Apparently, I may have moved to Alaska without knowing it. Today I sent an excited text to a friend that it hadn’t snowed in 2 days…it is the winter that is never ending. Last weekend I hit two local hills, Blanchard and Stewart.
On Saturday I drove up to the upper parking (not the Samish Overlook, no way with the road conditions) on the trail approach on Blanchard Mnt. Between the lower parking and the upper parking there was a multi-trunked tree down across the road. I carry a handsaw for just this reason so I commandeered some younger than me lads to cut that out of the road ( :
Since we had literally cleared the access there were no cars/trucks in the lot but before I hit the road/trail there were several. As I geared up a group of boy scouts with their dads and their HUGE packs popped out of the trail from the lower parking. I chatted with them about where they were going to spend the night and they told me Lily and asked about how to get there…? They had a basic idea and since there are maps at literally every junction I wasn’t concerned about them other than I hoped they had enough gear to spend the night in the snow but from the size of their packs/garbage bags attachments I was suspicious that they did. I was concerned that these boys would never want to hike again.
They headed up the Lily/Lizard trail, I started up the road on the mile long approach to the Alternative Incline trail. There was a couple with a dog that were a few hundred feet behind me. About a half mile up I encountered a guy coming back saying that he had gone a little further but he didn’t have gaiters so the snow had gotten into his boots and his feet were getting wet and cold. I followed his tracks another quarter mile or so until the spot where he had turned around and from there I was breaking trail.
I turned off the road onto the Alternative trail and hung out for a few minutes to see if the two with the dog were going to follow me up. It didn’t seem as though they were so I headed on up and put them out of my mind. This trail in snow is beautiful, it is not the first time I went up here recently.
There were other tracks once I got to the junction with the Lizard Lake trail. I followed them over to Lizard Lake and took a moment to enjoy the frozen lake before heading up the Lily/Lizard connector trail. I decided to take the side trail up to the North Butte overlook breaking trail as I went.
I love the newish warning sign right before the final approach. Not only is it hard to get lost up here, now it is hard to fall off of cliffs. The final 50 ft or so is a slight scramble that is normally a walk in the park (ha!) but today it was covered in about a foot or more of snow so I made a few small attempts but since I was alone and had zero hope of anyone else coming up here I decided to take a picture from beside the butte and call it good.
Back to the trail junction I went and off towards Lily Lake which (not surprisingly) was also frozen. I still had not seen the boy scouts and they should have been to Lily way before me since they had taken off on the direct route.
I headed out from Lily and down towards parking on the Max’s shortcut trail. This area is slated for logging next year if funding isn’t found so I have been trying to take advantage as often as possible. This segment is one of my favorites on Blanchard and I will be sad if it goes to clear cut.
Right before the junction to the trail that connects Max’s with the L/L trail the trail started getting really sloppy and slippery so I had to really start paying attention to my footing. The trail stayed that way for the rest of the hike : (
About a half mile before the parking area I saw the couple with the dog from the beginning of my adventure ahead of me! I stopped and talked with them as I passed asking them if they had followed me up the trail and they said yes! I was surprised since they didn’t have much with them and I had just walked about 8 miles in the snow. They said I laid down a good track to follow and asked if I had gone over to the North Butte. They had decided to bypass this and that is how they got in front of me. Color me impressed.
On Monday I picked up my date (Barley) and headed on out to Stewart via the parking on Y Road. I had no real destination, I just wanted to walk. Often when I head here I go on the Ogallala Old #8 loop, today I decided to head up on the other side instead. I went up to the first junction, straight goes on the main backcountry horseman trail, to the left is a spur road that use to terminate at a forest and trails but it got logged out a few years back. Over the last year or two a local mountain biker has started to re-establish a trail that passes through a bit of the clear cut then into trees. I haven’t been on this one for several months so I decided to take it to see how the trail was shaking out. I like this alternative approach, not quite a direct of a route but nice.
Snow was on the ground and not surprisingly got deeper as I went. I was thinking I might go on the upper trails but when I got to the second road I was in 8-10 inches and I hadn’t brought my snow shoes so I decided to traverse the hill instead and then road walk out back to the truck. It was snowing hard but eventually the sun peaked out for a few seconds and lower down it was a bit drizzly. It was a good day out with Barley.