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.
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.