27 November 2015
Lost Lake via NF 112, Snoqualmie Pass
2 miles, 550 ft. climb to 3400 ft. maximum elevation
I spent most of yesterday doing my now-second favorite thing to do: cooking and baking (a three-course celebratory feast with all the trimmings). After enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving meal shared by just the immediate family, we opted outside with many other hikers on this Black Friday rather than fight the crowds at the malls for holiday deals. With both my husband and Big Hiking Buddy home on a four-day weekend, our Adventure Friday was a true family affair! YEY! Little Hiking Buddy and I wanted to share the snowy treasures we discovered last week with the normally fully-scheduled half of the family.
Following a hot breakfast of cheesy eggs, potato hash and apple pie, I packed our lunches with made-to-order Thanksgiving wraps using each person’s desired mix of apple-brined turkey, cranberry relish and roasted vegetables. We needed a hearty lunch if we hoped to play in the deep snow of the Cascadian backcountry on this brisk sunny day. Today we planned to explore the region around Lost Lake along NF 112, just one mile southwest of Keechelus Lake in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Located in the eastern corridor of Snoqualmie Pass, Lost Lake is a popular fishing spot stocked plentiful with trout throughout the year. This last bit was a key point of interest to my husband for summer exploration plans.
After a rather uneventful drive through Interstate 90, we turned off exit 62 to NF 5480. From there, we entered a wintry wilderness straight out of fairy tales told by the Brothers Grimm. The road itself was covered in drifts of white, while the frost-tipped evergreens lined our drive through the forest. Every so often, we were surprised by tiny cabins tucked away behind the trees, discerned only by the smoke-filled chimneys billowing with signs of warmth inside. At Keechelus Lake, we crossed a bridge over the very beginning of the mighty Yakima River. It was there I realized I had previously been in this part of the Pass during one of my cross-country bike rides last summer. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail, also known as the Iron Horse Trail, runs parallel to NF 5480 along this segment through Stampede Pass. It looked so different blanketed in white this time around! Since we left the commuter car with the snow chains back home, my husband shifted our 4WD into snow mode to prevent slippage once we began driving into rougher terrain. It was a fun drive from there, leaving my hiking buddies squealing with every bounce of the car from their backseats.
Once we climbed in elevation, the road transformed from compacted snow over dirt and rocks to a wide one-lane road covered in snow and then to narrow trail-like lane used mainly by smaller motorized vehicles. When we parked at a wide turn around area, we were quickly greeted by a trailer filled with snowmobiles getting ready for an afternoon of fast fun. The four of us prepped ourselves with the necessities of hand and toe warmers, extra layers, hats, gloves, snowboots and lots of food for a trek in this 24F degree tundra. My hiking buddies didn’t care one bit how cold it was, they couldn’t wait to run off into the snow. Having spent his childhood in Alaska, my husband was a little more cautious and less excited about the wintry white underfoot and overhead. He reminisced a little about his time outdoors in the snow, but took joy in watching our little ones having light-hearted fun in it today.
Within 50 yards from our car, we began the traverse up the ridge of NF 112 that allowed us splendid views of Lost Lake below and snowy Mount Margaret in the distance. My first glimpses of snow up on Mount Margaret just a few weeks ago seemed almost surreal now that I was completely surrounded by crystal flakes at this lower elevation.
The snow here was dry compared to what I encountered last week on the other side of the Pass on Kendall Ridge. LHB attempted to blow me snow kisses, but was disappointed when steam failed to come out of her mouth. Nonetheless, she was delighted by the loose powder as she frolicked in its sparkling dust with BHB. As for BHB, she loved connecting her scientific mind with the artistic beauty of nature, taking every moment possible to create hypotheses, calculate formulas and narrate text to describe what she was experiencing. I had forgotten how much I missed having her on the trail this season until today. I can’t wait until the next school break to take them both snowshoeing!
Unlike previous Adventure Fridays and most of my solo-hikes, we really didn’t have any destination in mind. The intent was to bask in the snow on this bluebird day. (Had we a planned finale, however, the ever-popular summer spot of Mirror Lake along with the connecting Pacific Crest Trail was just another mile or so up ahead). The girls were overjoyed to be out and about playing in their favorite winter medium. We passed minor waterfalls, walked along unfrozen creeks and even spotted a few tracks crossing the trail. With a few snow angels here and there in untouched snow, we moved ahead at a crawl (which LHB literally did because she wanted to be covered in snow at all times on the trail today). My husband was able to take a few moments to himself to enjoy the scenic landscape, much unlike the daily brick and steel surroundings at his office.
Before turning around, my hiking buddies begged my husband to let them climb up the hillside and slide down. Why not? Afterall, we were outside to have fun in the snow. So they climbed (and clawed) their way up a rather short, but steep slope. BHB made it to the top easily, but kindly waited for LHB before sliding down together with great bubbles of laughter. It was just too much fun for them not to do it a few more times until they were covered in icy dirt and wet snow. My husband and I just shook our heads and wondered which one, if not both, would end up being a mountaineer.
On our return trip, we came across a pair of snowmobilers on their initial ride of the season. LHB admired the vivid crimson of one of the machines, while BHB was bedazzled by the silver glint of the other. The couple was kind enough to take a few family photos of us – just in time for holiday cards! With that, we said our thanks and wished them good cheer during this magnificent season. I’m sure they enjoyed their snow toys as they revved up the mountain.
We realized we hadn’t eaten the lunches I packed once we were back at the car. I guess hunger would have been a better explanation than the full moon’s lunacy as to why we three ladies ganged up on my husband during the quick journey back. Calm was restored once we all devoured our wraps, carrots and cookies. We drove back through the winter wonderland with the early afternoon sun chasing us to the west.
LHB quickly fell asleep on the ride home from a lively morning in the snow and a tummy full of yummies, but BHB still had plenty of energy reserved for more adventure. So, we headed off to do our only shopping of the day: we stopped off at one of our favorite farms to cut down our traditional Christmas tree. Our lovely Fraser fir is now standing stall in our living room completely unadorned. After a wonderfully pleasant day, we all agreed we could wait one more day to fulfill our annual tradition of decorating the tree together. ‘Tis the season to enjoy every moment!