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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Trip to Seattle: Day trip to the Cascades

The whole reason I flew into Seattle on Wednesday was so I could hike in the Cascades on Thursday. I had the whole day free.

Kimberly and Paul had a mint-condition (i.e. perhaps not personally field-tested) guidebook to hikes around Seattle. The guy who wrote it was a pretentious snob. He thought he was Henry David Thoreau or something - a rugged individualist, etc., nobler than ordinary humans.

He looked down on the places where the plebes go. Well, I'm a plebe, so I decided to go see Snoqualmie Falls. Or, at least, go hiking around the Snoqualmie Pass.

This is not my picture. Why? Read on...

I drove my car 50 miles east of Seattle and took what appeared to be the correct exit. There, I was overwhelmed by the sight of several gigantic parking lots in an unlovely chain, ringed by huge drifts of filthy snow.

The drifts of filthy snow were ringed in turn by quonset-hut style commercial buildings. (You can see the red roofs just above the snow piles.)

There was nobody around except for a few truckers.

Where were the throngs of tourists? Perhaps I should have been asking myself: "What do the other plebes know that I don't know?"

Way at the back of this picture you can see the ranger station - closed.

CLOSED? Why closed?

A poster on the kiosk gave directions: go under the overpass and take the first right, a driveway leading to the trailhead.

I took the first right, but instead of leading into a national park it went up into a "Members Only" ski resort dotted with "chateaux" crowded together like silly little mushrooms.

So I turned around and retraced my steps. I finally found, between the ski resort and the overpass, this unmarked driveway. It was unmarked and also unplowed.

I'd driven for almost an hour and this was my whole, entire plan for the day, so I didn't give up so easily. I left my car by the snowdrift and struggled a little way up the road, where this sign warned of Video Surveillance.

I went further and found the parking lot, and in the parking lot I found the kiosk (right) with information about the trail and probably warnings about your dogs etc.

You can see by my shadow that I was looming far above it! Since it was sticking out a foot above the snow, it made a fine bench; I sat on it and sent disgruntled text messages (reception: four bars) to friends and family.

I continued struggling my way up the hill for a while, but noted that
  1. If there were, in fact, trails, they were unmarked (or they were marked somewhere under 6 feet of snow);

  2. The sun was warm, the snow was getting softer and softer, and I was falling farther and farther into it with each step;

  3. My favorite orange sneakers were getting very wet;

  4. Coming down was sure to be harder than going up.

I don't like giving up, but I also didn't want to fall into a giant snow drift and be found weeks later by hungry dogs, so I retraced my steps...

... not without sinking into the snow up to my knees many, many times...

I took myself back to town and proceeded to Plan B, which will be the topic of tomorrow's travelogue.

Moral of this story: The Cascades in early May? I don't think so.

Previous day's Seattle adventure.

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