I have occasionally thought about spending some time in the Olympics during the winter months, but two things have always stopped me. I get cold easily, and I did not have a vehicle that could handle the snow. One of those problems was solved when my 25 year old pickup gave up the ghost and was replaced with one having 4WD. And the problem with cold was just going to have to be overcome.
I hiked up the Deer Ridge trail a few weeks ago and spent the night up near Deer Park. And I have to say that it was beautiful. While I carried an extra 20 pounds of clothes and shelter/sleep gear, it was worth it to be able to experience the high country under a foot or two of snow. And I did manage to stay warm, although it was touch and go with my hands.
And so I made plans to go up the Dosewallips earlier this week after Sunday night’s snowfall. And this time I would try out a small homemade pulk. For those who don’t know (which included me until recently), a pulk is a sled that you can pull behind you, loaded with all your stuff. Rather than carry 40 pounds, I could just pull it over the snow. My pulk was a small sled I bought at Fred Myers with a couple of 6′ PVC poles and a hipbelt from an old backpack. The sled was fastened to the hipbelt with a 1/4″ nylon line strung through the PVC pipes.
The road walk up the Dose was a mile longer now since the road is blocked off just before the parking lot at Case Creek. So now it’s closer to 6.5 miles to the campground at the Ranger’s Station. But that was OK; it gave me more opportunity to try out the pulk. And I learned a lot about it on the trip up Monday and back down Tuesday.
The first, and biggest, lesson I learned is that it is very sensitive to weight balance. Because I did not know what to expect, I had all my gear in a backpack and just put the pack into the sled and tied it down. Unfortunately that made it top heavy and it flipped over; a lot. Eventually I took everything out of the pack except for my hammock, tarp, and quilts, and put the rest of the gear into a large garbage bag and strapped it down onto the sled. Buch better!
I also decided that my poles were a bit too long, the sled was a bit too small and having the poles directly fastened to the sled and hipbelt would probably be better. So version 2.0 is now under construction. Hope to be able to get back out in the next few weeks and spend a little more time up in the snow. It really is lovely up there; and using the pulk allows me to carry more clothes and better shelter, allowing me to enjoy the trip more. The only downside so far is that I need to stay on snow the whole time; a long approach to snow will be a problem. I also don’t know how to handle fording and steep traverses, but I am confident I will eventually get that worked out.