This is a simple one. I woke up with snow everywhere, including on top of the tent. But it was otherwise a nice, shiny morning.
The trail was all covered with snow, but it was only a few inches deep at worst. It was very dry powdery snow because it was too cold for it to melt on top and get hard. But it was still awkward to walk on. I tried putting on my microspikes for better traction, but they just stuck to the snow and formed it into large, hard ice balls under my feet, so I took them off by the time of my first snack break.
I stopped by a spring for lunch, when the sun and a series of ever larger clouds started warring for primacy. Within an hour after that, it was just fog. And not long after that, it was snowing again.
The most interesting part of hiking in the snow was looking at the tracks of all the animals that had come before me. Most were clearly chipmunk tracks, but there were other critters using the trail too, like coyotes, bobcats, deer, rabbits. At one point, I was clearly following the trail of a person walking a dog, wondering when I would finally meet them. Later, I was following the tracks of a cross-country skier who made it far easier to find the trail.
Speaking of finding the trail, once the signs of other humans disappeared, that was one of the least interesting parts. Especially as the drifts got deeper. There were places where I was stomping across foot-deep drifts and looking for places where the snow looked one Pantone shade whiter because of the slightly different angle of the ground below made it catch the light differently. At one point I started climbing a mountain that wasn’t even on the trail and didn’t realize for five minutes before I had to backtrack to find the way the trail really went.
The snow got worse as the sun went down, and as I stopped to get my headlamp out, I considered stopping in a clearing and digging a tentsite from the snow. But I committed to doing a few more miles after dark to make it to a developed campsite just off-trail down from the next road crossing.
It was a very good thing I did because when I got there, I found it was quite a nice campground indeed. There was a large shelter with a fireplace inside that a sign referred to as a “kitchen.” Whoever had left the tracks on the road leading down to it had also left some coals smoldering in the fireplace. I scrounged some wood from another fireplace and elsewhere inside the kitchen and easily got it going again with some pages from a paperback left in the nearby stove.
My first thought was to camp there next to the fire. I dragged the picnic table over next to it and tried using my tent and ground cloth to protect the space underneath from the snow blowing in. This shelter was wide open clear to the eaves, and everything was collecting snow if it sat too long in one place. Even using ropes to elaborately hang my tent from the rafters couldn’t block the gusts of snow.
So I just ate by the fire in the end. I repacked all my stuff and moved it into the nearby privy. This was a completely enclosed space that I stood a much better chance of warming with my body heat. I laid out my bed on the floor and, like the previous night, boiled some water for my water bag to tuck into my sleeping bag with me.
Except for the very tops of the walls being screened instead of closed, which meant the occasional larger gust outside could sprinkle snow on my face, it was a relatively comfortable night relative to what you might think hearing “slept on the floor of a privy in a snowstorm.” Any time I got chilly, I just reheated my water bag.
Total distance: 14 miles