One thing we are not crazy about is winter hiking. Yes the scenery is amazing when everything is cloaked in white, yes the ice hanging over ledges is a site to see and the sound of the snow crunching under your feet is soothing. But it is so tough and often very cold. That is why we generally stick to the smaller and usually more local mountains and hiking trails. On occasion we do however make our way up a big mountain in winter. I had heard that Mt. Waumbek was one of the easiest to hike in this season and I was reading that the lack of snow thus far in the year coupled with the heavy travel the Starr King trail receives, it was bear-bootable and snow shoe’s were pretty-much not needed. Temps were going to be in the mid 30’s with just a slight breeze … which is a fairly comfortable temperature for winter in the White’s!
So we set out to try and nab our 45th 4000 footer. The parking lot was not plowed but there was only a few inches from the snow the night before. It was drivable if you have a vehicle with 4-wheel drive or all wheel drive. There was a Subaru in the parking lot already. We began our hike at 9:15 am. The hike began a moderate grade right off and kept this pace most of the way. We passed a large, dry stone well shortly and continued the climb up the old fire tower road. The trail was pleasant and pretty easy to hike in just our boots. However when we reached about 2300 feet the trail began to get a bit icy and we pulled on the micro-spikes. At 3000 feet the trail became more snow covered as did the trees. The fog/clouds was set in and visibility was maybe a couple hundred feet. It sure was beautiful up there.
We climbed across the ridge-top of Mt. Starr King and around a small open area, perhaps where the fire tower once stood? Then it was a short hike down to the site of the fire wardens cabin, a lonely fire place and chimney is all that is left. We posed for a picture and took a little break, time was 1:18 pm. Then it was a gentle hike down to the col and a moderate hike up to Waumbek. We passed a group of three people coming down here. As we came up on the top of the ridge conditions got a bit harder. Snow drifts were cutting across the trail. Snow shoes would have helped through this section but they still weren’t necessary. Rabbit and fox tracks crossed the trail and through the woods all over the place up here. Perhaps the fox was trying to catch a bite! Scott even spotted the rabbit at one point. It took off before I could get a look.
We arrived at the signage on the wooded summit area of Waumbek an hour later at 2:15 pm. We had a quite lunch here, the silence of the winter wonderland around us all the noise one could here aside from us crunching on our sandwiches and snacks and yapping at how exciting it was to have completed another 4K. Before we started getting too cold we packed up and headed back down. We passed several more hikers coming up, some of which appeared to have camping gear. Other than that it was a very quite trail today from what I had expected. It was a great winter hike for us and perhaps sometime we can hike it in the summer and see it in a different light! It would seem this would be an excellent fall hike too.