If you have followed my stories, you know that Val and I like to snowshoe on Jan 1st. It’s just a good way to start a new year, and this year was no exception. Last couple of years we’ve done hikes instead because we didn’t have good snow on the ground but finally this year conditions changed. Knowing conditions were good, we went to one of my favorites places to snowshoe, the Barlow Pass area, but instead of doing the normal long loop that goes over the ridge and connects to Palmateer Point, we opted for a shorter lollipop Loop so we would time to relax afterwards, besides, we both had to return to work on Friday. From the trail head we knew it was going to be a spectacular day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the air was cold and crisp. As we started on the PCT towards Ghost Ridge, we enjoyed the sun filtering thru the trees and illuminating the forest. It made for a perfect scenery to play a bit with my new camera. AS we move further, the trail got harder and harder as not too many people had gone since the last snowfall. Once we reached the almost unnoticeable saddle, we veered off tail and followed the ridge to our destination. At one point we came out of the forest into the open and were welcomed with a spectacular view of the hill and valley beyond and sun above us. We saw a couple of groups on the trail enjoying the same thing. From that point it was simply straight up to the top where you can turn around and enjoy the view of Mt Hood. Instead of retracing our steps, we continued on the ridge breaking new snow and then started veering to the left to head back down towards the PCT. I guess I missed when we crossed it as at some point I knew we were not where we needed to be. In fact, we were a bit below the trail so we had to find our way thru the forest, going uphill until we found the PCT again. Once there we did retrace our steps back to the parking lot where we found way more cars than what we saw when we got there. I guess a lot of people had similar ideas to celebrate the new year.
Our classic end of year/beginning of year snowshoe. AS we have done many times in the past we try to make a point of doing this snowshoe to kick off the season. Last year it wasn’t that good as we had an incredibly warm winter. This year it has been better and with a little help from el Niño, we’ve gotten a bit more snow. It was time to go check it out. We got lucky in getting thee before the hordes would fill up the parking area which is usually what happens on sunny clear days. There were some low hanging clouds but not enough to obscure the magnificent views of Mt Hood. We did our usual hike following the river trail uphill until you leave he crowds behind and get to “The big hill”. We love going up there not only for the fun of it but also to get the better views. From the top we were able to hear loud music, probably from a party at Timberline Lodge. With that we explored a bit more uphill until we decided to turn around and head back. It was a very cold day. Instead of doing the back-country route back though, we decided to go down the way we came which we rarely do. A couple had just arrived there and were taking pictures to then glissade all the way down. That looked like fun so we followed doing the same. The rest of the trail was the normal walk ending with tons of people, kids and dogs enjoying the snow and some fun glissading
This was not the original plan or what we had in mind. When Val and I got in the car and left pretty early in the morning, our plan was to hike along a ridge with magnificent views towards Buck Peak, a destination we’ve never been to yet. The drive there is considerable as we had to go all the way to Hood River and come from the back side to head up towards Wahtum Lake as the trailhead is a bit above the Wahtum Lake campground. As we drove there, we found patches of snow but nothing to terrible so we got to the lake in the normal, almost two hours but then things turned south. We continued on the road uphill towards the trailhead and the first thig we noticed was that, there was absolutely nobody out there. Generally, we like that. The second thing was that the snow on the road was getting thicker as we drove. But then, we saw a big tree that had fallen across the road cutting the pass. Being a narrow road as most forest roads are. There was no easy way to turn around and parking it there was not an option since we didn’t know if we would be able to get out. So we backed up to a wide area were we were able to turn around and got out of the car to take a couple of pictures and think about our predicament. It was cold, really cold. As predicted by the weather people, temperature was in the low teens. At that point we were above the clouds so the day was looking pretty fantastic. After discussing for a bit, we concluded that it was not safe to stay there so we continue our way down and started thinking about an alternative. Since we were all the way on the other side of the mountain, our choices were somewhat limited so we opted for taking Lolo Pass road back towards Zigzag as that was in the right direction to go back home and there’s more than a couple choices along the road. One of those is Ramona Falls. The only problem is that the seasonal bridge across the Sandy River was already out. So we decided to give it a try and see. With all that driving, we ended up getting there close to noon so our day time was already running pretty short. We quickly got on the trail that follows the Sandy and got to the point were the seasonal bridge is… no bridge. We looked for a place to cross but water was running pretty high so it was an unnecessary risk. Instead, we continued, off-trail, on the south side of Sandy River. We explore for quite a while enjoying the limited views of the mountain until we got to a big opening that we thought would give us a passage to the other side and eventually to the falls, but that’s when we found the big marks of a bear that was probably wandering in the area that morning. I guess someone was trying to tell us something so we turned around and headed back to the car.
This hike is kind of becoming our pre-winter classic with Mark and Carole. If my memory serves me right, we have done this loop more than a couple of times, and it’s always fun to reconnect with friends and plan stuff as we enjoy the views of the Gorge. Not surprising the weather was gorgeous although a bit windy up on the ridge. We found a section or two that were closed to prevent erosion – and accidents, but other than that, another beautiful hike in the Gorge.
Oh, and we found something I’m not sure I’ve seen before. WE noticed some sticks on the grounds had what looked like white feathers. Looking closer we figure it was ice. It had been dry for the last couple of weeks so we couldn’t figure out why these limbs were iced over so we thought that the limbs are just catching the wind and somehow filtering moisture out of the air that freezes due to the air temperature… but what do we know, we’re not meteorologist
So needing to get out, I picked this hike that I hadn’t done in a quite some time. The drive is short so you can be on the trail pretty quickly, but as soon as I got there, I noticed a frigid it was. I’ve hiked in cold weather before but this was just ridiculous. So I bundled up with pretty much everything I had and started hiking at a quick pace to warm up. The trail from the start until the junction where you can go up to the summit or go around the lake is very forested and beautiful. It did go a bit fast as I was still trying to warm up. When I got there, I decided to go around the lake. The weather forecast indicated it was going to get cloudy in the afternoon so if there was chance to get a nice picture it was going to be early. When I got to the first opening, where you get the first view of the lake, I did notice big lumps on the water. For a second I couldn’t make what it was. Was the lake almost dry? Was it something floating? But then I realized it was rocks and dirt people have thrown into the lake and landed over a sheet of ice that was covering about half of the lake surface. The trail around the lake was covered in a thin layer of snow and a bit slippery but I got the opportunity to stop on the southwest corner where you get the poster view. I didn’t quite get it because the ice doesn’t reflect as the water does, but it was still pretty nice. Then I picked up the pace and started climbing towards the summit. I didn’t have a plan so I just marched up. At some point, the trail reaches the ridge and turn sharply left. There’s a big rock pile at this turn indicating you should not go straight but by then, I needed a bathroom break. My first thought was to go around the rock pile but I had hikers coming down from the top and a small group behind me so I had to go a bit further beyond the rocks. Thru the trees I noticed what looked like a big boulder so I decided to do my business and go check it out. It turned out to be a big rock pile outcrop with ample views to both sides. I continued over the rocks and followed an animal path on the ridge line. Towards the north, the drop was pretty abrupt giving me a full view of Hwy26 down below. I did get to a point where the ridge starts dropping down fast so I decided to stop there, check the view and turn around. The view is pretty intense and I was happy to discover it. Back on the trail, I continued up and quickly got to the false summit. There was a big group there so I only stayed for a couple of minutes and then decided to continue on the ridge to the actual summit.
Not many people continue this path as it goes up and down over rocks following the ridge. Views are magnificent so I did enjoy the extra stretch. Once at the summit I had a bit of hot soup while I took a couple of pictures. I noticed a foot path coming down from the summit and pointing towards Mirror Lake. I followed that path for a bit and twisted my ankle which made me turn around and go back even though I did saw a path that seemed to go all the way down to the lake. Maybe another day exploration. After a short rest I limped my way back to the car.