view from the Commonwealth Basin

Enjoy the Silence

I snowshoed a 5-mile loop in the Commonwealth Basin, walking through a dense forest of fir, cedar, and hemlock. Some trees were 700+ years old. Scientists took cylindrical cores of the trees, and counted the rings under microscope. I saw a couple trees with prism-shaped hollows. Early settlers carved these hollows and would lay there marten traps in them. There was even a tree trunk with spiral grain, theorized to be caused by the uneven distribution of nutrients in the soil and the changing location of where light broke through. I saw the tracks of a snowshoe hare, a perfectly straight line of footprints to conserve energy and get from Point A to Point B.

The snow had accumulated 7 feet above the actual dirt trail, the actual trail nowhere to be seen. I thought back to the time I had hiked in the snow without snowshoes, and was glad to be prepared this time. The snow completely transformed the landscape. There were tree stumps with mounds of snow on top, and trees whose trunks curved under the weight of the snow like spiraling ferns. I crossed over Commonwealth Creek on bridges of snow. Some snow bridges looked tenuous, with top-heavy piles of snow overhanging the creek on thin logs. The snow transformed the landscape, but at the same time, it made everything look the same. Looking one direction, snow, trees, and mountains. Looking another direction, more snow, trees, and mountains.

Snow mounds on trunks
Snow mounds on trunks

The mountains boxed me in at all times. I could see the Kendall Katwalk, Red Mountain, and other Snoqualmie mountains.

a view of Kendall Katwalk
A view of Kendall Katwalk

The best part of snowshoeing was the all-consuming stillness. There was no rustling of branches, for the trees broke the wind and the supple branches drooped under the heavy weight of the snow. There was only the crunch of snow under my feet and sparkle of the snow-covered ground in the sun. Like dust, snowy powder fell from branches and danced where rays of light broke through the trees. I mostly snowshoed in the shadow of trees. Whenever I was in a sunny clearing, the difference in temperature was palpable. The numbness left my face, and I basked in the warmth and brightness of the light.

Me posing in the clearing where I ate lunch
Me posing in the clearing where I ate lunch

I would say my greatest joy from snowshoeing is when all the ideal conditions simultaneously converge, and that is, going downhill breaking trail in fresh powder under the warm and blinding sun. My feet sank into the softness. Even if I fell, it did not matter, it was falling into a bed of feathers.

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