|The sun shines on Marble Mountain Sno-park|
In mid-February, the Cascades received a huge dump of fluffy, powder snow. Dying to sample the goods, I invited my friend Catherine and her daughter to join me for a snowshoe romp at the base of Mt St Helens. Having hiked the June Lake trail last summer, I'd been hoping to explore it again in snowier times.
|Lots of deep fluffy snow!|
So I drove the 2-plus hours from Portland to Washington's Marble Mountain Sno-park. Not only the trailhead for many snowshoe and skiing adventures, snowmobilers also made this their home base. Although I wasn't thrilled listening to loud, revving snowmachine engines in the parking lot, thankfully the motorized and self-propelled modes of transportation were each designated separate trails.
We started out on a trail that served as the main winter climbing route for Mt St Helens. It was easy to follow - several hikers and skiers had tromped down the snow into a deep ditch where the trail was supposed to be. I was pleased to see a good 15 inches of the white stuff blanketing nearby woods. Tree trunks were plastered with snow and their branches heavy with accumulation.
|Catherine tempts fate|
As we walked, my friends and I were often struck by snow sloughing off branches. We joked about being "tree-bombed." Passing under a particularly large branch holding up a huge bank of snow, we were careful not to make much noise. Didn't want that to come down on our heads! (Catherine, however, couldn't resist tempting fate while posing for this photo.)
|Mother-daughter photo op|
A short distance up the climbing route we turned off onto a side trail to June Lake that I remembered from last summer's trek. I was glad to have beta from that visit, as the snow made navigation more difficult.
|Blue skies and white snow|
This trail meandered through some stunning scenery - forests full of flocked trees and clearings with snowy mounds that looked like soft pillows.
|Looks like fluffy pillows|
After intersecting with the summer road (currently used by snowmobilers) Catherine found the sign to the June Lake trailhead and parking area. Yeah, judging by the sign, you could say the snowpack was a wee bit deep!
|See how deep the snow is?|
My friends and I joined several other snowshoers and a few skilled cross country skiers up the main June Lake trail. We were treated to more lovely snowy woods, and every once and awhile the forest parted to give breathtaking views of Mt St Helens' foothills.
|June Lake Falls|
Although the mile and a half seemed to take forever (probably because I was getting mighty hungry by then) we finally crossed a tiny creek that was the lake's outlet. Yahoo! We'd finally made it to June Lake. Time for rest and food!
|Lunch break with a view|
Although the lake was mostly snow-covered, a tiny bit of open water produced some fantastic reflections of adjacent trees and shoreline. And - best of all - a partially frozen waterfall tumbled down from the cliffs above. The blue-tinged icicles surrounding it were beautiful.
|Snow-covered June Lake|
June Lake's shoreline was lined with other snowshoeing parties when we arrived. But Catherine, her daughter, and I found a spot of unoccupied snow and settled down for a bit to eat and a spot of hot tea.
|Reflections in a tiny bit of open water|
Lunch with a view! Oh yeah - this is one of the many reasons I love hiking.
After sufficient rest and refueling, my friends and I packed up our feast and made ready to continue our snowshoe trek. But first, I conned another hiker into taking a group photo in front of June Lake's waterfall.
|People show the size of this waterfall|
It was decision time - Should we retrace our steps back the way we came, or make a loop via the Pike Ski Trail? Although I didn't see any trail signs, I assumed a well-trod path through the snow heading away from June Lake was the Pike trail. Group consensus was that we go for it.
|Traversing the Pika Ski Trail|
My friends and I followed a winding boot path that climbed up several steep rises. The area was wide open, offering fantastic views of the valley below.
|Mt St Helens peek-a-boo|
And, surprise - Mt St Helens herself even made a brief appearance.
|Blue diamonds mark the way|
After wandering across this wide, white open space (and confirming with a couple of backcountry skiers that we were indeed on the right trail) I spotted the tell-tale blue diamond trail marker as our path dived back into the woods.
|Catherine catches snowflakes|
About this time, the skies clouded over and a light snow began to fall. It was so beautiful! My friends and I reveled in the soft flakes, and Catherine tried to catch a few on her tongue.
The Pika Trail finally connected back to the main Mt St Helens climbing route. From here it was a mile and a half of sweet downhill to the parking area.
|Ski trail intersection|
However, this trail was popular with backcountry skiers and snowboarders, so we had to be on the lookout for people zipping down behind us. Luckily, the few snowriders we encountered were spotted well in advance, giving us ample time to clear the trail.
|"Candy Cane" tree|
I spotted one tree whose top was so covered in snow it curled downward like the top of a candy cane. Good for a photo op or two.
|Tromping through deep snow|
Another great day in the woods, my friends and I covered 5.5 miles in a spectacular winter wonderland. I think June Lake and it's surrounding trails are even more beautiful with a coating of snow.