Around 11:00am we broke out of the trees into the huge clearing/rock quarry that we refer to as “the Lower Shooting Spot” due to it’s popularity with teenagers drinking and shooting their daddy’s shotgun. We stopped there for a few minutes, had a hot pocket (cooked on our engines) and chatted while admiring the stunning solitude and incredible vistas. Back on the trail, it was quickly apparent that if I thought the trail had been challenging up ‘til now, it was only a glimpse of things to come. We estimated the snow to be about four feet deep at this point, with many thousands of feet yet to climb.
My forward progress was nearly nonexistent, and Ian’s was totally focused on just getting back on the trail. I struggled for 15 minutes trying get back on top of the snow and moving again. It was just not happening; no matter which gear I used, high-range or low, slow or fast, I just plowed into the deep powder and stopped.
Meanwhile, Michael and Ian were having similar problems. For the hell of it, I decided to air down slightly. I went from 8 to 5 psi, and like that, I was back on the trail cruising along at 15 mph. Ian followed suit, aired down further and had similar results.
Now I was really hauling up the snow-covered road, having to shift out of low range due to my speed. My progress was such that it was decided that I would keep on pushing ahead while Ian and Michael aired down some more and followed a few minutes later.
Once we regrouped, we went the last of the way up to the ‘top’ where the gate is to the Seattle watershed. The snow was even with the
top of the gateposts, about five feet high. We decided to camp there, in a small grove of trees that would hopefully block some of the wind.
While Ian and Michael started to get camp organized, I aired down to 3 psi and went a little further up the road to get some pictures
of Mt. Rainier, which looks close enough to touch from where we had stopped to camp.
With that accomplished, what else would three responsible adults do but go sledding and build a jump? Michael had the foresight to bring along one of his children’s sleds, and we took turns trying to get as much air as possible; luckily there were no broken bones to report.
Our original plan was to build an igloo to sleep in, something I’d never tried before, but Michael assured Ian and I that it was relatively easy and very warm. We got Michael’s ice saw out and started making the bricks that would make up the walls of our little domicile. It was quickly apparent that it was just not going to work.