It's a beautiful, blustery day up top. The high yesterday reached 40 degrees. The overnight low was 22 degrees. It was 29 degrees and partly cloudy at 7am observation. The mountain received no new precipitation yesterday. It looks as though we are in store for a few nice, clear days for the holiday weekend. I ran down Alum yesterday and there are only a few patches of ice along the trail, I don't think traction is required quite yet. Have fun out there!
I am thrilled to return for yet another season of sublime sunsets, majestic snow capped firs, bitter cold cheeks and hot tea, ecstatic day hikes, full moon wanderings in search of the bobcat, and all the associated glories that come with being the only man lucky enough to live in a national park all winter. I look forward to few rituals as much as my first pack of the season, with way too much gear strapped to my trusty Granite Gear, bones weary and head foggy from a longgggg bus trip... but so thrilled by what is around each familiar corner of the Alum Cave trail that I simply float. It isn't a normal hike, with things like exertion or time. I can't wait to reacquaint myself with all the million little pleasures up here and to share them with dear friends who are smart enough to visit me. It is going to be a great winter.
I say something to this effect at the start of every winter season, but the lodge is CLOSED for the season. There are no day hiker services available. No coffee, no hot chocolate, no warming up next to the fire, no overnight stays... just about all you can do is admire the beauty the winter months bring and relish in the joys of your self-sufficiency. The gift of winter hiking lies in the fact that with greater risk comes greater rewards. If you plan to hike in the park this winter, use all the resources available to make it the pleasant experience for yourself and others. Winter hiking can be a transcendent experience when done well - no bugs, fewer bears, no crowds, crisp air, clearer skies, seemingly infinite peace, pure comfort in a remote setting... but it can also be a time for wet boots, endless shivering nights, hands that no longer feel like hands but strange foreign pieces of rubber, frozen jeans and sweatshirts, desperation where outside help is unlikely... so please, for everyone's sake, be safe and stay within your limits. Turn around if you feel uncomfortable. The mountains will be here longer than you will. Be safe out there, folks!
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