Saturday, 16 December

 

Although this day-hike was fun in many different ways, the sole purpose was trying to carry a loaded backpack up the steep mountain trail.

One of my potential snow camping scenarios this winter is hiking up the Bells Mountain Trail here in southwest Washington. It is a 2 mile hike-in, of which the last mile is a 1000 feet ascent up to a 1500 feet elevation.

Snow on trailSnow on the Bells Mountain trailTypically the snow level is not that low in this area, but I am hoping it will stay low this La Nina winter. There are other, higher elevation areas around here, but this destination is close to home, and doesn’t require any sno-park pass or other permits. The parking lot, being at 500 feet, will never receive any serious amount of snow, so it is easily accessible even in the winter.

I wasn’t sure how I would handle carrying a loaded backpack a good mile up a steep mountain trail, so I decided to try it on a quick day hike. It was also a colder day, with snow levels predicted to drop to 1000 feet, which made it even more exciting, especially since I am hoping to do some snow camping up there.

I have several large size backpacks, both internal and external frame packs. I have used the internal frame packs on previous camping trips, but this time I wanted to try the external frame pack.

BackpackBackpackI packed my 3-season tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pads, extra clothes, blanket, water, snacks, and some hardware, totaling about 30 pounds. It was a rainy day, so I wore my Coleman outdoors rain proof pants and jacket, a pair of thick wool socks, and my hiking boots. Basically I had everything I needed to stay overnight, but having other plas later on, there was no time to stay overnight.

The hike up did not wear me out by any means, but I did get sweaty. I tried to slow down to minimize sweating, but not practicing what I preach about delayering, I kept my coat on, although unzipped. It would probably have been better getting wet from rain than sweat. Surprisingly, my feet stayed warm and dry, not sweating at all. Would I have stayed overnight, I would have changed to dry clothes.

For an actual overnight trip, the backpack would most likely end up being maybe 35 pounds, which should still be ok, but on the other hand, if there is much more snow on the trail, it would wear me out more. I might have to consider using snow shoes. On my previous snow camping trips, I have used cross-country skis, but this route is way too steep for skis.

Snow on Bells Mountain bridgeSnow on Bells Mountain bridgeThe backpack was comfortable, and I think I prefer it over my internal backpacks.

I had my dog with me, and he had a blast in the snow! Maybe I should take him with me snow camping, but I don’t know, we will see.

Once I was up there I got a fire going from wet grass and twigs, but that’s another story…