West Fork Miller River -- February 17, 2008

This snowshoe expedition is rated 3 high-tech $60.00 polycarbonate avalanche shovels out of 5 on the Snowshoe Expedition Shovelometer.  It really should have been rated only 2, but we were so glad to be finishing up our extended bouts with the hacking/snotting crud, and it was so good to get out and do something after sitting on our butts for the past 2 months, we decided to be generous...

... but first there was the matter of the mystery noise in the front suspension of the Zoomer.  Over the past few months, whenever the front wheels hit a bump - even a small one - an ominous 'thunk' would issue forth from somewhere down deep in the bowels of the front suspension.  After much 'thunk-inducing' side-to-side rocking of the vehicle by the strong-armed Sue, it was determined by our resident pseudo-mechanic that the bottom joint of the strut-to-sway bar link on the driver's side was excessively worn, thereby producing the offending 'thunk'.  Given that we had spent a fair amount of time at freeway speeds after the noise appeared, it was a relief that it had not been a major suspension-, steering-, or brake-related safety issue, especially given the way that the suspension, steering, and brakes on our factory-fresh Ford Taurus had literally fallen apart at 14,000 miles after we bought it new (but that's another frightening story entirely), and given that our much-liked Mazda was actually "MFD. BY FORD MOTOR CO. IN U.S.A FOR MAZDA MOTOR CORPORATION".  In any case, the day prior to this snowshoe expedition was spent replacing both the left and right strut-to-sway bar links - the shiny black vertical bar shown above - and since the Zoomer was up on jack-stands anyhow, it was decided to go ahead and re-torque all the accessible engine, transaxle, drivetrain, suspension, steering, and brake nuts and bolts in preparation for some more off-pavement driving in Utah next October.  And thus was the bulk of a Saturday spent.


Sunday dawned foggy, but with an optimistic forecast for the weather, if not for avalanches.  In fact, the avalanche danger this winter was widely reported to be the most hazardous ever seen in the Washington Cascades.  Given this, we decided to stay out of the mountains, despite the prospect of a sunny blue-sky day ahead of us.  We ended up heading east on Highway 2, thinking that the West Fork of the Miller River would be a good bet - low avalanche danger and closer to home than most other Highway 2 snowshoeing destinations.

We got off Highway 2 at the Money Creek Campground exit, and headed up into the hills.

The road was plowed to the Miller River Campground,

where we parked along with our fellow outdoors-people.

We anticipated a somewhat boring hike, and were not disappointed in the least.  We were actually hiking along the unplowed road between the Miller River Campground and the Dorothy Lake trailhead, which, although it parallels the river, sadly stays so far from the river that it can be heard but not seen.  

This is likely the only good pic for the day...

So there we were, trundling along, minding our own business,

when we came upon a sizable avalanche across the road/trail.  We climbed up the edge of the avalanche to survey the route - the image above is looking back the way we had come, with the road/trail seen snaking off into the trees in the distance and avalanche debris filling the foreground as we see Sue trying to negotiate her way across the decidedly uneven terrain.

It was obvious that we would be hard pressed to make it over the hurdle and continue - the 'trail' went some distance over the avalanche and then just fizzled out.  Meanwhile, we were sinking and sliding around, so we figured that we would give up and head back to the car, and maybe then drive up to Stevens Pass or hit the trail to Heybrook Lookout.

Here, Sue gets re-situated after butt-sliding down the avalanche back to the road/trail.

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