Barbecuing at Gold Creek, in the snow, at night is a bit of a tradition. It started with perhaps a few too many drinks in 2006 when the idea first occurred to us. It happened the first time in 2007 and then again in 2009. Both times with adults who more or less understood what they were getting into.
Now that Clara's old enough to withstand the cold of a winter night in the mountains and we have friends who are similarly afflicted with the adventure fever we picked a night and were ready to go. And then it snowed. A LOT. And then it got cold. Like single-digit cold. And I ain't talking no wussy Celsius temperature scale either. (Nor am I referring to the wicked awesomeness of Kelvin.)
So when it finally stopped snowing (or at least slowed down) and warmed up (still below freezing, but not that freezing we left just a little after dark for the mountains. The snow was coming down, and pretty heavily, but we figured the worst that could happen was we'd have to spend the night up there. If only...
But who are these friends who aren't smart enough to say no? Surely, you've seen Eric mentioned as a fellow TNAB hiker, Mailboxer, and general hiking buddy. And Paula is his 10 year old daughter who has been out with us a couple of times and it's been great to have another set of fresh eyes on the trail.
Just a month earlier we'd visited Gold Creek on a beautiful day. We were able to sit on top of the picnic tables. How much could possibly change in a month?
The big snow in the lowlands was magnified in the mountains. Even the low Snoqualmie Pass got dumped on. We figured there was an additional five to six feet of snow at Gold Creek. That made finding the tables and BBQ grills a little more difficult. I did my best to remember exactly where they were, but several test pits came up empty. I even checked pictures from the earlier trip, but they were no help in the dark.
Then I remembered Clara had stood on a table that was far more exposed. While Clara, Paula, and Eric kept digging randomly I wandered off into the darkness and found the table. We relocated our gear and I made on stab at where I thought the BBQ stand might be. No luck, but we could still make this work, right?
The snow was falling fast and furious and the poor Java Logs (two of them this year) couldn't keep up with the additional moisture. However, if we dug them a snow cave... maybe.
Wait, it didn't fail. A fire in a snow cave that worked? How could it be? Sure, the cave got bigger as the logs burned, but there was no catastrophic cave in or drips down onto the fire. We warmed up hot dogs and marshmallows, but the big winner was a simple bag of Cheetos. Such a big win that the girls made up a joke about it.
The joke was so good it had to be captured on video and you MUST watch it. (Click here and prepare to laugh.)
The walk out was somehow longer and required more aid, but we made it to the car and an additional three inches of snow. The plows were doing a great job keeping the roads clear and we were home at last. Tired and wet and somehow smelling like cigarette smoke instead of coffee, but home.
It's easy. It's crowded. It's not wilderness. But Gold Creek, day or night, remains a winner.
And good for 1.5 miles and 100 feet of gain.