Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness have at least a dozen reasons to get out on your snow shoes or cross-country skis this winter, and it all begins on Saturday, January 15th with the first hike of the FSPW 2011 winter hike series, a foray into Lightning Creek and East Fork Creek led by volunteers Jim and Sandii Mellen. This year, in conjunction with the hike series, FSPW is sponsoring a winter photo contest beginning and ending with the first and last hikes of the winter season (see details at https://www.scotchmanpeaks.org/hiking/put-your-cameras-in-your-packs). The last hike of the year will be April 30 to the proposed wilderness’s namesake mountain, Scotchman Peak. This, too will be led by the Mellens, for the seventh time in as many years. In between, there are hikes to Ross Creek Cedars, Goat Peak, Fatman Mountain, Blue Creek and Mount Vernon; ranging in level of required fitness from E for easy to S+ for over-the-top-strenuous.
These ventures into snow-covered back-country allow hikers a different experience of places that may seem familiar during the warmer seasons but are transformed into quiet and magical landscapes by the presence of snow. Depending on “the pack,” the density and depth of snow, an otherwise easy walk can turn into a workout, or a trip known for being brushy and difficult in the summer might be easier on snowshoes, when the offending vegetation is buried.
“The common denominator of winter hiking,” says FSPW program coordinator, “is transformation. In winter, places look different, feel different, act different. Trails disappear, but so does a lot of stuff you might not like to deal with; blowdowns and tag alder for instance. Hiking on snowshoes or skis on a good pack can be like walking ten feet off the ground.”
These trips are informal, and are great places to meet other outdoor enthusiasts from the region. Visit https://www.scotchmanpeaks.org/hiking/current-hiking-schedule/ for a full winter schedule, including hike leaders, contact information and relative strenuousness. On the site is also more information about the Scotchman Peaks roadless area, the FSPW organization and their efforts seeking permanent wilderness protection. FSPW has several “loaner” pairs of snowshoes if you don’t have your own.