If you’re gearing up for some great Mt. Hood hiking, this summer, I would highly recommend that you put the Gnarl Ridge hike on your list of things to do! The destination is actually just on the other side of Lamberson Butte but the Gnarl Ridge is located far below. You can also get to Cloud Cap from the same trail. The trail usually opens around late June but it really depends on how good or bad the snow season was. However, You can complete the hike if parts of the trail are still covered in snow but it can also be pretty tricky. You would also have to hike off trail and be comfortable with hiking in some steep snow covered terrain that can get pretty steep. This is on the north side of the ridge and this is the part that could be covered in snow and fairly steep towards the top. Most of the trail ascends from the southeast part of the ridge but the remaining part is on the east side and it can get pretty windy and can still have snow well into July. The photo posted in this blog post was taken from the back side of Lamberson Butte. The elevation is 6500 feet and the start of the hike is at an elevation of 4470 feet. This hike is pretty Difficult since it does have 2400 feet of elevation gain and the entire hike is 10.2 miles round trip. It’s also fairly strenuous and there are’t very many lulls along the hiking trail. However, this hike has it all…. Glacier access, views of the entire Oregon and parts of the Washington Cascades, foot bridges, river access as well as several small creeks that offer a great cooling off spot. You will also want to pack some mosquito repellent and lots of snacks and water. It can get pretty hot on the east side of the mountain but most of the trail is covered by the trees. There are also abundant wildlife and dozens of wildflowers to photograph. I took this shot with my Canon Rebel T1I.
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.
One of the most grueling hikes in the Mt. Hood National Forest is a hike called Devils Peak Lookout. It provides over 3200 feet of elevation gain and is a 8.2 mile round trip hike. The hike is pretty much straight up and straight down. It’s also like doing heavy squats up and then heavy lunges down. The only rest time available is when you decide that you need to take a break. You can also expect to feel like you have 50 charlie horse running through your legs for at least 5 days. You literally won’t be able to walk normally for almost 5 straight days. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and make the hike and then you will. By the time you get half way down from the trail, you will start to really feel the pain shooting through your knees and quads. You can rest anytime you want but unfortunately, you are only putting off the inevitable. I usually rest about every mile or so and then snack a little bit in order to recharge. The hike itself is amazing with fantastic views along the way as well as spectacular old growth forest the entire length of the hike. The photo that I posted is just one of the millions of photo opportunities that you will find throughout the entire hike. There are several areas where you will be able to walk across some really small trickles of water but the best part is it provides the opportunity to cool down. I normally drench myself as much as possible since I’m usually sweating like a pig even though 90 percent of the trail is completely shaded from the sun. The name of the trail is actually called Cool Creek Trail but you don’t actually hike along or near a creek. I don’t think any of the small brooks that you will see actually pass as a creek. This is especially true since they pretty much dry up during the summer months. However, it did rain the morning I made the hike so I was able to find some trickling water at one of the spots. There is also a creek where you park but it’s called Still Creek. If you’re training for a serious climb, I would highly recommend this hike but if you’re only looking for a easy or moderate hike, I would recommend that you avoid this trail. There are plenty of other hikes available within the Mt. Hood Wilderness area. However, this hike has it all! Awesome views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson, salmon berries, Oregon grape and rhododendrons. You may also see several different species of alpine birds.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is a must stop for anyone traveling through the Southern Oregon Cascades. In fact, if you live in Oregon and you haven’t visited and explored the park, you are not even considered an outdoor person. It would be like living in Washington State and never visiting Mt. Rainier National Park. If you enjoy the outdoors and you haven’t visited Crater Lake then you might as well just tape yourself to your couch and call it a day. There are endless opportunities at the park. The Southern Oregon Cascades offer some of the most spectacular views in the entire lower 48 states. The hardest part is to agree on your favorite photo from the park. You will literally end up taking well over 1500 photos and then spend the next several days deciding on when to stop going through them. Historically, most visitors to the national parks only spend a few hours at the park and very rarely even venture 300 feet from their car. However, if you expect to really enjoy and have the opportunity to really take advantage of the splendor’s of the park, you will need to put on your hiking shoes or snow shoe gear and spend one or two days exploring the park. The snow can linger all year at the park and if you plan on visiting during the early parts of summer or late spring I would pack your snow shoes. This shot was taken on 5/30/12 and the snow was pretty deep. Usually the east part of the road stays closed until July and the snow drifts can linger well into July. I made sure to head out with my snow shoes since you couldn’t get close to the rim without trudging through several feet of soft snow. You can also amuse yourself by watching the fair weather visitors spend only about an hour at the park as well as doing nothing more than venture a few feet from the parking lot and only taking a few pictures. This is also a benefit to the nature lovers since you can almost feel completely alone in the park even though the main parking lot can be completely full. Late Spring and early Summer can be sun drenched and the glare from the snow and lake can cause a very intense sunburn so I would recommend bringing a lot of sun screen and applying it throughout the day since you will also be working up a good sweat. If you are wanting to venture near the rim, I would be very careful since some of the snow cornices can be very unstable due to the intense sun and warming temperatures. I rarely get too close but I have always been able to get some spectacular shots where ever I go. You literally can’t take a bad shot unless the sun is too intense or you are using the wrong settings on your camera. To get this shot I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 28mm. Most of my shots are taken as a panoramic so I normally leave the rest of my lenses in the car. The aperture was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO at 100 due to the extreme glare. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. Normally I would use my tripod but since the sun was out and the thought of lugging it around, I decided to leave it in the car. You will end up taking so many photos and covering so much ground, you will find that your tripod will spend most of its time in your backpack. You just want to be sure to keep a steady hand and try to ensure that it’s level. I always make sure to review every shot, by using the histogram, in order to ensure that it’s level. If not, I just delete and take another shot.
The Washington and Oregon Cascades have received between 1 and 3 feet of snow over the past several days and we are now gearing up for some 70 and 80 degree temperatures in the valley. We can expect warm temperatures and epic blue skies in the Cascade range. Though it would seem like it would be the best time to visit, you would be warned to expect some pretty dangerous conditions since the snow will be very soft and small or large avalanche dangers will be in effect. I would even recommend staying well within the ski boundaries or if you plan to be snow shoeing. I would advise you to stay well away from any of the cliffs surrounding the back country. This time of year is by far one of the best times to head up to the mountains but I always find myself trying to figure if the dangers are worth the risk. I’ve taken a lot of chances but I can’t really see my self trying to out run an avalanche with a pair of snow shoes and lugging 25 pounds of equipment. This particular shot was taken on the south side of Mt. St. Helens and the summit is dotted with snow shoe tracks leading up towards the summit. It’s actually not too difficult to snow shoe but I would recommend that you get there as early as possible, bring lots of snacks, lose the camera weight and have your dinner waiting for you at your car. The drive time from Portland, Oregon is over 2 hours and you will be pretty tired once you get home. I have only brought my tripod with one time when snow shoeing at high elevations and I will never do it again. I like being able to quickly draw my camera and begin panning the area for some great shots. I usually only bring one or two lenses and carry my camera on my front chest for quick draws. Since the snow glare is pretty brutal, I would recommend that you bring a CIR-PL and plan on constantly checking each shot that you take since you will be adjusting your shots almost every time you take a photo. I always utilize my histogram and adjust the white balance whenever needed. I also usually only use my Sigma 17-70mm lens whenever I’m climbing a snow capped mountain since I am more drawn to the panoramic views rather than close ups. This is especially true since I’m already on the mountain and I want to capture the huge landscape that’s either above or below me. I also make sure to layer my clothes and pack survival gear in case I find myself in trouble. I don’t own a avalanche beacon but I rarely take too many chances. However, I will be getting one soon once I’m ready to make the investment. I also snow shoe with my dog so I’m always looking out for his best interest and that pretty much keeps me from going somewhere where he can’t follow me.
< Just another epic day snowshoeing on Mt. Hood, Oregon! This photo was taken on Friday and I was snowshoeing along the White River. If there is enough snow and if the upper parts of the creeks are snow covered, you can cross over the creeks on a number of snow bridges and then continue up another mile or snow. You can get up to about 8,000 feet, where you can then see Mt. Jefferson and parts of the Three Sisters. As you can see, the skies were blue and Mt. Hood was looking stellar as always. I was a little concerned since there were some really nasty rain clouds in the lower elevations and I thought that they were going to eventually ruin my epic journey up the cairn. I was pleasantly surprised that the weather actually improved as the day moved along. The clouds eventually left most of the Cascades and I was able to view Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters without any threats of clouds blocking my view. However, the day earlier, rain and snow blanketed the mountain witch made the snow crunchy in some areas and downright knee deep in others. There were a lot of snow drifts and I ended up in hard and crunchy snow one second and then found myself buried up to my knees the next second. I have never experienced conditions like that but we haven't had a very cookie cutter winter either. I was pretty sure that I would see or hear some avalanches around me since the temperature was hovering around 50 degrees but luckily I never had any problems with loose snow. I could see where some small avalanches had taken place but I never had any problems or close calls. My dog had a pretty rough time getting through the knee deep powder but overall he was able to keep up. He did finally figure out that it's a lot easier to just walk behind my snowshoe tracks but he always seems to want to be either beside me or in front of me.
The other day, someone asked me to tell them which was my favorite hike near or on Mt. Hood. It took me a second but then it soon dawned on me that there is only only hike that towers over all the rest. This hike offers everything that you wold expect from a Volcanic mountain should. I immediately explained to them that it was the Elk Meadows hike. I then explained to them that you also need to hike past the Elk Meadows trail and head straight up towards Mt. Hood, which becomes the Gnarl Ridge trail. This epic hiking trail offers everything that a wilderness hiker would love. You hike among an ancient and pristine forest, cross over several creeks and rivers. You even have the chance to cross along a wooden bridge that spans over a recently melted glacier. You can walk along an alpine meadow with millions of flowers dotting the bogged grassland. Once you leave the Elk Meadow trail, you then get the chance to explore the Gnarl Ridge trail and it’s impressive. You will immediately notice the elevation gain within just seconds. The trail shoots straight up as you hike through the tall trees. Your ultimate goal is to get to the summit of Lamberson Butte. The photo that I provided was taken from the Lamberson Butte viewpoint. With it’s elevation at 6,500 feet, you will realize that you have hiked over 2,030 feet of elevation gain. Before you can get to the top of the butte, you may have to traverse along a very steep and difficult part of the butte if it’s still covered in snow. However, if there isn’t any snow, you won’t have to worry about anything. The trail is just below an overhang and below the trail it’s a pretty steep drop, so if there is still snow, the trail may be buried and you may have to slowly navigate your way around this sketchy part of the trail. Once you get to Lamberson Butte, you will find yourself with a pretty spectacular view. You can see Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the south and Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helen’s towards the north. Mt. Hood stares you straight in the face as you gaze due west. Alpine flowers grow in some of the most precarious spots along the volcanic covered earth. Huge boulders are spread out across the volcanic landscape and you can hear and see some of the boulders crashing down all around you. Gnarl Ridge is an unforgiving and massive cairn just below from where you will be sitting and the glaciers high above created the cairn that created Newton Creek. This is the creek that flows under the wooden bridge that you will be crossing during the early part of your hike. There are several glaciers on the eastern slopes and many mt. climbers start from the base of Lamberson Butte. It’s a very windy area but you can find some pretty descent cover and more flat stretches just north of the butte. This is a great spot to take a break and have lunch. The views are awesome and you can plan on spending several hours taking photos. Again, if you study the photo, you will notice the many areas that I’ve mentioned. If you want to continue up, you will be able to follow the trail until it disappears under the snow. The snow lingers well into August or September so you will want to plan on bringing your snow shoe poles and maybe even some grip soles or traction cleats for your shoes. You won’t necessarily need crampons since you will be going from snow to rock several times. I pretty much kept on hiking towards the summit until I began to cramp up and trust me, you will. If you look at the photo, you will see that you will be hiking on the right hand side of the summit. You can see that it’s mostly snow and bare rock and the elevation gain is pretty steep. You could pretty much hike until you get to the summit but you will soon find yourself exhausted and starting to realize just how difficult it would be. You could easily cover over 5,000 feet of elevation gain before you even realize it. I would recommend that you bring your dinner with you and plan on eating at your car as well as rest for a while before heading home since you will be very tired, hungry and dirty. There are two places where you can start your hike. They are only a few hundred feet apart and they are both off highway 35. The first parking spot is just a few yards from the Mt. Hood Nordic Center and the other is the Clark Creek Snow Park. Just remember to purchase your parking pass or your annual Northwest Forest Pass.
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.