The Trail That Time Forgot (to Groom)
Report and Photos by Joy Cordell
If you ski a mile or so up the Lost Lake snowmobile road and take a right on a residential road, you'll soon find a faded State Parks sign with a nordic skier illustration and the name High Horse Trail. Like me, you may wonder when this trail was built, why it never comes up in discussion, and why it isn't groomed.
(Tim at the south entrance of the High Horse trail)
Checking it out
After Tim took Jeff and me to the entrance of the trail a few weeks ago, we decided we needed to try the rest of the trail, so we set out on the sunny Monday after the Ozbaldy with Tim, Frank, and Don.
We started from the north end, parking at the Hyak Sno-Park and skiing south on the P2C until we reached the blue diamond markings on the right side, then hucked our variety of classic skis (some with metal edges, some without) up to the section of the Summit Cold Creek trail known as the Common Corridor. Turning left, we skied over the bridge and to the intersection about a half mile past it, where we turned left off the Cold Creek trail and then left again where the trail split at the mountain.
(Tim, Frank, and Don on the trail)
It was clearly a trail, although an ungroomed trail, and we worked our way around (or under) several trees, hopped over some little creeks, and took our skis off for the creek that was 75' wide and 1" deep. The trail, although not FIS wide, is maintained by a crew hired by the utility company in the off season, Tim says, so it stays in decent shape.
(Frank after "wading" through the wide but shallow creek)
The trail led steadily uphill, at times intersecting with the power line towers and other trails. We paused for lunch at Elephant Rock, the high point that includes a spacious view of the lake and mountains on the other side. From that point, the trail goes down and we kicked and glided until we found an easy exit down to the P2C trail.
(Elephant Rock viewpoint)
The High Horse trail creates a spacious new figure-8 option for classic skiing
Imagine taking a classic ski on a loop that includes both the flat and easy P2C and a blue-level hill component--or taking a full figure 8 where you do each part of the High Horse for your uphill, with the flats in between.
We have long relied on full skate/classic track skiing trails in this region, but if you ski in the East or in Canada, you'll often find single-track classic trails winding through the woods. Single-track trails take advantage of narrower trails that would otherwise require a lot of widening work (and permission) for skate lanes, and they can be groomed with a ginzu, instead of pulling hours from a full-sized groomer. And, they are just a delight to ski.
The High Horse Trail is wide enough, however, to set a classic track on the right side, and provide a rolled space for shared uses such as snowshoeing or snow biking on the rest of the trail.
Here's the Strava map Tim made of our exploration (note that it doesn't go to the south entrance of the trail--but not far from it, and also ignore the little diversion he made at the top right!). You can see where we stopped at the top of Elephant Rock, and where we went down to the P2C and skied back to our start. The second and shorter loop would go up the Lost Lake Road to the trailhead, then follow the High Horse trail to where we skied down to the P2C on this map, and back south on the P2C to Crystal Springs parking.
Go try the trail out, either on sturdy skis now or mountain bike or hike it when the snow is gone. Getting a trail designated is a big part of the effort to bring it to use, and we already have that. We (the dreamers and planners in the XC skiing community) hope to find a way to provide grooming and make it part of our system.
To the south trailhead: Park at Crystal Springs and get on the northbound P2C and ski up to the dam. Turn left on the Lost Lake Road (groomed for snowmobiles) and ski up a mile or so until you see a sign on the right that says Private Road, with a cluster of houses close to the entrance. Go in there, and you'll see the sign within 100 yards.
Skiing from the Hyak trailhead: Ski south on the P2C about 1/2 mile until the curve (before the restrooms on the right). Look for the blue diamonds on the right that indicate access to the Common Corridor. You may want to take your skis off until you reach the Cold Creek trail. Turn left and ski past the bridge over Cold Creek, until you get to an area where the forest is thinned and you see blue diamond markers on the left side. Turn there, and when the trail becomes a T at the hill, go to the left.
Hiking or biking from the north end: From Summit East, go up the hill on the left side to access the start of the Cold Creek trail. Follow the above instructions from the bridge.