The Rambling Writer on a Snowshoe Outing with Thor and Bear Dog

Snowshoe2016FebBearWe’re happy: Thor, Bear dog, and I wrapped in our reflective tarps as we perch on the snowy flanks of Mt. Shuksan, breathing in the crisp mountain air and listening to the quiet. We’re just the right amount of tired and hungry from our snowshoeing (and ecstatic doggy snow-whirling) and settling in for lunch and hot chocolate (and dog biscuits). I offer a silent Thank You for the privilege of living in the Pacific Northwest where we can carpe diem – this one a lucky midweek day off – and zip up to the mountain for a dose of wild.


Growing up in this neck of the woods/mountains/sea before the area was put on the “destination” map by the likes of Outdoor Magazine, I took for granted “our” special wilderness getaways. And, since I’d been hiking and camping since my earliest memories, not to mention skiing, racing my horse along forest trails, and diving into any available body of water, I suppose I assumed that I’d always be fit as a fiddle and ready to go. Well, as a Baby Boomer, I now have to pause to take inventory of my various old injuries from my roughneck lifestyle, so the getaways require a bit more prep. This winter, Thor is still recovering full function after back surgery, and I’m almost healed from a hamstring pull. But the mountains were calling, and we said, “Yes!”


This time our route took us from the upper Mt. Baker ski area parking lot winding uphill between Shuksan and Baker peaks. Then we veered off into the snowy bowl of the Bagley Lakes loop below the volcanic plug of Tabletop. We had some intermittent company with  back-country skiers and other snowshoers, but there was space and quiet for us all.


Crossing the frozen lake, we paused at the old rock bridge at the outflow creek, where the summer trail takes hikers up to the pass above more high mountain lakes.


We found a cozy spot overlooking the softly gurgling stream, not frozen over this year, and pulled out our foam pads and reflective tarps. Bear enjoyed his own warm nest, hoping for leftovers. Thor had spiked his signature dark-chocolate cocoa with just enough dark rum for a perfect glow, and we raised our cups to The Wild.


On the way home, it occurred to me to catalogue all the gear we wear and carry on our winter forays, and here’s a shot of most of mine.


The List: Knapsack with lunch, cocoa (rum optional), water, and the “Ten Essentials.” Snowshoes and poles. Clothing layers: long underwear, fleece pants, fleece top, lightweight insulated jacket, waterproof  lined hat with ear flaps, winter mittens and optional liner gloves, liner socks and thick wool socks, winter boots, waterproof gaiters to go over boots and lower legs. Sunscreen and sunglasses or goggles. Stashed in the knapsack: windproof rain/snow pants and shell jacket, scarf, and balaclava in case it turns blizzardy, plus reflective tarp & foam sitting pad. Gel handwarmer packets, and “Musher’s Secret” wax for Bear’s paws. Geezer equipment: Two knee braces (extra support after 3 knee surgeries) and neoprene hamstring wrap.

Presto, ready to go—mountains, here we come!

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