Sky Lakes – Winter 2016
This one is in the planning stages today. I hope to spend next weekend up there in “my backyard.” It is only a weekend, but short outings are worthy of write-ups, restorative, and are the most common in life. Besides, this trip will be a good learning experience, because it is will be my first time snow camping. I am curious to see if I will melt my way through 4 feet of snow to the ground below!
With the shortened afternoon available yesterday, I discovered that I can average over 2mph in semi-packed spring snow. From the highway to my favorite spot on the bluff above Margurette Lake, I estimate it to be about 8 miles. This includes 2000 feet of elevation gain so a long half day should get me there. No problem there, but night might get interesting.
I have a freestanding tent and plan on packing the snow before setting up, but how much melts and finds its way to my sleeping bag is the question. It will be in the teens and I will have plenty of clothes. I won’t get frostbite and I won’t die, but I could have a tired and cold night! Oh well, gotta learn somehow!
Feb. 20 — Reversed expectations
As you might have guessed from my pre-trip summary above, I thought the hiking would be swift and easy, but the camping could get dicey. Wrong! The hike in became a slugfest and the camping on snow proved to be no issue.
So I parked on the side of Westside Road and walked up the forest service road to the trailhead. Nothing like being the first to walk on untouched snow!
Leaving the road behind and its once-in-a-while vehicle noise, I entered a world of muffled silence. No birds. No animals. Tracks, but no creatures. All was quiet except for my snowshoes in the powder. A couple miles and an hour later I came to the Cherry Creek entrance to Sky Lakes Wilderness.
The wide road now became a narrow trail which soon became my own custom navigation through the trees. Keeping the sound of the creek on my right, I headed west over moguls created by saplings bent under the snow. I stepped around three foot ponderosa reaching 150′ into the sky. Sometimes I could tell I was above the trail because log cuts made vertical angles in the snow, but most of the time I was wandering freely among the firs and hemlocks.
Another two miles and another hour I came to an opening where I could partially view Cherry Peak, my mountain of meditation in years past. No trails lead to the peak so I always had it to myself, except the time when two bald eagles dive bombed me. I heard their screechy whistle and looked up in time from where I was sitting to break off their attack about 50 feet above me!
After a short lunch break in the bottoms where several streams flow into the main creek, I began the ascent. The Sky Lakes shelf is above 6000′ while the road is barely above 4000′. Most of the elevation gain takes place after the stream junctions in the last horizontal mile. Not sure if you can tell the steepness from this picture, but it took me 3.5 hours to get to the upper shoulder. The powder was warming up in the 40 degree sunny afternoon and clumping together. Instead of falling through my snowshoes it was sticking on top, making me carry it from the bottom to top of 12 to 18 inch potholes.
By the time I got up to Wizzard Lake, a mile from my goal of Trapper Lake, I was exhausted. I set up my tent, melted snow, re-setup my tent and went to bed at 6pm. Sometimes things don’t go as you planned them!
I am very thankful that sleeping on snow is pretty easy. I leveled an inclined site and stayed dry. My plastic sheeting was merely damp and the snowprint I made was at most half an inch. I think any decent sleeping bag with a good pad under it will keep you dry.
Every trip I have taken has had at least one buried gem. Waking up just before 6am had its reward!
A flat small picture cannot do the scene justice, because it was more than a scene. It was an experience. To be out there in the middle of all that snow with only a 3:30am owl and God to keep you company and then be greeted and covered by such a glorious dome as the dawning sky was unique and amazing! It seemed only a small step away to walk on the pristine sea of glass that makes one’s feet tingle with eternal life. Now, in this cold world, we experience only the leftovers from the original perfection of Eden, but they give us a taste of the even grander glories awaiting God’s children. Let us set this world on fire with love and help bring an end to evil once and for all!