There's snow on the mountain.
Not enough for the resorts to open, but enough white stuff for the eager back-country skier to play around in.
Troy, Andrew and I went up to Timberline this week to get our first taste of winter. Free-heeling it west along the Timberline Trail, snow flurries alternated with brilliant sun-breaks. Just past the Stormin' Norman lift, we paused in a clump of white-frosted firs for a safety break. We pulled out the map, reviewed our routes, and went over plans for our day on the mountain.
Andrew and Troy were on AT bindings, with downhill boots and skis, so they skinned uphill to earn a long run on the open slopes. I was on a back-country cross-country set-up, and continued winding up and down through the trees along the Timberline Trail.
The Timberline Trail is also the Pacific Crest Trail along this stretch. It felt good to ski a section of trail that I had just through-hiked this summer. It's fascinating to see how the mountain landscape changes with the seasons. Andrew and I just HIKED to the same elevation less than three weeks ago.
Wonderful, fresh, deep powder could be found in open meadows and gullies, perfect for tooling around in; but rocks and other obstacles stuck up through the snow in some places. Even worse, they lay hidden just below the surface. Crossing the Little Zigzag Canyon was a little tricky. I stuck mainly to the trail. The snow got even thinner below 5600 feet, so I turned back to enjoy the deeper pockets.
The scree of a red-tailed hawk caused me to pause in my tracks. Raven was also there. Tracks of squirrels and deer criss-crossed the path. I sat and enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa under an ancient hemlock tree, branches decorated with hoar-frost crystals, icicles hanging from tendrils of lichen. Winter stillness, the quietest wilderness.
Back at the lodge, I warmed up by the roaring fire and then met the guys for a beer up in the Ram's Head bar. They had climbed up above Silcox Hut and seen the mountain come out in its full glory before getting some good runs in down gullies. They discovered some hidden rocks, too.
Gotta detune those edges somehow.
The season has begun. Let it snow!