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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Waumbek (#20), December 30, 2008

Starr King Trail, roundtrip, 7.2 0.3 mile walk each way from winter parking to trailhead....

7.9 miles total.

Yesterday, the reported trail conditions for Starr King Trail seemed perfect for Alex. Frozen bumpy sidewalk, microspike friendly. A dusting of snow for the overnight forecast. So of course when we woke up there were several new inches on the ground (sigh). We agreed to go to the trailhead and take a look. Alex could make the call on whether or not we were going to hike, and we could bail whenever she wanted.

We drove to Jefferson, I parked in the public lot by the gas station, and we walked the 0.3 miles to the trailhead.

The snow cover was just enough for Alex to want to give it a go. It was snowing at the trailhead, coming down lightly but constantly. I told her we may have to deal with another inch or two on the return, and she seemed okay with that. So off we went, slowly but surely.

We made steady progress -- and we finally figured out a way to keep her hands warm 100% of the time while allowing her to use poles. Well, actually one pole. She would hold one pole however she could, then when that hand needed a break from gripping, she'd switch hands. This system kept both hands relaxed enough throughout the hike to allow for better blood flow. For the first time on a cold weather hike, her hands remained warm from start to finish. We were both relieved to have finally figured out something that worked for her.

Underneath those couple of powdery inches was a hard, icy surface. I think this made the trek a bit easier than she expected.

By the time we arrived at the 2.1 mile mark (the spring), it had stopped snowing.

We saw a few yellow icicles along the way. Alex thought they were interesting and wanted to know why they were yellow. I guessed that sap had leaked into the water while the icicle was forming, but I told her I wasn't sure and that I would do some research and find out.

We soon came to a huge blow-down on the trail. A giant tree had crashed over and completely blocked the path. There was no way around it, one had to climb through all the branches to get to the other side. Wish I had taken a picture of that...oh well.

Not too long after that adventure, we came to the short steep bit right before the Starr King summit.

We could hear the wind howling, so I layered up Alex before we reached the top.

Since we were somewhat exposed to the wind, we quickly ducked back into the trees and went on our way toward the summit of Waumbek.

The path between the two peaks proved more challenging than the path on the way up. The snow was deeper -- instead of 2-3 inches to contend with, we now had 4-5. Not that much of an increase, but enough to set Alex's teeth on edge. It took us about an hour to do what I hear is an otherwise easy mile.

Here are some trees along the way, displaying some lovely icy branches...

The final few tenths of a mile up Waumbek were difficult for Alex. We were going uphill in snow that was too deep for her liking. I encouraged her, sang to her, cheered her on...and we finally made it.

We didn't stay long, I wanted to get back down to the col between the summits before taking a break. We were mainly sheltered from the wind, but every once and a while a gust would sneak through and man, was it cold!

The two of us trudged down a bit, then we took a water/food break for a few minutes. I asked Alex if she felt warm enough, she answered yes. She also said she felt very tired, which I understood and at the time thought it was due to walking through the snow.

We continued onward, Alex hiking verrry slowly up Starr King. She buttslid rather unenthusiastically down the little steep bit, then continued walking at a snail's pace behind me. I asked her what was wrong, she didn't say anything.

Something was definitely wrong -- without exception, on every single hike, she descends with newfound energy and talks my ear off every step of the way. Then I realized that even though we had stopped often for water and food, she hadn't actually drank a lot of water. She'd been taking little sips and then handing the bottle back to me. So I sat her down, threw another layer on her for good measure, hand-fed her two chocolate bars (so she wouldn't have to take off her gloves) and demanded she drink a TON of water. After that treatment, we went on our way....within ten minutes she transformed from unfamiliar, quiet, grumpy kid into that happy, enthusiastic chatterbox I always descend with. Our speed increased threefold.

We made it down the trail, and Alex paused to check out something we had walked right by during our ascent....

Before we knew it, we were back at the trailhead.

Alex's 20th 4K, and also her first winter 4K.

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