Snowshoeing at Snoqualmie Pass
December 15, 2004
Today I went snowshoeing up near Source Lake at Snoqualmie Pass with my neighbors, Natalie, Lukas, and their dog Ginger. The day started off a little rough, but once we put on the 'shoes, everything was just grand!
We drove up to the Alpental ski area and were suprised to find the restroom near the Snow Lake trailhead "closed for the season". They still expect you to pay for a NW Forest Pass parking pass (which is a double-tax) and then they don't even maintain the restroom at one of the most popular trailheads in the state. Since the ski area was still closed due to lack of snow, we had to drive back to I-90 and use the restrooms at the Traveler's Rest (which I must say were very clean!) So once back at Alpental we tried to drive to the upper parking lot, but two men with a backhoe who were working on the bridge told us that the area was "closed" and that we couldn't park up there. I asked them how could public land be "closed" and the guy tried to tell me that the only trail in the area was the Snow Lake trail back behind us and that there was no access via the Alpental backcountry road. We could see that there was a large berm of snow blocking the road on the other side of the bridge, so we just turned aroung and parked in the lower lot. As we walked up the road past the workers, one tried to tell me that the ski resort "owns" the road and that they can block access. I informed the dolt that the ski area leases the land under a special use permit administered by the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and that the land is owned by the public. I also told him that climbers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers, and many others use the trail year-round so he should expect many more people to be driving up.
Once at the upper parking lot my blood pressure was back to normal and we enjoyed snowshoeing through the forest on a beautiful day of sunshine with gorgeous blue skies! The recent rains had created a heavy crust on the snow. We followed the boot path along a small stream of meltwater that was running down the trail. After two hundred yards or so the snow was deeper and Lukas and I began postholing so we donned the 'shoes. Ginger already had four "snowpaws" so she was still good to go. Occaisionally Ginger would find some soft snow and sink up to her belly which was quite funny.
At one point we realized that one of the tails on our snowshoes had fallen off, so I retraced our steps looking for it. As I was looking a backcountry skier approached and I asked if he had seen the tail. He had and he told me that he placed it alongside the trail. While we were talking, I noticed that he had the same REI staff backpack that I was carrying. I complimented him on his pack and then he saw mine and we found out that we both work at the same store, although he is even more part-time than I am. I was going to continue along the trail to retrieve the tail but Joe offered to pick it up on his way out since he was going to be heading back earlier than we were. Thanks, Joe!
Through the trees we would catch glimpses of the upper valley which looked like it had much more snow. Chair Peak was particularly stunning with its white mantle of snow. Although there wasn't much snow on the hillsides in our immediate vicinity,we stayed low in the forest to avoid the open slopes that were up higher. While staying low we contoured around the edge of the South Fork of the Snoqualmie river.We stopped and ate lunch at a clearing alongside the river. We built a snow couch and had a nice view of the river as we ate our oranges, chips, pizza, and sandwiches. We needed to be back in town by three, so after lunch we turned around and snowshoed back out. It was a fun day but we all agreed that we needed to return later in the season when there was fresh snow so we could make "ploof, ploof" sounds instead of "crunch, crunch" while snowshoeing!