+11 11 votes

Fledging Snowshoers Spread Wings

John Yale photo: Recent snowshoe class alumni got together to test their new outdoor skills. From the left: John Yale, Mark Schuetzler, Steve and Irene Godfrey, Allison Brodine, Dan Garrison, and Kathleen Brooks. Photogenic Nakita didn't want to be left out.

The emails started flying Friday morning.

Merely a week removed from the end-of-course final – a 4-mile snowshoe trek complete with spectacular views on a beautiful February day – graduates of Andy Dappen’s Wenatchee Outdoors Snowshoeing Class of 2013 were eager to put new-found knowledge to the test.

Destination: Clara Lake and peak 6,056.

Research for the winter outing was quick and easy. The Clara Lake snowshoe trek is one of 82 featured on the wenatcheeoutdoors.org Snowshoeing Guide Book. The date this article was posted (Aug. 5, 2008) illustrates the beauty of this valuable resource; the route description is still as relevant and useful today as the day it was posted. An outdoor enthusiast unfamiliar with an area can find a helpful topo map specific to each outing just a click away within the article. The easy-to-print map not only shows ridge lines, valleys and peaks, but also gives an idea of the steepness of the established trails and suggested cross country routes.

Carpooling from Peshastin, Cashmere, and Wenatchee, seven showshoers and four canine friends met on the north side of the Mission Ridge Ski Area parking lot Saturday morning to begin an adventure.

The popularity of this trail means hard-packed snow in the winter. It climbs through old growth timber, crosses the Pipeline trail, and continues climbing. When it leveled out on the alpine plateau cradling Clara and Marion Lakes, we chose to turn left at the trail fork and head toward Marion. We escaped the protection of the forest and emerged into a wide open snowbound plateau. To a passenger on a Horizon Air flight preparing to land in Wenatchee, we would have appeared as a line of small ants following one another on a vast expanse of white.

This area is popular with self-propelled winter travelers like us as well as those who prefer to enjoy the mountains while sitting on a powerful snow machine. The area is scarred with snowmobile tracks, some of which tempt fate while seeing how high they can drive up the steep slopes. Although a popular area for snowmobilers, it was now void of their presence.

Our destination, peak 6,056’, lay before us to the northwest. After a careful look at the lay of the land, we decided on a route and began our ascent.

This area is covered with basalt scree in summer, and crossing it can be difficult. In winter, those sharp-edged rocks are covered with much softer snow, and hiking over the country on snowshoes is a breeze.

Photo: Climbing steep slopes of sharp basalt rock is no problem when covered with snow. Dan Garrison is lead dog on the ascent while followers stop to catch their breath.

After some taxing snowshoeing up steep open terrain, we entered thick timber and picked our way to the open clearing at the top of our destination. We made it!

The sun was playing hide-and-seek as clouds danced across the tips of Mission Ridge. A perfect chair-shaped chunk of lichen-laden basalt surrounded by snow on the lee side of the wind invited us to use it for our fire. But lighting it with cold hands and gusty winds proved challenging. Determination ruled, and soon smoke wisped from the dry moss and small twigs. In short order a welcoming fire was blazing.

Photo: There's nothing quite like a small fire to warm cold hands on a winter outing. Kathleen, Irene and Allison take advantage of the temporary women's outdoor spa.

After a quick snack and hand warming by the small fire, we dispersed the hot coals in the snow and ensured the fire was dead out.

What goes up must come down. Choosing a different route back, we began our descent.

Carefully picking our way down through the forested ridge line, we came to a point of steep open snowfields. The soft powder was a foot deep, inviting us to glissade down the steep slope on our derrieres with a modicum of control. This proved to be the “stupid fun” piece of our outing.

Photo: All outdoor adventures are improved when a little stupid fun is added to the mix. Allison uses the powder to maintain control as she glides down the steep slope.

We crossed the snowfields, and with our ascending tracks located, dove back into the protection of the timber.

Photo: The sun shines bright as we near the edge of the timber from which we came. But not for long.

Mother Nature sent a friendly reminder that it's still winter. Snow started falling as we headed down the trail to the parking lot.

Thanks to the Wenatchee Outdoors snowshoe class, a new door of winter fun, as well as new friendships, have been opened for these outdoor enthusiasts.

Editors Note: Thanks,as well, to Wenatchee Parks and Recreations and Cascade Subaru for helping sponsor the class. And thanks to the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust for classroom space.