After one successful REI guided snowshoe, I decided to book another*. This time, I wanted to go at night. Nighttime snowshoeing looks gorgeous, but I know myself well enough to know I’d be terrified of a wolf or cougar attack at all times. A large group of women led by professional guides sounded the safest for this experience.
After meeting at the Issaquah REI, we got into a van and headed east. Today’s trek would take us past Snoqualmie Pass and up to Blewett Pass. The ride went by fairly uneventfully, or maybe that was just my excitement talking. Same as before, when we parked the guides, Tristan and Katie, passed out gaiters and gear (snowshoes, poles, and pads to sit on) only this time headlamps as well. The headlamps turned out to be the largest question mark, with myself and a few others not being fully confident on how to use them (I had brought my own, but still don’t have the use memorized). I could not for the life of me get mine off the ‘red’ light setting, but red is actually more convenient for not blinding others (and being able to adjust to see the stars quicker) and our leader had a bright enough white light for it to be no issue.
As all of the guests had snowshoe experience, we were able to hit the trail fairly quickly after a bathroom break, which was nice as night was falling rapidly around us. Snowshoeing at night I figured would be far colder than daytime, but I was just fine in minutes ‘being bold and starting cold’ with just a midweight baselayer with a synthetic-fill vest over on top, with midweight tights and my beloved Cirque pants and gaiters. As I’ve said before, layering is key to staying warm–but not overheating–on the trail. I was surprised when I got home to feel that lovely sweaty-sticky feeling, but on the trail I had felt perfect, except my hands were cold after breaks, which happens in daytime as well. It didn’t take long to realize other than the headlamp, night snowshoeing was the same as daytime, only less crowded!
The light from my headlamp made the snow appear to glow, especially with a coat of gleaming hoarfrost. As night got darker, the stars above got brighter, with most of us turning off our headlamps at every stop to see them clearer. The group zipped along, with our guides commenting on how fast a pace we were making. I’m glad that the guides didn’t have us stopping every ten minutes, and every break had a purpose, pointing out features or trail information. Katie was very good at reminding us to throw layers on while stopped to keep warm.
Despite the trail having reflective markers and tons of signs, I was grateful for the guided navigation, especially as we approached the meadow and had two crossings over areas where we had to aim for a stronger path. I was even more grateful when at our big break in the meadow, our guides busted out the hot chocolate while we gazed at the stars above. While the moon never made an appearance, the stars, and the glow from Wenatchee and Leavenworth from afar, were still a beautiful sight.
There were a few downfalls to night snowshoeing over daytime, the largest being vision. I feel I paid less attention to the trail, only focusing on the sky, so this isn’t much of a ‘trip report.’ The trail is a loop, with us ending on a nice, wide forest road, but I’m sure during the day there’d be some stunning vistas. Night sky also made for difficulty taking pictures, as I have zero night photography skills. However, if you’re all about the experience of being snowshoeing rather than the views, night snowshoeing is perfect. Plus, if you go back and do the same hike during the day, it can feel like a brand-new expedition! If you are snowshoeing Tronsen Meadow on your own, be sure to have a Sno-Park Pass handy. The trail is fairly flat, so snowshoes with lifts are not required, but there was one larger hill we climbed where they could have been handy. While avalanche danger on the trail was low, know your risks and check conditions before heading out, always.
REI does tons of daytime and nighttime guided snowshoe treks all over Washington. It’s a great way to meet other like minded-people (tons of people on both trips I’ve done were solo) and take the stress out of driving in snow and ice–as well as navigation!
*I was not paid or asked to write this post and am not affiliated with REI in any way. I just had a really good time and think you might too!