|Photo courtesy of Martina Koldewey|
The snow scrunching beneath my feet barely audible above laboured breath, I round the corner to Washburn Point. I arrive just in time to catch the first layer of alpine glow dusting the roof of Half Dome. I failed to stop here on my way down to the ski hut the previous day. I was in training mode, pulling a sled attached to my waste for the 2-1/2 hour, 10.5 mile trip from Badger Pass to Glacier Point. I enjoyed the scenery as I went, but, not wanting to interrupt my rhythm, took little pause. Even so, I decide to pass this view once more and continue my morning's run a bit further before stopping.
"Indescribable" may be a cliché, but an apt one to express the views from Glacier Point. Riddled with crowds of noisy tourists during the peak summer months, in winter the famous overlook presents a stark silence. Waterfalls and other natural sounds can be heard clearly rising up through the valley's chilled air. I didn't even know a winter trip was possible, let alone that one could stay here. The Glacier Point Ski Hut is a special place in its own right with hut master Bernie making the stay even more memorable by being both excellent host and entertaining conversationalist. However, it's the locale that steals the show. Despite a warm comfortable bed near the fire, I found myself tempted to sleep out under the stars.
There were only eight guests total the night we stayed which helped add to the restful feel of the setting. Even so, when I awoke in the darkness of Monday morning, I knew that I wanted some time completely alone in this place. I quietly crept about the cabin gathering clothing, shoes and my flashlight then went outside and donned my microspikes for a short run up the hill. It felt good not to be towing a sled up the gradual climb from the hut. It allowed me to focus on all the sensations this environment had to offer: the feel of soft snow beneath my feet, the sounds of winter birds awakening and the slow rise of dawn over distant peaks.
I didn't have any specific destination in mind when I headed out, but the two-mile point seemed a good turnaround. I stopped to take a break. There were no dramatic views or inspiring overlooks here, only the tip of a buried road sign that served as a reminder to summer drivers they were approaching the final curvy descent to their destination. Wholly unremarkable, except that, to me, right then, it was perfect. In the middle of what was now a ski path, between some nondescript woods and a snow covered hillside, I took off my hat and just stood there. Looking around, I tried to let the silence of the place envelop me. Not so much lost in deep thought or reflection, I simply appreciated a moment of quiet in what has been a remarkably noisy time for both my inner and outer worlds.
Eventually, I headed back, stopping at Washburn Point for a its particular view before arriving back at the cabin to the smell of fresh brewed coffee. I poured myself a cup and took it outside to sit on a snow-covered rock attempting to imprint a sense of my surroundings onto my permanent memory for future visits. After breakfast, everyone packed up. I loaded up the Pulk and prepared for the trip back out. As much as I needed the peace and relaxation of this trip, its secondary purpose as training for Susitna was equally as important. I decided to see if I could make the return trip in less time than the trip in. Martina donned her skiis and headed out in front, pausing a few times during the early miles to capture me in action.
Martina definitely deserves a special thanks for this weekend trip. She arranged it and then re-arranged it when our original planned group of six dwindled down to three and then just the two of us. I never would have known of this wonderful place had she not suggested it. However, now that I do, I will definitely be back.