It was late February. I was getting ready to take my Companion Rescue Class at the Steven’s Pass. This was supposed to be a packed day with a 6 hour class in the morning followed by a snowshoe trip in the afternoon. My good friend Evelyn and I left at the crack of dawn (well, not exactly) but early enough – we thought, to make it to the Ski Patrol station at the pass on time. The first part of the journey was uneventful although we were aware of the snowy weather at the higher elevations. We were golden till we reached Sultan and then things started to be a little hairy. A cavalcade of cars suddenly appeared in front of us, everyone driving at the maximum speed of 20 miles an hour. The wet snow was falling more and more “aggressively”. The 2-hour trip to the summit suddenly became much more challenging than it usually is. We needed to strategize. The chances of making it to the class on time were getting slimmer and slimmer. Additionally, the parking situation at Steven’s is usually horrendous, especially on the powder days like today. When we finally reached the summit, I was already about 20 minutes late for my class and there was absolutely no available parking. In a split of a second (and without stopping the car out of the fear that we will get stuck on the now icy and snow covered highway) we made a decision to go directly to the Nordic Center and plan our snowshoe outing there. It took us another 15 minutes to get there and we were one of the first cars to arrive. The parking lot must have been ploughed in the morning, but the snow was falling so fast that it covered all the previous tire tracks. I found a good and strategic spot that would allow us to get out of here in the afternoon. While Evelyn was changing into a waterproof gear, I decided to put the chains on my tires. It is better to be prepared now than worry about it when there is several more inches of snow to deal with. I had some practice with the chains earlier this winter in British Columbia and it did not take me much time to get the car snow ready!
Our initial plan was to go to Lanham Lake in the Wenatchee National Forest. I found this route in Dan Nelson’s great book “Snowshoe Routes – Washington”. It is a moderately steep, 3.2 mile trail with 1100 feet of elevation gain. The highest point is at the 4100 feet. Equipped with all the necessary provisions and waterproof shells we started our ascent. I was extra excited for two reasons; firstly, I was here with my best friend Evelyn. She and I have never snowshoed together. Secondly, I was also here with a tiny Baby Boy who would join us soon but for now he was hiding, well protected by Evelyn’s motherly love. It was truly a snowshoeing adventure for three! When I finally meet Him in June, I will make sure to let him know that he was snowshoeing in the Washington backcountry at the age of 5 months!
Another reason to be excited was the fact that I was trying my new pair of Tubbs FLEX ALP snowshoes. Great new features of these shoes made the climb so much easier! While the weather was not best for driving, it was actually just perfect for snowshoeing. Huge snowflakes were coming down constantly, accumulating on surrounding trees and on us. The trail was becoming more and more difficult to find and we were progressing rather slowly. Once we reached the Lanham Creek, now completely enveloped in a snowy blanket, it became a little easier to follow the route. It was really steep at times but we were not feeling it, completely taken by the beauty of the surrounding snow-laden trees and the quiet solitude of the forest. We stopped frequently to take pictures and immortalize this somewhat unplanned early morning hike. After about an hour we have reached the lake, ringed with more large and old snow covered trees. It was perfectly still and there was nobody else there to spoil the moment. The snow never stopped falling. We needed a shelter to stop for lunch. A little paranoid about the tree wells; we surveyed a few spots along the shore line. We identified a large, “spruce” looking tree with low branches touching the ground. The area next to the trunk was ice-solid and we decided to “camp” there. Home-made sandwiches, hot tea with raspberry juice and other delicacies emerged from our backpacks. It was a feast of sorts in a snowy, peaceful wilderness. We were looking at the lake in front of us and the flanks of Jim Hill Mountain ahead. Should we keep going? It was a truly tempting idea but considering the conditions, the avalanche danger was too high and we decided to leave this part of the Cascades for future exploration.
We followed the same route on a descent, given the fast accumulating snow and rapid disappearance of identifiable landmarks, including the Lanham Creek. We reached the car in great spirits, happy that we discovered a new snowshoeing destination and surely a great summer hike as well. Thank you Mr. Nelson for introducing us to this magical slice of the Pacific Northwest!