Friday, February 7, 2014

Tunnel Creek in the snow

at the top of the trail
Mount Walker is the normal limit of my day hiking range, so whenever I pass Mount Walker I get a little nervous. But why should I limit myself? If I take the bus for most of my hikes, then I can get away with one or two longer trips each month.

This is only my second trip up Tunnel Creek; I had thought of doing Marmot Pass but was unsure of the avalanche conditions. On the way to my hike I stopped at the Quilcene ranger station and met Ranger Peggy. Hi Peggy!

I ran into snow on the road well before I got to the trail head, so I was very glad that I had taken my truck. The snow on the road was only a few inches deep, but it’s so cold that it must have been a bit icy?

I started my hike at 10:40 and made pretty good time getting to the shelter. I saw icicles everywhere and Tunnel Creek was quite icy in spots. I only stopped at the shelter for a couple of minutes, but it was enough to make my hands ache and burn from the cold. I was so glad that I had my mountaineering mittens with me.

I decide to head up at least to the lakes and maybe to the pass. I really wanted to see the pass but I was short on time; I had gotten off to a late start and I had a long drive to get home. The lakes were covered in snow and I had to yell at Patches to keep her from running out into the middle of the largest lake.

As I headed up above the lakes the snow got a bit deeper but the trail was well packed and I did not get any snow in my boots even though I was not wearing gaiters. I had not expected much in the way of snow after my snowless hike up Mount Rose last week, so I left my gaiters at home.

I made the top sometime around two and then I could no longer see the trail. There was a path in the snow that lead up the to the unnamed peak above the pass. I knew about that peak because in my one other trip up this trail I had gone up to the top of that peak. I think there was a tarn at the top of the trail, but it was hard to tell with the snow. Clearly no one had come up from the other side recently as there were no tracks leading down. Coming up from the other side would be insane unless you were training for something.

Patches kept laying down whenever I stopped. I think maybe her feet were cold. Maybe I should get her some doggie boots for snow hikes. I wonder how doggie boots would affect her traction. I think humans are about the only animals that don’t have built in crampons called claws. Why is that? Maybe our toenails are supposed to curve over and grip the ground?

Patches began to shiver at the top, so I only paused up there long enough to take some pictures and then we quickly headed back down to the shelter for lunch. I cooked food and coffee, but it took too long and Patches began to shiver so I started throwing rocks and bits of bark and stuff for her to chase so she would stay warm. I always pack a foam pad for her to lay on so she can stay warm, but she always refuses to lay on it. Silly dog!

The water in the bottle in my pack froze and I could not get the lid off. There was a frozen creek “flowing”across the trail and it was very, very cold. But it was sunny and dry. The snow was so dry and powdery; I wonder if that is what snow is like in Colorado? I’m used to our “Cascade concrete” not this nice dry powder. In a couple of spots it might have been nice to be wearing micro spikes but I got by just fine in my half price La Sportiva boots. These gortex boots are keeping my feet warm and dry so far but they do hurt just a little bit. They don’t have the nice big toe box that Salomon boots have. The trade off is having dry feet, Salomons always start leaking right away.

I packed up and headed for my truck at 4:20, with just one hour left before sunset. I was 2.5 miles from my truck at that point. I hiked faster than 2MPH so I made it back to my truck before dark, but just after sunset. Then I began the long coast down the icy road to the highway. The driving trip out was longer that the trip up, since I was going downhill in the snow and I had to drive very cautiously.

I stopped at the Brinnon store and filled one of my water bottles with hot chocolate. My Jeep never did warm up enough on the trip home to melt the water in my other bottle so I got to show the ice to my family.

8 miles with 2,600 feet elevation gain 1,500 calories burned.

Harrison Lake

Harrison Lake pano

I think this tree is an Alaskan yellow cedar

Snow at the trail head, I'm so glad I drove my snow machine

This is Mount Baker.


Mount Baker and other formations in the mysterious beyond

The Buckhorn wilderness

Buckiella undulata moss sporophytes (reproductive parts)

A place for Critter to sleep!
Visit Critter at:

This frozen creek *is* the trail

The only good smelling dog breath is frozen dog breath

Mmmmm..... old growth!

Orange ice!

Moss reproduces in the winter,  This might be Kindbergia oregana  "Oregon Beak moss"

This sign always makes my heart skip a beat, it means I'm in the Olympic mountains!!!!
You will always find this sign at 3,500 feet in the Olympics

2,000 calorie deficit for me today.  I did not eat much on my hike because it
was to cold too drink enough to wash anything down without getting brain freeze.

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