Spring is in the air and it feels like it outside. On the last day of February…… it’s sunny, warm and you can even see snow capped mountains in the distance. It’s already shaping up to be another standard Pacific Northwest Spring like debacle! Debacle you say! why yes! I say that because the forecast for tomorrow is calling for a severe storm system to move in and blanket most of the state with rain in the valleys, snow in the mountains and much colder temperatures in the Cascades. Government Camp may only get a high of 17 degrees even though today it’s partly sunny and much warmer. However, this isn’t any different from all the other years in the Northwest. People in Chicago, IL have a saying… if you don’t like the weather just give it a few hours. That’s nothing, compared to our seasons in the Pacific Northwest. We can have Spring weather on one day and then winter the next. This is much different than just rain one day and then sun the next. We experience complete seasonal changes within just a day. However, I’m totally ready for the Spring weather as well as hoping that we get some descent snow storms in the mountains, so I can revel in both worlds. I’m ready to take out my 50mm prime lens, for some great tulip shots and get out my 17-70mm lens so I can take it up to the mountain while snow shoeing through some rugged powder. Another great thing about the Pacific Northwest is that it’s really easy to experience several seasons on the same day since you can admire in the spring flowers while taking in the views of snow capped mountains.
I finally got the chance to schedule a snow shoe trip in the Mt. Hood wilderness. However, last Tuesday the rain was coming down in sheets, just east of Sandy and the rain was even worse around Welches. I was pretty sure that Government Camp was going to be a total bust with nothing but rain. I was pleasantly surprised that the rain had turned to snow just as I was passing by the Mirror lake parking area. Luckily, I was able to find myself immersed in snow flakes the size of quarters by the time I reached the Trillium Lake snow park. I knew that the snow was going to be wet and heavy but that surely beats rain. The entire trip to the lake was a complete whiteout. I wasn’t able to knock the snow off my camera bag fast enough. I was fortunate to bring my front loading camera bag, which really came in handy. The only way to get out of the snow, to take some tree shots, was to snow shoe in the trees and look for some shelter. However, the snow was pretty heavy and the snow was coming off the trees like water balloons. As far as I’m concerned, snow shoeing during a snow storm is the best time to be out in nature but it’s not easy for taking pictures. You couldn’t even see Mt. Hood once I got to the lake. I wasn’t surprised but I was hoping for a miracle, where the clouds would eventually clear out of the area and I find myself surrounded by snow covered trees and Mt. Hood looming in the background. However, that wasn’t the case but I made the best of it by photographing my dog running around and trying to photograph the snow covered trees in the distance. The photo that I posted wasn’t from this day but from last Sunday, when I came back on a much sunnier and dryer day. The crowds were horrendous but that was expected. It didn’t help that I broke my right snow shoe but at least it was only a few yards from the parking lot. I ended up hiking instead and luckily there were snow tracks as deep as 2 feet and the main trail was packed harder than a rock so I didn’t have any trouble getting to the lake. However, it was a totally different story if I tried to walk in the deep snow. The drought is officially over in the Oregon Cascades and last week was proof of that. It also helps that they are expecting another week of heavy snow.
Winter has arrived in the Cascade mountains with a vengeance! The snow pack is almost at 100% and the mountains continue to get hammered with the fluffy white stuff. Just returned from Mt. Hood, Oregon yesterday and was pelted with over 7 inches over the course of only 4 hours. Hard to believe that we are past the halfway point of February and will soon be watching the Spring flowers popping up but at least we can say that we dodged the drought bullet. Also can’t believe that a huge majority of snow junkies have waited until this last storm to even venture anywhere near the snow parks. I wouldn’t want to be an owner of a ski resort or any business that relies on the winter travelers. I can again officially say that I haven’t waited this long to get up to the mountain in my entire life and I hope that the future doesn’t hold any more surprises like this winter. I was even surprised that there weren’t more people flocking to the mountain resorts during the epic snow storm that was pounding the Mt. Hood area. Most of the ski resorts were pretty empty and every snow park was void of any x-counrty and snow shoe connoisseur’s. I can’t imagine how busy the mountains will be this weekend and I really wouldn’t want to deal with the ski crowds on any of the mountains. It may be best to just find a less traveled snow park, get there real early to beat the crowds and plan on looking for some secret trails that no one knows about.
Just when I thought that the Pacific Northwest was doomed to fall victim to one of the worst winters on record I am beginning to believe that we still may be able to avoid that horrible fate. The extended forecast is calling for a lot of snow, starting on Saturday and continuing for several days. This may be the beginning of our winter. However, I’m not totally convinced since Saturday is still 3 days out and I will be holding judgment on the weather experts until then. Even the metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon has been getting a light dusting of snow today. Not much to get too excited about but this is how winters are supposed to be in the Pacific Northwest. Even the Coastal Mountain’s are getting some of the magical white stuff and maybe even parts of the valley’s can partake in some of the wintery mix. I still haven’t had my snow tires put on yet but if the extended snow forecast is correct I will be putting them on real soon. I even think my Australian Cattle Dog is more excited to go snow shoeing than me. Normally by this time we would have made at least 15 trips to the Cascades.