On the last weekend in June, my fiance’, suggested that we go hiking at Snow Lake in the Cascades. He showed me the picture below, so obviously I said yes.
In Seattle, the sun was starting to come out, and I was worried about getting too hot in my jeans, but I kept them on and even grabbed my flannel shirt because it tends to be cooler in the mountains. As we drove out to Snoqualmie Pass, I imagined that we’d make a somewhat leisurely loop around the lake, pausing occasionally to sit and admire the the snow-capped peaks reflecting in the crytalline water.
But when we finally got to the trail-head, ominous clouds were rolling in, and we realized we hadn’t brought rain gear, or even a backpack. Paul found an umbrella in my car and used it to fashion a hobo stick so he could carry our bag of snacks and water. “I don’t think we’ll need this,” he said, tossing my bottle of sunscreen in the backseat. We put on our boots and began to hike.
According to the map, the lake was sitting high above us, and we were going to have to climb to an elevation of 4,400 feet in order to see it. It was then that I understood — we weren’t hiking around the lake, but to it.
The hiking, however, was delightful. The air smelled of Christmas trees, and all around us was the sound of rushing waterfalls as the snowmelt made its way down the rocky mountainsides. Tiny, bell-shaped wildflowers bloomed along the edges of the trail, and we began to see bright patches of snow.
Soon enough, we were tromping through these patches, laughing as we slipped in the icy, packed-down snow. In the distance were tall, snow-capped peaks, and clouds moved against the mountains, pushing their way up and over to the other side.
It grew colder, but we were sweating from exertion. We passed plenty of other hikers with snow poles and REI rain gear. They looked at us oddly — especially at Paul, who was carrying the hobo stick.
Then it began to rain. Lightly at first, but then heavier. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind. I was enjoying the beauty of it all; I was enjoying being with Paul. I was even enjoying the ache in my hamstrings as we continued up an ever-steepening path.
The last stretch was the hardest. The temperature had dropped severely, and my fingers were starting to go numb as we clamored over snowy rocks. The air was misty and cold; we had hiked into the clouds. We finally reached the overlook and scrambled up to the top of a big rock to look down at the lake, but all I could see was the white mist that swirled all around us.
“That’s it,” Paul said, pointing into the blurry ,white distance.
“Where?” My teeth were chattering.
“That’s the lake. It’s frozen.”
And so it was. Through the cloudy mist I could just make out part of the lake, frozen and covered with a sheet of hardened snow.
We ate some trail mix then headed back down the mountain, damp and chilled to the bone.
We were a little disappointed. It would have been nice to see the crystalline lake surrounded by mountains. To think, I’d been worried about getting hot and sunburned. “But I’m still enjoying this hike,” I said as we picked our way down the side of the mountain. “It wasn’t what I was expecting, but this is still fun.”
And I meant it. I was enjoying the fresh air, the smell of pines, the sound of the waterfalls. I had even enjoyed the challenge of walking up steep switchbacks into the clouds.
This is the way life goes sometimes, isn’t it? Things are different (or more difficult) than you imagined. You’re unprepared, and the things you worried about seem silly because it’s something else — something you didn’t even think of — that is the problem. Still, you can often make do, perhaps with a hobo stick and a cheerful attitude, and find a way to enjoy the journey anyway.
(The other life lesson I took from this: pay attention to names. I mean, it was called Snow Lake.)