Thursday, March 21, 2013

Big Four Snowshow Hike

Big Four is a mountain in the Cascade Range of Washington, located 20.8 miles east of Granite Falls. The mountain is about 6,135 ft high and on its north flank, debris piles form from avalanches and are able to remain there year round because of the continuous shade provided by the mountain. During the summer, snow-melt streams flow beneath the debris piles and cause caves to be formed in the ice. By December, the caves are normally filled with snow from the numerous avalanches, we heard at least 4 while we were at the foot of the mountain. We will be returning next summer to see the caves. It was a beautiful day, bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 30's.
The gate that closes Mountain Loop Highway, to traffic. It is closed every winter, at Deer Creek near Verlot, due to the amount of snow. Many people park just outside the gate, beyond the turn around spot for the snow plows, and hike to the various hiking destinations in this area. From here, it is a 2.25 mile hike to the turn off that leads to the Big Four Picnic Pavillion and another mile or so to the Ice Caves.

Mountain Loop Highway, with our destination in the distance. It is much farther away than it looks.

Trees along our way.

A peek at the peaks of Big Four as we hike to them.

Stef and Rick, still on Mountain Loop.

Our view from the highway. Everywhere we looked was like looking at a painting. It was breathtaking!

We traveled at a much slower pace than the posted Speed Limit.

The sun shone brightly all day, after a very foggy beginning to the morning. The temperatures stayed around 30F.

Getting closer!

The snow was very deep.

Approaching the picnic area. There is a pavillion here with picnic tables.

I'd say there has been a bit of snow already this season!

I'm ready to sit down and get a drink. It is a much different dynamic, hiking in deep snow. You use an entirely different muscle set! The snow we hiked on was from 4-6 feet deep in most areas. Many people wore snowshoes, Rick and Jay both did for a time. I didn't put mine on. I wasn't "post holing" like the men were.

This is inside the pavillion. Pretty glad there is a roof here. Otherwise, we might not have found the picnic tables, to sit down! haha

Blue Jays were all around.

Even the rest rooms looked pretty.

Big Four Inn (1921 – 1949) The inn included a lavish lodge, cabins, golf course, bowling green, man-made lake, and tent cabins. Early on the morning of September 7, 1949, fire broke out and destroyed the three-story lodge “like kindling”.
Though the cabins and outbuildings were saved from the fire, the Forest Service required them to dismantle all the structures on the federally owned land a few years later. All that remains today of the once grand inn are some sidewalks and a chimney at the Big Four Picnic Area.

All that remains of the Big Four Inn.

Rick, taking in the beauty and the sunshine!

You don't normally have to bend down to read the board.

There was only one blow down. But, thanks to my increased strength, I took care of it. Those workouts are really paying off! Muhahaha

What do you see here?

This is actually one of the many wooden bridges we crossed. Do you see it now?

Now you can see it. It is totally full of snow, we walked above the railings. All the bridges were like this. Some had MORE snow!

Some of the bridges were a little spooky, just walking on top of the snow, above the railings. I'm used to bridge railings being higher than my ankles! Had the snow not been packed a bit, by previous hikers, we would have been above the railings. I might have had to crawl across then!

Big Four, still at a distance.

Did you hear something?! That doesn't sound good! This area has many avalanches every day. You are able to see them and hear them constantly. We heard 4 while we were at the base of the mountain. We didn't see them though, sounds traveled much slower and by the time we heard it, it was over. lol

Looking through the woods, close to the mountain. Notice all the broken trees. They are victims of previous avalanches! There are many broken trees.

And even closer.

This is what a Metric Butt Ton of snow looks like, in case you ever wondered!

More snow!

We passed the river many times as we made our way up to the location of the Ice Caves.

The Stillaguamish River. Some parts were running rapidly. Other parts were frozen over. All of it was beautiful!

Big Four Mountain. It is Spectacular!

I loved the way the light shined through some of the snow mounds, causing a blue glow.

I also thought it looked cool to see stumps with mounds of snow on top of them. No matter how narrow the stump was, snow managed to pile itself there.

More snow stumps!

Rick was good at making post holes!

Rick, having a good time!

Jay, in his element.

Snow makes everything look nice!

A picture of us before we reached the base of Big Four.

I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille!

One last shot of a snow covered bridge.

Jay and Rick, rounding the last bend of our journey.

Rick and Stef, at the base of the mountain. I was a little disappointed that the caves were filled in and covered. But, I was still happy to have hiked here. I was with good company and it was beautiful!

I've been to the mountain and it is Grand!

This is Jay at one of the caves last August, before the heavy snows and avalanches covered the them. They will return later this year. We plan to go back in August to see the caves. Formed from cascading water and warm winds hollowing out heaps of avalanche-deposited snow, the caves usually appear by midsummer.

This is how the same area looks now. We can't even tell where the caves had been before. They'll be back!

A closer view.

It was a beautiful day and a wonderful hike. The three of us had a good time. It was very cold when you were still. But, as long as were were moving, it was quite comfortable. Afterwards, we drove into Granite Falls for dinner. We ate at Playa Bonita, Mexican Restaurant. None of us had ever eaten there before and we were all happy we tried it. The food was excellent! Even the Bean dip, which I just couldn't get enough of!

Until next hike, I'll be spending time at the gym. I case you wondered, yes, I made my hat and Gaiters. I made Rick some Gaiters too, but he had forgotten them! haha

Originally Posted on February, 6, 2013, by Stef.

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