Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snow(dirt)shoe at Snoqualmie Pass

my arty shot for the day

When I signed up for the Mountaineers photography snowshoe trip at Snoqualmie Pass, it was with the understanding that the snow pack might be low. The ski area at the Pass was currently closed, if that was any indication. But the conditions the group found were a profound departure for normal snowpack or even what "low snowpack" implies.

We started from the Alpental ski area and set off across the ski area bridge over the creek, or more correctly identified as the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Though it has meager beginnings at Source Lake which is more like a pond, it becomes mighty lower down, eventually joining the Snoqualmie River downstream. Since this was a photo trip, our progress was not swift, especially at the start, where opportunities for capturing images of flowing water and snow were great. Further up the trail, we came to our first of many creek crossings and it appeared that these were new creeks, formed in the past week, by a storm that came through. A bunch of snow was dumped first, then the temperature warmed up and rain fell, totaling 8 inches (it is assumed the 8 inches include snow that melted). In any case, a lot of water was dumped on the area.
mass destruction where water convened

Making our way up the valley, it became clear as to what had happened: snow had melted and washed down the sides of the mountains and cliff faces, coursing beneath the snow, displacing snow and often the soil beneath. In one area, soil had been excavated from beside trees as the water had swirled in powerful form. It was fascinating to see the resulting destruction, but the travel was difficult, as we had to cross over creeks constantly, often using branches of a bush or rocks to cross on. In one area, the leader created a crossing by throwing in large rocks to decrease the depth of water. One participant was on backcountry skis and, although I identified with him in terms of standing out in the crowd, I also cringed at the thought of taking skis off to descend and ascend the bank on either side.

The photo opportunities were many – frost on trees and hoarfrost at the surface, creating images full of texture. While down on knees photographing the hoarfrost, I became engrossed in the miniature world, much like the sensation when snorkeling among colorful fish and other sea life; it took a minute to adjust to the world-at-large when I stood up. When we tired of the constant crossings, we made our way to the other side of the valley and up to the well-trodden Snow Lake Trail. Although the photo opportunities were fewer, it was a much needed break on the trip; the outing had been rated as Easy and so far there was very little about the trip that fit that description. Being on the trail was like a vacation, until that also came to an end.
doing his own thing... on skis

The leader decided to get off the trail and head down through the woods, a great idea, until we realized that meant we would have to cross the river as it was gaining steam. A couple of us "made like girls and did the sensible thing", backtracking up to the trail, finding more of photographic interest lower on the trail, including multiple waterfalls and fog in the valley.