Hiked on : Sunday, 10th March 2019
Elevation Gain : 1500ft
Distance : 3.6 miles round-trip (Ascent – 2 miles, Descent – 1.6 miles)
A quiet Sunday afternoon, no one around, standing on top of a mountain – amidst tall pine trees, scanning the horizon from left to right, I closed my eyes, stretched my arms wide, tilted my head upward facing the sky, and with all courage, fell back in a free-fall. Thud came the sound! Aw! Well, it definitely wasn’t an attempt to injure myself, but an act of sheer joy 😀 There was a flat smooth blanket of snow beneath me providing an amazing cushion for the fall! Lying down like this, on the shores of the frozen Skyline lake felt so relaxing! Yes, this was one of the moments from another lovely snowshoeing venture on a late-winter weekend.
Our journey started at 7:30am on that Sunday morning after we had a check of all necessary hiking gear and food to be taken along. The trailhead to this hike is approximately 80 miles drive from Seattle and is on the way to Leavenworth.The drive took us 1hr 45 min to reach the parking area opposite to the Stevens Pass Ski resort, driving on US highway 2 and further. Heading out, gearing up with the snow-pants, gloves, beanie and goggles, and carrying the microspikes and snowshoes along, we started the hike at 9:30am on the service road to the west of the parking area.
This winter in Washington and the pacific northwest was special in a way that it had seen greater amounts of snowfall all-around. The trail thus had snow right from the start-point; we began walking on only our boots for initial distance considering fairly hard firm snow. Very soon we had to switch to Microspikes or Snowshoes as the trail was turning out to be more snowy and slushy. We decided to put on Snowshoes, hoping that they would be a better choice further ahead on the trail. The initial climb was steep with distinct paths visible for skiers and snowshoers. The weather was cold too and that resulted in my blocked nose adding to the trouble of steep tiring climb. Yet, we kept walking and after some huff-puff and a decent amount of coverage we reached a Radio tower. The route to Skyline Lake is northwest from this point, leaving the service road and we followed the trail. We took many short breaks that helped me gather my breath and feel better. At the same time, we also enjoyed beautiful views of the Ski resort and the mountains across.
About an hour of climb opened up into something that resembled a huge playground with white glittering floor and tall green pine trees acting like a fence all-around. It was an absolutely amazing sight! Oh yes, this was the Skyline Lake! Frozen to the brim , with fresh layer of thick soft snow. There were only few people around savoring the beauty; Nikhil and I paused for a couple of moments before continuing to cut-through the snowy pathway right in the middle of the Skyline Lake. This was wonderful, but something ahead was better. In about 15 mins, following the ridge west for a quarter of a mile, we reached the beautiful rock garden just before a steep high point on the ridge. It featured enormous rocks, some huge house-sized and these looked splendid covered in fresh snow. We climbed up on one such huge rock that was relatively flat and was a good place to sit down and behold the picturesque views all-around. It turned out to be a bright sunny day with clear skies, building up the warmth around. By this time, I was breathing easy and relieved of the initial tiresome ascent.
Sitting on top facing the Steven Pass Ski resort, we got a panoramic view of all the four types of ski lines and the lifts – the green line in the middle just adjacent to the magic carpet, the blue one next to it, black and double-black towards the left, another line to the extreme right with periodic bumps for ski stunts. This was the same ski resort where I enjoyed snow showers on my very first outing in US to Leavenworth; looking at it from an elevation flashed those scenes on top of my mind and it was a nice feeling. Also the fact that I recently had started learning skiing made the views more relatable. But the best part up there was that the place was not at all crowded; there were only two more people on the summit and probably two more walking the ridge on hind side. Nikhil pointed to the Tye Peak on our left asking if I would want to climb some portion of it. It looked steep and I said, “In sometime”. He went on to explore the other side of the ridge and I stayed at the rock garden. In few minutes I saw him climbing up that slopy stretch! “Careful” I thought to myself, also, “I wanted to do it too! Huh!”. While I sat gazing at the horizon for sometime, the other two summiteers prepared to depart after which I had the whole place for myself! Soothing! I felt very peaceful on this snow-couch. Soon Nikhil returned and we opened up our packed lunch and relished the tasty pulao – it was like a date on the summit amidst glittering white wonder 🙂 We saw a couple of airplanes flying at a distance and leaving prominent white trails in the sky, which added to the beauty of serene scenes around. After more than an hour at the summit, another hiker came in; he offered for a couple of clicks, and why would we deny 😀 We posed, we then clicked more pictures, videos and experimented a ‘reflection in my glasses’ click. After a while, we put-on our snowshoes and backpacks to try that peak again. Walking on the hindside of the ridge, we saw more beautiful views of the tall and pointed Glacier peak and many more surrounding mountains.
This last portion of climb was steep and snowy, and I had to be focussed and careful. I followed Nikhil’s footsteps as he guided me up the hill to a point well past mid-way of Tye’s peak. What I witnessed from there was totally breathtaking! An even better and elevated view of everything around, including the Rock Garden where we had rested a while ago! It was just lovely! Looking back on the other side, the lined up cascades were stunning too. Having no idea of what this hike would be like when we started, little did I expect such views. Again, it was only two of us up there, and it felt merrier 🙂 We spent some peaceful and blissful time enjoying the beauty around and each-others company. We clicked more pictures; we saw a rock naturally decorated with snow and it resembled a person’s face, was nice. After few minutes, looking around one last time, we started the downward journey. Getting down was scarier and I had to be extra-cautious. I avoided looking down directly, for the deep valley would be more frightening; and kept focussing on every footstep following Nikhil’s way. It took more time to get down to the rock garden after which we walked around a bit amidst the tall rocks; the scene looked like a fantastic wall-paper! We indulged in some fun by rolling down small balls of snow which formed shapes that resembled cinnamon rolls rolling down 😀 The quite snowy mountain top had kindled the child within us 🙂
We walked back to the Skyline lake after having spent ample amount of time at the landmarks above it. To our surprise, there was nobody there too! We indulged in more funny activities : did several free-falls on snow, played catch – catch with a bottle cap (diving on snow for those catches was fun), carved large-sized N-D with our snowshoes and recorded few of these crazy moments on our cellphones. Just when we thought we had enough fun and decided to start the descent, we saw a couple of people getting down – a man with his pet dog, and a skier. Luckily we had wrapped up our craziness by this time and no one witnessed:D As we walked back, we saw another group sunbathing at the other end of the lake. It was already 2:30pm by then, and we tried looking for shortcuts to reach down. Making way through the tall pine trees was fun, and I enjoyed this portion as well 🙂 After a point, we joined the main service road trail and walked down on it, also ran down a few steep sections ( thanks to gravity and its pull 😛 ) Somewhere well-past mid-way, we saw snow structures that resembled fencing for tents – it was done by a training group I suppose; we had seen a bunch of people with a trainer on our way up. We continued walking down and after like an hour of entire descent, we reached the trailhead. Here we stopped to celebrate the completion of our hike and to get rid of our snowshoes. This was when we saw a group of 4 people who sledged down the path, it was faster and must have been much more fun (and of-course less tiring 😉 ). Wondering how strong the sleds were, Nikhil got so curious that he went on to enquire only to realize that the guy had bought them back in his childhood and he claimed that they probably don’t make such sleds anymore! Sad!
Well, all these were our bundle of experiences on this superb snowshoeing hike – nice elevation, a good climbing exercise and wonderful views. Another amazing feather on our hat of outdoor adventures as a couple! We reached the parking lot, un-geared and drove back home. By this time, I had become pretty comfortable with snowshoes and thus, this hike to Skyline lake was a very rewarding experience that filled me with plenty of cherishable moments and left me with furthermore cravings to venture into the ever pleasing mother nature 🙂