i had been wanting to take everyone sledding this winter, and this past weekend we finally got the chance. the original plan was to head to Mt. Pilchuck and the Heather Lake trailhead, where they closed the road and set up a Winter Recreation Area just for sledding and snowshoeing. however, when we arrived, there was not a trace of snow anywhere. we followed the road 7 more miles to the Mt. Pilchuck trailhead and still not a patch of snow to be seen. hmmm - we had driven this far, we didnt want to go home empty-handed.
we head back down the hill and stopped at the Verlot Vistor Center to ask the rangers their advice on where to go. unfortunately, they told us what we already knew - there was no snow anywhere nearby. finally, one of them suggested we try the Big Four Ice Caves area - there might be a small bit of snow left there, but it was a bit of a hike in and no guarantees. it was better than driving home defeated, so we decided to give it a try.
the hike in was about a mile through a very pretty area. the start consisted of a wooden boardwalk across a beaver march, and then a crossing of the Stillaguamish River before leading to the ice caves. the surrounding snow was completely gone, but the actual ice caves themselves were still there. with the fog and the granite backdrop, it was quite an impressive sight.
we found on small place off to the side suitable for sledding. the snow was very hard, but we were able to carve out a couple of small chutes. the rides were short and bumpy, but everyone had a great time anyway.
although not at all how we inteded the trip to go, we had a great time in a beautiful place that we probably would not have even known was there otherwise. a truly fortuitous turn of events and a flexible attitude by everyone made for a great trip in the end.