After a week of heavy rains and temperatures pushing the snow line above 7000 feet, it was clear that skiing would be miserable. Sunday was supposed to get a little better, so I planned a repeat of my January fat bike ride from the base of Crystal Mountain Road to hopefully as far as the Sunrise visitor center. It is a long drive to start with, but the last section of highway 410 before the gate is such a lush rain forest that it is worth the trip, even in a downpour, as it happened on Sunday.
By now, I know that the is no wrong weather, just wrong clothes, so I was prepared. By the time I got ready, it almost stopped raining so I started up the road dressed lightly, with all kinds of layers stuffed inside a larger backpack, snow shoes and poles strapped to my pack as well. One lane of the road has already been cleared of snow, the other half had three feet of wet snow, the consistency of Hawaiian shave ice, pretty much all water held together with few ice crystals. So I rode the bare pavement uphill for 4.5 miles, then some icy pavement another couple of miles to the park entrance gate, and there, with the asphalt ending, I just sank the wheels up to the rotors. Exactly as I predicted, but it still bummed me. I locked Pepper at the closed entrance station and put on the snow shoes.
There was a snow mobile track, but the surface was still soft and I was not too happy with how slow the going seemed compared to even the slowest biking there is, fat-biking. Paradise park road is pretty flat here for another few miles and despite some scenic water streams and waterfalls around me, I did not much enjoy myself. Left, right, left, right.... It rained, no visibility, long stretch of a forest road ahead. This is where I took this phone video in January, riding on frozen thin cover:
It seemed like forever to reach the split in the road, where snow mobiles can go left along the White River to the campground, the route I took on my last trip here, and skiers and hikers can continue the now steep climb on the park access road. As was the case several months ago, there was no ski track, not a footprint visible beyond the gate. As I started uphill, my snow shoes were leaving prints about 10-15 cm deep and each step was a workout. I was hot despite the chilly rain and just a wool base layer and a jersey. Seeing the sign "Paradise 10 miles" did not improve my mood, either. So far, you may think I was really miserable and what the heck was I doing there anyways, instead of being home baking a struedel? Yet, with each painful step (I had blisters on both heels at this point), I wanted to go just a little bit further, just around the next bend, just a bit higher to see if the clouds would break. Thee were a few breaks but otherwise it drizzled steadily. I gave myself till 3PM, thinking there was enough daylight now since the time change. But at 2:30, my resolve just evaporated, I started to feel dizzy, short of breath, and thirsty. I pulled out some food and hot tea from my thermos, took 10 minutes rest and felt lot better. At this point, I turned around and started the march down the hill. With less exertion and less stinging of the blisters, I fell into a rhythm and all of a sudden, felt peace. I was in the middle of this vast wilderness, not a human being in sight (I did not see a soul in the whole day), roaring rivers and streams, the big trees just standing there as they have done for decades. Rain water, the essence of all life just kept falling silently onto the already soaked thick layer of snow, feeding the streams, washing the volcanic soil downstream just to deposit it some hundreds of miles away. The nature going about its business, huge forces driven by laws of physics, oblivious to my tiny and unimportant presence here. I had lots of time to think about my past year and half in Seattle, the good, the bad and the ugly. The losses and accomplishments. And the fact that Monday would be the day when I take another step towards changing my own course. A change is in my future. For better I hope, but who knows? And the Nature certainly does not care.