Winter Trails Day, Snoqualmie Lodge
Ah, the first trip of the New Year. Last year I was clever enough to do an overnight snowshoe trip up Kautz Creek in Mount Rainier National Park on New Years Eve so that I could spend the first day of 2005 hiking. This year, I was sitting in a plane over the Pacific on my way back from Thailand on New Years Day. I learned through the Mountaineers that Saturday was Winter Trails Day, an event that brings several gear makers and vendors together in one place, giving the public a chance to try out snowshoeing gear free of charge. Fortunately, the dry winter of 2004-5 was not repeating itself, as snowshoeing on rock is not much fun.
January 7, 2006
I drove out to Puyallup to pick up Lonetrail, a PCT section hiker that I had met through the Pacific Crest Trail mailing list and who had recently moved out to the northwest from southern California. The drive up to Snoqualmie Pass seemed highly odd, as there was no snow on the ground until reaching the pass itself, where there were several feet. I had been expecting a low turn out due to the rain down in the Sound area, but a mile of cars lined both sides of the road near Snoqualmie Lodge, where the event was being held. Lonetrail and I geared up and then walked up the snow covered access road to the vendor area. After registering, we milled about the gear tents before picking up some MSR Denali snowshoes and going for a spin, though separately. Lonetrail chose a loop, while I, with 6 pounds of extra fat from Thailand, headed straight up a hill to a minor ridge.
Grinning from ear to ear at the top, despite the sweat rolling off of me, I remembered why I moved out to Washington in the first place. Thailand was intoxicating, addictive. I wanted blue skies, warm temperatures, and a lazy life. Washington seemed cold and hard in comparison. At the top of the ridge, listening to the laughter of the kids and families as they body-sledded down the ridge, I remembered. Looking across the interstate I could spy Lundin and Snoqualmie Mountains, along with Red Peak, its characteristic redness hidden by a thick mantle of white. I could trace out the general line of the PCT and thought about all the wonders that it leads to. I didn't even bother to sit down. I just stood and grinned and thought.
After thirty minutes at the top I carefully made my way back down the slope to the vendor area, where I met Lonetrail. He was heading to the lodge for a warm drink, but I wanted some more time in the snow. I swapped the Denali snowshoes for a pair of MSR Lightning snowshoes and headed back out, intending to carve around a bit, but not to go back up to the top. Intentions, of course, are meaningless once you get going and I soon found myself in heavy, wet snow, straining to move higher and higher. Perhaps it was just my body reveling in the effort, but rather than traversing I climbed, far from the well packed track that I had took up the previous time. Up and up and up, the sweat flowed hard as I pushed far harder than was required. There was no one around to impress or to appear strong to, as everyone else was in the main track. I was pushing hard because it felt good to do so after three weeks where my hardest day involved beer at 2 pm instead of at noon.
Near the top, I swung back over to the main area, mostly because I wanted to see the joy on the faces of people as they hurled themselves off of the top and sledded down on their stomachs to the bottom. There was happiness here. I sat this time for twenty minutes in the snow until my bottom began to get cold and the feeling was well cemented in my melon. The winter wasn't going anywhere for several months and I could come back. I trudged down the trail and returned my snowshoes, just as a cold rain began to fall.
Winter Trails Day is once a year, it seems, but Snoqualmie Pass makes a nice destination year round. From Lakewood, drive I-5 north to SR 18 and take that east to I-90. Drive I-90 east to Snoqualmie Pass. There are a few trail heads in the area. To get to Snoqualmie Lodge, take exit 53 and make a right, followed by an immediate left. Drive about 300 yards down the road and look for a sign on the left in the trees marking an access road. There is a PCT trail head off of exit 54. Make a left and then a right on the access road.