The Thumb, Feb 12th

Since Val and I were already at the coast for Val’s work holiday party, we decided to go for a hike and maybe discover a new spot. She found a short description for this hike which sounded interesting and something we’d never done before. It’s a rather short hike but with a very nice reward. I did a bit of extra searching and found that there were two or three ways to get there. A loop sounded like the best option so that’s what we did. We started from a parking area that gives access to the beach at Roads End just north of Lincoln City. There’s no actual trailhead but from there, you can walk on side streets until you get to the actual trailhead. This is a better option as you do gain a bit of elevation before you hit the trail. The trail itself starts at the end of the road just behind a fence. Right before we got there, we noticed a deer walking in front of us that ended up showing us the way to the trail before taking a couple of jumps and disappearing in the forest. From that point on, the hike is straight forward as you go on an almost straight line that looks like a ATV track more than anything. The trail splits at some point but both routes lead to the same place atop a small ridge with open views to the south. The morning was cloudy and even foggy which made the views a constant change of grey colors all the way to the horizon. From there, we got into a meadow that quickly made us forget that we were right next to the ocean. We traversed grassy areas and open spaces with many views until we got to an almost invisible trail junction. WE turn left at that point and gained a bit more elevation going to a spot where the only thing you could see was the sky above. Upon reaching that point, the views opened again towards the ocean and the top of the Thumb came into view. It was clear that where we were going as we saw people enjoying the views. At that point the trail got more muddy and slippery than what we had done so far. That and the fact that is was bordering a precipice didn’t make it that much easier. We had to grab on to every little branch as we descended to a flatter area that would then start going up again to our destination. It was a short steep climb to the top where we stopped for some pictures and snacks. After enjoying and soaking in the views, we headed down but instead of going back to the ridge walk, we continued south in the opposite direction than most people were coming in. The hike back was a pleasant walk thru a coastal forest until we got back on the road and then the beach.

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Ghost Ridge, Palmateer Point, Devil’s Half Acre loop, Jan 28th

Seems like this winter is dropping all the snow we didn’t get the last couple of years. Right before this snowshoe, a report stated that we were already over 140% of the normal snowpack for the time of year. That statement was a song to my ears and tie to head out into the backcountry and do one of my favorite loops. We started from Barlow Pass heading towards Ghost Ridge. This first part of the route has gotten discovered by a lot of people is it’s more normal now to see people heading that way, and that’s no surprise. Just the view of Mt Hood you get from the top is reason enough to go there, even if it’s a short out and back (read the post from Dec 18th).


The day was not very stellar in terms of cloud cover so we made a quick stop for a picture or two before starting the fun part of this loop. Right after the highest point of Ghost ride, we continued south breaking new snow. The lack of noise and snow up to our knees made it hard but fun at the same time. My original plan was to do a longer loop but decided instead to just continue the ridge until the first saddle. By then we were navigating in the thick of the forest avoiding tree wells and deep pockets of snow. From the saddle, we made a shar left and started going downhill, quickly. We had to do a lot of switchbacks to make the slope not as steep but still it was a quick route back down to the PCT. We found ourselves negotiating a small creek which opened some challenges but finally we got to the PCT. After regrouping, we had two options, follow the trail back to the junction with the trail to upper twin lakes and connect from there to Palmateer Point or just go thru the forest and finding our way. The common consensus was the later so we made a straight line thru the forest looking for the ridge that goes to Palmateer point. This route is a bit difficult as the forest doesn’t open enough for you to see the slope. The only way is to make the best educated guess as you head towards the destination knowing that you’ll either get there or find the ridge line. At some point, we saw the opening to out right and headed for it. Soon after that, we were plowing thru very deep snow going to our second destination on the top of Palmateer Point. The sky was grey and the sun hiding behind the clouds so we didn’t stay there too long. Even the views of Hood were obscured by the clouds. To head down, instead of taking the normal way around it, we headed north that takes you down on a very long and steep downhill. Some of us did it skiing down on our snowshoes while others decided to sit down and glissade their way. I was ahead but could easily make were everyone else was as I heard the laughs and yells as they gained speed coming down the slope. Towards the bottom it got a bit more complicated as I knew we were heading for a creek but didn’t remember how deep it could be or where to cross. AS if by design, we came out of the forest right next to a bridge that crosses the creek and head to the Devil’s Half Acre Camp ground. Even I was surprised about the accuracy of getting there from the slope. WE traversed the campground taking pictures of the creek and ice crystals on pine branches before starting our last push back to the parking lot. This last portion is quite surprising to most, not because of the views or scenery but because is mostly uphill. That’s when you realize how far down you came from Palmateer Point. Finally, we made it back to the parking area tired but happy. It was a good day

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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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