Though I don't look forward to winter it always surprises me how much we enjoy winter hiking once we make the transition.
Yesterday, November 10, we found ourselves at the Lake Annette trailhead just about the time several other vehicles turned into the parking lot (most of them stuffed with other senior citizens). Make no mistake - these seniors could out-hike many hikers half their age. You won't find them (include us too) sitting around to commiserate about the dying of the light.
One of my idiosyncrasies is I don't like other hikers behind me on the trail (or at least not on my heels) so we let them get ahead of us (I must have been an outlaw in my previous life - I also don't like to eat in a restaurant unless my back is against a wall and I can see who's coming in or leaving). Or maybe it's just because I'm hard of hearing.
Or maybe it's just because I'm used to leading hikes for The Mountaineers - then, I like to lead from the rear on the way out in my belief that it's better to come across a problem on the way out - rather than behind. That way you can scoop up the trekking poles others often leave behind (one reason I don't hike with trekking poles - I'm sure I'd lose them). Hence I strapped my trusty ice-axe to my pack though we were pretty sure that was overkill for this particular hike.
After Bob and Jim enjoyed a pre-hike pipe of fine tobacco we set out - with no one behind us, of course. It looked and felt like November and it wasn't long before we were hiking in a scrim of snow. Shortly after crossing the Iron Horse trail we began to encounter more snow but not enough to be a problem. We were stopping frequently for photos -- well, Jim wasn't (he didn't bring a camera).
If you know anything about photography you know that dappled light in forest (with snow) is challenging but I tried anyway. Further along the trail we came to the first avalanche chute of death (well, they really can be when there's a lot of snow). Much to our relief the avalanche chutes were still hiker friendly (no ice axes needed as of this writing - that could change any day though).
Along the way we enjoyed expanding views of Humpback Ridge - the light on the slopes mottled with snow and brush that hadn't yet been buried were lovely. The sky was so blue above the ridge it looked "fake", more like a movie prop than the real thing.
By the time we reached the lake there were seniors all over the place but since we're seniors too that was fine with us. The larger group of hikers were non-intrusive and it was easy to share the space with them (at the trailhead we also ran into a couple of hikers I knew from The Mountaineers - they were also non-obtrusive but that may have been because they'd disappeared by the time we got there). Before we finished lunch they reappeared; we chatted with them before they headed back to the trailhead.
There was one dicey moment - as we hiked along the lakeshore a way Murphy, Jim's standard black poodle, fell off a flimsy bridge into the drink. Good thing he has a thick, curly coat. As for the lake, that also was a challenge to photograph because of the tricky light (we had to contend with "blue" snow and deep shadows). In all my visits to Annette Lake I have NEVER managed to take a good photo of the lake!
Actually there was another heart-in-the-throat moment: on our way down my right foot shot out from under me causing me to slip off a snow-covered rock and ending up with my mittened hands encased in cold water. Not fun. I lead out on the way down; Bob fell once and twice I could hear the stamping of boots as Jim managed NOT to fall a couple of times on the slippery snow.
Speaking of returning to the trailhead, the larger group of seniors were still exploring the lakeshore when we left. As for us we were cold enough that we hurried down (my right hand was so cold from being plunged into cold water that it was screaming). A good reminder to carry TWO pairs of gloves on winter hikes.
All in all despite minor inconveniences we couldn't have picked a better hike - the sun was shining, it wasn't raining, it wasn't windy and there wasn't enough snow to fret about.
We topped off the day with hot coffee in North Bend.