As the sun shines and the snow sneaks up the mountain, it’s time to hit up the mountain trails and see what the snow pack is up to!
Sheep Creek trail is a very pretty trial to hike. The first half mile is pretty steep though, and when it rains the trail is more of a river than anything else. So good waterproof shoes or Tuffs are recommended. It switches through a lot of vegetation and trees while climbing up the initial hill, until you come out into the valley along Sheep Creek. This is a very open trial along the river, so sunny days will grace you. There is some shade from the trees in the summer when the deciduous trees leaf out, but as of this time, there are only buds on the branches. The fiddle heads are already unfurling, and the false hellebore is making an appearance.
There is one spot along the trail where the substantial rain from our perpetual fall (O winter that never was!) has washed out a small section long the river. This is easily negotiated, as even my handicapped dog could easily hop over it. Aside from this minor wash-out, the trail is in really good condition and currently snow free! There is some evidence of Hooter hunting along the river, and I wish out hunters luck!
Once you get back to the end of the valley along the river, the trail takes a turn to the left, and there is a sign that indicates that the trail is ‘not maintained’ past that point. That is the ominous beginning of Sheep Mountain. Sheep, like Juneau and Jumbo, is a perfectly wonderful mountain with tons of views, as long as you acknowledge the fact that you will be going up, in a very steep fashion. But, the trail does grant you the luxury of switch backs, so it’s not exactly a hand over hand climb as Mt McGinnis can be. As the sun was shining, my general motto is ‘sky’s out thighs out’, so I was sporting my UA booty shorts and a light tank. The salmon berry bushes along the first part of what will hence forth be refereed to as ‘the climb’ were lacking their usual leafy accessories – which is good and bad. Good, because you can easily see the trail ahead of you and the dogs don’t get lost in the green rustling so when they come bounding back you know its them and not some other little wild animal, but bad in that there is nothing to soften the sting as the branches that are encroaching on the trail hit your legs as you somewhat bushwhack through them. If wearing pants, this is not even a concern, but as my wardrobe choice left plenty of exposed skin, I was rather thrashed by the end. (No, kittens didn’t attack my legs, but thanks for asking.)
Keep in mind, that with all the branches breaking my skin, in the summer they will produce plenty of salmon berries and I will literally eat my way up the trail. The climb felt longer than it has in the past, mostly I think because I wasn’t snacking the whole way. But after maneuvering over rocks, fallen trees, and ducking branches, we finally hit snow just before we left the trees. I am pretty sure that Kiska loves snow just as much as she loves crunchy bacon (I no longer endorse feeding your dog bacon as it increases the risk of pancreatitis – although after learning of this canine health risk I have also been informed that low sodium or turkey bacon is not an acceptable alternative – but I did ask her Dr), and after our winter that never was, she has missed snow significantly. She gleefully ran through the soft snow after Lulu, and obliterated the pristine packed trail. Regardless, walk on we did and the previously packed snow prevented a lot of post holing. We walked on the snow for probably another 20 minutes in the tress, when with the increased wind we popped out of the trees and had reached a light shelf. Looking at my MapMyFitness (free) app, we were 3.30 miles from the beginning of the trail. The climb seemed to take forever, but looking at my map, it was actually only a mile. Oh the positive correlation between exerted effort and perceived distance!
The trees and bushes had protected us from the wind, but once we came out it was apparent that our (Buffy and myself) wardrobe choices left some yards of fabric to be desired. The snow out in the open was much deeper and softer, as I’m sure the sun was warming it up substantially more than in the trees. I ran into a friend and his hiking party, and clad in their knee high OR Crocodile gaiters, pants, and wearing as many layers as I packed, we talked about the snow conditions farther out on the shelf. Pete said that it got really deep, post holing, and their had to abandon their hopes for hiking the neighboring mountain, then aimed for Camp 6, then ended up turning back and heading down the trail. We laughed, and thanked them for posting the way for us. They headed back into the trees for lunch, but I had not come all that way to eat without a view. This is why we have insulation! (Ah hem, body fat.) Thunder and Lightning (yes, I have named my thighs) are pretty sturdy, and as long as my core is warm, they tend to tough it out just fine. Throwing on my fleece jacket, us (smart) ladies hunkered down against some rocks to find some reprieve from the wind and ate our lunches, while our only male companion decided to (insert something manly) and sat on the rocks enjoying the full view. At one point I thought Lulu was bleeding where she wiped her jowls on my leg, and then said “O wait, no, never mind, she’s not bleeding, I am.” The dogs begged in standard fashion, and after snapping a few pictures, waving to Camp 6 perched along the power lines just beyond where any of us wanted to go, we split my Old Fashioned doughnut and headed back into the woods.
The climb down, now that we were not exerting much effort seemed to wiz by in no time. Kiska harassed the squirrels, Lulu tried to bring a branch down with us because that is how she rolls. Both dogs came into the valley empty mouthed, but tails still wagging. We effortlessly strode down the valley, with Kiska taking a dip in the river along the way. Coming back down the first half mile was still just as wet as when we camp up a few hours before, and in total we were on the trail from just after 9am to just before 1pm. We met Pete and his group as they were getting in their cars to leave, so either they were chatting for a while, or weren’t that far ahead of us on the way down. Loading up the dirty dogs, we all headed out, and on to more adventures.