What seemed to be a great forecast turned into a lousy
forecast and then we had great conditions after all. With the snow level
forecast to drop to 3500' I planned a winter trip to Snow Lake. Since the
trailhead is at 3100' and much precipitation was supposed to come down, this
seemed to be the best way to get snow instead of rain close to Seattle. Bernadette
came along on this trip. The morning forecast radically changed from the night
before and now the snow level was expected to be at 4500' but at the ground
in the passes. We drove up to Snoqualmie Pass in bands of rain then dry then
rain again. At the Alpental lot it was raining lightly. By 8:40 we were on
the way wearing rain gear and hoping for the best. There were only a few
cars in the lot. Fresh snow was apparent from the start.
I expected that it would have rained all day Saturday with the high snow
level but it snowed here. There were only a few inches at the start of the
trail. Within 5 minutes the rain stopped and stayed away all the rest of
the hike. I read a mid week report by eelpi stating fresh snow on the trail
and we had more of the same. Footprints coming out were visible from the
day before. Higher up these were covered by fresh snow. After the switchback
where the old trail goes straight ahead we were plowing through untouched
snow. This was actually some of the best snow of the whole winter. I only
had to wait until the first day of spring to find it. There was no compacted
base to speak of but 6-8 inches of snow sure looked like winter. The trees
were plastered as well.
I was surprised to hear voices ahead since there were no footprints. A
group of four came down on their way out. They had camped at the ridge top
overnight. They seemed to have had a great time. We now had a well tromped
track up to the ridge. With all the many steps covered by snow I found the
trail to be much prettier than in the summer. At the ridge top we had a good
foot of fresh snow. There were no tracks down so we made our own. At first
we could make out the summer trail but that soon became impossible. I took
the path of least resistance more or less straight down the slope. It's
amazing how short the route is down to the lake without the many switchbacks.
A short ways down we stopped to put on snowshoes. I have carried them up
and down many trails this winter and was glad to actually need them.
The snow was soft and 18 inches deep in places. The clouds were thick and
we could not see down to the lake. I wound around and was surprised when
we came out right at the old cabin site. We went over to a nice view of the
lake but Wright Mountain and Chair Peak were in the clouds. This was our
turn around spot and lunch spot. It was nice to be the only people in the
lake basin. Try doing that in the summer. Climbing back up was fairly easy
with the deep track we had set. Unless there is more snow that track will
be a highway to the lake. I expected that by the time we reached the ridge
top someone would have come up the trail. That was not the case.
The downhill hike was easy. With our uphill track and the four backpackers
the snow was well compacted. It had warmed up enough to begin melting the
snow on the trees. In some places it was raining in the woods but
not in the open. We also had some
dropping down on us. A few of the dumpings were pretty big. I had one graze
me and Bernadette had almost a direct hit. We were more than half way down
before we met the first people coming up. I guess the morning rain scared
most folks away. By the time we reached the car there were seven or eight
other cars in the lot. A couple hard core optimists were even getting ready
to try skiing.
This turned out to be a far better trip than I expected. The rain vanished
as we began. It rained most of the drive up and the drive back to town. Even
at the beginning there was fresh snow. From half way up to the lake the snow
was moderately deep and untrammeled. It was neat to be able to snowshoe down
to the lake without any other tracks. All in all, we were quite pleased with
this close in snowshoe hike.