Pacific Northwest, seattle

Embracing (a sunny) winter wonderland

It was sunny in Seattle on Sunday and instead of leaving Seattle and taking a ferry ride, my husband and I left Seattle and went to the snow.

We’ve owned our own pair of snowshoes since December but with all the traveling in the last few months, hadn’t made it out to the mountains to use them.

Since spring is officially approaching this week, we decided this may be our last chance. We checked online trip reports for nearby trails and it looked like going to the Big Four Ice Caves in the North Cascades seemed like a good option. We’d be able to drive our (non-4 wheel drive) car on the main road, which had been plowed of snow and then hike to the trail head from the main gate. It’s also about an hour-and-a-half away from Seattle so fairly close.

Despite our best efforts to arrive early, we were parking the car around 9:30 am. There were only four other parked cars so that was a good sign — it wouldn’t be very crowded! We walked to the edge of the plowed road and decided to strap on our snowshoes rather than wait for “fluffier” snow. I mainly just didn’t want to carry my snowshoes anymore.

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It was a beautiful day to be out in the mountains. Blue skies. Birds were singing. The sun was shining bright and we quickly got warm and started shedding layers. I was doing a lot of squinting since I didn’t think to bring sunglasses!

It was about 2 miles on the snow-covered road to the trail head. We’ve done this hike in the summer so it was a bit weird to see everything completely covered in snow. Once we started on the actual trail, the packed down area of the “trail” was kind of narrow but snowshoes seemed to have been the right decision today. We saw so many footprints that had sunk deep into a foot (or more!) of snow. With snowshoes, you don’t have to worry about sinking into deep snow.

Through trees and over a few bridges, some parts of this hike sort of seemed familiar. Not only were we doing it in snow, the one time we hiked this in the summer was 6 or 7 years ago so my memory wasn’t super sharp on what everything had exactly looked like.

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From the start of the trail head, we could hear small avalanches. As we got closer to the caves, the rumble definitely got louder. We eventually reached a point where we decided we would turn around. Why take a risk with avalanches, even if they are small? From reading trip reports, we already knew we wouldn’t even be able to see the ice caves since they were completely covered in snow.

We saw two groups and one man hiking down when we were heading up. However, on our way out, we came across many other hikers. Only one other person had snowshoes and the rest were in hiking boots — with the exception of a family who was cross-country skiing on the trail! Skis seems liked a great option for the snow-covered road but seemed a little dicey on the trail. Or, maybe I just thought that since I’m not a huge fan of cross-country skiing to begin with.

More then once, a passerby in regular boots made comments about our snowshoes. One woman even said “You’re so smart!” Guess trudging along in regular shoes was more difficult than snowshoes.

Our total outing was more than 6 miles and the next day I woke up with some sore and tired legs. (At least my arms were not sore, so there’s that!)

Lucky to live so close to the mountains. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

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