This year’s winter has not been generous to us so far. In many parts of the world there are severe snow shortages. Pacific Northwest has not been spared. Not only that the ski resorts are not fully operational, there is very little snow in the backcountry. I just returned from Europe, where the conditions were not that much better (my snowshoeing experience from this trip to be posted soon). Quite depressed by the “snow poverty” I joined my good friends and we travelled east of Seattle, to a beautiful Methow Valley to look for snow. On the way there, we passed Snoqualmie Pass where the ski lifts were waiting idly for crowds. When we got to Wenatchee, the weather was not much better, it was warm and wet. In Twisp our hopes were suddenly up as we started to see some white stuff dusting surrounding hills. It was however, not until we reached Mazama the following day, when we felt like winter has actually arrived. While it was rather warm for this time of the year (low 30s), the snow was decent. I decided to part with my mostly cross country gang and start my snowshoeing adventure.
The morning sun burnt a few blue holes in the sky and the Goat Wall appeared in its glory. Alas, mostly bare! All the other surrounding hills had only a thin layer of snow coverage and there was no way I could venture there on snowshoes. I needed plan B.
Thankfully, Methow Valley has plenty of beautiful wooded terrain and open meadows. Using local trail map as my rough guide I decided to set my own path. Since the backcountry was more suitable for hiking today, I needed to design a snowshoeing wilderness experience within the perimeters of the snow coverage. The snow was rather deep in places, wet and heavy with a thin crusty layer on top. It was quite a lot of work to move ahead, and my quads started to complain after about 30 minutes of intense trail setting. I started from the legendary Mazama Store and headed north towards the Goat Wall. I crossed the Base Camp Trail and turned West, Flagg Mountain in front of me. I moved mostly in the woods, occasionally crossing the meadows. I admired the surrounding hills when they would suddenly re-appear form behind the veil of clouds. After about 40 minutes, I reached the Goat Creek. The air was clear and wet and one could almost smell the snow. I was so glad I decided to come here!
Even though I was relatively close to the cross-country trails, I could not hear any human activity and felt like the entire valley belonged just to me. On my way towards Methow River I encountered partially collapsed wind-shelter/warming-hut-like structure, covered on one side entirely with bright green moss. The almost fluorescent hue of the moss contrasted with the white snow and eerie clouds behind to create a unique scene. I could not resist and snapped this fleeting arrangement with my camera.
On my way back, I followed the Methow River. I actually snowshoed in the river bed covered entirely by a thick blanket of snow. What a thrill that was! I could see the outlines of the river rocks, now being snuggly enveloped by snow. I knew the river was not deep, especially in the winter but I stayed close to the bank for extra safety. I followed the river for about an hour before it was time to start thinking about the return. After all it was a successful snowshoe expedition that felt like a backcountry outing even though it was quite close to civilization….