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Iron Horse at night
posted by John : January 15, 2009

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Is she having fun?

After the floods of the previous week that rained the snow out of the mountains there was no guarantee of good snow in the hills. On the flip side, though, avalanche danger was actually "low" (it's never "zero" unless there's no snow) so we trundled off to the Annette Lake trailhead for a stab at the Olallie Meadows. (Yeah, there was a bit of lateness at the Trucktown meeting spot and a forgotten camera that I had to return home for, but who needs to remember that?)

At the trailhead (or the end of the bridge that passes for the trailhead in the winter) it was solid ice. I was first there and tried backing into a spot, but couldn't do more than slide to the side in the car (the truck was at home) so I parked on the side and warned the others I'd need a push out when we left.

The "others" were Scott and Josie (and Athena and Zeus) and Joseph and Victoria. Tokul wandered around with her blinking red light nearly sending us all into convulsions. (It would prove to be the light's curtain call. After only two trips in the snow it perished like all the others before it.)

The road that leads to the summer trailhead was blocked by numerous trees, but none were impassable even with oversized snowshoes. At the summer parking lot we looked up to see a black sky littered with an impressive array of stars and no moon.

The Annette Lake trail was full of blowdowns, too, forcing us to zig and zag up the same route I followed just a few weeks earlier. At the power lines we left the trail and followed the lines up the hill before pushing through the brush into the open forest to the south. The hill was steep, but soon we were on the Iron Horse. (The Iron Horse is an old railroad grade turned bike trail.)

There is no trail to Olallie Meadows, but it seemed feasible we could just follow the contours of the hill up to the open and flat meadows. Except the spot we chose to climb happened to have some cliffs. Rather than push and push we retreated to the Iron Horse, climbed the biggest (and only) rock we could find and declared ourselves victorious.

We could have headed back to the cars the way we had come up, but a lollipop trip is so much more fun. So we followed the Iron Horse to the west to find the Annette Lake trail and follow that down. Along the way we found a spot out of the wind that was perfect for hot chocolate and Joseph surprised us with a slightly belated New Year's champagne toast. (That boy always has the tastiest beverages.)

Just before we found the Annette Lake trail we crossed a major blowout where the stream that usually goes quietly under the Iron Horse had raged instead and cut a gouge through the snow and rock and dirt. Looking down the hill tree roots were exposed by the torrent. Following the trail back we found a couple of other spots where the storm did some damage, but it was all pretty light.

We were back at the cars early, but rather than hit the Pour House we opted for our homes. (Super bonus: Amy was even awake when I got back.) The trip was a good one, but next times we'll pay more attention to other hikers' reports and probably be more successful.

Total distance was just over three miles with about 640 feet of gain.

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