Winter v3: Hot and Snowy

Coming up the slopes of Mt. Taylor in NM was the first snow I hit on the CDT. I’d been hiking with a pair from England; we briefly considered getting an early start before an overnight storm brought rain to our camp, but a fresh dusting above the treeline. If we hadn’t been able to see the snow up there when it was still many miles ahead you would’ve hardly expected as much snow coming up from the hot desert and El Malpais of the past section.

The San Juans were like a fully self contained winter that we just wandered thru betwen mid May and early June; save for the warm air temperatures. I had plenty of days where Snuffles and I seldom stepped off the snow, and barring the wind we probably would’ve wanted to wear shorts most of the way too.

A view from Boulder pass, last year when I was still heading West I was maybe a little early for this route thru Glacier National Park, and there were a few more steepish snow traverses than I would’ve wanted. I’m excited to get back there in a few weeks. It was hot then, and its hot now, but I wonder how much snow will be left on the trail. I only recently broke my streak again, this time thru ID was the first state since ND without any snow. 

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Winter v2: Frozen Deserts

Overall, winter seems to only come in a few flavors on trail. Some such as while crossing the Inyos for this look into Saline Valley, are amongst my favorite hiking conditions, and it might be a stretch to even call them winter. Cool air, comparatively warm sun. I’ve said it before, but this kind of weather inspires big mile days more than any other.

Similar weather abounded in the desert sections of the PCT, especially after I came down from the high points near San Jacinto and Onyx Peak; where conditions dipped into another flavor of trail winter, too windy and wet to stop and fiddle with Cameras. Luckily it didn’t stay that way for too long. The overarching plan to spend winter in the Southwest is working out, almost too well. Its maybe a bit hot for me at these lower elevations.

Herein upon Muir Pass I having had a bit of this second flavor of winter, but was also determined to try to photograph my surroundings. It helped that I could hop in and out of the Muir Pass Hut for refuge as need be.

Another, more literal flavor of winter camping is while snow may not be present, temperatures are low enough that you can pack ice cream out from town for you first breakfast. I would encourage this universally, everyother non-cooked meal you eat will already be equally cold.

Roadwalkin’ v1

Ever maligned, often deservedly so. Road sections have something to offer, especially if you count making peace with the death that speeds past, not but an arms length away.

In the final section of the NCT, while following the ill fated McClusky Canal; ya gotta take what elevation change you can, and this ten foot embankment is about it.

Finding a roadwalk route from Lake Sakakawea to Glacier NP isn’t too hard, but a little effort and some extra miles to get you off of US2 in Eastern MT is worth it. Even if you do see the rockies for an extra day before reaching them.

The Joys of having left the plains, to the point where turning around yeilds a view to Chief Mountain, instead of the seemingly endless horizons.

Crossing 138, (not walking along it… I know) into Crater Lake NP, even the road caught some of the sunset’s reflection. Climbing Mt. Thielsen that afternoon put me behind enough to catch this here, rather than somewhere in the forest without a clear view to the skies.

Winter v1

The first snow of this fall, just south of Crater Lake. It thawed fully after two days and then we had temperatures in the 90s, but here I had zigged when I should’ve zagged and found myself on the wrong side of the mountain. Nothing a little more walking wouldn’t fix, but the real trick is how much it cuts into your night hiking ability to have frantically melting snow fogging out your headlamp’s beam.

The thaw is often worse than the freeze, and this cycle repeated itself far beyond its welcome in the upper peninsula of MI. Would’ve much preferred to cross these bridges while frozen, rather than going way up stream or balance beaming across the deep cold waters.

Right after my return to trail following the new year, I was greeted by light snow. I had skipped the mildest part of the winter and had much yet to come for the year, and not much farther ahead I would cross paths with a veritable herd of deer in the suburbs of Dayton, OH. There must have been more than four dozen of them, their tread left the ground bare of all but a few motes of snow.

From way back, atop Blue Mountain in GA only a few days into the trip and already dealing with snow. That’s what you get for starting the AT in February. This was mere hours before Nemo and I met Rescue for the first time, and he got us a ride into town courtesy of the Fire Rescue Crew.