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Lake Keechelus
posted by John : March 2, 2008


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Lake Keechelus isn't usually a place one lingers. It's the dammed headwaters of the Yakima River right at Snoqualmie Pass. I-90 runs along its northern edge and the Iron Horse trail (the old railway) runs along the south side.

In summer it's a loud, ugly place. But in winter it's cool. The snow dampens the I-90 noise and the stump-riddled mud flats near the shore are covered with snow. It's one of the few areas that are easily accessible and wide open. So... let's give it a shot.

Papa joined me and the girls for the ride up to the Pass. We again parked at the Hyak Sno Park where we'd gone sledding just the week before.

The Iron Horse trail is the real reason for the facilities at the Hyak Sno Park, but you can't even find the tunnel entrance with all the snow. The trail is groomed for skiers heading east, but there's a lane off to the side for snowshoers. Lilly loved the small portions that were untracked and made a point of tracking through them. (Did she not want to share? Dunno. She's two. Go figure.)

It isn't long before the trail arrives at a couple of buried bathrooms. We had snack... er... everybody else had snack and I wandered down an access road to see if it would go down to the lake. I got far enough to determine it did so I came back for the kids.

Even though we hadn't gone far the girls were done with snowshoeing. They wanted to ride and luckily I had the Incredible Pulk specifically for that reason. They piled in and since part of the road descended I started running down the hill (yes, in snowshoes). The girls giggled like crazy as snow flew from my snowshoes all over there. By the time I was winded they were covered in snow and loving it.

The road paralleled the lake shore and came to a big pullout. On some maps it is shown as another Sno Park, but the road we were on hadn't been plowed in a long time. Perhaps it's an early-season Sno Park. There was a portapotty there, but it had been crushed by snow and wasn't the sort of place you'd want to be when the snow started to melt.

At the end of pullout we followed a little ridge out to a small hill in the middle of the flats of the lake. In summer it is a boat launch, but for now it was a causeway into the snowy wilderness.

It's so rare that I get to go above treeline in the winter and see open snow that I was thrilled to be in the middle of the treeless lake. The girls were happy, too, and picked a spot where we could look east down the bulk of the lake. While they had hot chocolate I wandered around taking pictures. Papa relaxed with the girls, but somehow managed to stay out of the pictures. Not sure how.

The girls wanted to sled so we pulked over to the edge that looked steep, but not suicidal. The three of us got into the pulk and flew down the hill. We got going so fast I decided we needed to slow down, which wasn't hard to accomplish given the soft, dense snow.

At the bottom of the slope I went to gear up again. Except the belt on the pulk was broken. Dang. And my snowshoe had snapped. Double dang. Anything else gonna go wrong? I shantied the belt and the snowshoe looked like it would hold together so we decided no further shenanigans and headed back. (The snowshoe failure was a result of the repair job I did after it broke on Paulina Peak. Hurray for Atlas' lifetime warranty!)

Back at the truck as I packed up the girls decided they needed to take the Noop Sled out for a ride. So we wandered over to the big kids' slope and did a couple of runs there before retiring to the truck and home.

It wasn't a major adventure, but getting out in the open was great. Total distance was only about 2.6 miles and maybe 150 feet of gain, but well worth it.

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