Hyak To Dam Ski

I joined Gary and John on our first cross-country ski trip of the year. The forecast had been improving and it looked to be a dry though mostly overcast day. The Hyak Sno-Park lot opens at 8:00 am. We met at Eastgate P&R at 7:05 am and headed east. I stopped in North Bend for gas and we reached the gate at 7:52 am. It was foggy down low but improved in the mountains. The gate opened at 8:00 am and in we went. We were ready to go at 8:06 am. The parking lot was very icy. I was glad to get across it. The temperature was 29 on the highway sign near Hyak and 27 according to by car thermometer. It felt like 27 or less. The grade was groomed yesterday and was in good shape. 58" of now at Snoqualmie Pass is not a lot for mid February. It was less at Hyak. There was plenty to ski on.

We quickly found out that the right groomed track was not wide enough. My boots hot on both sides and I could not kick and glide. The track was frozen solid. We all had the same problem and went to the left side. This track was great. Frozen solid for great glide and still allow some kick. With few folks out ahead of us taking the return lane was no problem. John had not been on skis since before Covid and had not done a lot of cross-country skiing before that. I hoped he would pick it right up again. He did. He had no trouble keeping up a steady pace. I wanted to take photos and it was challenging. It was too cold to go without gloves. The pads on the thumb and forefinger work sometimes on the glass phone screen but fail more often. I had to keep stopping, take off a glove, take a photo, and put the glove back on. By the time I finished all that the guys were will out in front of me. I would go very fast, catch up, then stop to take another photo. I was getting tired with all the stopping and racing to catch up.

Fortunately, it was almost entirely sunny and the others stopped for some photos too. I don't remember a lot of days skiing with blue skies and almost no wind. Dark and gloomy with thick clouds I see a lot. We set a pretty good pace but all the photo stops added time. Skiing on a groomed track is so much faster than snowshoeing that the stops did not matter. This trip would not have any elevation gain but we would get in a lot of miles. I can hike all day with lots of elevation gain and it never hurts. Skiing uses different muscles. We all knew we would be hurting after this trip. If I could just get in enough ski trips the muscles would strengthen and the pain would stop.

The old railroad grade we were skiing goes down the west side of Lake Keechelus and is mostly in forest. There are open spots with good views across the lake and back up to peaks near Snoqualmie Pass. It the first one we had great views back to the pass. Snoqualmie Mountain stood out especially. The low morning sun was ahead and to the left of us. It creating some very nice morning light. Our next viewpoint was where there once were two snowsheds. They have been gone for decades but in my early years skiing the grade I had to walk through one of them and could often ski around the other one. Now there is just a long section width open views and Lake Keechelus right below. We hit the 3 mile mark near the end of the second snowshed spot. That put us almost half way to the Keechelus Dam.

Skate skiers move much faster than us and they would occasionally zoom by. For the most part we did not see many people. The bridge over Roaring Creek is at 4.75 miles. Just before than I stopped to get photos of John and Gary behind me. Two skiers were coming up on the right track. They turned out to by David Baxter and his friend Kathie. I seem to run into him once or twice each year. After a brief conversation, they took off. We stopped at the bridge for a food and water break. The bridge was in the shade but we stopped at the edge of the sunshine. After than we set about finishing the last 1.50 miles to the dam. By now we were seeing folks coming out from the Crystal Springs end. They were entitled to our left lake and we had to move to let them by.

I was feeling good and sprinted the last few minutes to the bridge over Meadow Creek. The junction with the Lost Lake Road is just beyond. The grade was in the shade but the junction was in the sunshine. I stopped in the sunshine. So far I had skied 6.25 miles in just over 2 hours. That is not bad considering the photo and food breaks. The guys arrived soon after me. I needed another half mile to round up to 13 for the day. Last time Gary and I skied this route we had lunch off the road near the dam. I headed off on the grade for a fast half mile. The grade was even faster here. In less than four minutes I had a quarter mile done. I turned around as the groomer was heading my way. I raced it back and nearly beat it. The groomer would be heading off to Hyak while we had lunch.

I went over to the gate on the road over the dam and did not see the guys. There were two people well down on the dam road. I could not see them anywhere so I hoped that was them and headed for the dam. I reached them on the end of the dam with great views up the lake. Yes, that was Gary and John. Though I had already skied 6.9 miles, it was still only 10:28 am. I was warm at first but a light breeze was enough to have me putting on a windshirt. We sat facing north with a very white Silver Peak showing though a low spot on the ridges. We could see Kaleetan Peak and Snoqualmie Mountain among others too. The bright sunshine was a real treat in February. Our break lasted until 11:24 am. We had an hour just enjoying the views and sunshine.

Our ski trip back was a bit more difficult as we were starting to feel the sore muscles. It was now above freezing and the track was a bit slushy and slower in places. Most of it was still good for skiing. I took fewer photos on the way back. My early recollections of this ski trip was starting at Crystal Springs because there was no sno-park at Hyak. There was no grooming either. I would often break trail or find one person's track in place. That was a lot of work but I did not see many other people. Now the route is groomed all winter and the big lots at Hyak and Crystal Springs are full most weekends. On the plus side, it is a lot easier skiing back on a groomed track. We made steady progress on the ski back. The last few miles were the toughest. As the Hyak lot came into view I went for one last sprint. It was hard but kind of exhilarating as the old guy passed half a dozen skiers in the other lane.

We arrived back at the sno-park at 1:21 pm. I skied 13.3 miles with less than 50' of elevation gain. I round that down to zero. Most years my first ski trip has lots of elevation gain. That means trying to say up while braking my speed on the descent. That is really tiring. This year I just had a lot of miles to cover. Both kinds of trips are painful afterwards. Both are fun. It was nice to do an longer trip and not have to worry about falling down. The sunshine was a very nice extra we were not expecting. Views of the lake and snowy peaks were terrific. All in all, it was as very nice day out on the snow.

Icy Parking Lot
Getting Started
Old Sno-Park
Sunshine & 27 degrees
Back In Shade
Cold Creek
Gary Near Sunshine
Looking Back
Snoqualmie Mountain
Old Snowsheds Spot
Interesting Lighting
Blasted Spot
Sunglasses Were Needed
David Baxter
Across The Bridge
Another View Back
Zoomed View
Lost Lake Road
Lunch Spot

Looking North
Packing Up To Leave
Meadow Creek
Cool Shade
Roaring Creek Bridge
Gary & John Skiing
Break Time
Sunny Lake
Gary's Trail
Short Sleeves
At The Finish
Chikamin & Alta Peaks
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2023