Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Rattlesnake Ridge Winter Hike – 1/2/17

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Looking Northeast from Rattlesnake Ledge

We went on our first hike of the New Year yesterday, up to Rattlesnake Ledge. We had originally planned on snowshoeing, but the forecast in the mountains and on the east side of the crest were for temps in the teens and windchill below zero. That really didn’t sound fun, so we picked a hike closer to home. Last winter we tried to hike up to the Ledge, but the trail was too icy and we didn’t all have traction devices, so we turned around. Over the year I managed to find enough pairs of traction devices to cover everyone’s boots, so we thought this was the perfect occasion to try again.

The road up to Rattlesnake Lake was a little icy and snowy, but well sanded and fine to drive. The parking lot was compact ice and snow, rutted and refrozen. We didn’t notice anyone having problems with traction, though. There was an occasional breeze that made things quite chilly; however, the bright sun was cheering. We geared up, and wore traction devices from the beginning.

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Annika’s excited at the Beginning
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We’re Headed Up There

The trail is flat and wide for the first mile, and then begins gradually climbing and traversing Rattlesnake Mountain.

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Snowy Wonderland

The snow was packed down on the trail, but there were about 3 fluffy inches on the ground and all the foliage. It made for an enchanting stroll.

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Getting Steeper and Slipperier

Lots of folks were out enjoying the holiday, and many of them were struggling on the steeper parts of the trail. I was feeling the lack of conditioning as a result of frequent illnesses this fall. Every once in awhile the wind would blow, showering us with drifts of tiny flakes of snow, making us duck our heads. We had to stop a few times for wardrobe adjustments. (It turns out snow pants were too hot for Annika on this hike, and the snow pellets were sticking and collecting on my wool sweater.)

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Icicles Near the Ledge

We all managed to make it up, after several stops to catch our breath and a brief snack. We set our packs down in a sheltered area and had a snack and drinks from our thermoses of hot tea and cocoa.

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Mt. Si and Tenerife
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Chester Morse Lake and Cedar River Watershed

The view was remarkable! Blue skies, snowy trees all below, wintry mountains jutting up all around.

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The Ledge

There was enough snow on the top of the ledge that I instructed the kids to stay well back from the edge, and we also didn’t jump over the chasms to get a better view. (Use extreme caution in the winter; there are plenty of safe places to stand, but some deep drops are becoming hidden by the snow.)

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Rattlesnake Lake and Environmental Learning Center
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The Upper Ledges

The wind was brisk enough up top that we soon got chilled, so we didn’t stay as long as we would have liked, and quickly repacked our gear and headed back down.

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Needle Ice Pushing up Rocks

We made it down in one stretch, taking a detour at the bottom to go out to Rattlesnake Lake to look at the ice.

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Golden Ice

The light at that part of the afternoon was turning golden, and it was lovely to be there. Again, we didn’t linger, but trudged back along the shore to our waiting car, where we blasted the heater and headed home to a pizza dinner. It felt great to get out on such a solid hike to start the new year, and I’m glad we were able to do it as a complete family.

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We Were There

If You Go: Rattlesnake Lake has a very large parking area. No permits are needed for the main area, but if it’s full, you might find parking up above where there is access to the Iron Horse Trail. That section requires a Discovery Pass. There are outhouses near the lake shore, and there are many more outhouses up the trail where the true path starts up the mountain. If you have time, go visit the Cedar River Watershed Education Center. At this time of year, traction devices for your shoes are a necessity. YakTrax or similar budget-friendly devices work OK, but I’m in love with my Kahtoola Microspikes. You’ll probably be happier with gaiters, as well, and trekking poles for stability. Dress in layers so that you can adjust on the way up and down. I highly recommend bringing a foam pad to sit on to rest, to insulate you from the snow. Don’t expect solitude on this trail; it’s very busy. It’s 4.8 miles round trip, with 1160 feet of elevation gain. There is limited cell service in spots of the parking lot and occasionally along the trail, but don’t expect much until you reach the top of the ledge.

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