I like to snowshoe. It’s great exercise, there is generally very gorgeous scenery surrounding you, and it’s really a personal challenge, regardless of how many people are marching through the woods with you.
My Rooster loves to downhill ski. It should come as no surprise to those of you who know him. He has a penchant for speed. Any kind of speed, whether it be on a Harley, in the Maverick, on the boat, and in this scenario and season of the year, it’s on skis.
Don’t get me wrong, I too am a speed freak, but generally as a passenger, chronographer, photographer and map driven gps queen.
I have tried downhill skiing, lest you forget, here is the link to the story of my last attempt at downhill skiing. It’s just not for me.
So during the winter months, while he is bombing down the mountain at White Pass, I can generally be found across Highway 12 at the Nordic Center, snowshoeing my way to fit thighs and sore calves.
This passed weekend we ventured on out to White Pass on Mount Rainier on Thursday night, the RV loaded to the gills with everything we would need to survive dry camping in Lot C. April and Matt, our snow season partners in crime, had left earlier in the afternoon and were already set up, patiently waiting our arrival.
It was Carnival Weekend, the annual celebration of all things snow. The resort builds a giant snow castle, and there is a poker run, tribute runs, face painting, tubing off the castle, prime rib dinner, raffles, fireworks (I take you aside now to wonder if all those fireworks are safe up on the 130+ inches of snow pack, but there was no avalanche) and live music with dancing.
Regardless of all that, this post is about one specific adventure from this weekend.
Saturday morning around 10 am, April knocked on the RV door. Matt and my Rooster had already headed into the hills.
“Let’s shoe to the waterfall today!”
April is so bubbly and positive in general that it would have been hard to turn her down, even if she had wanted to murder the masses.
Usually when we snowshoe, we have a set path that we follow. I have done the around the lake route both with April and on my own. It’s not a super easy trek. 2.3 km around according to the map.
The white dotted line is the snowshoe path. The other roads on the map are cross country trails.
Don’t ask me why the map is in kilometers. I am well aware that this is ‘Merica.
The Waterfall on the other hand, is much further up the mountain, through unknown (to us) terrain.
Fortunately for those of us not familiar with the Nordic Center, snowshoe trails are relatively easy to find, they look like a stomped ribbon, headed up by an orange sign on a ski pole stuck into the ground, near all trail entrances.
We deemed ourselves invincible, what with our vast knowledge of the forest, and our trusty map. We packed a bag, with extra gloves, water, and a couple of Lady Beers and set off to the Nordic Center.
It was superbly easy going at first. It was a beautiful, sunny day on Saturday, crisp and dry. The first part of going to the waterfall follows along Leech Lake and is fairly flat. As we marched along, chatting happily we saw few others.
Then came the first of our decision making quandries, where is the turn to the waterfall path? We knew it was just passed the bridge and off to the right, and we had just crossed over. Lo and behold, stretched before us were three different snowshoe path ribbons. We chose the first one, which also was the flattest one.
Half a mile up the path we discovered….
BUZZ!! Wrong answer. The path ended abruptly, yet not without revealing some very large hoofprints.
Back to the bridge.
The second path led straight up hill.
In a moment of unsurprising mutual agreement, we decided to continue up the main road to the third option.
This story is not unlike the story of the three little pigs at this point. Although I need not mention that any huffing and puffing going on had nothing to do with houses. 🙂
The good news is that the third time was indeed the charm. We found the right path, after consulting the map for the 8th time and we joyfully snowshoed up the zig zaggy path.
We crossed the cross country ski road twice and we especially reassured that we were headed in the right direction.
Our pink cheeked joy turned to exasperation when we came up what we called the mountain goat trail, half a mile of switchbacks, headed straight up hill.
When we crossed the road again the land leveled out, but there were more choices to make. You know what came next, the map.
According to the map, we needed to go down a cross country road a bit and we would find the path. It seemed pretty easy, until we came out the other side of our chosen snowshoe trail, only to find another cross country road.
That wasn’t supposed to be the case. We had taken a wrong turn, and for the first time that day, we really were lost.
Thank the Good Lord for other patrons. We stopped to rest (and look at the map, the map that you would assume we had memorized by then), and along came a nice couple who guided us back down the cross country road to our original point of entry on the snowshoe trail. We knew that there was another trail, just not how to get there.
The map….. The map was consulted yet again, then verified by a passing ski patrolman, who told us that it indeed was the right path to the waterfall. Just another 20 minutes up the ribbon.
He ended his diatribe with “Don’t Give Up!”, as if we were going to give up now, just 20 minutes from the promised land. With renewed vigor we headed into snowshoe territory, with just a final bit of advice from the Ski Patrolman, “Keep Left”.
5 minutes into what we thought was the final leg into the first half of our journey, we ran into two young-ish Indian (dot not feather) gentlemen standing off the side of the trail. “Hello!” we called out.
“We are just resting” they replied with wide grins.
As we continued along, we could not help but notice that they were only moments behind us.
As any intelligent but cautious women would do, we made a plan in case they had their own plan to rape and kill us in the silence of the mountain snow. They had no idea that they were possibly about to attack two bad ass Harley chicks!
We would stab them with our pointy ski poles and shove them down into the ravine! That would teach them to mess with us!
But they didn’t attack us, and soon we reached the waterfall and end of the line.
I wish I could tell you that it is a beautiful, inspiring sight. But what we found was that the waterfall had been covered in snow, and the reward at the end of our trek was just the water coming out the bottom.
We still felt mightily accomplished. We had reached our goal, as directionally challenged as we may have proved ourselves to be.
We stopped to rest a while and to celebrate with our Lady Beers. The Indian gentlemen enjoyed the “waterfall” a while as well and left before we did. No more murderous worries for any of us.
Two other ladies also happened up the path while we were on pause. One of whom had shoed to the falls in January. She was ever so kind as to share a photo with us of what the falls normally look like.
We agreed prior to starting out back down the mountain that we would follow the cross country roads on the way back down, in order to avoid the Mountain Goat portion of the trail, and we headed out.
Upon reaching the road, we high fived and consulted the map. We agreed that we needed to take a left turn and generally head downhill.
That downhill turn, quickly became a steep uphill hike. I was confident that we were on the right path for the first mile, until the uphill never ended. Something was wrong, we shouldn’t have still been going uphill!
Consulting the map, we thought that we still were on the right road and continued onward.
Another mile uphill resulted in a decrease in joviality to say the least, and one more map consultation.
Our savior once again, a different ski patrolman zoomed by us headed in the opposite direction.
“WAIT” we shouted, map in hand. Once he skidded to a stop, we ever so gracefully approached him and explained that we were trying to find our way back to the Nordic Center, or at least Leech Lake.
Much to our disappointment, he told us the fastest way would be to head back the way we came. We had gone over two miles uphill for no reason. He showed us “You Are Here” on our trusty map.
Here’s where we were, see the green X?
We thanked him profusely and headed back the way we came as he skiied off.
Down the hill we trudged.
We still were adamant about staying on the cross country road and came to several unmarked T’s and Y’s in the road.
Many map consultations later, we stood stock still at one of those T’s. To the right the road went up hill, and to the left downhill. I bet you can guess which one we picked to take.
The decision was not to be as several more cross country skiiers came up the path. A lady skiier stopped to chat with us and told us that the uphill way was shorter?????? But that either way would get us back.
Then she snarkily pointed out that the fastest way of all for us to get back would be on the snowshoe ribbon just ahead on the right.
We chose to take the snowshoe path, but both agreed that perhaps she was just trying to get us off the cross country road, which as you can see by the photo below, we had every right to trudge along.
The exhaustion and hurting muscles did little for our mood along that ribbon. She didn’t lie to us though thank God, and we found ourselves emerging onto the road just above Leech Lake.
Eventually we made it back to the Nordic Center, where we sat for a while after removing our snow shoes. Our three hour (according to the guy at the Nordic Center counter) hike had turned into an all day extravaganza. We ventured out at 10 am and found ourselves returning to camp just before 5 pm.
As we struggled up the driveway to Lot C and our winter camp, we caught sight of our men, Rooster and Matt sitting around a fire, cooking brats and pouring us shots. They greeted us heartily with chairs, bottles of water and congratulations.
They also greeted us with the news that within the hour we would be heading to the lodge to go dancing………… 🙂
And Dance we did. 🙂
The moral you ask? There are a few!
Never Give Up
(unless you want to live in the woods)
Map Skills are Forever
(maybe we need a refresher course)
Friends don’t let Friends Get Killed in the Woods
(stab and shove I always say)
Adventures are Awesome!
(even if they are a challenge)
There’s always enough energy left to dance!