First, let me say how much I loved the discussions in the comments on yesterday’s post! My favorite posts are always the ones that spark thoughtful discussion.
Snow has fallen upon the Cascades, but that did not prevent us from going on our usual Saturday hike this weekend. I honestly did not expect to enjoy hiking in the snow as much as I did. I thought I would like it, but I ended up loving it!
I will be the first to admit that I do not like snow. Snow to me means icy sidewalks, brown piles of slush in the parking lots, and mountains of wet snow surrounding everything and obstructing any outdoor activities for months. (You know you’re from the Midwest when you’re stuck inside all winter.) Snow gives me flashbacks of trudging across campus in thigh-high snow while the wind raged and even more snow fell, of rushing to the grocery stores in a snowstorm because we’d be stuck inside for a few days, and of Charlie pooping under the sofa because he refused to do so outside (which you can’t completely blame him when the snow piles were at least twice his height).
So, naturally, one of the draws to moving out to Seattle was the lack of snow. On average, a grand total of six inches of snow falls annually here. Six inches of snow in Valparaiso was a light snow. However, snow does come down in the mountains here, and the mountains are where we do our hiking, so I knew I would have to brave the snow unless we were not to go hiking from November to April.
With perfect timing, my mom sent us an early Christmas present of his and hers trekking poles from REI. These poles made me feel immensely more confident and safer when it came to hiking in the snow, since they provided a larger base of stability and more grip along the trail.
In addition to the trekking poles, we also packed our YakTraks. I honestly thought that once we moved to Seattle we would never use them, but now I am so grateful that I did not donate them or resell them. Even our simple YakTraks significantly improved our ability to safely hike along snowy and icy portions of the trail. I do not think I would have been comfortable hiking without the poles or YakTraks, but using them made snowy hiking a genuinely enjoyable experience.
The forecast predicted chilly weather (in the high-20s), but nothing too cold or windy, so I wore two base layers (one mid-weight, the other heavy-weather), my REI vest, fleece-lined running leggings, PrAna hiking pants, thick wool socks, gloves, and a hat. This actually provided me with sufficient warmth—I eventually removed my gloves and hat—for the hike itself, although I donned my down jacket and yearned for warmer gloves up at the the summit. (See this post for more information on how to dress for a cold weather hike!).
Surprisingly, the trail was well-populated with other hikers and a few photographers. We anticipated being nearly the only hikers on the trail, so we were pleasantly surprised to see so many friendly hikers along our way up to Snow Lake. The trail wasn’t overly crowded, thankfully, and we appreciated other hikers giving us the heads-up about falling ice in some areas (the sun melted some icicles along the mountains, but it wasn’t anything too dangerous).
We also saw some hikers wearing shorts and duck boots, which baffled me. It wasn’t frigid or icy, but it was still cold and slippery!
The snow in the Cascades is nothing like the slushy, wet, cold snow that falls by the foot in the Midwest. Rather, the snow was powdery, dry, and pleasant. There was probably 4-7 inches of snow on the ground, depending on our elevation. Not to mention that the snowfall transformed the already beautiful mountains into a gorgeous, jaw-dropping panorama.
Deep, nearly untouched snow surrounded the lake. We found a spot by the lake, set up our stove for lunch (a warm lunch on a cold hike is a brilliant idea), and enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate. Gusts of winds from the lake chilled us and it was significantly colder at the top of the lake, so I quickly got the shivers and numb hands, even with the extra insulation from my down coat. Poor Charlie got chilly as well and started shaking (poor baby!), so we quickly ate lunch, packed up, and began our descent. Once we started moving and got away from the lake, we quickly warmed up. Next time we know to use hand and foot warmers when we’re at the summit!
The 400 meters of trail leading away from the lake climbs a steep incline over a few switchbacks. It’s one of those inclines that does not feel that bad on the descent, but you definitely feel the steep grade on the ascent. The snow made it extra challenging and I felt all of the small stabilizing muscles in my legs and core working hard, even with the trekking poles.
Even with the snow, we made it up and down in right around 1 hour and 45 minutes each way. The only thing better than a challenging yet scenic hike is a homemade pizza and some tasty beer (Elysian BiFrost is amazing) afterwards.
Do you go skiing or hiking in winter?
Do your pets like the snow?
What are your plans for Thanksgiving? —> Since our families are a couple thousand miles away, we’re going for a run, cooking together, and commencing our annual tradition of watching all the Star Wars movies.