(5 miles, +2,000/-2,000 feet).
When my good friend Dan organized an academic mini-conference at his family’s vacation home in Whistler, I jumped at the chance to attend and do some winter hiking. I didn’t even need to bring my own gear!
I originally aspired to make it up to tree line to get open views of the gorgeous snowy landscape, but climbing in snowshoes is hard, especially when you go off trail. It would be a low mileage but strenuous hike.
About half an hour before sunrise I snuck out of the house and walked down the road to a local trailhead for Rainbow Mountain.
I followed some faint footprints under 3 inches of new snow and after about half an hour found myself on a trail that went the opposite direction I wanted to go. Rather than backtracking I started traversing south to a ridge that looked like a good path up the mountain.
I mistakenly thought that with snow there was no reason to follow a trail. I forgot that the main virtue of a trail is not the path but the lack of trees and bushes in my way. So in addition to climbing 2,000 feet in snowshoes, I had to bushwhack through this:
The path did open up sometimes, and the wildness of being off trail made the snow especially stunning.
I especially liked how the snow and ice clung to the moss hanging off the trees.
The climb was arduous and in a couple of places steep enough that I did feel like a fall would be a problem. But mostly it just took a lot of energy and I increasingly wished I was hiking on a more manicured path.
Soon I made it to a stream where I thought I would find a trail and sure enough it was there!
I followed the trail up another 200 feet and although it was now easier to travel because there were fewer obstacles it was also harder because the snow was getting deeper and deeper as I ascended.
As the sun came out I reached a part of the ridge that flattened out into big drifts and opened up with views all around.
I really wanted to keep going, but I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to reach tree line. So I contented myself with the great views on my little ridge and headed back down to the trail.
I went a different way down and stumbled on a strange structure in the middle of nowhere.
Although it was a little difficult to follow, the trail down was much easier than my bushwhack up as it gently traversed down the hillside.
I loved the branches laden with snow. When they blocked my path I would tap them with my trekking pole and they would bounce up several feet once they lost their snow.
The wonderful trail eventually intersected with a forest road which was even easier to follow down.
In some places the road turned into a stream. I had to climb up on the bank and go around to avoid crunching on rocks in my snowshoes.
As I neared the village I could smell chimney fires. I also smelled fresh pine from large piles of blowdowns that had been recently cleared.
A distant lake covered in snow came into a view. I checked the map and found that it was unironically called Green Lake.
And then I was done! Time to join my friends in the bar….