When the weather falls apart just in time for the weekend, I pick my destination using what I unmusically call "microclimate optimization." Diving into the weather reports, webcams, and personal intuition, I set out for the east side of Stevens Pass. Sure enough, the sun started breaking through the clouds as I crested the pass. At this point, I really did not know exactly where I was going -- maybe somewhere up Icicle creek, maybe the desert -- I'd just go until I hit mostly not-terrible weather. Things were looking really promising near Coles Corner, and I abruptly decided to point my nose towards Lake Wenatchee and good 'ole Dirtyface.
Conditions were ideal for this trail: on the cool side, with large patches for blue sky poking between the clouds. The bugs were thick at the trailhead,, but once I got moving (and kept moving) they left me alone.
Early on, I noted signs of recent trail work, such as cleared drainages. I did not realize how recent the work was, however, until I bumped into the work party doing it around a mile in!
As I passed the creek crossing, I tried to remember how many switchbacks lay ahead, with the intent of counting them (which is a good way to pass the time on the way up). I think I remember Harvey Manning quoting 97 switchbacks. Unfortunately, whatever the number, I was already a score of switchbacks in before I remembered that I was going to count them!
Some flowers are showing, including a couple nice patches of lupine. About a dozen down trees, all LDTR* 1 or 2. There were a few patchs of snow 1-3 ft long and posed no problem. There are a few stretches where brush sticks its nose in your personal space.
The atmosphere was decidedly unsettled. A good wind was running with occasional big gusts. For a dozen or so switchbacks, I'd get hit by a cool wind and some "fluffy rain" at the west end of the switchback, and still, warm, dry air at the east end, and these are no long switchbacks! The snow/rain mix was odd, since it seemingly came out of nowhere. I resolved to turn around if I heard thunder, but fortunately that never happened. More wind and snow/rain mix at the summit.
The hike down was mostly in nice warm (but not hot) sunshine, with occasional flurries of fluffy rain. The work party I had seen on the way up was gone and did not seem to have made it much farther than when I saw them. Got back to the car, checked for ticks, and headed back to the wet side of the mountains, where I was greeted with heavy winds, rain, and a few sunbreaks. I think I chose wisely when I went east.
*Lee Down Tree Rating Scale:
1. Easily stepped over with a normal stride -OR- can be walked under without noticeably ducking
2. Large step-over required -OR- can be walked under with mild stooping -OR- short diversion on easy, well-established bypass trail required
3. Climb-over, may require some use of hand holds, both feet leave the ground, small drop back to trail -OR- can be passed under, but large amount of stooping, and possible use of hands required -OR- diversion on steep, long, and/or not well-established bypass
4. Difficult climb-over, requires substantial use of handholds, multiple steps up, large drop back to trail -OR- crawling-under on all fours or belly required -OR- significant off-trail travel required to bypass
5. Impassible by any reasonable means