You'll thank me later for sparing you all the pros and cons for all the different destination options that I've been pondering for the last five days.
It's after midnight and I still don't have a plan.
That's one drawback to hiking solo: there's a million options out there but I'm compelled to committ to something just for the sake of letting others know where I'll be in the unlikely event there is trouble.
Honestly, I'd be content to just get in the car at day break and see where I end up. But, those aren't the rules of this game.
So, here is my broad itinerary "Decision Tree" for the day:
Heading east on Hwy 20.
Will probably stop at the park along the river just before the Cascadian Farm stand in Rockport to see if there are any Eagle photo opps.
Will continue on to Newhalem. Will probably stop at the Ranger Visitor Center there to inquire about snow conditions.
Depending on what I learn in Newhalem, I'll probably head further east on Hwy 20 to Diablo and hike along the Stetattle Creek trail. Sounds like some cute waterfalls out there (if they aren't under snow) but the trail just peters out after about 3 miles. A bit short for such a drive, and no big jackpot other than the waterfalls.
It just dawned on me that there is a switchback trail from Diablo (bottom of the dam) that climbs to the top of the dam which I haven't done. In fact, I don't recall hearing of anyone doing that trail. FINALLY... something that sounds interesting. Pretty sure this trail is between the old incline railway and the dam.
Sourdough Lookout (Ridge, Mtn) trail starts in Diablo also. Maybe I'll venture up it a ways for some good efficient elevation training.
Depending on how all that goes, there's a chance that I'll go sample a mile or two of the Cow Heaven trail. This trail starts just down the road from the MARBLEMOUNT Ranger Station. It's unlikely I'll go here (because it was my impression that this trail was closer to Newhalem but I just realized I was totally wrong - a good example of why trip planning is so important).
If darkness approaches while I'm near the Newhalem area, it's a given that I'd take the opportunity to try some photos of Ladder Creek Falls behind the Newhalem powerhouse since they light it up at night. Well, they do it in the summer - not sure if they do it in the winter too.
The final exploring option on my to-do list in that area is to go down the road to the Newhalem Dam itself (the Gorge Dam itself I think is what it is called). Just to say I've been there.
Skip all the Diablo and Newhalem stuff and take Hwy 530 down toward Darrington to make a second try for the North Mountain Lookout. This should be a priority for me, but the long (dull) road walk isn't something I look forward to doing solo. Plus, the snow level out there is a big unknown at the moment and not something I'm keen on tackling solo anytime soon. So, it is an option and I do want to get to that Lookout, but probably not on the 14th.
Due to the potential for photo ops of Ladder Creek falls at night, I should be back in cell phone reception by 7pm at the latest.
Option A is sounding the most interesting. It also sounds like a lot of wandering/exploring/driving and not quite as much hiking. So be it - that's how I roll.
Besides, I'll be on snowshoes on Tuesday and possibly playing outdoors again on Wednesday.