a few feet.  Whew...

When I got back down to my bike at 2,200 feet the snow was coming down really fast and it was sticking to the road! Oh sh##.. I knew I had to get out of there fast, unless I wanted to push my bike through the snow.

So I tore down the road with snow blasting into my face. The snow / rain started running down the inside of my gaiters and got inside of the top of my waterproof boots, my feet were soaked but at least I was done hiking. My hands were freezing. I kept alternating what hand to use for the brakes and what hand to warm up against my body.   Note to self: bring windproof gloves for my next bike ride.

Eventually the snow turned back onto rain and before I knew it I was back at my car and my waiting thermos full of HOT tea.

When I got back down to the causeway bridged I parked my car, YES PARKED MY CAR so I could do my ritual happy dance. I always do a happy dance when I walk across that bridge.. but today I drove across the bridge, so I had to park to do my happy dance. I also took the batteries out of my head lamp and put them in my SPOT so I could send a  message to let my loved ones  know I was safe and on my way home.  I had another cup of tea on the cuaseway too.  Then I drove home...

What an adventure! 11 miles with 1,700 feet elevation gain 4.5 miles pushing a bike 4.5 miles coasting down hill on a bike and a few miles floundering around in the snow..

Pictures are bad because I brought my waterproof point and shoot instead of my DSLR and the lens was wet most of the time..

Things to do different next time:  Check SPOT device before leaving home, Bring water and windproof gloves on bike hikes.  I don't know if snow shoes would have helped with the steep slope and no base layer to hold on to.

cut logs mean I am on the trail

Near where I turned around

Deep foot prints in the snow

Snow starting to stick on road at 2,200 feet

Where I turned around

track and elevation

track in google earth


Jake Morrison said...

looks very wet. hope a post hike hot shower was in order.

Mossy Mom said...

The hot thermos of tea made all the difference!