first real night out with Speer stuff near Mt Baker, WA 2/9-10/09
Monday 2/9/09 I hiked and snowshoed up a road gated for wildlife on West Church Mountain north of Mt Baker and the hamlet of Glacier, Washington. This is on Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and in the North Cascade mountain range in northwest Washington state about 5-6 miles south of the US/Canada border.
I hiked up in Salomon XA-8 cross country (XC) ski boots that are a lot like hiking boots but with a hinge under the toe that clips into the ski binding. It was frustrating to have to take snowshoes on and off for intermittent snowpatches. Snow was more continuous about 3500 feet elevation or so in open areas near second growth forest. There was only about 1 foot of snow until 3900 feet and it was a crunchy hardpack with a little fluffy snow on top. This is why I brought snowshoes instead of XC skis.
There's a view south from a rock outcrop to the North Fork Nooksack valley, Glacier far below, up into the Glacier Creek valley with Skyline Divide and Mt Baker wrapped in clouds.
After about 4 miles in my left ankle got really sore from bumping against the outer heel cuff that provides support and rigidity for turning. West Church Mountain loomed above.
The dogs and I climbed West Church in late May a few years ago with ice ax when we could drive closer. A lot of alder whips have grown in on the side of the road since then and there are new washouts. The last 1/2 mile of the road was a few inches of nice snow on top of the icy/crunchy hardpack so I really regretted not using my XC skis. I don't like snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is not comfortable. XC skiing is much better. There was a nice view of the North Fork Nooksack valley west towards the town of Maple Falls.
The walkout felt long because of my sore left ankle which was painful at times. The whole trip was about 9 miles RT with about 1600 foot elevation gain. About half of the hike was on snowshoes. Temperature was in the upper 30s down low and below freezing up high with a little flurries. Partly cloudy all day. Nicer weather than normal although the snowpack is lower than average now. There were rabbit, deer, coyote and bobcat tracks in the snow. I heard a grouse flush from the side of the road on the way up.
That night I camped at a spur road near MP 1 on the Canyon Creek Road. It was a nice unofficial, undeveloped spot a little off the road. This was my first night with the Speer Winter hammock and Speer PeaPod III not in the backyard. The hammock was an ENO Doublenest. I put a light foil space blanket in between the hammock and the PeaPod and used a Sierra Designs synthetic Fastbag as a top quilt. Over the hammock and PeaPod went a homemade hammock sock. I slept in fleece pants made of "cookie monster hide" ;), a down jacket, with a fleece balaclava and down booties.
It dropped down to about 27 degrees F at night. Maybe colder? Relative humidity I estimate was about 80%. I do know it was 30 degrees F when I woke up at 7 am. I was too warm at about 1 am and had to open the PeaPod and take the down jacket off. The last hour before waking up I was not toasty, barely warm enough to sleep with the downcoat back on and buttoned up. :confused:
The overall setup and most of the night was ridiculously comfortable.
There was frozen droplets on the inside of the hammock sock and on the ends of the PeaPod. I should not have applied waterproofing spray on the ends of the hammock sock. I did that too keep the sock and PeaPod dry from rain near the side of the tarp. That was a mistake. Now, I have to make a sew a new hammock sock that is totally breathable.
Another problem was keeping the PeaPod from touching the ground while I put it on the hammock. The PeaPod is big and made of top notch down. The ground was near freezing so the PeaPod did not get wet. If the ground were wet like it normally is, the PeaPod would've gotten wet and wet down gear freaks me out.
The Speer Winter Tarp is great! It went up fast, has great coverage, lightweight and seems solid. I look forward to seeing what it has in more challenging conditions.
Another problem was the ENO getting all twisted up with the DIY ridgeline when I pull it out of the bag. This is a minor inconvenience but it annoying to realize the hammock is twisted up after you've already tied it into the treehuggers and it must be undone.
After breaking down the hammock and camp, I drove about 30 minutes up SR 542 closer to Mt Baker Ski Area and skied the snow-covered upper Salmon Ridge Road below White Salmon Lodge.
There was atleast 4 inches of fluffy snow on top of ice. This was good snow but my ankle was sore from the day before. I skied anyway, in pain, gimpy and favoring my left foot by not lifting the heel that much when striding. The boot was OK when skiing but not hiking. These boots did not do this before when there were arch supports that lifted the ankle higher. My ankle did not hurt much when going downhill, herringboning and skating.
The snow-covered old logging road goes past cool rocks and views of mountains.
Mt Shuksan was mostly obscured by clouds but Mt Sefrit was briefly visible.
I managed to shuffle to the end of the road at the old logging landing about 2.5 miles in. Nice views of the North Fork Valley and some mountains.
There wasn't much snow here. Maybe 2 feet at most and bare in some spots in the forest. There are good places to hang up here. Maybe I'll go back when it's clear, make a hammock camp and gawk at Mt Shuksan and other peaks in the evening and morning?