Cross-country skiing on the Teanaway River, Washington Cascades; March 2014

A warming trend, and heavy rain in Seattle, made the Outing Club’s last Thursday day-trip an anxious prospect.  Cross-country skiers tolerate dreadful snow, compared to the manicured slopes their spoiled downhill counterparts enjoy.  Still, skiing in the rain is difficult to happily anticipate.  To sweeten the deal, tho, the last trip of the season ends with the club’s traditional potluck party.  And if snow exists anywhere, Lance will lead us to it.

The bus carried a small group of 17 loyalists–a good thing, as it turned out.  We followed a narrow two-lane road to a slushy turn-around, where the bus turned around.  It parked a few hundred feet down the road.  Lance noted that we probably wouldn’t get away without some rain by the end of the day; but he said it in such a nice, friendly way that it was hard to mind it much.  I readied my gear and realized that the big water-bottle I’d set on the kitchen island to wait for the water-filtering pitcher to filter its water was still there.  All I had to drink for the day was a small water-bottle that I’d meant to have with my lunch on the bus.  No wonder my pack was so light.  I put it in.

I was intrigued by Jungle Creek, trail #2 on our xeroxed maps; so I walked back to the turn-around and took the leftmost of two thin roads that headed up the valley.  This turned out to be flooded with snowmelt.  I walked on the berm between the wet ruts for a while; then I thought a jeep in the turnaround was going to come up the road, so I climbed the snowbank to the right.  The jeep went away.  But now I was on the edge of a nice snowy meadow.  So I put on my skis and explored it, looping toward a stream that I could hear gurgling to the west.  There were about 2.5 feet of snow on the ground, as revealed by the icy wells around trees that exposed bare ground.  It was pretty good snow; soggy but not slushy, retaining a living structure that I could feel thru my skis.  I saw some snow-bridges on the stream, but they were sunken and brushy.  Rather than chance them, I decided to return to the road to use its bridge or culvert.

Ski-pole plants.  There's a ripe one!

Ski-pole plants. There’s a ripe one!

Just as I reached it, a light tan SUV came down the road and stopped.  Inside it was a forest ranger.  He told me that the road beyond the bridge was flooded; that logging trucks and caterpillar tractors were coming through; and that Jungle Creek had been plowed and so was unskiable.  On the other hand, the other little road at the turnaround led to groomed ski trails that were in good shape.

I told him I was glad I’d run into him.  I skied back into the meadow and followed the stream I’d been trying to cross to the other road.  It followed the foot of a low ridge, which immediately intrigued me.  I side-hilled up the ridge and into a much more interesting meadow; it had hills.  There was also plenty of snow to eat, in lieu of water.  It was rather icy but quite refreshing, and not at all filling.  As far as I could determine, it was as pure as the driven snow.  Down the middle of the meadow ran a depressed furrow, which I carefully avoided; breaking thru into knee-deep ice-water would have spoiled my day.

I had a wonderful time working my way up into the hills and gliding back down thru the widely-spaced trees.  After 90 minutes, a mist set in that slowly graduated to rain.

I decided I couldn’t improve my day by skiing any more, so I went back to the bus and ate my lunch.  Ash, the driver, was happy to have some company.  He told me about driving tour groups around the southwest’s national parks and the California coast.  I explained basic cross-country skiing to him, but suggested he might try snowshoeing first to see if he likes being out in snow.  Other skiers started drifting in; by now the rain was a downpour, pounding on the bus.

potluckA potluck in the rain would be no fun.  So Lance and Ash brought card tables into the bus and set them up on top of some empty seats.  There was a lunch table and a desert table, and now I was very sorry I had brought my own lunch.  I ate a second lunch and some deserts (I’d brought gluten-free brownies that Pat had helped me make).  There were also wine, sparkling cider and Irish Cream in paper Dixie cups.  Somehow we managed to slip past each other between the buffet and our seats; fortunately there weren’t very many of us.  I managed a couple of trips.

As the bus pulled out and headed back west, the sun burst through the clouds, lighting up the inclined fields of the little farms.  Isn’t that the way of it?  Still I couldn’t complain; it was a good day.

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