Associated trip report: Although I usually go up into Silver Creek valley to ski in the spring, when the trail which climbs up to the hanging valley is mostly bare, I thought that there might be enough snow now to ski all the way. Based on the reports of the last couple of days, I wasn't expecting good snow, at least in the lower reaches, and I was not disappointed.
The 4818 road was closed by about 2' of snow at the Lake Kachess snowpark (~2200'), so I fishscaled the 1.5 miles to the actual trailhead on forest roads nicely groomed by snowmobiles (none out today, fortunately). From there, I skinned up the trail, where the snow was mostly frozen tree-drip, or in the open, breakable crust. There had been gusty east winds on the road approach, but the climb was protected and the sun came out occasionally, softening the breakable crust in open areas. When I reached the lip of the hanging valley (~3600') and the start of the nice old-growth forest, the trees were suddenly holding lots of snow in their branches, and the quality of the snow became better - more powdery, though dense and still crusted in places from tree-drip. The snowpack was 4-5' deep here, judging from the stream banks. A pole could be pushed in 15-20" before hitting a crust, but trail breaking wasn't bad as my skis only sank in a few inches at most. I skied about a mile up the valley (very flat here), then considered my options.
I have always had as my destination the meadows and short runs at the head of the valley, but I didn't think I would make it that far (another 4 miles) this day, so I decided to skin directly up the NE-facing valley slope to the top of Kachess Ridge. The first 600' was pretty straight-forward, in open forest and mostly on tree-bombed dense powder or light tree-drip, although it didn't look so good with descending eyes. Then I got into an area with many more small trees, and had to do some traversing to the left before I could climb again. I stopped for lunch, got cold (it was ~25 degrees and somewhat windy), and so started skinning up again, discovering that my lunch spot was only about 50vf below the ridge top, which I gained at ~4600'. Wow, it was a nice place! Open, wide, fringed with trees, and with great views out to Mt. Rainier, Snoqualmie Pass area peaks, and Mt. Stuart, and down to Kachess Lake and the Yakima River valley. There weren't much in the way of cornices, so I skinned N to the top of Point 4884. From there, it would be possible to continue on to Point 5194 (and beyond?), but I was out of time (it was 2:45), so I took off the skins and started my glorious 2600' powder run. Oops, that was another day.
The run down the ridge was fun, with a variety of not bad snow conditions - powder, light tree-drip, and, in exposed areas, stiff wind-pack. The run back down the NE slope to the valley floor was not good - too dense small trees at the top, too variable conditions to get any real rythym going for most of the rest of the way. I did find one open glade toward the bottom and got about 10 linked turns in very nice, dense powder. The ski back to the lip of the hanging valley was fast, and the waxless skis allowed me to climb the little rises along the way but get long glides as well. From there, I mostly skied right down the trail. Or rather, I side-slipped along the uphill side of the trail cut, the snow being way too fast to just point 'em, and this was easily the most tiring part of the trip. I gave up skiing the trail about 100vf from the trailhead because my tips kept getting caught on shrubs protruding from the dwindling snowpack, but had a fast glide/skate/double-pole ride back to the car on the forest roads.
Corn dog report: I stopped by the corn dog shack next to Traveller's Rest at Snoqualmie Pass on the way back. The shack is open and the corn dogs are as good as ever (and that means the best corn dogs in the world - dipped and fried while you wait). You can still get your dog dipped in jalapeno batter only on Saturdays and Sundays.