Giants of the Cascade Crest

Ski Touring from Stevens Pass to Smith Brook 

By Coron Polley

John Muir said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees…” I doubt John Muir ever skied from Heather Ridge to Union Gap and down Smith Brook. Nonetheless, he certainly would have appreciated the jaunt. A skier who takes this trip will definitely receive nature’s peace, freshness, energy, and their cares will be gone. A recent trip near Stevens Pass gave all of John Muir’s “good tidings,” as well as big views, fantastic forests and needless to say terrific skiing.

A few years ago, Andy Dappen wrote a story about this tour and named it the Dementia Tour. I could not resist passing on what I appreciated about this tour.

The views on a clear day in any mountain range are what I get out for. On this day I observed the beautiful cornices, the rock outcroppings, and the glaciated peaks in the distance. I grasped everything I love about getting up high in the mountains and about ski touring. I also found something I usually pass over and quite often ignore.

I have a big problem when I go skiing. I have the same problem in other seasons when I am hiking or scrambling up a peak. I skip the forests. I put my head down and go until I can see the great big world spread out before me. If I can’t see through the forest, I skip the forest. I make the mistake of waiting until I am on the ridge-tops to look around. On this ski tour, I noticed the forest and it was stunning.

This tour made me look through the forest and appreciate the huge Douglas Fir, the beautiful snowy meadows protected by the same large trees watching over the open spaces. I noticed the creeks with high walls of snow hanging over the narrow trickle of water that will disappear into a pile of snow as quickly as it appeared. I noticed how randomly the snow offers a bridge to ski across. I noticed the large dead snags amongst the large living giants. I noticed the young trees trying to stay above the surface of the deepening snow pack of the cascade crest.

As the sun escalates and falls in the southern sky, this tour keeps the traveler climbing mainly on sunny slopes in the trees and descending mainly in the shade. The skiing progresses through some great north facing slopes with open avalanche paths, gladed meadows and the trees are always there. The giants of the crest are there protecting you from the wind. They are preserving the snow and inhibiting the suns rays from baking it into a crust. The trees are spread out nicely so the skier can journey through them, receive shade from them and climb through them. The forest is your companion and the trees are the delight of the trip.

John Muir also once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” I went out looking for a beautiful day in the mountains with views, good skiing, light dry snow and fun people. Thank you Tom, Patti, Stewart, Bill and the Central Cascades for helping me receive more than I sought.

Central Cascades for helping me receive more than I sought.

This article was originally published on 3/16/11.

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