Saturday, December 10, 2011

Falling in love at Twin Falls

Location: North Bend

Distance: 4 miles

I’ve seen far more awe-inspiring waterfalls than Twin Falls, but there’s something about its simplicity, and the simplicity it takes to hike there, that keeps drawing me in every time I have a spare hour left in the day. The river that flows along the path for the first half mile tells a different story every trip. There are always new mosses and mushrooms to identify. It’s just as fun to wedge my toes under a board on the bridge and lean out as far as I can to gauge the drop-off. I’m filled with the same sense of peaceful satisfaction each time I gaze up at the pure white stream stretching down over rock into the rushing torrents below. It’s a sure thing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just a ridge away

Location: Mount Rainier National Park

Distance: 6 miles

Elevation gain: 900 feet

The beauty of snowshoeing on Mazama Ridge is that you can amble off in any direction at any time without the constraints of a trail. We started at Paradise and headed south up the ridge, enjoying another clear day in the midst of winter. The sweating started as we climbed and kick stepped a half mile up a steep slope until we reached the ridge crest.

At the top, we turned back briefly to admire the Tatoosh Range in the distance and then proceeded to a small outcropping of rocks for lunch. Mount Rainier loomed just north, a glorious vision as we gobbled sandwiches and cookies. After a goofy photo shoot, we made a right and went south down the ridge through deep, powdery snow. We considered heading straight down the ridge but it was too steep for one in our party so we retraced our footsteps and made our way down the icy run by jamming our heels and zig zagging down the hill. We circled around Paradise Lodge and chalked it up to a mellow but beautiful day on the mountain.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No hexes on this mountain

Location: Near Cle Elum and Roslyn

Distance: 7 miles

Elevation gain: 2,600 feet

This long, steady climb up Hex Mountain started on an old logging road that was covered with a few feet of snow. We passed through a few clearcuts as we wound our way upward and had a splendid view of Cle Elum Lake as we trekked the first two miles to reach the forest trail. We all placed bets on which lake it was and discovered we were all wrong once we pulled the map out during one of many water breaks. (Does Lake Pontchartrain count as a real guess?!)

The narrow path climbed a ridge crest, weaving in and out of large trees. It was a better workout than we were anticipating so there was a lot of silence as we dug our poles into the snow and waited for one of the few glimpses out of the forest. Eventually we came across a sign for Sasse Ridge and turned right up one final hill. The panoramic views of the eastern Cascades and beyond were unbeatable and we were fortunate to keep blue skies long enough to enjoy lunch and the scenery.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Glissading down PanPoint

Location: Mount Rainier National Park

Distance: 5 miles

Elevation gain: 1,700 feet

This classic trail isn’t much of a challenge, which made it just right for introducing two women to snowshoeing. We started the day in the Paradise parking lot and strapped our shoes on to start plowing through the snow. It was a transitional weather day, starting out gray and overcast but eventually giving way to bright blue skies. It was a straight shot up a series of small slopes to Panorama Point, where the clouds moved on and we could see the majestic Tatoosh range. With Mount Rainier looming gloriously in the background, I convinced one of my new friends to climb a nearby ridge and glissade down. A day of firsts! (For non-Washatonians, glissading basically means sliding down the snow on your butt.)