Monday, June 12, 2017

Hiking in the Snow of the Cascades

After a couple days in the city, it was time for some hiking in the country. Seattle is in a wonderful location because it doesn't take long to get to the mountains or the sea from here. Snoqualmie Falls is one of the places that show up on most tourist lists. The lodge on the hill top is a little pricey, but the views of the fall are free.

We took the mile-long hike down to the bottom of the falls. For all the crowds at the top, this trail didn't have many people on it.

We took the picture of our son Blake, and his girl-friend Claire, from the viewpoint at the bottom of the 268-foot falls. We are sure enjoying their visit, and it's nice to have other people in the pictures we take.

Not all the water is coming over the falls. Some of it is diverted to run hydro-electric generators. But all the water will eventually end up downstream here in Snoqualmie River.

That was a nice little hike in nature, but Blake had planned a more aggressive hike for our afternoon. We drove on down the highway to the trail head for the 3.5 mile hike to Snow Lake. Mark is the photographer for the day, following behind the other three of us to document our hike. It started well, in a nice shaded forest.

We are having unbelievable weather. We have had a great run of warm temperatures and blue skies. That warm weather is triggering the snow to melt at the top of the mountains around us. There are new waterfalls running down the face of the mountain. If you look closely, you will see four different falls cascading down in the picture below.

Denisa was lagging behind, taking pictures of the beautiful flowers in this alpine meadow. These are yellow glacier lilies, and this is the first time we have seen an entire field of them.

But that would be the last flower picture of the day. That's because we started seeing more and more snow on the trail, and most of the alpine meadows were completely white.

Forty-five minutes into the hike, and we're climbing into more snow and getting peeks of the peaks around us. It is a warm, blue-sky day, so it is comfortable to hike in shorts in all this snow. Crazy!

The only problem with all this warm weather is the melting snow is making rivers below the snow pack. So randomly, one of us would "post hole." That means we would suddenly find ourselves thigh-deep in a snow drift as one foot went all the way down to the wet rocks below.

The snow was melting from the top of the mountain as well, causing unmarked waterfalls to appear over our trail. Our guests' tennis shoes and socks are completely wet by now, which doesn't make the most comfortable conditions for hiking through snow.

But we felt like pioneers, as we trudged across the white mountain pass, using only our home-made walking sticks for support as we pressed on to our goal.

Actually, our goal has changed. We met a ranger, who told us the sign for the trail toward Snow Lake was buried under the snow. So she recommended the hike to Source Lake instead. We were ready to turn around, but Mark hiked ahead and reported that the lake was in sight. We have arms raised because we made it!

This is called Source Lake, because it collects snow melt and is then used as a source of drinking water for one of the towns in the area. It has that lovely blue color that comes from the mountain snow.

As we turned around for the return trip to the car, Mark continued to take pictures of the three of us on the trail.

The scenery was spectacular as we traipsed through long sections of snow admiring the blue skies and mountains around us. This was slow hiking, as the slippery surface meant smaller steps. We often took two steps forward, just to slide one step back.

The snow was melting and getting even more slick on the return trip. We finally determined that Mark was staying behind us just to take pictures when we fell in the snow. He never would confess on how many times he fell.

It looks like Blake was raising his hand to ask a question. But that is just the natural response to trying to catch one's balance on another slick step in the snow. We were providing Mark with some great entertainment as we skidded and slipped across this slushy surface.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on a tree that had fallen across the trail. It was the only surface we could find that wasn't covered with snow. 

Denisa wrestled the camera away from Mark, just to prove that he came with us on this hike. He ran up the snowy hill to get a little closer to the temporary waterfall that was cascading from the very top of the mountain today.

As we approached this area, we heard and then saw rocks rolling down the mountain across the trail ahead of us. There was a little avalanche that moved some sizable rocks. That rock on the trail right behind Denisa was not there a minute earlier. We were glad those rocks rolled down the mountain before we got there.

By the end of the hike, we had been on this trail for over four hours. When we add that to the miles at Snoqualmie Falls, we all got a good work-out in the Cascade Mountains of Washington today. We were hungry for pizza this evening, and happy to spend the rest of the evening relaxing. We are having a great time with Blake and Claire, and they seem to like the way we work hard at retirement.

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