Barlow Butte – the short version, Jan 15th

After several days of snow followed by several days of cold weather, we decided to go explore one of my favorite places to snowshoe. With a small group of people and friends we headed out to Barlow Pass where we would do a shorter version of the Barlow Bute loop I normally do. As soon as we got there, we knew it was going to be a perfect day. The sun was out, there were no clouds and the air was crisp and cold. There was also a ton of snow on the ground. We started via the normal route going down the hill towards Mineral Jane but ten veered off at the sign pointing to our destination, Barlow Butte. Right from the turn we had to start breaking new trail as several tracks were heading in multiple directions none of which seemed to be going in the right direction. The going got tough quickly as we were sinking up to our knees in the fresh powder. At some point, we got back to some sky tracks and opted to stay on them even though they were on the wrong side of the ridge. Normally, as you go up to Barlow Bute, you get sun on your right side. This time, we were in the shade most of the time. Still, it was clear we were just below the normal route on the ridge. As we continued climbing, and being in the shadows, we noticed the sow was partially frozen. Instead of being a homogeneous white powder, it was more like a blanket of tiny ice crystals. Snowshoeing thru it made the upper layer fly around and make a very subtly sounds as it hit the ground again. At some point, I noticed we were past the line were the summit would be so we made a tight right turn and walk straight into the sun. Right there we got our first grand view to the a very steep drop off and the valley in front of us. All white, all wintery. Then we continued up and very soon we got to the top were the views are very limited. Now I knew exactly where I was so I continued to navigate the group thru the ridge line to the backside where an impressive ridge dominates the panorama (and the reason I like this route so much).


The original intent was to go down a saddle and over the next ridge before descending to Barlow Ridge but with the deep snow, we decided to make it shorter and head straight down. The fluffy snow made it for a very quick downhill which is always the highlight of the adventure. Finally, we got the Barlow Ridge and at the very last jump to it, I landed on a hole which I pointed out to all behind me. Still Val fell thru another hole that trapped her snowshoe. With the inertia of the fall, not only the snowshoe was left behind but the boot and the sock. After a short rescue mission, we were able to pull the snowshoe from the trap and continued on Barlow Ridge with the magnificent view of Mt Hood in front of us. Once we got down to the junction with Mineral Jane and made the turn to head back to the parking lot is when the second part of the reward came in. I noticed on the side huge ice crystals on the tree limbs. Looking closely, we realized that, with the cold temperatures of the last couple of days, the top layer of snow had crystalized forming tiny crystals around everything. Rocks, trees and limbs were covered in tiny crystals like I’ve never seen before.


We spent quite a bit of time admiring the beauty and taking pictures before continuing towards the parking area. It was a splendid day

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Storey Burn loop, Jan 2nd

Every year, since Val and I have been together, we celebrate New Year’s day by going hiking or snowshoeing. This year we had to wait until January 2nd because of a big snow dump up in the mountains. Knowing he driving conditions were not going to be good up there, we decided to head towards the coast and do one of the loops in the Tillamook Forest. We picked the Storey Burn Loop that I haven’t done in quite a while. While driving to the trailhead, we were surprised to see snow on the ground which, at first, didn’t make much sense but then, realizing we were a bit higher in the coastal range started to make sense. We were not expecting and certainly not prepared either for the entire trail to be covered in snow though. Even in the parking area we found a couple of pickup trucks unloading snowmobiles. Aside from that, it was cold morning. WE weighted our options and opted for trying it out. If it got too cold or the snow too deep, we would turn around and go back to the car. So with that in mind, we hit the trail. To our surprise, it was a winter wonderland. All the trees where half white half brown pointing the direction of the wind. The ground was covered in white and there were no signs of streams below. As we walked on ankle deep snow, we noticed older tracks so we were not the first ones experiencing this trail like this. Above us the sky was between grey sand blue which gave the forest and eerie and cold look. The other surprise was that, with less foliage and snow weighting down tree limbs, the forest looked more open. Views didn’t stop at the next tree like it does in the summer but much further down. I tried to remember how the trail looks in the summer but was not able to connect them together and pin point where I was. Even with cold feet and cold air, Val and I were simply fascinated by the views around us so we continued and finished the loop only crossing path with one other soul. It’s so great to start a year like this

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Twin Lakes, Dec 25th

We had been following the weather hoping for a break so we could go up to the mountain for some more snowshoeing. Being a holiday weekend, our first option was to do our normal wake up late, have breakfast and open presents, but since weather was not nice and we noticed that at least it was not going to be snowing or raining on Sunday, we quickly changed our plans and left the gifts wrapped under the tree and headed for the mountain. We do have our priorities straight. Since it was still going to be overcast, we opted for a route without a lot of views so we wouldn’t be disappointed. Going with that, we chose to do the Twin Lakes loop from Barlow Pass. Right from the start we had a grey sky that didn’t invite for a lot of picture taking but being in the forest with some new snow made up for it. It was a pretty cold day so we marched on the PCT up to the saddle and then down to the second junction where you turn left to head to Lower Twin Lake. We stood for a minute at the junction that leads to a campground down in Lower Twin Lake and has views of the lake but then decided to just continue our way to Upper Twin Lake instead since there, the trail goes around the lake. If there were any views, we would get them there. At Upper Twin Lake we got a little break in the clouds and even a bit of sun that opened the views of the white surface of the lake and a rare view of Mt Hood over the ridge. After circling the east shore, we got back into the forest as the sky got grey again. Once back in the PCT we continued back to the parking area this time going uphill first. Once finished and being happy with about 7 miles of snowshoeing, we went home for a hot shower, nice dinner and presents. That’s a happy Christmas day.

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Ghost Ridge out and back, Dec 18th

After two very low snow years we finally got a break. Early in December we were hit by several winter storms that dumped a lot of snow up in the mountain. Before the holidays the snow pack was already at 140% of normal. The bad side of this is we had a couple of weeks were we had to stay home as you couldn’t go anywhere. Well, that’s not entirely true. We could snowshoe around the house. Finally, we saw a window in the weather so Val and I, instead of doing our classic White River outing for our first snowshoe of the year, we opted for Ghost Ridge. On one side, we didn’t want to deal with lots of people and on the other, we wanted some fresh powder so we picked one of my favorite routes. Getting there wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. WE were pleasantly surprised to find the parking area almost empty. The mountain to ourselves. After gearing up and bundling up (it was crisp and very cold) we started our march on the PCT. It was like a dream. Fresh, deep snow everywhere. Even the tracks were soft. We noticed tracks once we veered of trail towards the ridge and decided to follow those. Once we got to the opening the views expanded to Mt Hood on the back and all the way down the valley to he west. It was hard to say how far we could see. As we continued up the ridge, we saw a couple with a dog sitting and enjoying he views. Right after that, we took a detour following other tracks to a view point where we found a backpack that was recently left there but nobody with it. Kind of strange but didn’t make much of it. Once we got back to the viewpoint were the couple was sitting, we noticed there were no tracks going forward. It was time for us to break new trail. The going got a bit slower but the mountain was ours. Each step made the views even better until we got to the top. WE continued for a bit on the ridge to an opening that hadn’t been stepped on and stopped to enjoy some soup, the silence and the views. We did consider continuing back down for the longer lop but knew that, with this much snow, we could that at some other time so we opted for returning the way we came. If this stays like it is, is going to be a great snowshoeing year!

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Hardy Ridge and Phlox Point, Nov 26

Tired of the bad weather and non-stop rain, Val and I took a chance and went out to the Washington side of the Gorge to re-do a hike that was barely in our minds even though it’s one where we both worked on building part of the trail some years ago while volunteering with WTA. As soon as we got to the parking lot, the memories started to flow back in... “my tent was there” and “so and so were sleeping over there”. This day, with a heavy grey cloud cover, we found the parking lot complete clear with the exception of a single car. It looked like it was going to let loose at any time so we grabbed our gear and started our hike on the equestrian trail going towards the East ridge trail. From there, we started climbing steadily thru the dense forest with no views and the menacing skies above us. That changed a bit when we got to the junction with the Phlox Point trail. At that point, we had a complete view of the Gorge, the heavy cover above us and some lingering clouds in the valleys. It didn’t look like it was raining anywhere so we continued up towards the view point at the end of the ridge. In the distance we could see Mt Hood under the clouds and the sun trying to make its way thru. WE stopped for lunch at a spot just below the end of the ridge where we got a bit of better coverage from the wind. After that we started our hike back to close the loop on the Hardy Ridge trail but before that, we noticed the small clouds on the valley starting to climb up the side of the mountain. As they did, they grew bigger but for some reason, the never passed the ridge. WE were, for a short period of time walking right next to the clouds as if it were an ocean beach with the waves breaking on our side. It was quite the spectacle. As the trail made a turn to start descending we saw that the valley was not complete under the cover of a low hanging cloud. Each step we took, brought as closer in to the cloud until we were inside it so the rest of the hike was pretty much thru a foggy forest. IN the end it never rained on us and we got a good hike in, nothing to complain about.

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