Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Day snowshoe hike

This was supposed to be a short snowshoe hike to Summit Rock but starting at the right trailhead would have helped. Even though all of us were scouting for the Summit Rock road as we drove on Highway 138, we still managed to somehow miss it, winding up instead at another forest road about 4 miles east of the Summit Rock turnoff. Further adding to the confusion was a sign at a three way junction at the start of the hike which said Summit Rock was 4 miles away.  Of course, the same sign said Chemult was 27 miles away and the sign was quite mute as to which of the three forks would take us where. Nothing like starting the new year by not knowing where we were, where we were going, and how to get there. 

94 miles in snow?
I like the sound of that!
I had a GPS but could not find Summit Rock on it because at the time we had not yet deduced we were starting at the wrong road and I was looking for the rock in the wrong quadrant. At the aforementioned three-way junction, the middle fork headed north and offered a nice view of snowy Mount Thielsen and for no other reason, we (John, Katsuaki, Merle, and yours truly) grabbed the middle fork.

Katusaki leads the way
There wasn't a lot of snow but there was enough to shoe on as the road descended gently through the trees. It was a gloriously sunny day and the temperature was in the high 20's. Despite the chill, several layers of clothing were shed as we soon warmed up from the exertion.

Snowshoe hares have been busy 
There wasn't a lot to see, it was just a pleasant walk through trees with their shadows mottling the pristine white blanket of snow. Snowshoe hare tracks crisscrossed the road and occasionally some predator tracks showed up too. Despite the lack of human activity here, the snowy wilderness is indeed a busy place, judging by the number of critter tracks.

Photo session

At just under the 2 mile mark, the road unceremoniously ended at a loop turnaround in the woods. So what do 4 guys do when they don't really know where they are? Why, leave the road and head off through the forest, and we didn't even stop to ask for directions. Trails are so overrated anyway. We headed northeast with some vague notion of either reaching the Pacific Crest Trail or getting a nice view of nearby Mount Thielsen. We didn't know it at the time but we were already at the base of the mountain, it'd have been a pretty good pull uphill to get to any vantage points.

Katsuaki and the blessed flask
After a short stretch of heading gradually uphill by stepping over logs and pushing past young trees we cleared the snow off a large fallen tree and ate lunch. Katusaki earned the Hiker Most Likely to Get Re-Invited Award when he whipped out a flask of whisky. The potent brew took our breath away but it certainly made a nice little glowing warm spot in our insides.

Discussing the options
While sitting on the log, I was finally able to find Summit Rock on the GPS, turns out we were about 3 miles east and just a little bit to the north of the rock. There was some discussion about going cross-country to the rock but that was all put to rest when we found out it'd be three-plus miles back to the car after that.

On the way back
Oh well, so back we go and navigation was simple as all we had to do was follow our clearly visible tracks in reverse. However, the the hike back was much tougher as the snow had become quite sticky as it warmed up in the sun, it had the consistency of ice cream left out a little too long at the party. The snow stuck to the bottom of our snowshoes, reminding me of hiking in wet clay.

Speaking of flick and kick...
Merle and Katsuaki took off their shoes but they both found the hiking no less tedious as they slipped and slid on the forest road slush. I tested out several methods of keeping the snow from accumulating on the shoes. There was the "shake and bake", the "shuffle-step" and the "felonious assault" which consisted of beating on the shoes with my hiking poles. In the end, I found the most expedient method was the "flick and kick" which consisted of flicking the shoe by sharply pressing my toes into the shoe on the back step. The hinged shoe joint then flicked (if successful) the sticky snow into oblivion. It still was tedious and tiring, though.

Happy New Year!
So, in the end this was just a bunch of guys walking in the woods and going nowhere in particular. I can't think of a better way to start the new year!  For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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