Monday, March 31, 2014

49 Degrees North, Ice Cave Campout

Every winter the young men in our congregation have their traditional winter camp out up at 49 degrees north. They spend all day building their snow shelters, camp, then ski the next morning. Naturally, I was not okay with the young women not being invited, so I pulled some strings to make that happen. All the girls, including myself, had never slept in a snow cave before. We were so scared, but really excited at the same time. We did a little winter camping seminar beforehand so the youth knew how to build their shelters and how to stay warm and dry the entire trip. Erik was kind enough to stay home with Tate so I could go. Neither of us wanted to miss this adventure so I was grateful he let me have this one. I think next year we will just bring Tate, she could handle it.

We spent the whole day building the snow caves. You wrap all your gear in tarps, then pile snow on top of it, and keep shoveling, and shoveling, until you have a huge pile of snow. Then you let it settle for a half hour, aka lunch break.  Then it is time to dig out the shelter, so you decide where you want the door, and start digging in. We used sleds and small shovels to move all the snow. I was so scared it was going to cave in the whole time, but these things are strong! When you reach your buried gear, you pull all that stuff out, and then you have a hole big enough to crawl inside and keep digging to make it a sleep-able size. Then just poke a few holes in it for air and build a wind break and you are good to go! Each cave slept 3-4 people. The beehives, mia-maids, laurals, and leaders build caves. The Young men built smaller caves that slept 1 to 3 each. The building process was my favorite part. You stay warm while you work and it was just so fun to build that cave out of nothing. Sis Davis and Sis Chesheski and I built a bomb cave!

Some of us were still building into the night, after the cave was finished you put in a lantern to generate some heat, which kind of forms a melty inside layer that later freezes and makes it rock solid. We ate some amazing warm chili and played mexican horse races, the roaring game, and "Who stole the Bishops Hay" around the fire. That night I was seriously so scared the cave would collapse on us. All the experienced men kept reassuring us they were solid but at night you could hear snow settling and the roof dripping. I was very warm in the shelter but slept poorly because I felt strange in that thing. But it was a good first experience and now I know they won't cave in, so next time we do this won't be so scary.

The next morning we had a giant breakfast and then the traditional cave wrecking ceremony commenced. We went around to each cave, and the kids who slept in it would jump on the roof until it caved in. Man were those things strong! The snow wall was only 5-8 inches, but the roof could hold several adults jumping before they caved in!

The priests built this massive cave. They had the TNT letters for their names, Tyler, Nathan, and Trevor, they didn't even catch the irony that TNT also means dynamite and that their door looked like a min shaft. Silly boys. . . After the wrecking ceremony some kids went home but most of them stayed to ski. It was only $4 to ski at 49 if you brought two cans of food for the food drive they were having. This trip so was fun! It is going to become a new tradition for our youth.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mt Tahoma Trails Hut to Hut, X-Mas Adventure

I am way behind on updating our blog, but I finally have some time to sit down and write about our Annual Rasmussen Family Christmas Adventure. This year we returned to the Mt Tahoma Trails backcountry hut to hut system. Last year we had record breaking snow and we broke trail with our snowshoes for many miles. This year we didn't even have to put our snowshoes on, there was hardly any snow, but the lack of snow and clear skies meant that we had 360 degree views from every ridge. We finally got to see the beautiful Cascades that we spent last year wishing we could catch a glimpse of through the falling snow. 

Our awesome Burley bike trailer has a ski kit that you can purchase from REI for about $280, well we weren't about to do that, so Erik went to Goodwill, bought some skis for $8, cut them down to size, and rigged them up to that we could attach them to the stroller and pull her through the snow. Score! It actually worked out better than if we had bought the ski kit because at lower elevations were there wasn't much snow we could still pull the trailer with wheels, then throw the skis on at higher elevations when the snow was too deep to pull the wheels through the snow. Tate was roasty-toasty in there, and she rode in style with snacks and sippy cup close at hand. I am telling you Erik ought to market some of his genius ideas.

The first night we hiked up to the Snowbowl hut. This place is nice! We had the whole cabin to ourselves and we had fun reading through the log book, snuggling by the stove, and chowing down on steak and asparagus. The next morning the clouds began rolling out, revealing outstanding views in all directions. We kept waiting and waiting to get a full unobstructed view of Mt Rainer. All morning we would get little glimpses of the peak or base, but never the whole mountain. Last year the only time we could see Rainer from these peaks was at night, so I was so excited this time, checking the window every 5 minutes to check if we could see her.

Around noon we finally got around to getting back on the trails, there was a little snow so we thought we would throw the skis on the Burley, it glided across the snow with ease. We were cruising so easily in fact, that we failed to notice Erik's snowshoes slide off the top of the carriage right as we were leaving the Hut. Luckily a group came up the next night and got them to the MTTA office for us. We hiked up to the high hut where we would be staying the second night. We couldn't get over the views, the whole time we just kept commenting on how this trip was the complete opposite of last year, but both trips were amazing.

The High Hut is by far my favorite hut in the Mt Tahoma Trails system. It is located on the most incredible ridge. It is very challenging to hike up to it, but the views make it worth it. We cooked homemade pizza and a roll of nestle tollhouse cookies for dinner and Tate climbed up the ladder to the loft over and over again, she was so proud of her climbing skills. There are always such interesting things to read at the huts, we spent most of the night reading and playing with Tate. Once again we had the place to ourselves, which was nice, but I also enjoy meeting people at the huts, the most diverse people end up at these backcountry destinations. I think the lack of other people was due to the lack of snow, most people ski from hut to hut, so there just weren't many hikers out in the middle of the week.

The next morning we awoke to the most glorious sunrise over Mt Rainer. This was the view I had been waiting for. I went running outside in my long underwear to shoot some pics, the silence and solitude on the ridge was transcending, one of those moments you live for when you enjoy the outdoors.

We took our sweet time that morning eating breakfast, taking pictures,  and cleaning up the hut, we didn't want to leave, I could have stayed another week. As we dropped down in elevation heading back to the car there was literally no snow down there. We passed people coming up with thier skiis and snowboards strapped to their backs and their gear in sleds, pulling it through the mud. They were prepared for the massive snow storm that hit right after we made it back over Snoqualime Pass. It was a glorious trip.