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East Coast Canada
- [first draft: March 7, 2003]
|2003/02/15 - 2003/02/16||
The weather report promised 4-8 inches
of snow in Snowbowl for Thursday/Friday. By Wednesday, the forecast was down to
1-4 inches. But when i arrived on Saturday, it didn't look promising. Flagstaff
(elev 7,000 ft) had NO SNOW. As the road winded towards Snowbowl (elev 9,000 ft),
it looked disappointing. "Chains or 4-wheel drive required" sign was
missing... the road was totally clear of snow. At 8,800 ft snow started appearing.
At 9,000 ft Snowbowl had enough snow for skiing.
It was overcast and close to end of a
ski day when i started uphill on foot. I saw 2 snow-shoers making their way up,
close to my route. While i had to move slowly and try not to sink too deep, they
were happily walking along. As it turned out, they were going the same way i was.
But did they leave a trail for me to follow? No. Their snowshoes kept them floating
on snow, but there was no trail after them.
I passed the end of the ski lift, and
followed the left branch of the fork -- the one going up steeper. I had my backpack
with me, of course, but no food. Lot of water, but no food. Since i arrived late,
i wasn't planning on hiking for long, but my plans changed. I tried a few icicles,
and they did the trick for the time being. I met up with a lady snowshoer who
was coming down. I asked her about snowshoes and then she was on her way. Within
minutes her husband and their dog were walking down. I asked him about the path
to Humphrey's peak. For some reason i had engraved in my mind that Humphrey's
peak is at 11,500ft. "It's 12,600ft ... trust me, I live here man".
I verified it, and the man is right. I was up Humphrey's once in 2000, but i forgot
its height since then. Maybe Mnt Baldy is at 11,500ft. Mnt Baldy is in White Mountains,
and is the second highest peak in Arizona.
I walked up a little until the big clearing.
Nice. There was still a long way to go, as the man said, but without food... I
got up to 10,080ft before going down. 2 years ago (in winter), i thought the end
of the ski-lift was the top of Snowbowl. As i found out now, there was a lot more
to explore, but it would have to wait for another day.
The plan was to camp in snow, and that's
what i did. At 10:22pm at 7460ft, it was 30 F. A little cold to wash your face
in, but otherwise bearable with the right gear. Even though i planned on getting
up early, it didn't happen. The morning sun before 9am, before sunrays hit the
area around you -- that's a time of beautiful light. But sometimes sleep can be
more beautiful, as it was this time.
Around 10am I left my camp-spot. As many
times in the past, pictures were on my mind. Snowy Humphrey's peak rising above
the landscape. Instead of Snowbowl road, i followed a dirt road and then turned
onto another promising dirt road. "Promising" because it was heading
towards Humphrey's peak. After 2 miles, i found a spot for parking -- a little
turnout on the muddy trail. As I continued on foot, I was still in a muddy area
with very little snow. At 8,500ft the snow started. I was still walking through
the woods since leaving my car. The promise of a clearing was ahead. But how far
ahead? Too close to Humphrey's peak to see the peak? I got up to 9,300ft. The
last 200 yards were across a snowy meadow. Snow, snow everywhere. I was up to
my knees at time, sometimes over my knees. This was my spot for pictures. It wasn't
to my liking. Humphrey's peak looked decent, but the foreground was too gray.
The art of photography is to capture little pieces of life which look appealing
for some reason. But sometimes the pictures just aren't there.
The sun smiled most of the time, but
when it didn't, the temperature dropped quickly. I made a cooking spot in the
snow, a 2ft by 2ft area i cleared of snow, and leaned back on lying branches.
I started my little stove, and 30 seconds later the fuel ran out. Ooooooops. Good
thing i had other food too. As I sat on my sweater and blue poncho, i daydreamed
of the gear i would need for snow travel. Snowshoes of course, and gaitors to
keep the snow out of boots. Gore-tex pants would be nice, but probably breathable
upper-body clothes would be more important. A little 2ft by 2ft piece of Ridgerest
mat to sit on, and of course the muti-purpose blue poncho.|
Past the rest spot the snow got deeper.
It was up to my knees with every step, and sometimes even deeper. I reached the
end of the meadow definately feeling my feet getting cold. Walking down I followed
my footsteps -- that and wiggling my toes helped a lot. I looked for my footprints
in the little patches of snow in the woods. Just after parking my jeep in the
morning, a couple with a Pathfinder passed me, and later i saw their parked car.
They were gone already. I was alone. It only took 1h 15minutes to get down.
Only 2 minutes into driving, i crossed
a trail more significant than the one i was driving on. Where does it lead? An
adventure was awaiting. Within a mile i stopped. The road went down for about
60 yards, then up again to same elevation. I evaluated if jeep could make it up
once we got down. The dirt road was full of mud. Jeep powerrrrrrrrrr. The flat
road didn't last long. The second downhill-uphill path looked worse. But i kept
the gas pedal down and it was ok. Right at the top was the beginning of another
downhill-uphill. This looked concerning.The mud looked deeper. I would start going
downhill at an angle to the slope. I looked at my tires. Full of mud, and i mean
full. There will be no traction at all. Slipping guaranteed. I turned back. Crazy
yes, and often, but never stupid.
As it turned out, my best pictures were with my camera pointed away from
Humphrey's Peak. For "footprints" and "stove" pictures, my camera was pointed
exactly the opposite way.
The best snow of the season was yet to come (in March) -- see Photos 2003