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Ski Acres Hill
posted by John : November 14, 2009

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Good morning, indeed

How come I can't wake up just minutes before my alarm when I'm going to work? Why does it take Tokul's wet nose poking under the covers and Amy's foot in my back to get me out of bed Monday through Friday, yet on a Saturday with the promise of snowshoes on my feet will get me up at 'em without a single beep from the clock of evil wakenings?

Poor Tokul was as excited as I was, but her day would be in the lowlands. The vet was pretty clear that even though Tokul was full of joy on the trail, could keep up with dogs half her age, and could beat me to the top just about every time we went out it was doing her more harm than good. We got injectable meds and instructions for painkillers, but in the end she's relegated to kid-friendly hikes. She should be able to keep up with Henry without too much trouble, at least for a while, even if Clara is already pushing mileage and gain that require a full day to recover.

So it was just me arriving at Trucktown at 6:30 to meet Scott and his dogs. The three labs are usually a zoo in the back of the truck, but it was strangely quiet. In the pre-dawn light it was hard to tell if it was cloudy or clear. When we pulled into the lot outside the closed Nordic Center the thinnest sliver of a moon was visible above the snow-laden trees. No clouds here.

We climbed up under the Silver Fir chair lift so it wasn't exactly a wilderness experience. There was an old snowshoe track that helped us for a ways, though there was still a foot of powder to break through filling the shallow trench. Near the top of the penultimate hill the tracks suddenly stopped. Now the powder was nearly up to our waists and well over the dogs' heads.

We started switching the lead more frequently as we labored through the deep snow. The sun was above the trees and lighting up the snow with thousands of sparkling lights. At the top of the lift we got to the still-ungroomed roads and followed a really old track that was barely a linear depression snaking back and forth across the snow-covered road.

I'd been to the little high point near Surveyor Lake before, but it was very different during the day. We could actually see the mountains across the valley without imagining the details. We opted to continue up to the top of Ski Acres Hill before descending back down to Surveyor Lake itself.

Along the way I found a nifty tree well and was in up to my chest before digging out. Once we were in the bigger forest it was easier going with spots where the powder was only a few inches deep over a hard crust. There's no open summit so we went up until there was no place higher, called it the summit, then wandered off to the north and found a view of Snoqualmie Mountain. It wasn't long before we started chilling and decided to head down.

Surveyor Lake was more wooded than I remember. I think last time I was there I was actually out on the ice a bit more than I realized. (Of course, back then it was March and we could have driven over the lake without much of a problem.) This time we stuck to the edges to shoot pictures and then fought more trees to get back to the road. After a quick set of pictures from the local high point, unobstructed by trees, we hustled down.

When we got back to the top of the lift we saw our tracks had been appropriated by skiers. No big deal, but we were ready with explanations that the tracks were ours to begin with and then taken by skiers. (Snowshoers taking ski tracks are frowned upon.) We heard voices at a few points in the day, but never saw anyone until we arrived at the truck.

It was barely 10:30 when we were heading home. I was home in plenty of time to help with lunch and naps, but instead I managed to fall asleep on the floor in front of the fire. I suppose if Tokul wasn't going to pass out after a trip I might as well.

Total distance was about 3.5 miles and 1,600 feet of gain.

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