Tim and I planned a winter hike/snowshoe expedition for after Christmas, but weren't fully settled on the destination until the night before we set out. Our three choices were Spider Meadows, Polallie Ridge or Waptus Lake.
We realized that Waptus Lake was actually a hike designated "allow 2 days" which, with snow in the picture, was surely out. We settled for Polallie Ridge which seemed a better way to get some views.
The day weather was forecast for partly cloudy, however the morning was clear and blue (patchy fog was present all the way up to Cle Elum Lake). We set out on the trail and after about half a mile, realized that it wasn't climbing up much and wasn't following the ridgeline as the map suggested. Turns out we missed our trail and were on the Cooper River Trail. We decided to bush-whack our way up to the ridge-to to the Polallie Ridge trail as intended. After some scrambling and fighting vine maple, we found the trail. It was a brisk climb with snow depth increasing from patchy at the base, to about 20" at 4100ft. A few people ventured ahead a few days prior so their old footprints were visible, but they stopped when the obvious trail petered out in the snow. We searched around in vain and failed to find it as well, and despite not ever getting a photograph, we turned back and decided to drive to Cooper Lake.
The hike down was uneventful though we did run in to a couple who thought this trail was awfully steep for the Waptus River trail. We had to tell them they were half a mile up the Polallie Ridge trail. They, too, missed the obvious signage. We stopped for a spell and took photos of the rapids of Cooper River, then proceeded back to the truck.
The road to Cooper Lake hadn't seen a wheeled-vehicle in a while, just a lot of snowmobile traffic. In fact, it was about the only place one could snowmobile with this season's poor snowfall. The entire road was in the shade all the way to the lake. So the palrty 6" of snow at that level was enough for the snowmobilers to scream around in.
Cooper Lake was partially frozen, and offered us the views we were hoping to find at Waptus Lake, however it was rapidly fogging in. If only we made this our first stop in the morning!
Despite not getting to our original goal, we figure for December 28, we were fortunate to get as far as we did with the low snow levels as they are, and we did get some much-needed fresh air and excercise, and we few photos to boot!