After a record-dry winter in California, and three snow trips postponed due to lack of snow, Mother Nature finally brought us some snow! On February 22nd, Inner City Outings and 28 students from the GEO Environmental Science and Design Academy at Grant High School traveled up to Echo Summit and were treated to a gorgeous warm and sunny day playing in the snow! Thanks to the generosity of Tubbs Snowshoes and their “Get Outdoors Program), our new fleet of snowshoes made their debut trip. Our first challenge- getting snowshoes on 28 kids who had never seen snowshoes before. In the past, this was always time consuming, and the kids we’d outfit first were antsy waiting for the others. Not so this year. While all of the models that Tubbs had donated to us were great, the Flex ESCs were particularly easy to strap onto 48 antsy feet! Snowshoes now on, we explored the boulder fields on the Rock Garden Loop, a great place to test out our new snowshoes- climbing up and down steep rocks, skidding down slopes, and running from snowball ambushes. We then continued to climb up to a beautiful vista- gazing upon Lake Tahoe and the canyon of Christmas Valley. While at first skeptical of the climb up to the viewpoint, gazing upon the Sierra Nevadas in their glory, the kids marveled at how much they enjoyed the peacefulness of getting away from the crowds, and had to admit the effort was well worth it. Along the way, there were plenty of stops to make snow angels and snowmen, and to rest and enjoy the mountain views. Back at the trailhead, Adventure Mountain, we enjoyed a couple hours of sledding and more snowball fights. Everyone left with big smiles and fond memories, and hopes to get back up to the snow again soon.
It has been a few weeks since I have been snowshoeing, but I have a pretty good reason for that. Let me introduce Tubbs’ youngest fan, measuring approximately one snowshoe long!
After being in the house for a few weeks with that cute newborn, my whole body was itching to get out and exercise. Escaping to the mountains to snowshoe was the perfect solution. This snowshoeing trip took a little more planning than others, with finding a babysitter and making sure he had enough milk. But after one more feeding, we finally got out the door and were able to enjoy a few hours of bliss in the snow. With the warmer temperatures we had to go a higher up the canyon to find a trail with enough snow. And since my body was still recovering from birth, we chose an easy and popular trail, Donut Falls. There were lots of other people out and I saw a wide range of ages, from an elderly woman to a baby. I love how snowshoeing is a great activity for all ages and can involve the whole family. I can’t wait to take my baby when he is a little older! I also love how snowshoeing is a great workout, but I hardly even notice because I enjoy it so much!
Trail Walking Ambassador
Last weekend I was debating where to go for my next snowshoe outing. It was snowing in the mountains and the conditions were guaranteed to be amazing! For a long time now I was drawn to Cypress Mountain in British Columbia. Every time I drove to Whistler, I would pass the road sign for the access road to the now famous site of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. What I did not know about the area was that in addition to skiing it also has an amazing Nordic Center and miles of backcountry terrain for snowshoeing.
I left Sunday morning at dawn. It was raining in Seattle but by the time I reached Skagit Valley the sun was shining and my hopes for an amazing weekend on the snow were high. Border crossing was a breeze and by 10am I was skiing at Cypress. For the first few hours the weather cooperated even though it was quite windy. Around noon, the snow started falling heavily and it did not stop until the following day. I was done skiing around 4pm. After changing into my snowshoeing gear I headed over to the base of the Nordic area where I was to meet with my guide Kim and the rest of the evening expedition. The snow was falling like crazy. I started to worry about driving down the steep road back to Vancouver later that night. I made an executive decision – I need to put the chains on my tires now because later it may be too late. And so I did. I was ready to face any conditions!
We started the ascend thru a thick forest of western hemlocks, amabilis firs and yellow cedars. The visibility was challenging because of the constantly falling snow. With headlights on, however, we were able to proceed at a reasonable pace. It was magical. Large old growth trees were towering over us, branches heavy with snow. We were setting the trail in some parts as the fast snow accumulation covered previously visible tracks. Our destination was Hollyburn Lodge. Build in 1926 it is one of the oldest buildings in the Cypress Mountain Provincial Park, and a home of the local ski camp. It was initially constructed much lower on the slopes of the Hollyburn Ridge but later moved to its current location. If you are interested in the history of the lodge you can read more here: http://cypressmountain.com/hollyburn-lodge.
We meandered by the light from our head lamps for a couple of hours, stopping here and there to admire an unexpected snow formation or a beautiful tree. We finally got to the First Lake and from there it was just a stone throw to the lodge. I was starving! I did not have anything to eat since lunch and it was now close to 8pm. I was looking forward to a bowl of a hot soup or better yet the cheese fondue that we were promised.
The Hollyburn Lodge has all the charm of the old European ski lodge. Low wooden beams, old stove in the corner, uneven floor and lots of old alpine sports paraphernalia, including a pair of baby snowshoes. We were seated at a long table and the feast begun! We devoured yummy morsels of vegetables, bread and meat dipped in a divine mixture of cheese, wine and herbs. I forgot how good fondue can be! We washed all that down with hot cider and finished off with a chocolate fondue. I couldn’t move after the meal – while it would have been nice to stay at the lodge for a little longer (maybe even overnight), it was time to go back. We had several cars to dig out from the snow and we were all hoping to make it to Vancouver by midnight. The descent from the lodge was very pleasant and definitely helped the digestion.
Who knew there was a slice of heavenly, untouched backcountry sitting just above the city of Vancouver and waiting to be explored…
Alaska had unseasonably warm weather in January with temperatures in the mid 50’s for several weeks and raining making for icy conditions which are not ideal for the winter enthusiast. With the old snow gone and no new snow falling for what seemed forever, people became depressed, demoralized and moody. I am speaking for myself here but I did notice it in others too. The winter darkness seemed gloomy without the soft blanket of white that normally covers the ground.
Finally on Valentine ’s Day the smallest, faintest of white flakes started to fall from the sky. People everywhere were giddy with excitement! I am talking about me here, but I assure you it wasn’t just me. Facebook and twitter lit up with tales of snow falling like it were a gift from above. That day and for several days that followed we received a light dusting, perhaps only an inch or even less in most places. It was enough to change everything. Moods changed, optimism returned and there was hope!
Then it snowed in earnest, I woke up to 5 or 6 inches and knew what I had to do. I packed up our snowshoes, dogs, snacks, water and gear and we headed for the mountains. My youngest daughter at 6 was so excited to get out on her purple Tubbs snowshoes she took off running up the trail, not waiting for the rest of us. Starting at the prospect peak trailhead in the Chugach Mountain range we made our way down the trail stopping to note the trees, animal tracks and beauty around us….all covered in white again. After a couple hours it was time to turn around and head back, though no one really wanted to. If only we had all day. As we made our way back we passed several other people who were also out snowshoeing, trekking with their dogs and enjoying the snow. I noticed that we all had something in common – a smile on our face! The snow, the mountains, it was just what we needed.
It was 7 degrees Fahrenheit when I arrived at the Nordic Center at Steven’s Pass. The air was crisp and I was happy we had tons of work to do to set up the stage for the 2014 Tubbs Romp to Stomp as it would keep us warm. I was excited to meet the Tubbs team. We swiftly erected the tents, unpacked several hundred pairs of snowshoes and we were ready to roll.
Few hours later participants of the Romp started arriving. I had the honor of staffing one of the registration tents and distribute the bibs and goody bags. It was very inspiring to meet the enthusiastic crowd, all in pink, and especially THE SURVIVORS. I could not believe how many people showed up despite the chilling temperatures.
I then represented our team – K2Stompers –in the 5K snowshoe walk. I was very grateful to all my friends for supporting my team and helping me raise over $700.00 to support a great cause. I stomped for all these brave women and men who fought and are currently fighting breast cancer. I stomped for my patients who taught me so much about life. I stomped for a cure!
Yes, it was not about backcountry that day. It was about togetherness, friendships, families, love and hope. I felt inspired and grateful I can be a part of such a special event. Thank you Tubbs for making it possible!
Not an ordinary Valentine’s Day, trekking off into the frozen backcountry, leaving my special someone at home with a heartfelt card and promises to be fulfilled post trip. Admittedly it was error on my part in planning last November and one that is not likely to be repeated again anytime soon.
We absolutely hit the weather though, bright and sunny with waist deep snow! The Mid-West has had a great winter season compared to many in recent history and the Medicine Lake crew along with Tubbs has taken every advantage. This time we went directly west from Minneapolis to the Flambeau River State Forest near (aptly named) Winter, WI. There are many entry points but we chose an area of the Forest which showed the greatest open spaces between ski and snowmobile trails. We found solitude! In fact, a lesson learned when looking for out of the way places in winter – canoe-in only campsites! The area we chose was not at all traveled, offered parking near the service road entrance, a campfire ring and ample room for a four person Quinzee!
Despite our off trail excursions, hearty laughs, Medicine Lake initiations (everyone is offered a whole dehydrated banana on their first outing), the Quinzee was the story of our weekend! It took focus and a lot of our energy.
Three guys and one Canadian female on a mission; at one point the three of us stood outside the Quinzee drawing straws on who would next “go under” to support this non-stoppable Canadian and excavate her Quinzee shavings. She truly was the driving force in this accomplishment!
Successfully the Quinzee was big enough to hold the four of us with plenty of room to spare. It was my first opportunity to sleep in one and it was worth the effort and energy! We all were super tired from blazing our own trails trekking in the backcountry, shoveling the same pile of snow twice and keeping up our body temps in the cold, snowy weather. When we retired we had cloud cover and a steady snow fall so when the last headlamp went out it was completely black. Within a few hours however the skies cleared and the Qunizee was illuminated by a shining full moon. Really cool! As the night drew on I was loosening up my zero degree bag to balance my body temp with the cozy warmth of the Quinzee.
This was no understatement by the way, and a testament to the benefits of sleeping in a Quinzee, because when we stepped outside at 6:45am it was -20 and we all slept in complete warmth! As a comparison our first night was spent in tents at -10, clear skies, full moon, yes we did a night hike without the need for headlamps – incredible – but we all slept lightly closing up any gap in our gear that was letting the cold sink in.
As one of our unnamed crew stated; Slept in a Quinzee – Check; Froze my ass off – Check. By all measures however it was a great weekend getting back into those places that only snowshoes can afford to share the winter wilderness in solitude with friends!
Thankfully the white stuff has been coming down by the bucket loads in the last few days. Initially, the snowpack was pretty unstable and avalanche warnings were high. The good news is everything around here has bonded nicely, so the mountain playgrounds are open once again! On Saturday mornings, Dorian runs a ladies only clinic. She gets to introduce women to the pleasures of confidence on snow, and she’s good at it. While she’s doing her thing with the girls, I get to do my thing which is usually exploring or digging snow caves. We generally build igloos together. The thing that we like a lot about the Tubbs Mountaineers, is that they are stiff in deep snow and provide a ton of floatation. We own the men’s 25′s, 30′s, and 36′s. Before I forget; a note about footwear.
Girls: don’t be shy to try on a men’s boot if you aren’t getting the fit from a women’s cut.
Dorian wears a men’s 8, as a women’s 9 just doesn’t make it in most brands for fit. Her men’s 8 not only fits the women’s Flex Alps, but all the Mountaineers as well. We share a lot depending on the conditions. The first time I wore the 36′s, I thought it felt weird at first; but you get used to them and are thankful for the crazy floatation in deep powder. Great traction and bindings as well. Anyway, I built a neat little hideout near one of our favorite spots. No one ever goes there except us, as it’s “out of the way”. I really enjoyed the Mountaineers today, and am really happy we added them to our armamentarium of Tubbs snowshoes. Funny thing: every cave or igloo we build is called “Tubbs Lodge”. We dream about owning our own little lodge someday where we could entertain on snow, then into the hot tub, and finish the night off around a cozy fireplace…
Brent and Dorian
Day Hiking Ambassadors