Thursday, December 18, 2008

Artic Chill - December 2008

I love winter. And I love snow. I would go to the mountains nearly every weekend to explore the beautiful peaceful winter wonderland, to find the magical beauty of snowbound forest, to enjoy the freedom of dashing through blanketed meadows, to admire snow capped lakes and artfull creations of frozen waterfalls.

I love snow in the mountains. Snow in the cities is a completely diffrent story however. Living in an elevation of mere 114 ft above sea level we are lucky not to see huge amount of snow on roadways too often. Usually we have to deal with couple days of few inches and that’s it.

This year started on a different note. The snow made a late arrival. There was not even 4 inches in the ski resorts the first weekend of December when most years that is the opening weekend. We thought we’re in for a mellow winter – a thought I liked since mellow winter means less avalanche danger and possibility to get to many more places.

Then Mother Nature threw us a surprise and within two days we went from sunny balmy 50 degrees to massive snowstorms and artic chill with temperature dropping in single digits during nighttime. The heavy dark clouds would not stop dumping, soon turning highways in a circus of unskilled drivers negotiation the conditions the best way they can many times by performing stunts ranging from plain stupid to highly dangerous.

When you wake up and your car looks something like this….

... you know it's better to stay at home.

It took us over 2 hours to dig our cars out and clear the driveway. Once we finished the hard work (I don't envy those who live in the more harsh areas of the country and have to make friends with their shovels all winter long), we decided to make the best of the snow day and took our truck for a spin around the town. It's not that often we can go 4 wheeling on our very own street.

The town was full of happy kids hauling their sleds towards the hillside and even happier teens driving trucks, ATVs and snowmobiles. Most of the adults did not show the same enthusiasm as they were shoveling their way out of their houses.

We got 12 inches and they say it's far from over. If we can trust the forecast we can be looking forward for a treat of White Christmas this year. Let it snow!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lake Susan Jane 12/06/2008

Every year I organize a snowshoe trip and potluck party afterwards to celebrate my birthday. This year was not different... We had our snowshoes and all winter gear ready for our planned adventure to Lanham Lake. The only thing that was missing was the snow. We started to head up Hwy 2 thinking perhaps we'll just hike the trail but along the way the plan got re-evaluated and we decided to go for a longer trail.

We started at PCT trailhead on South side of Hwy 2 and hiked up following the trail all the way to the top of the hillside, overlooking the nearly snowless ski area. We encountered snow cumulation on the ground and some icy patches on the trail as we were nearing the top.

Once atop we took a short break and then dropped down on the other side. We found more snow here. Not enough to snowshoe or ski but plenty to enjoy the sound of it crushing under our feet and definitely enough to make the area look wintry and peaceful. The trail led us under powerlines, back to the forest, accross some rockslides, and then we finally arived at the lake. Easy outing, all together about 7 miles and about 1500 ft elevation gain.

Artist Point 11/30/2008

Last season it took 3 tries before we made it to Artist Point. This year we succeeded the first time. The road was clear all the way to the parking lot and since it’s been relatively warm there were no ice patches or other traps waiting for us along the way. We started out on snow. Deep enough to put snowshoes on but it was not necessary for the first part of the trip and few of us decided to boot it up nearly all the way to Artist Point.

We hiked surrounded by clouds with very little visibility but enjoyed strolling in the fresh snow despite the fact that the grand views this area has to offer were hidden behind the nature’s curtain. It felt good to strap snowshoes on again and explore white meadows, ascend snow covered hillsides, and enjoy the freedom of plunge-stepping down the slopes.

We made it to Artist Point in a good time. It was still foggy but it did not stop large part of our group from climbing atop of a peak nearby. At that time the first sign of blue sky appeared above us and partially blinded by the sunshine we got to enjoy the first view of Mt. Baker. Shuksan came out soon afterwards, first mysteriously peaking from the clouds, revealing itself more and more, until it majestically stood in front of us in its full beauty. We went from nearly no views to perfectly clear day in about half hour. It was incredible and made for such a fantastic finish of the trip.