I am glad I stayed home this Thanksgiving, I could go to this amazing winter hike which was a snow heaven. Olympic peninsula had got a fresh shower of snow the previous evening and the early morning clear skies had got me excited for the day. I had usual expectations for the last hike of the year but what I experienced was so magical that it was one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done. I was mainly worried about the cold since forecast projected -10C on the summit.
I got up at 4.30 AM, met the group at Park and Ride at 6 and started the hike by 9. First stretch of the hike was along a creek in the woods and we hit first patches of snow in around 2 miles at an elevation of 3600 feet. Morning rays were lighting the mossy trees which not only soothed my eyes but warmed the body too. The snow started getting deep but fortunately other hikers ahead of us had broken the trail. I could see surrounding jagged snow covered mountains and the pass which we would be reaching was visible.
The fresh snow on the trees and ground was a treat to watch and feel. Many shiny snow particles looked like crystals and the spread was enchanting.
We reached the pass by 12 PM and headed for the Buckhorn summit. We wore snowshoes since there was no broken trail and snow was pretty deep. I was happy I could lighten my pack and I actually felt good and hiked the next steep part of ascent pretty effortlessly. Snow shoes was one reason but the views, just heavenly. I kept scanning the surroundings frequently and every gained feet allowed me to see more of the snow covered mountains. Soon I could see mountains beyond the immediate range and they looked so majestic that I felt I was hiking in the Himalayan biggies.
My jaw dropped, my breath was taken away, my happy mind somehow warmed my cold toes and I was energized to go higher to see more of the beauty. Mark, the organizer joked that it was my bachelor party and I gladly accepted this as my bachelor party. We could also see Glacier Peak, Mt Rainier and St Helens above the sea of clouds.
We reached the ridge and the view on the other side was good too. The snow layer started to thin, so we removed our snowshoes and aimed for a false summit(elevation 6800ft) with just the boots. With wild excitement I walked to the false summit and gave a loud shout. There was hardly any wind and I could be there for a while even without gloves. I would also credit the near perfect weather due to which we had an enjoyable ascent. Mark decided not to go for the summit in the interest of time which was around 30 mins away. It was a strong and fun group, everyone made it to the false summit. I layered up in my bright blue jacket, took many photos and had my lunch enjoying the near 360 degrees view.
We started the descent on our micro-spikes in a while and it was getting quite cold too. It was a quick descent to the pass where we were greeted by the birds. Now the every lost feet warmed my toes and it felt much better. The snowy forested stretch was a delight and the last mile of walk in the green woods was peaceful and humbling.
What a fantastic hike it was. I have been hiking in the state for 3.5 years now and I still feel like love at first sight many a times. I was recalling my hikes on the way back and realized how much happiness the companionship of mother nature has given me. Today she did everything she could to make the last hike of my single life into a beautiful fairytale.