Deer Creek Road

Janet was free for a snowshoe trip and suggested Kelcema Lake via Deer Creek Road. I skied to the lake in 1990, Snowshoed with the Mountaineers in 2000, snowshoed in 2019, and failed due to deep snow in 2019. The days are getting very short now and so I was out the door at 6:30 am. I went to Janet's house and she drove up the Mountain Loop Highway to just short of the closed gate on the highway. There as one car parked already. Most folks go to the gate to snowmobile or snowshoe up to Big Four. We arrived at about 8:15 am. By 8:28 we were packed and across the icy road. It was right about 32 degrees. The road starts with a short steep ascent. It is popular with families for sliding down.  This day we found that there are truck tracks heading up. The road is closed to vehicles in winter but someone did not get the message. We followed the tracks for a quarter mile. At a wide spot the driver managed to get turned around. The snow is torn up here. We had no trouble getting by in boots. Now we just had some boot tracks. While there was snow right from the highway, it was not yet very deep.

At one mile the old Double Eagle road turns off. I tried skiing it in 1990 and it was already getting overgrown back then. The route is in forest. We soon reached the only spot where there are views out. Several snowy peaks are seen. At this point, I was starting to sink in a few inches. We decided to put on snowshoes here. The snow slowly grew deeper. We seen saw ski tracks. They were the only tracks over fresh snow. They must have belonged to the folks in the one other car at the start of the road. The tracks looked to be in a trench likely set by snowshoers. We made an effort not to follow their tracks. It was a bit more work but we made our own new trench except where the road was to narrow. Our good pace on the hard snow down low gave way to a much slower pace now that we were breaking trail. The underlying hard snow allowed each step to sink the same depth. That is much easier than some steps sinking much farther than others.

The road gains elevation steadily but gently. One feature of the day was the overhanging branches. Much of the way has deciduous tree branches forming a cathedral roof as they overhang from both sides. It looks neat with snow on the branches. The downside is it is heavy wet snow. When it falls off it weighs a lot on impact. There were "craters" where they landed. Fortunately, none of them fell on us. The fresh snow continued to get deeper and make our work harder. It is great to have half a dozen people trading off the lead on a snowshoe trip. We were four people short. The road was closed for several years in the late 2010s. A washout took out the road. On my 2019 trips I crossed the washout. It was not too bad on snowshoes but was slower. The road was repaired a few years later. Now it is much easier to cross. We were surprised to see that the washout began a slight distance above the road.

At about 2.75 miles the fresh snow depth was 4-5 inches and getting deeper. We realized that getting to the lake for a 10 miles trip was not realistic. Our goal dropped to making it to the trailhead at 4 miles. Our pace really snowed down when we crossed the bridge over the outlet creek from Kelcema Lake. We were now breaking about 6 inches of snow. That might not seem like much but this is Cascade Concrete. The snow is not light and powdery. It is mostly water. It clumps on big icy balls that are heavy. Each time I lifted my snowshoe it had a few pounds of snow on it. It get a bit old very fast. We stopped for some food and water at the creek crossing. I was still determined to at least reach the one switchback in the road.

The last 100 yards seemed to take forever. Step, sink, step, sink over and over. When we reached the switchback at 3.5 miles it was clear that getting to the summer trailhead for Kelcema Lake would take too much time and too much effort for our first snowshoe trip of the year. It was time for lour lunch break. We had almost no wind all day. The temperature rose as we climbed out of the valley near the start then seemed to remain in the mid 30s. Not bad conditions at all. On my first visit in 1990 the switchback was in a big clearcut. I had great views out to peaks. Now the trees are 30 years old and tall enough to block out all views. We arrived at 11:09. It took us 2:41 to travel 3.5 miles. That works out to 1.5 mph. Not very fast but not bad under the circumstances.

It was time to head down. Our hard work would now pay off. We had a trench in place. Not perfect, but a whole lot easier than breaking untracked snow. Our speed went way up. After about half a mile we met a group of four coming up. They had a much easier time in our trench. We then had a much much easier time. After six snowshoers went by, the trench was getting pretty smooth. Our speed picked up even more. We took very few breaks on our descent. At the open viewpoint where we put on our snowshoes we decided to keep them on. The snow down low was now melting. The snowshoes provided good traction. We were within less than a quarter mile of the bottom when we saw the fifth person of the day. We had almost total solitude on this trip. The last short steeper drop to the bottom had some kids sliding on inner tubes and disks. We made it back to the car at about 1:10 pm. Our descent took only 1:40. That was 61 minute less than our ascent.

It was well above freezing now and the road was no longer icy. Our drive home was faster too. This trip did not reach our original goal but it was still a lot of fun. I had as good a workout as snowshoeing up a smooth trench all the way to the lake. This route is not often busy but only seeing one group until we were back near the start was a lot less than I expected. Snowshoeing uses some different muscles. I am always hurting after the first trip of the year. Why not make it a long trail breaking trip? Seven miles with 1300' of gain is an  easy trip by the numbers but with deep snow up high it was not easy. It is still early December. I should be able to get in many more winter snow trips before spring arrives.

Getting started
Peak In View
Truck Tracks
Still Just Boots
Thinning Clouds
Snowshoes Time
Snowy Branches
Janet At Washout Site
View From Washout
Breaking Trail
Asphalt Creek Crossing
Flocked Trees
Small Falls
Winter Wonderland
Snow Loaded
Soft Deep Snow
Near Half Way
Janet At Lunch
A Little Sunshine
Deep Trench
Janet In The Lead
Dual Tracks
White Sky
Washout Site
Snow Pattern
Cloudy View
Back At Truck Tracks
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2022