Friday, March 11, 2011

Bling in the backcountry

The downfall of my quick transformation from a So Cal girl to a snow-addicted Washington woman is that I don’t have all the gear (read: winter-worthy vehicle) to get me to the trailheads I’d most like to tackle. So on the days when the white stuff is really coming down and I’m going it alone, I have to choose areas with plowed roads for my outings.

Since Mount Rainier National Park has never failed me, I drove up to Paradise with the intent to pick up whatever random path I could find. There were at least two feet of fresh powder and all signage was hidden so I circled the buried lodge and began trekking down a hill.

It wound around a valley full of trees and crossed a hidden bridge, which is where all snowshoe prints and ski tracks disappeared. The snow was falling and the avalanche warning was at its highest for the day but I just couldn’t resist the beckoning of the snow-capped peaks and white glistening hills… I’m reminded every time I’m shoeing alone in the backcountry amid rolling, unblemished hills of an Incubus lyric that references the ocean but could just as easily be applied to the snow: “The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn across a blue blanket.” There is more glittery bling in the backcountry than in a jewelry store.

As I trudged through the knee-deep snow for two miles or so, a deep blue sky replaced the all-white scenery and the mountain started to show itself. I kept on for another two miles but had to turn around long before I was ready because I hit a sketchy avalanche slope that just wasn’t safe to cross. On the way back, I lost my footing while gazing in awe at the warm light and mist shrouding the mountains and tumbled into the snow. Shouldn't have been a problem - except there was so much powder that my pole went straight down and was no help at all in lifting me to my feet. Can't say I was sorry for the extra few moments to sit and wonder in my solitary wonderland.

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