Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kendall Lake Road snowshoe, November 18, 2009

Kendall Lake Road (snowshoe outing), November 18, 2009

Silverback and I caught a break between a seemingly endless series of storms so hurried off to Snoqualmie Pass to beat the next incoming storm. We lucked out – it was still mostly sunny at Snoqualmie Pass and temperatures were comfortable. The ski areas have opened up and late fall is transitioning to winter.

Silverback bought our Sno Park permit and proudly displayed it on the windshield; it had been several years since he had skied or snowshoed. He is still adapting to the Pacific Northwest after living several years in Denver but the Pacific Northwest has been good to him. Since he’s taken up hiking again he’s lost about 70 pounds and a chronic asthma condition has also improved. Nope, he’s not on a drastic diet – just eating healthier food and consistent exercise. Apparently my passion for the mountains is contagious; he gets as restless as I do when we can’t get outdoors.

It had been about 25 years since Silverback had snowshoed; snowshoes have changed a lot since then. I have the popular Atlas snowshoes but Silverback was fine using my old Sherpa snowshoes.

We were a little confused as to where to park at Gold Creek – we knew not to park in the I-90 interchange, of course, but weren’t quite sure where the Gold Creek Sno park began. To be safe from getting towed or getting a ticket (or getting yelled at) we asked a road grader if it was OK to park just shy of the Interchange; he seemed to think that was fine so we left the car there. Someone else had also parked there displaying a Sno Park permit. Whatever you do, don’t park under I-90, you will get towed or a ticket or both.

Back in the late 1980s through the mid-90s I did a lot of cross-country skiing; Kendall Road was one of my favorite trips. However when the skis wore out along with the boots I never replaced them – I’m considering taking it up again but would need to rent equipment and try it out again – I’d be feeling a little “rusty”.

There was a few inches of snow at Gold Creek; enough that we put on the snowshoes right at the start (we knew we’d get into more snow as we gained elevation). Since Silverback was rustier than me when it came to snowshoeing I broke trail and adapted my “forever” pace as I do when I hike.

We were the first on the untrammeled snow and the snow was lovely, the trees festooned with snow, the shrubs bore snow blossoms (fat chunks of snow) and ice crystals glittered in the sun. The forest has grown up enough over the past few years that there is no doubt where to go to continue on the Kendall Lake road. The road starts out on the level but soon veers uphill; you’ll have your work cut out for you.

Since I was feeling frisky I continued to break trail, stopping ever so often to chat with Silverback or take photos. There was no reason to hurry but once I get a rhythm going it’s hard to stop for a long period of time. I was hoping we’d get to the first “viewpoint” where Rampart Ridge comes into view at the end of a switchback but Silverback wasn’t ready for that. That’s OK – he is wise to follow his own “forever” pace.

I waited for him to catch up on the road; then after setting a turnaround time I continued while he stopped for lunch (he said he’d start down after lunch). Ordinarily I am against any party splitting up on winter hikes but the Kendall Road is close to civilization and the weather was fine. After another long switchback I made it to the view of Rampart Ridge; one of my favorite places to take a break whether on skis or snowshoes.

Consulting my watch I still had a few minutes to spare so continued on to the next viewpoint before turning around. I had set my old-fashioned altimeter at the parking lot but it wasn’t functioning properly so I am not 100 percent sure of how much elevation I gained. Hopefully, the altimeter will continue performing as I am fond of that old altimeter and found it reliable. It’s so old it might even be an antique!

I started down and soon met a young woman on skis who had taken the day off to take advantage of the good weather and a little further down the road, another solo skier with his dog. About half way down the road I caught up to Silverback and we snowshoed together back to the car.

The bad weather continued to hold off so we continued our outing by walking the Gold Creek Road to where the road is crossed on a bridge. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven down that road (or paralleled it on I-90), straining my neck for the brief but gorgeous view of the Gold Creek valley and the peaks at the head of the valley.

Most of the snow that had fallen on the road had melted so it was a simple walk to the bridge. En route we stopped for photographs, drinking in at long last, those views we hungered for.

According to the new-fangled GPS that Silverback carried he’d gained about 750 feet on Kendall Road, estimating I gained about 1,300 feet. Including the road walk his hike ended up being about 5 miles, mine roughly 7 miles.

The rain held off until Seattle – the timing couldn’t have been better.

In addition to snowshoeing, we’ve recently checked out some of the trails near North Bend including Little Si, the Old Si trail, the Boulder Garden Loop and the Talus Loop on Mount Si. I will not describe those hikes in detail here. Anyone who has read this far is probably already familiar with those trails - perhaps even TOO familiar this time of year but watch for updates.

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