Last week was another awesome day up on Mt. Hood, Oregon. I visited the same place that I was last week and what a difference a week makes. The previous week was a complete whiteout with nothing but snow blind conditions but last week it was nothing but blue skies and spring like conditions. We were also blessed with a good two feet of powder, which made the snow shoeing more than memorable. However, the temperatures got pretty high and I ended up finding myself in some pretty soupy conditions later in the afternoon. At first I was a little hesitant about heading towards the lower end of the White River Glacier but as I continued along I realized that it look pretty safe. The temperatures were a little cooler and the wind was pretty gusty. You can see some of the wind swept snow in this photo. Too bad a lot of the snow was blown off parts of the higher elevations but at least it provided some character. The snow did eventually start to get pretty soft but by this time I was almost at the stopping point. If you haven’t been to the White River snow park or made the trek to the top of the trail, I highly recommend that you visit. You will want to expect the unexpected since there is no place to escape the changing conditions and if you do find yourself in a whiteout or snow blind conditions, you can expect a very dangerous and stressful trip down since each side is a steep 500 foot drop off and you would surely be trapped or stuck in the creeks below. There are a couple trees about 300 yards from the top but they wouldn’t provide a lot of protection. However, they could provide a good point of reference while making your way down. You would probable just want to hunker down and wait for the weather to change if you did find yourself in dangerous conditions since I couldn’t imagine anyone surviving a fall from either side and I surely wouldn’t want to be the first. The good thing about the trek is that you can see quite a bit and you would probably be able to see any change of conditions but unfortunately you are pretty close to the mountain and aren’t able to see much on the west or north and this is where most of the nasty weather comes from. I have actually run down with my snow shoes and I think that you could get down safely if you were trying to beat out a fast moving storm. I would also recommend that you bring your best camera and lens while visiting this spot. I took this photo with my Canon Rebel T1I and my Canon 23-135mm lens. I’ve packed my tripod with me before but it can get really cumbersome and heavy so I started leaving it behind. It’s also not worth setting it up most times since I usually end up taking between 500-1000 shots at a time and I no longer have the patience with a tripod when snow shoeing.
The best way to really enjoy all of the snow that has finally been assaulting the Cascades is to take a trip with your pet and plan on snow shoeing in waist feet deep powder. We are finally seeing some descent snow conditions and it looks like we are getting close to our normal winter weather. I actually took this action shot of my dog, Buck, while snow shoeing along the upper crest of the White River snow park last year. We were able to snow shoe near the same spot last week but we found ourselves in whiteout conditions as well as feeling the effects of becoming snow blind from the snow and winds. More snow is pounding the area at this time now and hopefully we get another few more days of heavy snow. I’m looking forward to getting up there soon and I highly recommend that all of you dog owners that have athletic dog’s allow them the opportunity to enjoy the snow just like their human owners.
I was surprised to find myself in Whiteout conditions while snow shoeing along the White River, in the Mt. Hood National forest. I had been monitoring the forecast for the past few days and thought that I would take a chance, even though the forecast was calling for a mixture of rain and snow. I was fortunate to find that it started snowing just before the Tom, Dick and Harry parking area, along the 26. It continued to snow but got much heavier as I continued past Government Camp. Good thing that I kept driving since the snow really started to get heavy as I took the Hwy 35 exit. The snow at the White River snow park was more like graupel but at least it wasn’t raining. My first mistake was that I never brought my ski goggles with me. That ended up being a huge mistake because it snowed the entire day and it only got windier and heavier as I increased in elevation. I found myself in mostly whiteout conditions as I crossed over the white river and headed towards the summit. I never got anywhere near the summit but I was intrigued by the complete whiteout conditions and I was also experiencing snow blindness. This is where my ski goggles would have come in handy since the wind was blowing the snow in my eyes and I ended up squinting for part of my journey. I could see for a few hundred feet but I couldn’t make out any of the snow directly in front of me. I literally didn’t know if I was about to step off a 100 foot cliff or a 1 foot step. I ended up looking for small trees that provided me with more depth of my surroundings and ended up having a pretty fun time exploring this phenomenon. I was concerned that our winter was over early again but this current winter weather if providing a pretty good second chance to get back some of our snow pack that we lost during our previous warm up.
If you have ever visited the Trillium Lake area, in winter, you’re probably aware that it can get very busy and the trek can be very congested and uninspiring. However, if you take the time and exert the energy, you can really find yourself in a very complicated and exhausting trek. I have snow-shoed the Trillium Lake snow park several times, over the years and I have taken many side trips around the lake as well as taken some of the trails that take you well away from the lake. However, last week I attempted to get off the main trail and went straight up. I ended up at a bluff that I never knew existed and realized that I truly had stumbled on an amazing viewing spot This photo was taken from the top of the bluff. Unfortunately, you can’t see Mt. Hood in the background due to the overcast skies. I was amazed by the views, as well as how easy it was to get to the top. There are hundreds of massive granite boulders that make up the bluff and the hill beneath. There is also pristine powder with huge boulders creating an awesome sledding opportunity. To understand just how cool this spot is, I recommend that you check on google maps and look for a small bluff of granite rocks standing in the middle of the forest. It’s just east of Trillium Lake. I was really lucky to find this spot since I had been asking myself if I was getting too bored with snow shoeing. This view changed my mind and made me realize that it’s worth making your own tracks. However, my story only gets more crazy from there. From this viewing spot, you can actually see highway 35 in the distance but unfortunately, you really can’t tell if it’s actually the 35 or the 26. This is where I made my first mistake. Because I ended up going around to the bottom of the bluff and skirted along the snow covered granite boulders, I really wasn’t paying attention to when I needed to change direction. The rest of the trek was pretty steep but I had fun traversing to the bottom and when I got there I noticed that there was a lot of water in the form of several creeks that were snaking between the elevations of the forest. This is where I crossed my largest and scariest snow bridge. It took me a while to find the best spot to cross but it was also over 8 feet above the creek and I ended up having to jump from one snow covered tree to another. Did I also remind you that I always snow shoe with my 5 year old Australian Cattle Dog? He always goes with me but he is also scared of having to swim or cross narrow bridges. Luckily the snow bridge was pretty wide so it was really easy to cross and my dog didn’t have any problems with navigating the bridge. Shortly after I got to the other side, I noticed that there were dozens of other creeks and brooks that I would have to navigate. I actually ended up in a huge meadow that was dotted with lots of shallow creeks. I still wasn’t sure how far I was from the Trillium snow park, so I decided to try to make my way towards the Hwy. However, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I ended up breaking my snow shoe. The grommets and the plastic band that wraps around the aluminum frame completely broke off. This was my worst nightmare since I now found myself in a meadow filled with water and waist deep snow. I was especially concerned since I really didn’t know how long it would take me to find my way back and I wasn’t sure how many more creeks I would have to cross with a broken snow shoe. Once I realized that I couldn’t go any further I decided to inspect my snow shoe and realized that I could remove one of my shoe laces and wrap it around the snow shoe. Luckily it worked pretty good but I wasn’t really comfortable since I now didn’t have a shoe lace on my shoe. Nothing worse that having to snow shoe in waist deep snow and having to jump across creeks and brooks with a sloppy snow shoe. It also didn’t help that I was still pretty lost. Unfortunately, it didn’t get any better since I ended up having to pick a pretty scary part to cross the final creek of my journey. After I jumped several feet to the rocks and snow on the other side, I forgot to think about what my dog was going to do. Just as I thought, he too one look at his options and stood there and didn’t move a muscle. Without going in to detail, I spent the last 20 minutes pleading and cursing at him. I’m really glad that no one was there to see or hear me at this very low point of the day. At this point, it was starting to get a little dark and I had no intentions of spending the rest of my day trying to barter with my dog. I ended up taking off my snow shoes and crossing the creek in order to retrieve him. I finally picked him up and rather gingerly tossed him to the other side. I was exhausted at this point but I knew that I still had a rather long journey ahead. Luckily, I was in for a treat since I didn’t have to cross over any more creeks and once I noticed some rather broken up snow at the top of a small hill, I had finally reached the Hwy. I ended up paralleling the Hwy for about 2 miles until I reached the parking lot. I can now say that I had one of my most amazing snow shoe treks ever and it’s pretty crazy to think that I was questioning the joy of snow shoeing earlier in the day.
Lower Twin Lake is in the Mt. Hood National Forest and the hiking or snow-shoe/cross country trails are easily accessible via Hwy 26 or Hwy 35. If you plan on hiking the trail during the season when there isn’t any snow, you have plenty of time to hike to both of the twin lakes. However, if you’re planning on snow-shoeing the trail, during the winter months, you will have less time to explore due to the limited sunlight and the deep snow pack that will slow you down. The best place to start a snow-shoe trip to the lakes is by starting at the Frog Lake snow park, which is located off of Hwy 35. The snow park is well marked and you won’t have any problem following the blue diamonds that help you navigate the snow trail. Parts of the trail actually follows along the Pacific Crest Trail and when you get to a fork in the trail there is a very detailed sign that shows you exactly where you are and where you will need to go. If you decide to go straight, you will continue to follow along the PCT and end up at Hwy 35. However, if you take a right you will be led straight to the Lower Twin Lake. you can continue to follow along the edge of the lake and you will eventually end up at Upper Twin Lake. The elevation gain is pretty steep just past Lower Twin Lake and if you’re snow-shoeing, you will really feel the burn in your leg muscles but if you’re cross country skiing, you will probably need to take them off and hike most of the way to the top. Once you get to Upper Twin Lake, you will pass Bird Butte and eventually end back at the PCT at a place called the shoulder. You will either have to take a right or a left and since you will want to continue the loop back you your car, you will want to take a left and head back the way you came. The entire loop is 8 miles and you probably won’t be able to snow-shoe the trail during winter unless you leave very early in the morning and plan on using a head lamp at the end of the trek since it will probably be getting dark. If you don’t want to do the 8 mile loop, I would suggest that you just make your way around Lower Twin Lake and then head back. The views are awesome and if the weather is descent, you can get some pretty awesome photos.
Yesterday was a great day at the White River East snow park. As I drove from Portland, the entire west side of mt. hood was blanketed in clouds. However, as I neared closer to the Trillium lake snow park, I noticed that the trees in the higher elevations had a dusting of snow on them. I realized that the south and east part of the mountain had accumulated a few inches of snow. I quickly headed to the east snow parks. The day seemed like a spring morning….Sunny and 39 degrees. As I ascended towards the mountain, I again didn’t need my snow-shoes until about 1/2 mile up. The snow finally started to get deep and I could see several x-country and snow-shoe tracks. Once I got to the main lookout area, above the power lines, I noticed that the smaller creek just below was still covered. I decided to snow-shoe towards the higher elevations of the glacier on the south east side of Mt. Hood. I was able to shoe up the moraine, until I was met my a sheer drop from both sides and only about 2 feet of walking space. I decided to stop at that point. The day was epic. The mountain showed itself several times and the storm clouds continued to move north at light speed. The sun never left since the clouds were at a very low altitude. I would recommend this trip since it gives a much better perspective of the volcano and the sheer magnitude of the snow drifts on both sides of the mountain gave me some great photo opportunities.
This is what a sparse looking Mt. Hood looks like during the month of January. This photo was taken from about 5,000 feet and the date of the photo was January 13th, 2015. If you have ever visited Mt. Hood or anywhere else along the Cascade mountain range, during January, you would expect to see about 10 feet of snow blanketing the surrounding area. However, with the current climate collapse, you are looking at a very bare bones view of what the Cascade range currently looks like. I never thought that I would be experiencing a winter that was worse than last year. This winter is so bad that last years winter looked twice as good. That’s taking it pretty far since last year I thought that it was the worst on record. If we don’t start getting some snow the ski resorts will be lucky to avoid bankruptcy and our alpine glaciers will soon be a thing of the past. I also really hate to think that this summer may be more dangerous than last year. Normally, the photo that you see in this post would look like a photo from May, not January. I still want to think that it’s not all doom and gloom but I’m seriously getting nervous about the impact of another horrible snow pack. It’s hard to imagine that I could have hiked to nearly 9,000 feet without even needing my snowshoes. I ended up stopping at about the 7,000 mark and I was surprised to find even more loose gravel and dirt blanketing the higher elevations. I could see and hear several rocks cascading down the steep slopes that otherwise would be mostly snow covered until late April. It’s hard to imagine that the exposed rocks and soil nearly doubles the rate of erosion.
One of the best places to snow shoe inside the Mt. Hood forest is along the Barlow Trail. There is a small ski park just off of Hwy 35 and it offers some of the best terrain within the area. You can cross country ski, snow shoe or if you feel up to the task, you can carry your snow board or skis to one of the many higher elevations and make some fresh tracks. The trail system will take you as far east as you can go but if you plan on heading west, you will find yourself standing along Hwy 35. However, you won’t have any problem getting some great shots of Mt. Hood as long as you can work your way to an open clearing or higher elevation. You will pretty much be engulfed inside the forest so you can expect to be standing below some pretty spectacular trees. There are also hundreds of small creeks that wind throughout the area so you will want to be prepared to cross a few of them as well as navigating through some of the underbrush that grows along the creeks. However, if the snow pack is deep enough, you may not have to worry about any of the creeks or underbrush since they could be several feet below the snow pack. If you plan on taking some photos you will want to keep in mind that you are directly south east of Mt. Hood and since the sun will most likely be at about a 90 degree angle from the mountain, you will want to be sure and attach your CIR-PL and plan on looking for ways to avoid too much glare. This is especially true if you encounter clear blue skies like the one I posted. The direct sun along with the intense glare from the mountain and snow can really make it difficult to get a good quality shot without too much overexposure. Normally I would bring my tripod on days like this but since the trek is so strenuous and difficult due to the trees, you would be better served if you leave the tripod in the car and just plan on taking a lot of photos and utilizing your histogram as much as possible. Since I took a lot of photos of the trees, covered in snow inside the park, I made sure to remove my Cir-PL in order to maximize the limited light penetrating the forest. You can end up passing some pretty spectacular shots without even knowing it while trekking through the snowy forest if you’re not careful. I try to remember to look up as much as possible in order to take advantage of every opportunity. Because the snow park if pretty small you can expect it to fill up on weekends but if you get a spot you can expect limited crowds. The best thing about the Barlow snow park are the views of Mt. Hood and the forested trees so you may want to pick a day when the skies are clear and just after a big snow storm blankets the trees.
This is a photo of sparsely snow capped Broken Top with Sparks Lake in the foreground. Things again are looking pretty grim for parts of North America as far as snow pack goes. You know it’s bad when it’s December and it’s warmer in Utah than in parts of Florida and it’s even more dire when Washington’s Northern Cascade mountains get over 10 inches of rain in December. If this pattern continues, 2015 may be even warmer and worse than 2014. That’s pretty hard to imagine but by looking at statistics and witnessing the current climate, it’s looking more like reality. I personally wouldn’t want to be an owner or an investor in a ski resort or even have any type of business that relies on tourist traffic in the mountains. Currently, the entire Pacific Northwest is experiencing a pineapple express and it’s bringing over a foot of rain, which is very scary since it’s melting all of the snow that we did receive earlier and it should be coming down in the form of snow rather than rain in the higher elevations. Last years winter was so bad that I didn’t even put my snow tires on until almost February and I can’t imagine having a winter that bad again but unfortunately, we already are having an even crappier start than last year. I’m still pretty hopeful that I will be able to make some new snow shoe tracks but I am getting very anxious and pretty depressed about another crummy start to winter.
Crater Lake lodge is located at Crater Lake National Park and offers the best views of the lake. Not only is the lodge one of the most spectacular built lodges throughout the entire National Park system but it provides visitors the opportunity to view the entire lake. Most National Park lodges are tucked away and don’t really show the splendor and beauty of the park that made the lodges famous. However, Crater Lake lodge is perched on the best real estate surrounding the lake and is located in the best geographical location throughout the entire park system. There aren’t a lot of lodges that are built upon a caldera that erupted over 7,000 years ago and provide views of the nations deepest lake. The average snow fall at Crater Lake can exceed 533 inches, which made construction of the lodge very challenging. The lodge was constructed in 1915 and throughout the years, several additional building were built just below the lodge in order to provide additional amenities. This photo was taken from within the grand lodge and you can see that the views are spectacular from within the building. There are several rustic but comfortable chairs lining the very large deck that offers visitors the opportunity to lounge and take in the splendor of the views. Half of the rooms face towards the lake and you will be amazed of the views looking across the lake and into some of the mountains that sit just north and east of the park. The lodge is open year round but due to the snow pack, only the south entrance is open and plowed during the winter season. The north entrance normally doesn’t open until July and even parts of the rim road doesn’t open until July. I’ve visited the park during the first week of July and wasn’t able to drive via the north entrance near Diamond Lake. I ended up having to make that additional 50 mile drive but was able to avoid some of the traffic due to the fact that only the south entrance was open. I also brought my snow shoes and ended up being able to snow shoe through gobs of snow and even had the chance to trail blaze in areas that would normally be closed during peak summer. About 99% of the visitors only take the time to glance at the lake so you will have the opportunity to experience some great solitude as well as work on your tan since the sun in this part of the Southern Oregon Cascades is most epic. If you’re planning a visit to Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is a must.