Nature Notes

Vol. X February - 1932 No. 2

On Winter Trails

You are tired and hungry from hours of traveling over the snow. Night's sombre shadows are rapidly enveloping the mountains. Rocky buttes to the left loom hazily through the falling snow and the dimly outlined canyon ahead is dark and gloomy. But that is timber. And in the timber is the objective of the day -- the patrol cabin at Nickle Creek. The thought of food and shelter drives us ahead on our skiis; we top a ridge which bounds an old burn and are soon treading our way through the curtain of darkness of the deep woods. The snow is hard lumpy here from recent thaws and freezes. It is hard going but soon the gurgle of the creek, muted by the heavy snows that throttles its waters from the overhanging banks, is heard. Many times we have camped on the banks of this stream in summer. Now we cross it, treading our way along a log rendered twice its great size by the snows that have clung to it.

winter cabin

And then the cabin. Imbedded in deep drifts it stands forlorn and dark. More than six feet of snow lies on its roof and, like a giant mushroom, rises a column of snow which gives evidence of the chimney's location. Our skiis are snapped from our feet; packs are swung from our shoulders and part of the party begins digging towards the door which is blocked by the snow. We clambor to the top of the drift on the roof and a hole is driven into the heart of the snow mushroom, revealing finally the cabin's flue. Suddenly liberated the smoke pours forth for the others have kindled a fire within and soon we are warming ourselves by the fire, steam rising from wet clothing, while the coffee pot boils merrily. Solid comfort! We're in -- and the next of the program is grub.

winter trails

winter trails

Such is a brief description of one's impressions at the end of a journey on a winter trip. Much snow overlays the entire park at this time -- from several inches at the Nisqually Entrance and similar elevations to twelve or fifteen feet in the high country. So, with the exception of the Nisqually highway which is kept open by snow plows to Canyon Rim, all travel is by snowshoes or skiis. Recently Rangers Frank Greer and Harold Hall, Chief Ranger Davis and the writer made such a winter trip across the southern portion of the park to the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station. In the high country the snow was excellent for skiing and we skimmed over Reflection Lakes, for it was covered with deep drifts, and down the long hill to Lake Louise and the entrance of Stevens Canyon. The next few miles were anything but short. Constantly fighting brush and icy sidehills we were forced on many occasions to remove our skiis and make our way as best we could. The tracks of considerable game were seen - particularly those of Martin and Snowshoe Rabbit - but not an animal did we see except for one Mountain Goat. He eyed us from a rocky butte just before we crossed the Box Canyon and then climbed hurriedly toward the summit of his winter rendesvouz. The Box Canyon of the Cowlitz, interesting in summer, is even more awe-inspiring in the winter. The dull growl of the river rushing through the narrow cleft in the rocks more than a hundred feet below seems more intense and menacing. This canyon is so narrow that it seems as if one could jump across it -- but no one ever has tried. Actually it is about 20 feet wide at its narrowest point. After crossing the snow covered bridge we pushed over the last mile and a half, to the new Nickle Creek Cabin, as darkness was settling over the mountains.

winter trails

Morning found us making our way through the heavy timber toward the top of the Cowlitz Divide which we reached about noon. Fifteen feet of snow overlaid the ground and on the down grade we were repeatedly showered with snow as we brushed branches of trees. And so we soon arrived at the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station where we were greeted -- and what's more important - fed by Ranger Barnett.

Throughout the trip the movie and still cameras were working considerable and though no animal pictures were obtained the trip was a success otherwise.


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