Saturday, March 10, 2007

Nude Snowshoeing: Wild Sky Wilderness

The view southwest into the Skykomish Valley near Index

I love snow. I love the bright-white cleanliness of the stuff . . . the virgin nature of untracked, undisturbed snow, and the crisp sensation of the very air.

Early spring sometimes presents some of the best opportunities for getting out into the wilderness to enjoy some nude time. This past Monday (March 5th) was one such opportunity . . . a blustery respite from the rain, snow, wind and cold that has been keeping us hunkered down for months. The lowland temperatures were real close to 70, which to me, meant at least 60F at the lower situated trailheads of the proposed Wild Sky Wilderness accessed via the Index-Galena Road . . . and probable temperatures around 45-50F up in the lower elevation snowlines I enjoy so much. Much of the higher trailheads remain too windy and cold to enjoy much nude hiking . . . the lower trailheads in the Index area are attracting much of my attention. The reasons are multifold. One, they are more easily accessible without driving through backcountry snow (on my last visit to Scenic where I parked at the Surprise Creek Trailhead, I had to put on chains to drive 20ft off of slippery wet ice). The temperatures of the lower Index-area trailheads average only ten degrees below the lowlands temperatures around Sultan . . . while the higher trailheads are fifteen degrees cooler (still too cold for much nude exposure). The real catch, though, is the relative obscurity of many of these abandoned and gated roads which lend themselves well to a nude hike. Accessible, warmer, and relatively unused . . . a good combination.

The snow starts early once you start gaining altitude. In the lower elevations the alder canopy shades the snow, keeping it around . . . nice and crunchy and not too hard to hike on.

The size of that boulder is not readily apparent in the image. Let's say it was bigger than a small house and perched precariously right over the trail.

The fifteen hundred feet of elevation gain is not really apparent until you come across vistas like these canyon walls that are just not visible from below. Scenes like these make the hike well worth it.

Snow is getting deep, saturated wet and very heavy. There is wildlife active all over the place . . . lots of deer tracks, the recent meanderings of a cougar somewhere up here that keeps me alert and glancing about. One set of tracks made me think bear . . . a yearling, possibly, but I can't be sure. And then there were the tracks of a small canine. Wherever the wildlife is, I don't see them but I'm sure they're about and watching my noisy progress; wondering what sort of animal I am.

Turning east and heading into the heart of the wilderness the snow becomes a chore to wade through. As the slopes become exposed near the treeline, the snow softens. Snowshoes barely support me. My target for the day was the broad, sunlit valley ahead but I've reached a self-imposed time limit. Reluctantly I turn around. It will be close to sunset by the time I make it back to the car and the process of rewarming myself.

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