Alden and I wanted to get out and get some good exercise in this past weekend, but we needed to find a place that we were certain we'd have solitude (bc SoMeOnE got the rona and can't be around humans for awhile ). Looked at a map and the name "cow heaven" caught my eye bc it sounded silly, and I have a penchant for all things cow print right now. I may have purchased some cow print Adidas and countertop stools recently... Also- Doja Cat anyone??? Mooo! by Doja Cat just don't watch it at work or anything...
After a quick interwebz search it turned out cow heaven is a hike that ppl do, but not too often. And it is next to the Helen Buttes which were on the table in case time and conditions allowed. The weather was forecasted to be socked in and snowy so I was certain we'd be the only party out. I am kind of surprised I hadn't heard of cow heaven before, given the trailhead is just behind the Marblemount ranger station, and it makes for an excellent conditioner. Wth do I kno tho? :P
Continue down the road just to the left of the bathrooms at the ranger station until you see a small pullout on the left and a wooden message board that says "cow heaven trail," complete with the ten cowmandments on how to gain entry. (wow that joke sucked sry I'm gonna delete this)
The first ~2000' vert of the hike was nice muddy trail with a mix of nice tight short switchbacks and some longer ones. There are ~3 creek crossings in this first bit, all easily crossed. We were wearing waterproof boots so it didn't matter that the first crossing didn't have any rocks above water to step on I admired the moist ferns and raindrop mottled salal. We made good work of this first bit in just over an hour.
tree yip yip!
It began snowing (that v nice peaceful soft drifty snow kind of snow that feels extra special when you are the only ones in the forest). The snowline slowly transitioned from patchy slush to a few inches of wet powder on top of last weekend's ice sheet as we made our way up what I kept calling the "cleft." Alden was like huh what are you talking about, THE BUTTCRACK IT'S LIKE A BUTTCRACK SEE This part required some kicking for steps in some sections bc of the icy sheet under a few inches of wet ass powder. We followed the buttcrack and used some of the flagging scattered about to confirm our route. This middle bit of the trail was about 1200' of the wet powder on top of hard packed snow beneath. (This part was pretty slippy on descent and we lost count of the number of falls between the two of us).
Then the trail was like LET THE POSTHOLING BEGIN! And of course, in true "us" fashion we boot top post holed refusing to stop to put on snowshoes for awhile hah. We put them on after about 500' of this foolishness. It was slow going with or without snowshoes from here and beyond though. Sticky sno!
We wore snowshoes for the last 1400' of what was double stuffed crust postholing. Some parts were more like "snow-wallowing" than "snowshoeing" but we were having a great time. The clouds even parted a bit and gave us some views!
We got to the top of cow heaven, didn't see any cows (what a rip). But because we had both been eating these protein bars called "no cow" (made with sugar alcohol) it smelled like a couple of heifers were up there anyway. Close enough! Sad tho bc I kinda envisioned being greeted by Heffer Wolfe or something, oh well.
"How many cows did you see?" NO COWS
We ate some tamales at the top and huddled together to stay warm. It was still snowing! What a magical winter treat. We eyed the SW Helen Butte, but it looked like melted meringue topping was sliding off the peak's rocky slabs. Hmmm this looked similar to that TR we read that said, "we didn't do Helen Buttes due to time and not-wanting-to-die constraints" -checks out!
We headed down the ridge and I naively thought, "oh it will be so nice descending because we already broke trail, we will go so fast." ellemaaayooooo it had been snowing so much our tracks were nearly filled
i kept making weird faces my whole life and my face got stuck like this
Made our way down fairly uneventful, slipping around the middle part of the trail, and then admiring mushrooms down lower in the forest. At the lower elevations the snowfall turned into rain- that kind of rain that is sort of suspended in the air and rather than the rain falling on you you move through this wall of moisture and get wet as you go through it. It made for some nice PNW forest ambiance.
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