Two weekends ago, I convinced my hubby to join me on a snowshoeing outing to lovely June Lake, on Mt St Helens' south side.
|Blue sky and frosty trees
I'd had a terrific snowshoeing trip here last February. As a matter of fact, this day's trek happened almost exactly a year later (only off by one day!)
|Sunlight made the snow sparkle
Remembering that the trailhead parking lot filled quickly, I made my hubby rise early and we drove through darkness and fog for half of the two-hour journey. Highlights included seeing two large elk herds very close to the road. Our early start paid off with our choice of parking spots. As a matter of fact, we were the only hikers - the rest of the vehicles parked here were large trucks hauling snowmobile trailers. (I had no idea snowmobilers were such early birds. Now I know!)
|One of many sunbursts
A thick blanket of snow had fallen overnight, coating the trees with beautiful white goodness. As hubby and I began our walk through the woods, I was delighted to see blue sky and sunshine breaking through the clouds.
|Taking a breather by an unfrozen creek
The first mile was on a series of trails paralleling the closed road. Being the first people that morning also involved breaking trail though six inches of snow and a bit of route-finding through the woods. Due to low snowpack, we had one especially interesting creek crossing. No snowbridge covering the water meant hubby and I had to slide down the creek bank and clamber up the other side. I was sad to see the low snowpack - it was nearly half of 2019's amount.
|Last year the snow almost covered this sign
No place was the low snow level more apparent than at the June Lake Trailhead sign. I remembered from 2019 that snow nearly covered this sign. For comparison, take a look at last year's post here.
|Our only glimpse of MSH all day
From the official June Lake Trailhead, hubby and began climbing through a forest of beautiful snow-flocked trees. Occasional openings in the woods gave teaser glimpses of Mt St Helens' base. Although the sky overhead was blue, the mountain itself hid under foggy clouds all day. This was as good a view as we got.
|Random trail photo
Because we'd started so early hubby and I had the trail nearly to ourselves. On our way up to June Lake, the only other people we ran into were a couple with their dogs heading back down.
|Crossing a snow-covered bridge
I'd forgotten what a climb it was to reach June Lake! Although only 500 feet in elevation gain over a mile and a half, we were huffing and puffing and shedding clothing. I was more than ready for an early lunch break and kept hoping the lake was just around the next bend.
|Happiness at June Lake
When we finally reached a snow-covered bridge, I knew the lake wasn't far. Trudging up from the bridge, I saw the familiar cliff face surrounding one side. Hooray!
|Unnamed waterfall at June Lake
Although only 10:30 in the morning, hubby and I inhaled our sandwiches. We then sat by the shore and admired the waterfall cascading down the rock wall on the opposite side. Although last year the lake's waters were frozen solid, this year's mild winter meant no ice had formed on it's surface.
|Enjoying a nip of "winter warmer"
For winter adventures, I always pack a thermos of hot tea. It's always nice to have something that warms me from inside. This time, hubby also packed a flask of bourbon. A nip of this "warmer" tasted mighty fine on a cold winter's day. Almost better than tea! (well, almost)
|Not bad for propping the camera on my backpack!
Although I was hoping to follow the same loop hike as last year's journey, the low snow foiled my plans. The next segment of trail crossed a boulder field, and since there wasn't a large amount of snow filling in the spaces between the rocks, I was afraid of slipping into a crevice. So to be safe, hubby and I decided to retrace our steps back the way we came.
|Snow falling off trees
The return trip through the forest was just as lovely. By now, rising temperatures were melting the snow on the tree branches, and huge clumps were sliding off all around us. We had to be careful not to end up under a tree when it was releasing it's load.
|Packed trail through the snow
After a few near-misses, I got creamed by a branch full of snow. Then hubby got sideswiped by a "tree bomb." No harm done - we just laughed and brushed ourselves off.
|Getting bombed by falling snow
By now the rest of the hiking world had woken up, and we met a steady stream of people on our way down. Popular among snowshoers, Hubby and I had been lucky to have June Lake all to ourselves the entire time.
|Nice photo of hubby
Finally reaching the road, I realized my left heel was bothering me. Removing my boot, I was dismayed to discover a huge blister had formed on my heel. What a rookie mistake! Having hiked for miles last year with no issues, I couldn't believe it. But - I had worn my snow boots instead of my trusty hiking boots and my feet apparently weren't used to them. (Note to self - wear hiking boots on the next snowshoe trip)
|Walking the road back
Not wanting to brave the creek crossing a second time, we ended up walking on the closed road most of the way back to the parking area. Closing the loop, we'd logged a respectable 6 miles for the day. It was fun to revisit a favorite snowshoe trail, and interesting (and a little sobering) to see how much snow conditions varied from year to year.
Another great outing, and hike No. 4 for 2020.