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Washington. Top of the World and Smiling.

       My original plan was the Tri's for this weekend. I had not seen them in a while and figured it would be a good test for myself. And then on Thursday, I saw the forecast change... OK, so Washington it is. I had also been feeling the pull to go back up the Rock Pile too. So, after another less than stellar week below the Alpine Zone, I took off for the only place I feel on top of my game... Except I woke up with a raging cold that often gets brought on by stress and dehydration. I knew it was going to be somewhat warm so, time to sweat it out. I shocked myself by getting up on time and we got to Base Station by 7:30am. We started out for the Jewel Trail not knowing what the water crossing would be like. My pack was intentionally heavier so I can start getting use to weight for the Long Trail. The snowshoes are attached to the pack to start too. The water crossing at the base of the stairs from the cog is A MESS. There's a tone of debris and you can't really see a clear crossing. So, we whack it and make it over with a few steps into the water. Thank goodness I am still in my winter boots. 

As we head up the incline of the Jewel trail, it's mostly bare with a little ice that I can get around once at the top, Isis and I hit the crappy spring snow that is covering the region. I put my shoes on once I get to the crossing for the boundary path and then they come off briefly. I put them back on at the next incline after the bridge and there they would stay. It's just too much snow still and it's soft so, the shoes make it easier to travel. I know it usually does not take me long to get to tree line but it seems like forever. As Isis and  I continue up the Jewel, the layers are coming off. The legs of my convertible pants are being vented and eventually just unzipped to hang on my ankles like floppy gators. The sleeves are getting rolled up and the sunscreen (yes I remembered but I forgot my legs!) is being put on as I prep to go to tree line. 

     So, I poke in and out of the trees for a while and the Jewel trail is riddled with blow downs. Some are tricky to get around requiring some fancy foot work in snowshoes. I am completely immersed in this hike and looking forward to my time above tree line. For those that have not experienced it, you are in another world all together and in spring conditions, this should be fun. The spring trail can be tedious but my snowshoes are helping. Isis is also doing fine considering she's small and has no shoes. We run into one other soul on the way up and let her pass. The trees start to shrink and the views start to open up as does my mind and my smile. I'm home. I'm happy. I'm in complete control on the trail. Welcome to being above tree line.... The snow is VERY SOFT from the spring sun which is actually very strong up here. Just before tree line I had taken my pant legs completely off by removing my boots and snowshoes and then re-suiting up. What a pain. The women's pants need to be made wide enough to slip off over a boot. Heading up the Upper Jewel trail above tree line, I am careful of my feet since I am intermittently walking over exposed rock now. My snowshoes are making an awful racket and also making it awkward for me to walk. I make the best of it knowing that snow fields will call for snow shoes. 

         Isis and I take our time and soak in every view we can. The Cog is also now running and we hear it coming up the tracks. Skier's are skinning the upper trails and we will join them shortly. The clouds are moving in as there was a threat of showers today too (and thunderstorms). I tried not to think of the weather and kept going. There are a lot of bare rock sections that you could just use spikes but then you hit these deep sections of snow, slush, and ice that will still need snowshoes. I'm not a fan of changing traction so, I stay in my shoes and deal with the awkward snowless sections. Isis is doing her best to stay dry, not sink in, and play with the snowballs.  We hook onto the Gulfside trail and head to the summit which is now about a mile away. The views of the Northern Presi's open up and I can can see sun and clouds over that way as well as clouds swirling over Washington. I'm in awe and humbled as I walk. More snowfields and a lot of skiers are heading in all directions. It makes it a little difficult to follow the actual trail in places. We cross the Cog Railway and the summit is so close. 

      I had taken a picture of the workers trying to clear the auto road before I kept moving up the trail and this was were I dropped my camera! I did not realize it until we were .2 away from the summit on the Trinity Connector. I'm immediately reminded of my Old Speck trip where I dropped my camera. I'll find it on the way back is what I tell myself. Isis and I push to the summit and meet up with a guy who is up there for the fist time. He's got that wide eyed look to him and I smile. It will never get old is what I tell him. It never does. I take my little traveling companion to the summit for her 3rd and my 5th visit. We get our picture taken and then I head to the observation deck for food and rest. It's cold so, I throw on my mid layer (Columbia Omni Heat). Still in shorts though and feeling good. There are few people milling round considering the Cog is running. I guess the forecast kept them away. Isis and I enjoy our time at the summit and I get a picture of her sitting by the sign with the help of some skier's (Andrew, Josh, and Linsey). I'm so happy.

     I am getting cold though and a little more concerned for the weather so we smile and bid our company farewell. Back down the Trinity Connector we retrace our steps exactly and the snow is even softer it seems. Right before the Cog rail crossing, I look down and see... My camera. Just like Old Speck, I was able to retrieve it and it still works (the thing has been frozen more than I care to mention). It helps that not a whole lot of people were heading to the summit this way and no one picked it up. The trip down is always quicker and for that I am grateful sometimes (when dealing with weather). As I am heading back down the steeper sections of the Jewel trail after navigating the Gulfside trail, I end up on my butt in shorts. NOT how I wanted to be and sliding in these conditions actually hurts. Once I get back to tree line, I feel a lot better. Isis and I cruise down the Jewel trail and seem to make it back to the boundary path crossing in record time. Rather than deal with the Cog Crossing, I take the Boundary Path not realizing how far it over shoots the parking lot (It comes out by the Ammo Trailhead). This trail is intermittent snow, ice and bare ground. Hard to keep the shoes on. Less traveled in places and I lost the trail more than a few times. Isis was not pleased. Two crossings, where one was bridged by a wooden bridge. It added miles to the hike as well and I'll admit that I just wanted to get back to the car. I'll probably never take this trail again. I'll deal with the Cog and the water crossing. Isis and I land back at the car and I let out a huge sigh of relief. I'm centered again and tired. But it's a good tired. It's the kind of tired from activity that is not mental but physical. Unfortunately, I am on call again so, next weekend is a grounding... It has to be done so, I'll make the best of it. I've got some great memories of today so, hopefully the week will be kind to me.

Thanks for reading and following along with my story. This is were I love to be. 

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