Solo Winter Getaway with Lessons Learned

Lately I have really been missing backpacking and multi-day outings. The long, cold nights were making me bored and restless. With a couple of free days this week, I thought it would be the perfect time to embark on a long overdue solo getaway. Unfortunately, the forecast was for non-stop pouring rain, so camping was pretty much out of the question. On a whim, I looked up state park cabins and found some cute ones at Wallace Falls that were only $49/night in winter. Perfect! My plan was in motion for a couple of days of hiking with a toasty warm cabin to dry off in and catch up on my reading. No internet, no Facebook, no Instagram and no TV.

Home sweet home

The cabins were easy to find, the parking is in the same lot as the trailhead to Wallace Falls. They have heat and electricity as well as nearby showers and restrooms. Up to five people can sleep in a cabin. There are also fire pits and picnic tables for those days when it is not  raining cats and dogs. Bonus: they are only an hour drive from Seattle.

sooo cute!

I put my stuff in the  cabin and headed up for a casual hike to Upper Wallace Falls. Normally I would avoid this overly crowded trail, but a midweek day in winter with heavy rain kept the crowds away. I saw less than ten people on the 5.5 mile hike. Side note: hiking umbrellas are made for days like today! Mine kept me nice and dry for the whole hike while everyone I passed looked like drowned rats. I’d say an umbrella is the 11th essential for spring in the Pacific Northwest!

hiking umbrellas are a lifesaver!
Lower Wallace Falls

Partially frozen falls
Middle Wallace Falls

It was convenient to step off the trail and walk right over to my warm cabin. I got into my slippers and cozied up with my puffy blanket to read and just disconnect from the stress of life. For dinner I made some chili, which I topped off with some cheesecake from the amazing Sultan Bakery. The sound of rain lulled me into a deep sleep.

Time to chillax
cannot go to Sultan without a stop at the bakery!

The next day the plan was to head up to hike Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls. The rain had not relented all night but all my stuff was dried out and I had my trusty umbrella, so I wasn’t going to let that stop me! Cold pizza for breakfast then off I went, spirits high. The road to Lake Serene is short but it was basically a solid sheet of ice. I was doing ok and then I took the turn to go up to the trailhead, which was so close I could see it. Suddenly I stopped moving forward and actually starting sliding backwards down the hill! Even with the emergency brake on my car did not stop sliding. Quickly I put it in reverse and tried to control my slide but unfortunately my car ended up sliding into the deep slush in the ditch. Well crap….

oops
no bueno

There is no cell reception here and there was not a soul around. Fortunately I had my emergency winter car kit so I started to dig out my tires, and put a bunch of kitty litter (for traction) under the tires. My car moved a little but not enough to get out. It had been an hour since I got stuck and I was soaked from the rain. I had to keep getting in the car to warm my hands, even with gloves on. Finally I decided that it was time to try putting chains on. As I was struggling to do this in the rain (I swear this was easier in practice!) a car happened to come along on the other road. I chased after it, waving my hands like a crazy person. Luckily it stopped and I explained my dilemma to the man inside.

Good Samaritan “So you  were going to hike?”

Me: “Yeah that was the plan but now I just want to get off this road”

GS: “Well it looks like you are experienced hiker, glad to see someone prepared. Up here we get a lot of people who don’t know what they are doing”

Me: “I think I was more prepared for the hiking than the driving. Thanks for helping me, thought I was going to have to walk to the highway and hitchhike”

GS: “You gotta be careful up here by yourself, there are a lot of nefarious people around here. Just recently there was an incident…”

Me: “Er, yeah good point, glad you came along when you did.”

The Good Sam helped push my car out then waited until I safely got down to the main road. Thank goodness there are still nice people out there! Turns out I got pushed out of my comfort zone much more than planned on this little adventure. It was a good reminder to be prepared for anything, not just the trail.

Things I did right:

  • Had winter emergency kit with chains, sand, gloves, shovel, headlamp, food, water and sleeping bag.
  • Had warm clothes and microspikes so I could walk out if needed
  • Told someone where I would be so that if I did not return they would know where to look
  • Had self protection (mace) in case of “nefarious” people
  • Had full tank of gas

Things I did  wrong:

  • Should have not driven up the icy road, or should have put the chains on first
  • Should have chosen a hike at a lower elevation

All-in-all this was a really good trip and I learned a little bit of what I am capable of. It was a good reminder to always be prepared. I carry my “winter kit” from the first snowfall until late spring and this was the first time I’ve had to use it but boy was I glad to have it! Remember that you do not always have cell reception and you can’t depend on others being around to help, even in normally populated areas. Solo adventures are enjoyable, relaxing and eye-opening. It’s up to you to be prepared, self-reliant and to make safe decisions. Happy adventuring and be careful out there!

Have you ever had a trip that didn’t quite go as planned?

crowd-free trail to Wallace Falls
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