Snowy Shenanigans

15 January 2016

John Wayne Pioneer Trail, Hyak Sno-Park, Snoqualmie Pass, Central Cascades

1.5 miles, 60 ft. climb to 2575 ft. maximum elevation

I haven’t had my usual energy and motivation to get outside this week, but I promised Little Hiking Buddy we would have a great Adventure Friday in the snow. It hasn’t been fair to either of my junior hiking buddies to see me moping around the house under the guise of keeping up with necessary chores. So, today LHB and I headed to her new favorite winter playspace in Snoqualmie Pass. After watching Big Hiking Buddy skip off into her school building, LHB and I took off for the hour long drive just over the Pass. Unlike our last adventure at Hyak Sno-Park, we arrived to an almost empty lot at 9:30 am this morning.

The snow already began its descent when we parked. We quickly geared up and made our way to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, now a winterized multi-use trail for cross-country skiers, snowshoers and hikers. After inadvertently learning about proper etiquette during our visit to Gold Creek Pond, we steered clear of the groomed tracks intended solely for the use of cross-country skiers. While there were a handful of skiers already on their way out, we were the first ones at the Sno-Park with snowshoes on this morning. We got to lay down fresh tracks for the day!  

The snowdrift was deep today from recent storms. LHB was incredibly excited to break in the trail. With her tiny frame, the Tubbs Snowglow Snowshoes under her feet barely cracked the crusted snow lid atop the bank. After a quarter-mile of postholing her way forward, her energy quickly dwindled until she preferred to throw chunks of snow at me. Unfortunately for her, I was shielded by the Snowspider Sleds attached to my pack like a tortoise’s shell (not to mention her aim wasn’t the most precise). When she finally gave up, we restarted our trek with me leading the way. We made it another half of a mile before deciding to take a little snack break.

We chose a spot just past the Keechelus Trailhead to seat ourselves on our sleds. Facing out to the groomed trail, we waved to a number of cross-country skiers skating by as we munched on our fruit and cheese. LHB’s silliness was infectious; her monkey faces left me in hysterics as we sat side-by-side in the snow. My heart lightened at this moment with a flashback to my early childhood spent at the beach with my dad. I see me in her; I see him in her. We sat and played a little longer, greeting a few more skiers as they passed, until the cold beneath sent us to our feet.

Since our trek out was a little shorter than hoped, I decided to take a turn through an opening in the trees. This took us towards Keechelus Trail, allowing us to make a little loop before returning to our outbound tracks. We postholed our way up a hill through even deeper snow than where we had been. With carb-filled energy running through her body, LHB was more than willing to follow me up the hill as long as she had snowballs in hand to take aim at my shield. Once we returned to the main trail, we retraced our snowshoe tracks back to the parking lot. I ended up pulling her the last quarter-mile of the trail – at least I got somewhat of an upper body workout – before launching her in the snow to make herself an angel.

We loaded what we didn’t need into the car and set off towards the main sledding hill. When we were last at Hyak Sno-Park, the sledding hill was so overrun with chaos that we chose to take our sleds elsewhere. With only a handful of families just starting to make their way into the area, LHB and I enjoyed more than half a dozen runs down the hill today. There was enough room in each lane for us to ride down together with our discs. LHB’s size and weight wasn’t enough to build momentum to speed down the hill, but was just enough to spin her around backwards. She, of course, squealed with delight each time she spun around and went down head first. The best part of our new sleds was that they were simple and lightweight enough for LHB to tote back up the hill herself. As for me, I’m so glad I put spikes on because it made hiking up to the top in the snow all that much easier.

LHB was intent on frolicking in the snow today. So, after deciding on her last run down the hill with the sled, we retreated to the flat plain above to make a snow man. Building a snow man with dry powder proved to be challenging, but we did it. LHB and I made our very own miniature Frosty. As she went off in search of twigs to help him come to life, I realized I was the one who felt alive again. Enjoying this morning with her and creating our own memories together gave me the first chance to heal and move forward. I know my father was there with us today, just smiling at the likeness of our miniature selves.

Hyak Sno-Park

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