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A Serene Beginning

New Year's Day below Mt. Index

Story by HONEST LINES January 4th, 2016

Five o'clock AM.

Not the most ideal time to be waking up on New Year’s Day. The party had been pretty typical—good friends hanging out around the kitchen table and catching up, the kids off playing downstairs, a midnight toast and celebration—and then we kept talking and the kids kept playing until nearly three in the morning. The alarm went off when it was supposed to though, and I met Mark outside with my pack in one hand and a Pop-Tart in the other.

Happy New Year.

We drove north in the pre-dawn cold to Lake Serene, just below Highway 2’s iconic Mount Index—stopping only once with a warning from one of Monroe’s Finest.

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It was still dark when we started to hike. No need for snowshoes yet—the path was well-trod and packed in. There were a few slick spots as we crossed a couple of creeks not quite completely frozen, and we quickly warmed up as we gained elevation. We peered through the leafless alders at the upper flanks of Mount Index, illuminated by the now setting moon.

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Eventually we put on the snowshoes. The trail had petered out and we weren’t quite sure where it went, other than up and over, so we stopped to gear up. 20 vertical feet above we found it again, but it was just as easy to keep them on as take them off, so we pushed onward.

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Coming around a snow-covered shoulder, the now sun-lit massif of Mount Index stopped us. A few photos later, we’d added it to our tick list. According to the map we were close to the lake, and we wondered out loud at the sanity of these dawn patrol hikes: both that of those who participate, and of those who don’t.

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The lake was relatively small, compared to the immense wall of rock overhead. The tracks stopped at the lake’s edge, probably not being frozen enough for earlier visitors to move out onto the surface. We probed a bit and gingerly stepped out onto the smooth expanse of white, sticking to the edges at first before taking short exploratory meanders farther out into the sunlight.

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The sun had come up over the cliffs at the south end of the lake and was working its way across the ridgeline, just staying above the trees for twenty minutes or so, before disappearing again and giving us a tangible clue it was time to head back. The wind had picked up and without the glow of sunlight, it felt a bit sharper than it had before. We put on crampons, shouldered packs and camera gear and snowshoes, and headed back to the car.

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We passed only a handful of groups on our way out. We didn’t tell them the sun had already set.

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See the full Flickr set here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsksb9veB

Lake Serene, Snohomish County, WA, United States