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The return of Winter!
posted by John : January 4, 2015

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Sheesh, Treen

Finally! Finally! Finally! The snow has come and it's a weekend and we can go play! Even better, it's not pouring rain below the snow line! How novel.

Since we hadn't had a decent snow day on Mailbox this season, Treen and I headed up in the wee hours as is our tradition. The snow started just after Hydration Rock, about a third of the way up the mountain. Traction was necessary between VHL (the Vertical Halfway Log) and Disappointment Gap, but of course I held off until almost Sharkfin Rock. I only gave in there when I just about face-planted without any legitimate reason.

With trail crampons on (yes, they are different than my serious mountaineering crampons and lightweight traction like Microspikes) I felt a second wind and we made good time up through the Green Gate. There, the snow got deeper and the trip became more than just a walk up the hill.

We were breaking trail through fresh powder, which is the most exciting and most tiring snow travel there is. Each step requires moving snow. In deep snow you either have to pick your foot way up and plunge it back down or move it through the snow. (Either way, a good argument for snowshoes.) Luckily, this just deep enough to give me the feeling we were way out the wilderness, completely alone, while not being overly taxing.

When the snow is deep enough the rocks on the southern face are safely covered allowing a steep, but short route up the slope. Sadly, there wasn't even close to enough snow so we stuck to the trail around the back. (It's perfectly feasible to climb the rocks without snow, unless you're with Treen. She's not a big fan of rocks, though much more comfortable on them than Tokul ever was.)

Above the rocks, the snow was drifted deeper along the trail. This area is more exposed to the wind, which was blowing the snow horizontally and sometimes up. Some might not describe those conditions as favorable, but Mailbox is made for suffering. It was perfect Mailbox weather.

Treen, of course, loved it. More than any other dog I've ever known, she loves the snow. At the first hint of it she sprints to it, rolls in it, eats it, and loses her mind. It's like catnip to a cat. It's probably good we don't have a lot of snow down in the valley where we live. She'd never survive the winters.

As much work as I was doing breaking the trail, she was doing as much sprinting up and down the trail. It wasn't until we were at the summit that she sat patiently for her TurboPup bar.

After a few mountain tutu pictures we headed down. I wore the tutu to the Green Gate, passing only two people. An older woman I've seen a couple of times before thanked me for breaking trail and complimented me on the tutu. A younger hiker a ways behind her looked quizzically at me, but said nothing about my fashion sense.

I opted to descend the regular trail (as opposed to the new trail or the old trail) since I was by myself. Not that it mattered. I didn't see anyone until I was below the junction with the regular and old trails at Hydration Rock. In fact, there were only a handful of people below there and only a few cars at the trailhead. It shouldn't have been a surprise. It was pouring rain by the time Treen and I made it back to the car.

Only a few days after our visit the warm rains returned and melted off all the snow. Virtually nothing remains and in fact the road to the trailhead was closed a mile short of the parking lot due to a washout. At least we got our chance to Welcome Winter even if it was short lived. Hopefully it will stick around next time it comes.

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