The Ridge

January 11 2014

Yesterday, Wendle and I each received an e-mail telling us that Dakota Ridge had re-opened and that we were expected to be up on the mountain at 9.00am, Saturday

It’s a good thing we’ve kept our calendar free. Even though this is our scheduled weekend, we didn’t expect to have to go today. The Ridge has been closed…pretty much since we were there to open it on ‘The Day of The Pugilist’, (December 26 Post)

The temperatures everywhere have been above seasonal and not many of the mountain ski resorts have had any snow. Two days ago we heard that there was nothing but ice and rain on Dakota…and now there’s supposed to be 30cm of snow. We’re leery about the veracity of that report, but excited to get into some snow if it turns out to be accurate

8.00am and we pull into the parking lot at Strait Coffee, where we’ll meet Bryan and Renee. While we’re waiting I take a picture of Wendy. No reason…and the sheer randomness of the act seems to surprise her (or she’s thinking, ‘what a knucklehead’)

When Renee and Bryan arrive, we chill a bit while they have a coffee and a muffinesque thing that actually looks pretty tasty. It’s weird sitting inside the cafe in full winter gear. The outside temperature here at sea level is eight celcius and the skies are clearing. The four of us discuss the amount snow we expect to see on Dakota Ridge…it’s unanimous, we’re all skeptical

Dakota Ridge (October 7 Post) is a very popular winter recreation area. It is normally ‘the place’ to cross country ski and snowshoe. The recent lack of snow, and subsequent closing of the area, really seems to have shaken up the faithful. There’s talk on the Dakota Ridge Facebook page about making offerings to the snow gods…perhaps we should have brought an offering too…some SPAM or something…just in case

The road up the mountain is bone dry. We we’re told to expect ice 8km up the forest service road but so far…nada. Places where we saw packed snow and/or ice on Boxing Day, are now barren of moisture of any kind. Well, at least it’s not raining

And then, about 11k up the road, and not far before we round the last bend up to the parking lot, there is an immediate transition

Ba-Bam

Snow…and lots of it. Almost as if a line had been drawn with dry land on one side and a foot of snow on the other. It’s really weird and incredibly beautiful

And it’s still snowing

We park…hop out of the Jeep and take care of the myriad of things that need doing before the public arrives. There is definitely 30cm of snow on the picnic table so the forecast has proven true (kudos). The temperature is zero celcius and it’s snowing steadily

Wendy and I take the first shift at hiking the trail. We’ve been advised that there is about a kilometre and a half of marked snowshoe trail open. It’s not the usual trail, just a straight ‘in and out’, marked with yellow symbols and ending just before the backcountry. We’re going to check on the condition of that trail

We pop on our snowshoes and head up what is known as ‘the old mine road’

The snow is deep and thick and wet…pastey. It’s slow going (i seem to have left my snowshoeing legs in my other pants). Occasionally we drop, snowshoes and all, through a foot of snow and into the foot of water that hides underneath. Yech

But it’s also heart stoppingly gorgeous

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Snow hangs thick and heavy on the tree limbs

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It brings out the child in you

(superstar)

We go about 800m up the trail before turning back. We want to be back in time to let Bryan and Renee do their trail check

After using our snowshoes to tamp down the area around the trailhead we standby while Renee and Brian put on their snowshoes. A fellow rides up on a snowmobile. His name is Mike and he’s another volunteer. He borrows our radio to speak with Steve, who is grooming the trails with the PistenBully (what an awesome machine)

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They’re trying to get more of the ski trails groomed but are running into our old foe…water. The Hemlock trail has a river running through it and needs to be blocked off. That’s where Mike is heading

It’s actually pretty bleak out here in the open. The wind has picked up, snow is whipping our faces and it’s the slashing, needle type

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Once Bryan and Renee head out, Wendle and I man the gate. There are few visitors and those that do come are hoping for some clear information on what trails are open. We’re all over the snowshoeing info but the ski trails are still being groomed and while some like Balsam, Squamish and Yellow Cedar (what a pretty name) are opening…others (Hemlock) are closing

Nothing makes your feet colder than standing on hard packed snow for any length of time. I’m pacing in front of the greeting area…Wendy watches me intently

“What are you doing?” she asks, “You look like a Mountie in front of the Parliament buildings.”

“I’m putting in mileage.” I reply, “I’ve already walked 300m and I’m doing it 15m at a time.”

She shakes her head sadly…all you can see through the snow is her muffled hood moving slowly side to side.

“Good luck with that.” she says

“Thanks. I’m shooting for a kilometre”

More head nodding. Then she turns and walks off towards the warming hut

(hey…it’s freakin cold standing here)

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A little later, Mike comes over and asks me if I can help him push the snowmobile. It’s stuck in snow at the entrance to the equipment shed

“Sure”

Hmm, I’ve never pushed a snowmobile before. This oughta be interesting

Well….it is that. After much pushing and revving, we finally get the sled…into the shed. Then, because it’s over too far, we have to drag the thing across the floor…and over heavy rubber mats…to make room for the PistenBully which is coming in for a landing. No sooner do we get the snowmobile into place than a new fella shows up and distracts everybody

Oh, there going to be talking for awhile…and I gotta go

“Okayyy…” I stammer, “I guess I’ll be going”

Nobody even looks up

Back at the trailhead and everyone is gearing up to head home. One problem, our replacements aren’t here. Bryan phones down to SCRD headqwarrrters (we remember you Jocko) and fills them in on the situation. In reply, Sam (Adams) tells him that a tree has fallen across the road leading up the mountain and a crew is on the way to clear it. Apparently our replacements are stuck on the other side of the barrier. Bryan let’s Sam know that we will lock everything back in the equipment shed before we go

In the time it takes for the windshield to clear, our replacements show up and warn us about the massive tree blocking the road. They also tell us that we should have tire chains on for the return trip

Brian and Wendy jump out and put the chains on

On the road down we drive by the fellow who is making short work of the tree barrier, with a chainsaw. He’s rolling the last piece of log off the road as we pass

Brian stops the Jeep as soon as we’re back onto manageable roads. It’s Renee and my turn to take the chains off. I’ve never used them before. Lots of driving in heavy snow but never have had the need for chains. They seem like a giant pain in the ass (unless you’re driving on an icy mountain road)

Back in the IGA parking lot in Davis Bay where our car is parked. It’s not terribly sunny but we are still way overdressed. We pack the Civic under the watchful eye of this very friendly fellow…and his buddy who was too small to look out the window

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I’ve been really sick all week with that wicked cold that’s been going around. I felt pretty good this morning but I can feel my body reacting negatively to all of today’s wet cold. We’re going to head home and get something dry on…maybe get deep into a bowl of Wendy’s turkey soup. But you go on…head up to Dakota Ridge and play in the snow. It’s still only early afternoon. If you start out now, you could be snowshoeing up the old mine road by two. Oh…and watch out for falling trees…and put your freakin chains on

https://www.facebook.com/Dakota.SCRD

Goodnight all

Moose and Wendle

P.S.

Coolest fridge ever

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P.S.S.

Gwyn ‘Jocko’ Thomas – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/legendary-reporter-gwyn-jocko-thomas-dies-1.890578

P.S.S.S.

I decided to put a dot between pictures. I’m experimenting to see how we can give them some space…you know some room to breathe. There may be a way to do this in ‘settings’ but damned if I know

Achooo

Photo Credits

Pisten Bully – http://bb.bc4x4.com/showthread.php?163377-Snow-wheelin-daddy-style

Han Solo Fridge – http://laughingsquid.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/HanasonicFridge.jpg

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