Feb 22, 2004 -- Balsam Lake Mtn

Balsam Lake Mountain

Balsam Lake Mountain

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I made a resolution to try some winter hiking, and to learn some winter skills.   I had received a shiny new pair of snowshoes for Christmas, but had no idea how to use them.


I left home Saturday evening, with the plan of driving up to the trailhead and sleeping in the back of the car.

The drive itself was an adventure. It began to show as I started up route 28, with increasing amounts of new snow on the ground as I went along. The last 20 miles, along steep, narrow, and lonely roads, was a real test for my new car. I arrived about 2:00AM and had no trouble falling asleep when I finally arrived.

The next morning it was windy and cold, with a few inches of new powder. I tried walking a little way up the trail, but without snowshoes I fell through up to my knees on each step, and only got a hundred yards before I was exhausted.


Balsam Lake Mtn Trailhead


I tagged along with Bernard and Irene, who were planning to climb Balsam Lake Mtn (and possibly Graham) in February. Irene was doing her final few hikes for the winter peaks badge. 


I tried on the showshoes, and to my delight they were wonderful. Waling in them was not nearly as awkward as I had imagined, even over steep or uneven terrain. For the most part, I stayed up on the show surface, and could move along really easily.

Bernard and Irene showed up right on time, and we took off up the mountain. Although the weather was cold and windy, I warmed quickly with the exertion of climbing, and shed several layers of clothing, hat, and gloves. I had a lot of trouble keeping my water from freezing, but if I drank every few minutes I could break up the ice before it got too bad. I let Bernard and Irene break trail for most of the way, but was able to keep up without too much trouble. The one section that I led turned out to be the steepest, the deepest, and the most difficult of the whole trip.

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Bernard and Irene Signing In


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Thankfully, the trail up to Balsam Lake Mtn was wide and easy to follow, even without having to search for markers. We did have to detour around bowed over trees frequently, but otherwise the trail was wide and mostly fairly flat.  
Nearing Summit of Balsam Lake Mtn


After about 3 hours, we came upon the tower and cabin on the peak, and were pleased to discover that a ranger and some volunteers had the cabin open and a warm fire going. So instead of having to sit in the show to eat lunch, we came inside, sat in chairs, dried off and warned up, and had a very pleasant lunch.
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Irene on Summit


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It was hard to leave the warm cabin. 
Bernard on Summit


The return was much easier: not only was I getting used to the snowshoes, but the trail was now compacted by our climb up, and that made it much easier going. We considered going up Graham, but decided against it. The trail is not marked, and with all the snow on the ground it was not clear where the route went. Bernard knew the way, more or less, but was reluctant to try it that day, so we skilled it. 
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View from Summit Ridge


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I got back to the trailhead feeling pretty good, not at all sore or worn out. The roads had been plowed, so driving home was much faster than the drive up. I felt good because, despite the cold and the deep snow, I had been able to keep up with the others and was comfortably warm while doing it.  

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