Even though I'm a Tubbs Snowshoes ambassador and I'm supposed to know better I neglect to bring snowshoes on a trip at least once a year. This has happened on simple walks in the woods and when climbing the highest point in Arizona, which you could be excused from thinking needed snowshoes but really did. Once, it had even happened on this very route, but to Matt, not to me. You'd think I'd know by now. You'd be wrong.
My excuse? Mid October. Or... there wasn't much snow down low. Uh... Snowshoes are heavy? Nothing really works. I should have had them.
It was apparent this would be an exciting trip when we had to walk before we got to the trailhead due to snow on the road. Not snow like it might be a traction problem, but snow like you're totally getting stuck if you try to drive through it and we don't have a winch. After the road walk we found the snow had weighed down the alder that usually form a green tunnel so it was instead a massive pile of disaster that grabbed and poked and caused even the dogs trouble.
Above, the lake wasn't yet frozen so we had to pick our way along the shore. The Gully of Doom was frozen and full of snow. It's not the sort of place you want to be when the avalanche danger is up there, but on this trip it was low so we climbed between the walls covered in ice. As usual, the goodness really became apparent when we reached the top of the gully.
The sun shone brightly in a perfectly blue sky. Clouds filled the valley below and were slowly creeping up through the trees, but they'd never make it to where we were. There was about two feet of snow that wasn't the least bit consolidated, but since this is the Pacific Northwest there was no powder, just mashed potatoes.
Looking at the time and our pace it was pretty clear we weren't going to get to our destination high above. I'll officially blame it on not having snowshoes, but I think having hiked primarily with the kids for the last couple of months and maybe being a bit out of shape contributed. Actually, it was the requirement to get back to civilization at a decent time that did us in.
Whatever it was, we passed two of the three tarns on the route and decided we'd climb a local high point above the third rather than try to push the last 500 vertical feet to the summit. In summer, this summit is covered in alpine plants that we try to avoid stepping on so we've never climbed it. Protected by snow it was fair game. We had great views of the last tarn we'd come by and... wait... is that a fourth tarn? We've been past it many times, but never seen this smaller tarn tucked up above the lower.
Since we were about out of time (the real reason we didn't make the summit, got that?) we didn't stay long. Even though the bright sun gave the illusion of warmth we started to chill after the exertion of the climb. Treen and Bear were so tired they didn't even play like they had down below, but instead took in the views. They were still able to lead us back out our trail when it was time to leave.
So, in case you've forgotten. The primary reason we didn't make the summit is because we ran out of time. Not because I was out of shape and certainly not because this snowshoe ambassador left his snowshoes at home. I'm pretty sure I would never botch a trip like that. (Again.)