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JohnL
03-21-2004, 10:13 AM
I decided to play hookey on Friday and take a last chance at a winter hike this season, so I headed up Mts Liberty and Flume via the Liberty Springs Trail. There was no one in the parking lot when I headed up at 7:05 and there were only faint traces of footprints along the bike path. The temperature was 26 degrees and windless as I walked in a light snow towards the trailhead. The trail was covered with 3 to 4 inches of powder snow which hid patches of ice beneath its surface.

The snow became gradually deeper as I got higher and once above the Flume Slide Trail junction, footing got better as the ice beneath the new snow turned to hard pack. However, once the steeper terrain came along, I switched to snowshoes as the hardpack gave up its traction. As I got away from the road, I welcomed the near total silence of the snow covered forest.

Deepening untrodden snow, overhanging branches, an occasional shaft of sunlight and the solitude all added a soft and calming influence to the day. The only sounds were an occasional bird and the frequent sounds of mounded snow cascading from the trees.

At the ridge, I paused for a drink, changed my gloves and donned a light jacket over my T-shirt for the walk over the summits. The trail had tracks from hikers on previous days but they would sporadically disappear. Drifts and newly falling snow easily covered their tracks.

The summits were shrouded in clouds and snow was falling heavier now but were windless. The highest gust I could measure was 2.4mph. They were both quiet and peaceful. My last winter solo to these peaks two years ago was also amazingly calm and peaceful though the distant views were better then. Today I was fortunate to see a hundred yards.

I stopped for a lunch on top of Flume and as I ate, the clouds continued to thicken as the snow fell. I watched in wonder as the trees along the ridge and the slide below me were disappearing into the light gray void. I snapped a couple photos while there was still an image to capture. Liberty's summit was more socked in on the way back while no traces could be seen of Mt Flume whatsoever. I took one last photo and headed down.

I cruised and surfed my way down the powder and the lower I got the brighter the forest was getting. As I got below 2000 feet, the snow was turning from powder into soft corn snow. The rising temperatures and the sunlight, though muted, were melting the snow. By the time I got back to the parking lot a few minutes before 1:00, the parking lot was snowless. Winter, at least officially, had ended.

Photos (http://community.webshots.com/album/127101695pdhXbF) are here.

JohnL