There were some patches of snow in shady spots along the road as we went up, but there were also many places where the gravel road was bare. With the clear weather, the temperature had been below freezing at these elevations and the snow that was still on the ground was frozen quite like solid ice. I suppose this was due to the fact that it started to melt with rain falling on it and had become very wet. When it froze again, it essentially became like a rough form of ice.
The trip up the road was largely uneventful. We passed a few other people hiking on the road and enjoying the beautiful day as we were. When we made it up near the parking lot below the bowl, the trees parted and gave way to a gleaming white expanse of snow stretching up to the sky. Of course the snow on the bowl was as solid and icy as the snow on the road had been, but we did not let that stop us, intrepid (stupid) high school students that we were.
Needless to say, it was difficult going to get up the hill. The snow was so hard that it took a great deal of work to dig one's feet in enough to keep from sliding back down the hill to the bottom. The best course was to stay near the sides of the open slope where there was some vegetation to hold on to in case of slipping. Once the top of the ridge was gained, it was not quite so steep, and it was much easier to walk without slipping. Since the ridge still went up to an even higher edge of the bowl, there were a number of different routes one could take down the hill. Each of these routes did end up at the same place. The basic course of each route was down. However, with a slight funnel shape to the hill, all the routes angled in and met at a point which led to one last shoot down to the parking lot (and a log fence, if you did not get stopped soon enough).
As you might expect, by the time I gained the top of the bowl, it was a good spot for a break. The hike up was quite tiring. After sitting in the sled for a while to catch my breath, I was ready to take a run down the hill. In case you are curious, the sled which I was using was one of those cheap plastic 'tobaggan' like sleds. The kind that are fairly long and narrow, with a lip around the side which you can hold on to. Suffice it to say, they are not the sturdiest sleds in the world, they handle about as well as a car with four flat tires, and they do not fail to let you experience each and every little bit of texture which the snow has to offer (and believe me, there was texture, much of it not so little).
It seems that immediately I am travelling with a fair bit of velocity. Each bump in the snow is magnified by the thin layer of plastic (apparently designed to magnify shock, rather than reduce it) which separates my butt from the icy snow. I put my feet out to try and slow down while holding on tightly to the sled with both hands. This has a positive effect by negatively impacting my velocity. Even still, I have little control over where I am going. I am going down. The bumps are apparently arrayed in the precise pattern which will cause a resonance in my sled and my body is realizing this unfortunate state of affairs without some complaint. Suddenly, I am airborne. I flip, and land, still headed down hill far faster than I would prefer at this point. I manage to hang on to the sled with one hand, while digging into the snow with my other hand and both feet. The friction of my clothes along with the digging in allow me to stop about 2/3 of the way down the hill. At this point, I hop back on my sled for a leisurely ride the rest of the way down.
"That wasn't so bad," I think to myself, "I'll do it again." And so I go down a couple of more times with similar results. Over the course of the next few trips down for me and my friends, there is only one successful run all the way. Bill Hartrich was somehow able to stay in the sled and coasted all the way to the parking lot in glorious victory. After this, perhaps feeling a little cocky, we discussed going to the upper part of the ridge to check out the possibilities of sledding down from there. No one seemed too interested in this but Bill and I, so we headed on up.
When we got up there, we saw that what we had been on before was nothing in comparison. Lower down, there was certainly hill, but this was a steep hill. I was a little nervous, but Bill still seemed ready to go, so go he did. He kept his feet out from the very beginning and tried to maintain some semblance of rational velocities. In this regard he was fairly successful. However, there are certain drawbacks to this approach. First of all, the snow from where the feet are digging in flies right into your face, making it difficult to see anything. Secondly, you have even worse control over the sled than you would otherwise (and remember, that is like trying to drive a car with four flat tires). These two factors resulted in an early bail out for Bill. Well, perhaps bail out is not quite the right way to put it. The sled dumped him and he went sliding on down the hill on his butt, though he was fairly controlled as he went. The increased friction provided by his clothes over that of the sled kept his speeds to a more comfortable level, and he slid right on down with no real mishap.
Having seen what happened to Bill, and being still a little bit nervous about the whole endeavour, I stood at the top of the hill and looked down for a while. Finally I decided that if Bill could do it, so could I. I also decided that I would not make the mistakes Bill made (instead, I would make far greater ones). I was determined to keep my feet inside the sled and my hands firmly affixed to the edge. I was going to stay in the sled, no matter what.
Within the first .5 seconds of the ride, I was travelling at a rate which seemed far greater than anything which could be supplied by the accerlation due to gravity. Clearly sinister snow demon forces were giving me a little bit of a boost. No matter, my feet were in the sled, my hands were holding on, and I was going to make it. One quarter of the way down, so far so good. I see up ahead of me the very tops of some trees sticking out of the snow. I think to myself, it would be good to avoid those. The way to turn in the type of sled I was using is to lean slightly. So I did. What I failed to take into account was the magification of any force applied to my sled by the sinister snow demons. In short, the attempted turn was a disaster.
The thought of turning hardly had time to enter my mind and I had switched places with the sled, it was now riding me down the hill. Obviously this would not do, but that was just fine, because the situation was rapidly changing again. I was not on top of the sled again. Good for me? Yes, if it had stayed that way, which, unfortunately, it didn't. At this point my brain informed my hands and feet that there was now a new prime directive. No longer was it hold on and stay in at all costs, it was keep the world oriented in one way as soon as possible. I was flipping end over end down the hill and the first order of business was to get that remedied. My general body shape sort of took care of that for me, and soon I was merely rolling rapidly down the hill. With judicious use of legs and arms, I was able to arrest this tumbling motion as well.
With the tumbling stopped, I now have time to collect my thoughts, but not much time. I realize that I am now flying down the hill at a speed which was probably just under the speed of sound. Probably. It was time to try and dig in. And try I did, with very little result. So down the hill I went at a speed which was far greater than comfortable. Fortunately, near the bottom, things are less steep, and I finally started to slow down, even managing to come to a complete stop before I ran into that wooden fence.
As I inspected myself I notice that move gloves were pretty shredded by the icy snow and that I am experiencing significant pain in the first knuckle of one of my fingers. The finger was sprained pretty good, but that was the extent of my bodily injuries. This is probably pretty good, given the fact that the friends who had seen me go down said it looked like I would die, or at least break my neck while I was tumbling.
At that point, I decided it would be a good time to just relax and wait for the others to finish sledding before going down the hill. Such was my first sledding experience on Harbor Mountain.