for another winter after work hike. The snow level was down to 700' -
1000'. We chose not to do Tiger where the trailhead was below the snow
level. Instead we decided to go to Rattlesnake Mountain. The west end
of the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail (RMT)
starts at about 1050', more than 500' above High Point at Tiger. Snow
along I-90 at the Highway 18 junction. The road up from Exit 27 was
bare though there was some snow on the sides. A little snow where we
parked outside the gate. The gate closes at 8:00 pm. The parking lot
was mostly snowy though a very thin coating. We were ready to get going
by 4:40 pm. This was the first week after daylight saving time so dark
would not occur until near 7:30 pm.
The snow stayed thin for the first half mile then began to deepen. Easy
walking. It was snowing lightly when we started. It soon stopped and
that was it for precipitation. In the first clear cut we passed a guy
coming down. That was the first and last person we saw. Everything was
covered in fresh snow. The ground was bare at this elevation just a few
days ago. One big storm and lots of snow. We took a short clothing
break at the power line corridor. There were no footsteps now but it
was easy to break trail. When we reached the next road intersection
steps reappeared. Someone must have walked that section of road. Not a
bad idea as we had a lot of branches weighed down with heavy snow to
push through. Rain jackets were a must.
At the turn off to Stan's Overlook the footprints ended for good. It
took us just over one hour to reach the half way point at 2 miles. The
snow was about a foot or more deep now. Back in forest the snow cover
thinned. As we neared the bridge over the creek it was more out of the
thick forest and the snow was deeper than ever. The snow made this
trail look better than ever. Gary finally ended his trail breaking and
John took over. The route was easy enough to follow though we had seen
very little dirt from the start. From past winter experience I know the
snow would be deeper when we left the forest and hit the old road
section. It sure was.
I took over the lead. Wow! Much deeper than I expected. Two plus feet
of soft totally unconsolidated snow. We brought one set of snowshoes
but it was so soft I doubt they would have helped. The pace really
slowed down. In addition to the deep snow there were trees bent over
the whole road plastered with a lot of snow. I would a route around
them as best I could. We made it back into forest and the going was
easier. The trail left the old road and the snow depth increased. John
took over the lead again.
There are several open spots where the depth was a whole lot more. John
was near waist deep slogging through. With four of us along we did put
in a bit of a trench which helped with the descent. At the two hour
mark we were maybe 5 minutes from Grand Prospect on bare trail. A whole
lot longer in very deep snow. I took over the lead one more time. At
the last switchback we were only 100 feet or so from the viewpoint. It
took another five minutes. I tried to go around a bent over tree and
fell in past my waist. Four feet deep and no way forward. John went
right and slogged through. Hard to believe that this far west there was
nearly 4 feet of snow that fell in just a few days.
Thankfully there was almost no wind. At 28 degrees it was cold enough.
Visibility was non existent. North Bend was down there somewhere. We
slogged back into the trees for a food and water break. Dry gloves on
we headed down. Four miles up in 2:20 was a new slowest pace ever.
started down first and Gary, John, and I started down at a relatively
fast pace. Fast for the conditions but not all that fast. It was much
easier with five sets of footprints already in place. Off the road and
back in the forest we caught up with David. We left Grand Prospect at
7:20 pm and by 8:00 pm we turned on our headlamps. With all the snow
the lights reflected great and really lit up the forest.
The rest of the way down was just a nice walk in the forest. We had a
great time. It was a lot more effort than I expected but a normally
easy hike became a little more of an adventure. It took us 2 hours to
come down. We arrived at the deserted road at 9:40 pm. Easily the
latest return on our headlamp hikes. There is only a week left in
winter but it looks like mid winter on Rattlesnake Mountain.
Warning: Photos were taken with a cell phone in dim lighting. The
results are not up to par.
Click on thumbnails to get
Snow At Start
Pushing Through Branches
No Footprints On Bridge
Footprints On Bridge
Heavily Laden Branches
John Breaks Trail
Waist Deep At GP
Buried Trail Sign