The Wet Sack

Fresh trace snow along the bank of Bagley Creek
So there it is. One photo from this weekend.

Pacific Northwesterners are an odd lot. Commercials like this wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t true. Anyways, I recently ordered a cross country ski package and after a lengthy delay due to the midwest snowstorm, it finally came. I was eager to try things out so I made plans with a friend to head up to the Salmon Ridge Sno-park. The Bagley Creek area can be accessed via their groomed trails and it’s mostly level or gently sloping so it’s a good place to learn the ins & outs of cross country skiing.

After a lengthy period of calm weather, this weekend brought a good storm system. On paper, the snow level would be just above the elevation of the sno-park but I hoped the Mount Baker area would make its own weather and perhaps lower the snow to the sno-park. It didn’t. My friend figured this would be the case and so he described our outing as a visit to the Wet Sack (instead of Nooksack). After having to double back to Maple Falls from Glacier to purchase the daily sno-park permit, we pulled into an empty parking lot at the sno-park. On the way, we drove through varying intensities of rain but it was just light rain at the parking lot.

After gearing up, we were off. Now, I’ve been snowboarding for 14 years but have never skied before. Having two independently moving planks under your feet is pretty weird. It took a while to find the proper center of balance but I managed to NOT fall on the way out to Bagley Creek. Cross country skiing is surprisingly efficient. We had travelled a fair distance before I even had broken a sweat or elevated my heartbeat. The worst thing I encountered were burning calf muscles (just like the first day of ski season).

I also found going uphill to also be less strenuous compared with walking on foot or snowshoeing. The only thing I can’t do comfortably is go downhill and that’s largely due to the fact that I have never skied before. I just can’t master the Pizza!

The further we traveled, the harder the rain become. By the time we reached Bagley Creek, the rain was falling about as hard as it could and we were both pretty soaked. We dismounted and headed into the forest along the creek to find some shelter. After some lunch, it started to sleet a bit and we mulled over what to do. My backpack glistened from all the water that was saturating it. I didn’t relish the thought of pulling out my gear in this weather!

In the end, we decided to hike a ways downstream to scout the lower stretch of river. The going was tough due to postholing through the snowpack. We traveled down about 100 yards and looked down at the scene I’ve photographed above. I was immediately drawn to the trace snow randomly covering a stretch of the gravel beach alongside the creek. After some careful zigzagging down the slope, we hit beach and I quickly set up to take a few shots.

I was now on my third set of gloves and knew it was just time to head back to the truck as fast as possible. Back on the trail, we geared back up and began our way back. My friend noticed that his cross country gear had failed so he had to walk out while I practiced my technique a bit more. Eventually we made it back to the parking lot and were completely drenched. The parking lot was a sea of slush and we stripped down our gear as fat as humanly possible.

It was a divine feeling once we began to feel the heater’s warmth. It took most of the 2 1/2 hour drive just to physically feel dry! Despite the brutalness of the conditions, it was actually fun! I picked one of the worst days of weather to learn how to cross country ski. Things should get only get better with much better conditions. I already have some plans for next weekend which I’m hoping will pan out nicely.

Oh- yes, I did fall but only once!