Adventure Log: No-Snow-Hiking Days Are Over!

February 24, 2023
Big Creek, ONF ▪ 5.2 mi.

I don’t do winter sports, by which I mean skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in snow. Don’t get me wrong, I love snow—love it!—from inside, preferably in front of the fire. And I feel royally cheated this winter with only this week’s dusting and that bit in December.

I did a first-ever-in-January hike last month, where there was no snow (1). It was good to be out. I decided to go again, a bit longer hike in the same area as the January one: Lake Cushman in the Olympic National Forest. Recent trip reports said it was snow-free, trail in excellent condition. It’s a hike I did last summer for the first time (2), lots of creek crossings with bridges. I love bridges.

Here’s the thing. I bought microspikes last Monday. After getting caught at an unexpected steeply pitched snowfield at Mt. St. Helens in May (where the snow generally melts out early), and stupidly crossing it (3), I thought I would finally get a pair to carry in my pack. You know, just in case; I wasn’t suddenly taking up snow hiking or anything crazy like that.

I almost didn’t even take them Friday. There was no snow according to trip reports less than a week old, I hadn’t practiced putting them on, or read the “do not use until reading instructions” instructions, or even opened the box. But then I stuck them in my pack on the way out the door.

What I didn’t think about: it snowed two days ago, since that last trip report.

I heard there was more snow in Olympia on Wednesday than there was at my house, but none beyond that. And I was heading toward the ocean. And it wasn’t a high elevation hike anyway. Just a river walk.

What I didn’t think about: it was mountains.

I get a late start due to my standing Zoom gathering with friends, but it’s the only sunny day, and besides, it’s frigid out. Not arriving until late morning will give the temperature time to rise to freezing. There are cars at the espresso kiosk at 9:15, and I pick the wrong line.

The snow along I-5 starts halfway to Olympia. When I turn west toward 101, there’s less. The tops of the Olympics are sparkling with fresh snow against the blue-blue sky, but only a dusting along the road. I go off the highway at Humptulips in search of a snow photo before it’s gone completely. There’s more away from Hood Canal.

Back on 101, there’s less and less, so I guess that’s it. I turn west again at Hoodsport. Right away there’s snow along the road. And then on the trees. And then a few icy patches on the road. The picnic area next to Lake Cushman hasn’t been plowed. Uh oh.

It’s still below freezing, or below freezing again, when I get to the Big Creek Campground. I drive on by and go to the end of the paved road, before the national park boundary, in search of access to the lake, and drive into a gated community and down to the private boat launch.

Back at the campground, I pull into the small parking area outside the closed gate. Two other cars. Snow. Lots of snow. It’s not deep, just beautiful. It’s 28º. Time to try fitting the microspikes onto my boots. I would not have left the car had I not brought them.

Installation is a bit of a struggle, but I get the job done, and they are amazing! I can’t tell I have them on, except no slipping in the parking lot and along the campground road to the trailhead.

My finger tips are quickly tingling with cold, in spite of having brought warmer gloves, unlike my hike at Staircase Rapids last month. About a mile in, they warm up. I’m glad I left my Northface jacket in the car; I’m plenty warm in hoody, vest, and three under layers.

This is just so splendid, I don’t even have words. I see six hikers (all day), three in a group, three solo. As far as I can tell, only the first one was wearing microspikes (she also had a stuffed bear on her pack), but my 70-year-old self is glad for mine.

I skip the Mt. Ellinor trail connector this time. I remember it has a much stiffer elevation change than the rest of the trail. I was exhausted last summer, and didn’t quite make it the one mile to the viewpoint. The three young women (no spikes) envied my poles when I stepped aside to let them pass. I see them, ahead of me, turn up the connector. I silently wish them well.

And then begin the creeks and bridges.

Now and again, a breeze sends the fluffy snow off the branches of towering trees and it floats down in a cloud. Or a clump falls off, but silently, not with the wet plops of a thaw.

As usual, I’m done before it’s over. At 2-1/2 hours (of 3-1/2) and 4 miles (of 5.2), my hips are tired and I’m ready to be on my way home. It’s still a wonderland. This is now not only a favorite early spring trail, it may become an annual snow hike too.

I guess I’m a snow hiker now. At least when the sun is shining. It’s good to know I’m not too old to find new ways to adventure. Maybe I won’t wait until the snow melts out in July (or August) to start my 2023 Meadow Rover season at Paradise.

(1) Staircase Rapids hike
(2) Big Creek without snow
(3) Mt. St. Helens scary snow-venture

If you are local to me, and a family caregiver (or know someone who is), I will be presenting a series of workshops next month with the Area Agency on Aging.

Speaking of my memoir (and hiking), I got a lovely review recently from a woman who found this blog and then read Mother Lode after reading one of my trail reports on the Washington Trails Association site. And now we’re Facebook friends! I love connections! (And readers who leave reviews!)

I stumbled onto the author’s writing quite by accident, initially, following a trail report she wrote for a hike in the PNW, which led me to her blog. I found myself looking forward to blog updates and figured, what the heck, I’ll give her book a read. As the 50 year old daughter of an aging parent, Gretchen’s book was so relatable and insightful. Reading about her caretaking journey will inform my own, as I’m the only child living near my 82 year old mom. Thanks for all the humor and snippets of wisdom—this book is a gem. Amazon review

If you enjoy reading this blog and just want to say “thank you,” perhaps you will consider “buying me a coffee.” Though I do love a latte—and they do figure prominently in my adventures—funds will be used for recurring fees associated with keeping my two ad-free offerings out in the world, this one and my caregiver/book one ( (The link will always be in the sidebar.) Thank you, thank you, to all who have already contributed!

10 thoughts on “Adventure Log: No-Snow-Hiking Days Are Over!

  1. I have been in the Casades on such a day… the sparkle gets all the way to my core. Yesterday we have the biggest hail storm I’ve been in here, 29 years at sea level, so guess the white is coming down on the March winds to dance with the green.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All the way in . . . I might have to do another, maybe the little St. Helens hummocks ramble. The weather yesterday was crazy: snow, sleet, hail, rain, blue-sky sun, repeat, repeat, repeat. The incoming March lions started early!


  2. I can’t even tell you how happy I am that you got out in the snow for a hike! I am so sorry to have missed this day. The photos are just stunning. I haven’t hiked a lot in the ONP area, so I love living vicariously through your adventures there. So much to love. You can see animal tracks. You can hear the snapping branches as the snow falls like little bombs from the trees. But the light and the silence are what lure me onto these snowy paths. The familiar becomes transformed under a blanket of white. You continue to surprise me. Next you’ll be telling me you drove in the white stuff! 

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you had your perfect day. I saw no wildlife at all, just a couple of bird-in-flight shadows. You probably would have though! Perhaps you will discover the OP this spring. Big Creek is almost exactly the same distance from your house as it is from mine. Maybe 15 minutes farther. (Thank you Narrows Bridge!)

      Liked by 1 person

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