Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Methow - 10.26-27.09

There's snow in dem dar hills!

Jennifer had a few days off, but the forecast was "Winter Weather Advisory" for the Cascades and Olympics. We wanted to get out, and I decided we would gamble and see what the Methow Valley held in store. Surely if there was precip there, it would be snow, but probably not a whole lot.

We headed out Monday morning over Steven's Pass where there was already an inch or two on the highway. Once down the other side, it was already less wet in Leavenworth where we stopped to have lunch at South. By the time we had got to Cashmere, the sun was out and there were only a few light puffys in the sky.

This was the first time either of us had been on 97 north of Wenatchee. It was very scenic, bright and sunny. We were hoping to see Lake Chelan, but we didn't see it on the road we were on. We continued on to Twisp, and eventually Winthrop, where we took a little stop to buy the best peanut butter cups on the planet. Since it was in the afternoon, we decided to just explore a little bit. Jennifer had never been east of Washington Pass, so we would take a look around.

The goal was to find where to stay for the night, and to plan our day for tomorrow. Also we wanted to check out how much snow was up at Washington Pass. So we drove west on Highway 20 to the pass. Despite the light snow falling, the road was bare and wet. But according to the snow gauge in the woods at the pass, there was about 4-5" of snow. (It seemed like more.) The lookout site was not plowed, so we made that our turn around point and headed back into the valley.

We checked out possible camp sites on the way back. Lone Fir already was under 3-4" of snow and not plowed. So we ruled that out. We then drove into the Klipchuck campground to check it out. We discovered that the Driveway Butte trail head was located there, and that was to be where we would sleep for the night to have a quick start in the morning. Then we drove into Mazama where we checked out the general store a bit after driving out to Lost Creek. The pastries looked good, and since they had coffee, we decided to have breakfast there in the morning, which changed our campground to Early Winters so we would have less travel in the morning. Then we headed back to Winthrop to see about dinner.

We drove to Twisp hoping the Twisp River Pub would be open, but it was not. So we headed back to Winthrop where we knew the Duck Brand would be open. There were a few places open, but we settled on the Duck Brand, as we knew there would be some vegetarian options for Jennifer. While I like the breakfasts here, the dinners are a bit disappointing. After dinner, we headed out to set up camp. (Park the van.)

It was too cold and dark to wake up with our alarm on Tuesday and we slept in until 8am. It was a while before we managed to get over to the general store for breakfast. By that time we had changed out destination to Goat Peak due to its shorter hike time. We both had excellent pecan rolls and then we were off to the Goat Peak Lookout trail head. Since we had left the guidebook home, and didn't have a map for it, we asked in the store about getting there. There was a lot of forest road driving and it appeared pretty simple. We drove the road for a while and it got to a point where there was continuous snow coverage. We stopped at a lookout area and contemplated turning around. (We weren't sure if we would have another opportunity to turn around as the road was narrow and cliffed on one side.) We decided to continue and check the next mile marker to make a decision. (The road is 9 miles to the trail head.) We passed a five mile marker and I started to look for a turn around. We found it in a little side road just before a stock gate. It turned out that the snow was about four inches deep, and with four miles to go before the trail head, we would have been driving in some deeper snow for sure. If we had brought Nordic Skis, we could have skied the last four miles of road. Fortunately, I had little problem turning around and we headed back down to hike Driveway Butte.

By the time we got to the trail head it was around 11am, and not really a great amount of time to do a eight mile 3000' gain hike. But we started on our way. Early on, I had to run back down some 400' of elevation because I forgot to turn the headlights off on the truck. It was cold, and snowed on and off. Sometimes heavy, but mostly light snow fell. Around 4500' or so we were probably in continuous snow. We lost the trail briefly and it got a little windy. Jennifer stated she wasn't interested in completing a hike to the summit. I told her with the time and the weather, (By now it was snowing steadily and the wind was blowing quite a bit.) we wouldn't make the Driveway Butte summit. So I decided to change the objective to Point 5545 which was supposed to have a decent view. We stopped for a lunch break where there was an opening in the trees and the sun had come back out. I hoped to get a good view of Silver Star, but it remained buried under a cloud the whole time. Then I left Jennifer where she was and took a 15 minute hike up to tag the summit of Point 5545 and rejoin her. Near the summit, the snow was calf deep and soft. It was snowing again and the sun went behind the clouds. We moved quickly to get to lower less exposed terrain. The hike out was fairly uneventful, and as we went lower it got sunnier and warmer.

Once back at the car, we decided it was time to head home. We made the decision to head over Washington Pass as the road was better than Steven's Pass on Monday. Also, if everything went well, we would be home in time to actually have dinner at home. While taking the alternate way home might have led to staying overnight in Leavenworth, or eating dinner out somewhere due to a late arrival home. Driving Highway 20 (about a week before its likely close) was really amazing. There was about an inch or so on the highway at various points. (Like Washington and Rainy Passes.) I haven't seen so much snow high up there as I usually don't get out to Washington Pass until June. It was quite a "Winter Wonderland."

Pics are here.

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