We have been experiencing an unusual and long-lasting inversion here in Puget Sound, causing cold, grey, still air to settle in the lowlands. Meanwhile, the sun shines in the mountains. We went up Friday to find the sunshine, and trek in the snow at the same time.
Our friend Kirsten offered to drive us up, and our friend A came along, as well. We had a little hiccup in our meeting plan, as we had to take our elderly kitty in for an emergency tooth extraction that morning. But we still got a reasonable start up the road. There was ice from the frozen fog in places, but the drive was lovely up the Skykomish valley. The fog came and went, allowing bursts of sunshine to light the bare trees and snow-covered foothills. We saw many bald eagles and hawks perched in the trees and flying above us.
We made one stop at the Nordic Center at Stevens Pass to use the bathrooms and for A to buy new batteries for her camera. Then we drove the short distance back on the westbound section of the highway to the cleared-off shoulder to park. No one else was parked there, so we weren’t sure we were in the right place, but soon enough others came to ski the trail too. It was just above freezing at the pass, but felt colder with the breeze blowing on us. We geared up as quickly as we could, and climbed up onto the snow bank to walk along the highway up to where the road takes off. I was last in line, and with my very first step with snowshoes on, I stumbled and fell sideways and onto my back. I had to unbuckle my pack, and awkwardly regain my footing. Then I could put my pack back on. By then everyone else had figured out I wasn’t with the group, and waited, laughing, for me to get myself back together.
Despite my clutziness, I really liked that first section right near the road. The little creek flowed through, boulders covered with a marshmallow topping of snow.
Trees bent with the weight of the snow, and some of the water in the stream was frozen in sections.
The top layer of the snow was all crystals, fluffy and powdery and dry. We’ve never experienced snow like that before, and the kids had fun throwing handfuls of it up in the air for it to float sparkling down.
Kirsten had brought a plastic sled for the kids to play with, and we stashed it where the road began so we could play when we got back from our hike. Then we started up the road.
The snow wasn’t packed as hard as the path at Gold Creek, and even with the snowshoes we occasionally sunk down more than we liked to. We tried to figure out where the ski track was so we could stay off it; I must say, though, there were ski tracks all over the place. We hoped the deep, smooth trench was the most important one to avoid, because we didn’t want to anger any of the skiers.
The sun was bright, and snow dripped off the trees like rain. We enjoyed the scenery, but the kids weren’t crazy about hiking too far on this day, so we stopped after maybe less than a mile.
Kirsten kicked steps up the bank to a sunny spot up off the road, and we had a pleasant place to sit and eat our lunch.
The camp robbers were on us in a minute, and we had a good discussion about why not to feed the wildlife. We had our hot cocoa, pancake sandwiches with chocolate peanut butter, apples, and the requisite jelly beans. It was so nice soaking in the sun and breathing the crisp mountain air.
Kirsten and A wanted to check out the road a little farther up, but my kids were ready to turn back. So we let our friends continue up the trail while we went back down to the base of the road to try out the sled.
There was a small hill with a safe runout, kid sized and ready to use. It was just the right thrill.
The sun was behind the hill here, though, the light was getting dim, and it was freezing cold (Kirsten’s car read 24 degrees when we packed up.) Gabriel’s mittens got wet inside from the snow, and his hands started hurting. He said they weren’t cold, but when I felt them, they were icy. We switched out the mittens for his other gloves and put in some hand warmers, and he felt better pretty quickly. It wasn’t long before the gals made it back down, and we all headed back to the car for our drive home. It took me a day or two to warm up, but it was such a nice day I didn’t mind. When we made it back to Everett to get my car, the fog was crazy thick and gloppy. We were so glad we had escaped it for a few hours to recharge in the clear sunshine of the mountains.