[/caption]I was able to take some really great shots of Mt. Washington and Big Lake once the fog lifted and revealed the mountain. This is one of those snow-show trips that I had to find myself since neither my Oregon snow-show book or any of my hiking books had this trip anywhere. I started my trip at the Benson snow park, near Hoodo Ski hill. There is a church camp at the lake. For the most part it looked pretty well closed. However, it looked as though they were renting out several of the A-frame cabins to anyone that could get to the camp. I never saw a single person but I did see a few snow mobiles and two barking dogs that seemed to enjoy following me for a few yards. the trek from the snow park to the lake is about 5 miles. The trek around the lake was about 3.5 miles. I went past several picnic areas as I plowed the wet snow. There are two camping areas on the Western side of the lake. The sun was so bright and the temperatures got so warm that it felt like summer and the snow eventually was like play dough. The lake was still completely frozen but I only hiked across near the edges. However, there were several snowmobile tracks covering the frozen lake. As the day wore on, I could see several edges of the lake turn to slush. I did eventually step in a slushy part which soaked through my shoe. By the end of the day, both of my feet were soaked and nearly frozen. Since there were no clear maps of the trip, I first found myself going the opposite direction of the lake and straight up mt. Washington. After about 2 miles of a grueling climb I decided to head back towards the lake. After the day was done, I probably covered about 12 miles in about 8 hours. I only stopped long enough to eat and make some changes to my lenses. I also broke my sunglasses which was not good since the glare from the sun, lake and snow was absolutely blinding. I would highly suggest a snow-shoe trip around Big Lake since the views are awesome and you will surely burn some calories. I didn’t see any hiking trails around the lake, so snow-shoeing may be the only way to go around the lake. You can also get a good glimpse of Three Fingered Jack at several points along the trek around the lake.
[/caption]The best thing about the gorge in winter, is that there is always plenty of water to go around. The warm temperatures in the Cascades may be hampering the ski resorts and washing out all of the snow but that just makes for more dynamic waterfalls along the gorge. I have never seen this many waterfalls along the stretch between Troutdale and the Bonneville dam before. While many of the smaller creeks and waterfalls, during summer are dried up, the rainy and warm temperatures have created quite a spectacle. I was able to get about a 3 mile hike in and a few shots before I was hammered by a huge rain storm. I tried to wait out the rain under some rocks and then in my car for about 2 hours before giving up. Now is the time to take advantage of the ample amount of spectacular waterfalls and rushing creeks. I used my NDx4 along with my PL-CIR