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Hiking in a winter wonderland
Press Your Luck
christopher575
Now that Spring is here, I need to dedicate more of my Sunday mornings to walks and hikes that are further from home. I can devote a couple of hours on weekdays to nearby stuff, but adding an extra hour each way adds up to too much. All the research has been done for me, so all I have to do is look around on the map and see what looks nice. I chose Heather Lake yesterday, and set out nice and early.



I'm pretty used to being the first person almost anywhere, but hiking and camping areas are a little different. It was weird to see three other cars when I got there, and someone signed in on the ranger's registry saying he hiked up in the dark at 4am! I have absolutely no desire to hike in total darkness, especially on what I quickly learned was a very complicated trail. Hell, sometimes it was hard to even consider it a trail. And I wanted to turn back almost immediately, because just after the start, you have to cross over a creek on small rocks. Wet socks are the number one thing to avoid.

On this trail, you climb up the mountain using all kinds of natural features. There are tons of stairs and ladders made of bounders and tree roots.

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I didn't know when I was crossing the small creek at the bottom that I'd also have to cross a damn waterfall. That's where my left foot finally got wet. This is the view from the far side, and surprisingly, when I crossed back, I managed to stay out of the water.

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I was kind of surprised to find a few real bridges. I'd love to know how stuff like this gets built. There are parts of the trail where you have to climb up boulders using your hands, so how does all this wood get moved up?

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I'd read in recent trip reports that there was snow up there, so I was expecting this.

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However, I thought the lake at the top would look more like all the pictures I'd seen. I was naive. It got snowier. Thankfully the trail is popular enough that it was always obvious where to go.

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It was just before that last photo when a couple of different guys with dogs caught up to me. One had a weimaraner who surprised me while I was putting my phone away after taking a photo. The other dog was a very shy shiba inu. Just after those guys and their dogs disappeared from view, there was a fork in the trail, which was where you choose which way you want to go around the lake. The lake which I didn't realize I was looking at for a bit.

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The views up there on a clear day seem really neat in the pictures, but I couldn't see up the mountain much.

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I stopped for some selfies, and forgot that I'd been joking around with the stupid "beauty" filter the day before, which was still on. That's why this looks photoshopped.

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The trail goes all the way around the lake, but I couldn't find it in the snow, even after following two different groups of footprints to dead ends. The snow was deep enough to bury parts of the trail three feet deep, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's just inaccessible right now.

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Today's awesome hike, 3.52 miles in 3 hours, 1,123ft gain
3.52 miles in 3 hours, 1,123ft gain

Unfortunately, my phone had an error and lost the route, so I redrew it on the website. That meant I had to estimate the time, so three hours is a pretty good guess based on times I took photos at the beginning and end. A lot of people report hiking up, around the lake, and back down in 2.5 hours, and I'm very impressed by those people. But I also so a lot of people using hiking poles, and I realize I'd have been a lot faster in many of the precarious places if I had some. I've ordered a set and they'll be here tomorrow. I've often thought they'd make for a better workout on all walks, so I'm looking forward to trying them out. Plus I might be able to get across at Bowling Ball Trail back at Japanese Gulch. It's another of those situations where there are rocks in a creek, but nothing to hold onto.

1,123 feet is quite the climb, and I was pretty exhausted at the top. And I definitely wasn't looking forward to climbing down a lot of the steep spots I'd climbed up. But I think once you're warmed up, tired, and feeling loose, it's pretty easy to go down the trail. You just kind of let gravity pull you down and make strategic decisions about where your feet land. My right ankle's a bit sore because that's the one I prefer to land on, and that's another way I think I'll benefit from using the poles. With something to hold onto, I may be able to lower myself down a lot of the spots where I crashed down pretty hard.

Tons of trees have fallen on this trail, so it's nice to see that there are still a few really old ones standing. The base of this one's about the size of a car.

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And of course, there are tons of really interesting gnarled roots to look at where they've fallen.

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On my way back down, I began to see one advantage to hiking in the dark like that guy who was out at 4am. I think that was him I saw as I started out, and if that's the case, I'm probably the only person he saw. I started my hike at 6:30, and passed probably 25 people on my way back. There were 22 cars at the parking area when I left. Running into people takes a lot of the enjoyment of a hike away for me. I'll still go back in the summer because I want to really see the lake, but I'm not looking forward to all the company.

I got back just in time to go play Trouble and Skip-Bo with Garrett's parents. We had meatloaf and of course got to see Bella.

Ultimate relaxation

I'm taking today off. If I do anything, it'll be yoga.

Edit: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my watch's step counter was over 19,000 for yesterday. Hiking is much more active than walking, for sure.

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Some of those trail paths look like you could break an ankle if you went in the dark (and the light in some cases!). Well done for completing the walk - I'm sure the poles will help if you hike again.

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