Hyak - Stampede Road Ski

Gary wanted to go for a cross country ski trip. Unfortunately, the forecast was for snow then rain at Snoqualmie Pass. Also, there had been no snowfall in a week and temperatures were above and below freezing numerous times. All the makings for icy conditions. We settled on a compromise. A trip along the level railroad grade behind Lake Keechelus. Fast skiing and we would turn around if we had a steady rain. The Hyak sno-park opens at 8:00 am. We met at 7:15 at Eastgate. It rained for most all of the drive though it turned to snow right near the pass. We dropped down to Hyak and arrived at the gate at 7:50 am. Much to our surprise, the gate was open. Three cars were already in the lot. The crew that sells the permits arrived just as we were heading out.

It was snowing big flakes as we headed to the groomed grade. The grade had been groomed the day before and was in pretty good shape. The snow was icy but the tracks were in good shape. Just before reaching the old smaller sno-park lot we passed two snowshoers. We set a good pace though we did not push it all day. Most of our skiing is uphill then downhill. Working hard uphill and much easier downhill. This day it was steady work all the way. Also a few different muscles in diagonal striding. I could feet that by the end of the day. I stopped a number of times for photos or food breaks. Otherwise, we were on the move all of the time. It quickly became clear that with the temperature a degree or two above freezing that we needed to remove a layer or two. I dumped my shirt altogether and went with a light polypro layer and a light jacket. That worked all day.

It was fun to ski in the falling snow. A little less fun when it warmed into rain. Fortunately for us, the rain was very light and sporadic. A few miles along we passed two more skiers. That accounted for two of the tree cars in the lot. I used to ski the grade several times each winter for a quick long aerobic workout. It had been about a decade since my last trip. The grooming machine passed us by as was heading towards Hyak. It sets a one track on each pass. We now had a brand new lane to use. It was faster than the older one. At just under five miles we reached the bridge over Roaring Creek. Since my last visit railings have been added. With all the snow they are not very high. As we neared the road to Lost Lake/Meadow Creek we could smell the snowmobile exhaust. From at least a third of a mile away. I don't recall the odor traveling so far.

I figured that we would turn around at the road, almost 6 1/2 miles from the Hyak sno-park. Gary felt like going farther. Okay by me. On my last visit there was a fence blocking access to the Lake Keechelus dam. Not so this time. We planned to check it out on the way back. To this point we had lost about 40 feet of elevation. Over the distance it was unnoticeable. As close to flat as you will find. The grade continued just the same. The next mile and a half seemed to go on forever. We began to see some folks who started at the nearby Crystal Springs sno-park. As we neared the end of our route Gary noticed one guy. He noticed when he left Hyak ahead of us. We saw him again near Roaring Creek. We stopped for photos and he kept going. The guy from the third car went as far as us and about the same speed. He was heading back now.

We stopped at the Stampede Pass Road. Gary's GPS proved to be very accurate this day. It was about 7.75 miles. With stops we took 1:59. We started at 8:05 am and it was now 10:04 am. Average speed was just under 4 mph. Faster than hiking. We had a partial early lunch and started back. At the Meadow Creek Road we turned right and ventured out onto the dam. In the old days we used to ski from the now closed Price Creek sno-park across the day. After 9-11 the fence went up. I hoped to get some views but the low clouds made that difficult. We stopped short of two snowshoers ahead of us. We retraced our steps on the icy route back to the groomed grade of the Iron Horse Trail again. Now that it was later we began to see skating skiers zooming by us. The grooming machine made another pass leaving another freshly cut track. We passed Roaring Creek and about 4 miles from the end we stopped for the rest of our lunch. The wind was light making the stop pleasant.

Views were still minimal though we could see across the lake. The avalanche fences placed above I-90 were very visible from here. You don't see them while driving right below them. The snow was so hard that I took off my skis and my boots did not even mark the icy snow. Until, that is, I walked down to the grade. At the edge of the grade I managed to fall in more than knee deep with both feet. Getting out was not so easy. With 12 miles done and 4 to go we were a bit tired. We kept up a nice easy pace the rest of the way. We were also passed by the grooming machine for a third time. It was regrooming a track groomed only a few hours earlier. I Have no idea why. The last few miles those previously unused muscles let me know that they were there. That's the problem with only skiing once or twice a year. We cruised back to the sno-park at 12:55 pm. Including our stops we were out for 4:50. Not so bad for 16 miles.

This trip did not have me gaining any elevation for the year. It did add in a sizable 16 miles however. The conditions were much better than expected. A little snow at first then some sporadic light rain and a lot of dry skiing too. The crowds were minimal. Perhaps the dismal forecast kept most folks at home. We did see a number of folks in the last two miles but not nearly as many as often are there this time of year. I like ski trips with elevation gain, great views, and fast descents. Sometimes it's fun to have a long and flat trip too. Making the day even better, it rained most all the way home. Lots of cars at Tiger Mountain for a soaker of a hiking day. My second ski trip of the year was a fun day in the mountains.

Fresh Snow
Gary Get Ready
Three Other Cars
Old Sno-Park
Creek Crossing
Groomer Ahead
At Old Snow Shed Site
Gary Skis Grade
Icy Tree
Roaring Creek Bridge
Roaring Creek
Gary At Stampede Road
Heading Back
Keechelus Dam
View From Dam
Leaving Meadow Ck Rd
Back At Roaring Creek
Snow Fences
Skate Skier
Almost Back
Hyak Sno-Park
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017