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Author Topic: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar  (Read 15678 times)
ron j
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March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« on: 03/17/08, 01:26 PM »

Years ago, Gary Vogt (pronounced "vote"), the "last of the breed" and a 30+ year vetran of skiing Paradise and surrounds, showed me on a map where the "Old Trail" came down from the old campground at Paradise (the old campground was in the Dead Horse Creek Basin, WSW of the Visitor's Center) to the road near Frog Heaven.  He also told me that in times gone by the Park Service had a rope tow to haul skiers back up the SE facing slopes below Frog Heaven.  I always suspected that the huge pullout at Canyon Rim View Point might have originally been the parking area for said "ski area".

Since then I've always wanted to ski from Paradise to Cougar Rock via some alternate route that approximated the "Old Trail" and my best guess of where the old ski runs might have been below Frog Heaven.  I could call it a wanderlust or vagabond instinct but it's probably more due to the geezerly urge to continue to develop the inventory of "rubber tired traverses" for the elderly and infirm.

This year has seemed to have sufficient snow coverage to make the foray enjoyable.  But so far the snow conditions, interested takers for a potential "epic", and available shuttle vehicles hadn't yet properly aligned to make the endeavor a go.

Sunday morning seemed a go.  With no less than 7 potential pigeons gathered for breakfast at the Tall Timbers I popped the question.  Evan and Bonnie took the bait, hook line and sinker.  Darryl demurred but gave in (mainly because he was riding with Bonnie).  Jerry, Chuck and Scott were courteously noncommittal (and made sure they stayed well away from the rest of us after breakfast until we were well clear of the parking lot at Paradise Wink.

There was a short delay of the gate opening at Longmire and the parking lot looked like a backcountry skiers reunion.  There were more folks there than at a typical Crystal Fest.
There we picked up another pair of takers, Amar and Hannah, for our blind venture.

On our arrival at Paradise the plan seemed a good one.  Paradise was in a whiteout but below that things were pretty clear.    As we dropped into the Deadhorse Creek Basin all was bliss.  We floated down in a foot or two of untracked freshies over a bomber base crust.  We skinned around the westerly road hairpin to gain access to the south facing line proported to be the location of the Old Trail.  There we encountered some variable and indistinct crusts but thought (hoped?) that they may have been resultant form snow blower debris as we were close to the road.

Hopes shattered, we descended through the woods in patches of freshies punctuated by continued variable and unpredictable crusts.  When we got to the road east of Frog Heaven Amar and Hannah were already there and Amar was dead set against descending any further in such horrid skiing conditions.  I actually thought the skiing was pretty good unless you found it necessary to turn.  Amar, on the other had said he'd rather skin clear back up to Paradise that ski another foot of crusty snow and Hannah (possibly because she was riding with him) agreed.  A poll of the rest of us showed all were game to continue with the plan so with a sign cut providing a convenient ramp up out of the road cut I threw my skis up and had the others hand theirs up as Amar and Hannah plotted on how Hannah might stick her thumb out to flag down a ride for them while Amar hid somewhere.

With the stalwart remaining four up on the bank of the road cut, as we were putting on our skis Bonnie noticed a strange single fresh ski track heading down into the woods from our exact spot on the snowbank.  Before we could come close to figuring it out, Darryl says "hey, where's my other ski?"  Hummm, mystery solved... I guess I was a little too exuberant throwing everyone's skis up on the bank.  I grumbled " if you weren't a damn tele skier you'd have ski brakes and that wouldn't have happened".  He retorts "I have ski brakes".  Hummm... I reply "well, the skiing's so bad you're probably better off walking down anyway" Wink

About a hundred (vertical) feet down the slope Bonnie tracks down Darryl's errant ski and Darryl's back in skiers bliss (sort of).  As we continued to descend the multiple trap crusts seem to fade away with elevation until we actually do have decent skiing at hand.
We pick up the Wonderland Trail where it crosses the Paradise River and from there have heavy freshies albeit fairly flat running.  I put on skins to put in a track for the others, who ski along behind.

Between Madcap and Carter Falls we get to sufficient drop where I can pull hides and we all start skiing down the drainage.  Just before Carter Falls we find the most hearty snowshoer's turn around point (having climbed up from the Nisqually side) and from that point we have untracked freshies everywhere along with packed trail skiing for the few flats we encounter.  Life is good.

The spectacle at Carter Falls

reminded me that I was yet to pull out my camera.

From there I get shots of Bonnie


Darryl


and Evan


coming down the Paradise River drainage between Rickseker Point and Eagle Peak on our way to the Nisqually and Cougar Rock. 
Good thing I remembered to to pull out the camera as Amar's parting comment was "I won't believe you found good skiing unless I see photographic proof".  Just like a scientist, eh?

Actually the worst crust of the day was in the Nisqually riverbed next to the river.  It was so bad that it appeared that Bonnie chose to sit down while removing her skis to lessen the chances of inadvertently sliding into the river.

And guess what?  Our old friend Jerry was waiting at the car for us to make sure we arrived safe and sound (although a contributing factor may have been that he knew about the brand new jug of "Party-in-your-mouth" that Holly had so kindly bestowed upon me that very morning Smiley  Thank's again, Holly, it was well utilized and appreciated!!

More pictures under Bonnie:


Thanks to all who went along with all or any part of this questionable odyssey.  A courageous bunch you are, to be sure Wink

« Last Edit: 03/18/08, 08:14 AM by ron j » Logged

"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
Pandora
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Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #1 on: 03/17/08, 03:33 PM »

It was great to finally meet the crew and ski a bit of new (to me) terrain. By the looks of your photos, the snow did indeed get better - hurray! I'm still happy with the decision Amar and I made to hitch a ride back to Paradise, lap ECB and eat candy. Oh how I love winter in Washington.

Hannah
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Teleskichica
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Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #2 on: 03/17/08, 03:39 PM »

Great TR WITH details!  Thanks Ron.  Hopefully I'll catch a swig of the liquid party with ya next outing.  Wink
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Livin' high on the cold smoke!
skimac
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Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #3 on: 03/17/08, 05:55 PM »

Ron. Sorry we got side tracked, I lost you guy's after Longmire and was following Jerry up to Paradise and when we got there, no Ron.  From the pictures at lest you could see what it was you were skiing. We sure couldn't at B Bowl. We sat and ate lunch at the top waiting for a clearing, it never happened. Glad you had a good tour.
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Amar Andalkar
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WWW
Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #4 on: 03/17/08, 08:30 PM »

Years ago, Gary Vogt (pronounced "vote"), the "last of the breed" and a 30+ year vetran of skiing Paradise and surrounds, showed me on a map where the "Old Trail" came down from the old campground at Paradise (the old campground was in the Dead Horse Creek Basin, ESE of the Visitor's Center) to the road near Frog Heaven.

Nice report, Ron. Thanks for an interesting trip idea and for letting us join you. I think you meant to say "WSW" of the Visitor Center, right?

Hopes shattered, we descended through the woods in patches of freshies punctuated by continued variable and unpredictable crusts.  When we got to the road east of Frog Heaven Amar and Hannah were already there and Amar was dead set against descending any further in such horrid skiing conditions.  I actually thought the skiing was pretty good unless you found it necessary to turn.  Amar, on the other had said he'd rather skin clear back up to Paradise that ski another foot of crusty snow and Hannah (possibly because she was riding with him) agreed.  A poll of the rest of us showed all were game to continue with the plan so with a sign cut providing a convenient ramp up out of the road cut I threw my skis up and had the others hand theirs up as Amar and Hannah plotted on how Hannah might stick her thumb out to flag down a ride for them while Amar hid somewhere.

All my fault, eh? I don't even know how to reply to that . . .  Angry

We got a ride uphill from another skier within a minute or two, I didn't have to hide anywhere. Jeremy was very nice, and when we exchanged names, it turned out that he had been visiting my website for years.

Hannah and I skinned up from Paradise at 1pm. Snow conditions above Paradise were good. We took two 1000 ft runs down the slope below Golden Gate to the 4th Crossing bridge in dense powder, and then a final run on the west face of Mazama Ridge in very nice, much lighter powder. Visibility generally got worse and worse, though, with the whiteout descending below 6000 ft and eventually down to Paradise.


Hannah and her fancy new pink goggles on Mazama Ridge.

By the time we skinned back up the road to the parking lot at 6pm, it was almost deserted except for our old friend, the Paradise silver-phase red fox.




« Last Edit: 03/17/08, 10:44 PM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

ron j
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Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #5 on: 03/17/08, 08:58 PM »

Nice report, Ron. Thanks for an interesting trip idea and for letting us join you. I think you meant to say "WSW" of the Visitor Center, right?
Good eye, Amar.  Right you are.  I'll fix that.

All my fault, eh? I don't even how reply to that . . .  Angry
No need, Amar.  No offense meant. Wink

It was fun having you and Hannah along; I'm glad you two got a ride right away and got some great skiing in.  Sounds like you made a good call and got a lot more turns in than we did.
Logged

"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
vogtski
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Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #6 on: 03/17/08, 09:30 PM »

Ron, congratulations to you and your group for reviving this historical route!...but why did you wait a year to post this TR?   Smiley  I wonder how many parties have done it since the 70's, when I did approximately your line on wooden Bonna 2400's several times.  There's a variation of the 'Old Trail' that stays closer to the Nisqually rim along the abandoned powerline corridor.  It has an additional short up, but you can ski down to Ricksecker Point without crossing the plowed road.  The Park Service would sometimes send me out to check the line for breaks or down trees after big dumps.  I would try to finish down to Longmire, rather than slog back up to Paradise in those days of yore before skins were common.

My theory is that the 'Old Trail' began as a shortcut to Paradise for the original road construction workers out for a stroll after a hard day of hammering drill steel on Glacier Hill.  Canyon Rim may have been a temporary work camp because of the water nearby.  I walked the route in summer years ago and saw 'corduroy' (primitive log boardwalk) in some of the wet bits.  Canyon Rim was as far as the Model A plows could get in winter in the early thirties.  Park Managers take note:  they accomplished this feat by skimming off the snow all night rather than attacking a fresh heap each morning.  Oldtimers told me that the trail was marked for winter travel directly up to Paradise.  Of course, this was before the modern road & treatment plant, so they didn't have today's inconvienient traverse around 'sewage' curve.

The rope tow was across the road from the large Canyon Rim turnout, with just a couple narrow runs a few hundred feet long on either side of the rope line.  I suspect they blocked up a vehicle, bolted a drum on a rear wheel and were in business in an hour.  It's pretty brushy now, but in the 70's, you could still see a cable yoke where they hung the lower pulley.  I'm sure early skiers commonly continued down to Paradise River as you did, but I think the 'Old Trail' was just the portion above Canyon Rim/Frog Heaven.
« Last Edit: 03/18/08, 07:52 AM by vogtski » Logged

I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
JibberD
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Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #7 on: 03/18/08, 02:55 AM »

I actually thought the skiing was pretty good unless you found it necessary to turn.

My new favorite ronj quote  Smiley
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-Doug O
ron j
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Re: March 16, 2007, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #8 on: 03/18/08, 08:13 AM »

Ron, congratulations to you and your group for reviving this historical route!...but why did you wait a year to post this TR?   Smiley 
Opps  Roll Eyes; there's another one I gotta fix.
Thanks, Gary for pointing that out and for the great additional info.
I find the historical info about the early Paradise skiers fascinating.  Thank you for being so forthcoming with what you know about the area.
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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
Rusty Knees
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Re: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #9 on: 03/18/08, 02:13 PM »

Hi Ron,  I'm sure you've read "A Year in Paradise".  The author described his weekly hike from the Paradise Lodge to Longmire for supplies and mail throughout the year.  I often wondered about his route.  Now I wnt to re read it and see if it follows your adventure.  Fun trip report.
Don aka Rusty Knees
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The best part of summer skiing is napping on a warm rock.
David_Coleman
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Re: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #10 on: 03/18/08, 02:27 PM »

Yo Pandora - I didn't know you were sponsored by Oakley?  Cool
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snoseeker
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Re: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #11 on: 03/18/08, 10:40 PM »

Great trip and great report Ron. You led us a merry chase and I thoroughly enjoyed the adveture.  ;DI think the good snow started again about 3900'. That two inch crust between the top and 3900' must have developed in about 24 hours. Yikes! Yes, a little wallowing on the banks of the Nisqually.  Thank you for not posting those shots!!
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Pandora
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Re: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #12 on: 03/19/08, 01:50 PM »

All my fault, eh? I don't even know how to reply to that . . .  Angry

Actually, my recollection is that I'm the one who refused to descend any farther, but we can pretend that Amar was calling all the shots. Wink

Yo Pandora - I didn't know you were sponsored by Oakley? Cool

That reminds me: on Sunday as I babbled about my absurdly expensive new HOT pink goggles, Ron silenced me by commenting, "I saw a pair just like them in a thrift store last week for $3!"
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David_Coleman
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Re: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #13 on: 03/19/08, 04:38 PM »

That's allright.  Once you eventually become sponsored for your climbing skillz & mountaineering achievements, you won't remember you paid a 1/2 week's pay for those Oaks!  Wink
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ron j
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Re: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #14 on: 03/20/08, 10:02 AM »

Hi Ron, I'm sure you've read "A Year in Paradise". The author described his weekly hike from the Paradise Lodge to Longmire for supplies and mail throughout the year. I often wondered about his route. Now I want to re read it and see if it follows your adventure. Fun trip report.
Don aka Rusty Knees
Thanks, Don.
I haven't read the book but thanks to you I have it on order.  I appreciate your mentioning it. 
My guess is the author traveled from Paradise down the regular trail through Devil's Dip to Narada and then the Wonderland Trail (which is what we were on when the pics were taken) on down past Cougar Rock to Longmire.

That reminds me: on Sunday as I babbled about my absurdly expensive new HOT pink goggles, Ron silenced me by commenting, "I saw a pair just like them in a thrift store last week for $3!"
Actually I think I recanted when I saw the quality of the lenses.  They really are nice goggles; the kind I would promptly lose or break.  Nice gear is way cool. Wink

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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
vogtski
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Re: March 16, 2008, MRNP - The Old Trail to Cougar
« Reply #15 on: 03/20/08, 06:28 PM »

I think you're right about Floyd's route, Ron.  I forgot to mention that improved plows & construction of the comfort station at Narada by the CCC's shifted the winter approach to that point by the later thirties.  I suspect this may have been the origin of the name 'Old Trail'.
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I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
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