Snow Lake

What seemed to be a great forecast turned into a lousy forecast and then we had great conditions after all. With the snow level forecast to drop to 3500' I planned a winter trip to Snow Lake. Since the trailhead is at 3100' and much precipitation was supposed to come down, this seemed to be the best way to get snow instead of rain close to Seattle. Bernadette came along on this trip. The morning forecast radically changed from the night before and now the snow level was expected to be at 4500' but at the ground in the passes. We drove up to Snoqualmie Pass in bands of rain then dry then rain again. At the Alpental lot it was raining lightly. By 8:40 we were on the way wearing rain gear and hoping for the best. There were only a few cars in the lot. Fresh snow was apparent from the start.

I expected that it would have rained all day Saturday with the high snow level but it snowed here. There were only a few inches at the start of the trail. Within 5 minutes the rain stopped and stayed away all the rest of the hike. I read a mid week report by eelpi stating fresh snow on the trail and we had more of the same. Footprints coming out were visible from the day before. Higher up these were covered by fresh snow. After the switchback where the old trail goes straight ahead we were plowing through untouched snow. This was actually some of the best snow of the whole winter. I only had to wait until the first day of spring to find it. There was no compacted base to speak of but 6-8 inches of snow sure looked like winter. The trees were plastered as well.

I was surprised to hear voices ahead since there were no footprints. A group of four came down on their way out. They had camped at the ridge top overnight. They seemed to have had a great time. We now had a well tromped track up to the ridge. With all the many steps covered by snow I found the trail to be much prettier than in the summer. At the ridge top we had a good foot of fresh snow. There were no tracks down so we made our own. At first we could make out the summer trail but that soon became impossible. I took the path of least resistance more or less straight down the slope. It's amazing how short the route is down to the lake without the many switchbacks. A short ways down we stopped to put on snowshoes. I have carried them up and down many trails this winter and was glad to actually need them.

The snow was soft and 18 inches deep in places. The clouds were thick and we could not see down to the lake. I wound around and was surprised when we came out right at the old cabin site. We went over to a nice view of the lake but Wright Mountain and Chair Peak were in the clouds. This was our turn around spot and lunch spot. It was nice to be the only people in the lake basin. Try doing that in the summer. Climbing back up was fairly easy with the deep track we had set. Unless there is more snow that track will be a highway to the lake. I expected that by the time we reached the ridge top someone would have come up the trail. That was not the case.

The downhill hike was easy. With our uphill track and the four backpackers the snow was well compacted. It had warmed up enough to begin melting the  snow on the trees. In some places it was raining in the woods but not in the open. We also had some phlumf dropping down on us. A few of the dumpings were pretty big. I had one graze me and Bernadette had almost a direct hit. We were more than half way down before we met the first people coming up. I guess the morning rain scared most folks away. By the time we reached the car there were seven or eight other cars in the lot. A couple hard core optimists were even getting ready to try skiing.

This turned out to be a far better trip than I expected. The rain vanished as we began. It rained most of the drive up and the drive back to town. Even at the beginning there was fresh snow. From half way up to the lake the snow was moderately deep and untrammeled. It was neat to be able to snowshoe down to the lake without any other tracks. All in all, we were quite pleased with this close in snowshoe hike.

Trips - 2005