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My snowy home on a hill.

I keep leaning toward complaints, but then I simply can’t follow through: this snow is spectacular.

I live in the Columbia River Valley, just 45 miles from the Pacific Ocean. This tends to keep my little piece of Paradise green, even in the depths of winter. But Mother Nature has been on a cold bent lately. Well, heck, I can’t even say “lately,” because it’s been cold and snowy for a couple months now. I’ve lived in very snowy places most of my life, and so this doesn’t compare, but I am still enjoying it.

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Jamie and Phil after the big snow, when they were still interested in it.

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The ladies have had enough snow and are running for shelter.

My chickens seem to be fine with it, but they do not like being cold. They hide in their little home most of the day rather than walk around in bare feet in the snow. They don’t eat much, leaving the chicken feed to the chipmunks. I expect to see some pretty fat chipmunks in the Spring. I need to go out each day, dump out a chunk of ice from their bowl, and refill it with water. They have also figured out that they can eat the snow.

They also aren’t laying, and I do not blame them one bit! Who would want to produce a massive egg once a day in the freezing cold? Not me.

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Looking past the apple tree into the neighbor’s yard.

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Beaver Creek burbles along gaily with no interruption.

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The sun came out for a few days, brilliantly lighting it all up. Those are my tracks in the foreground. I just can’t stay indoors when it’s this pretty out.

My photos aren’t as good as I would like. My camera is still fried from my trip to Chile. I haven’t made it to a camera doctor yet. The weather has been so rotten that roads are sketchy, and it hasn’t been worth an hour+ drive into town. Also, I’ve been sick, sick, sick. Feeling much better now, but annoyed by this lingering cough to clear out my lungs. Sounds like I have COPD.

Anyway, my iPhone camera is picking up the slack. I hope you enjoy the photos. It’s been pure winter deliciousness here.

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Our gorgeous Christmas tree!

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Tara balancing new sketchbooks.

 

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Evening sun making the treetops glow.

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I rarely need to, so I do not own a decent shovel.

I found out that a blogger friend of mine was  shorthanded on, as she put it, “young energetic people,” and I answered the call. Luckily it was pre-major snowstorm, and though cold, we did our work on a beautifully sunny day. The van was parked at the storage unit and we spent the whole day emptying the storage unit and filling the truck. It was windy, and when the sun dropped we nearly froze our patooties off, but we got the job done and went home elated and satisfied. It was discovered the next day that the truck had been loaded beyond legal weight and it had to be dismantled. That day I had to work and couldn’t help.

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TS inside the moving van.

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These tracks just melted my heart.

I’ve got a little good news that’s probably exciting only to me, but I’ll share it anyway. I mentioned in November that I have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from military trauma. I’ll explain more about making disability claims with VA (The US Department of Veterans Affairs) later, but for now I’ll just say that I made a claim in 2008. The claim was denied in 2008 and again in 2009, so I appealed it in 2010. My appealed claim has languished for some reason. It’s still pending. I finally lost my patience and contacted my Congresswoman to stir things up a little, and it worked! Next week I will attend examinations in support of my claim. These consist of super-quick health evaluations not designed for treatment, but to assess the problem, then make an educated medical opinion on whether that problem could be related to military service. Then I wait around for someone to make a final legal decision. I’ll give it another year and then contact my Congresswoman again if necessary. Honestly, I think it has been long enough and my impatience is not out of line. If my claim is granted, any medical condition found by VA to be related to military service is then covered by VA for free. All doctor visits, medications, procedures. There is also a monthly stipend based on any loss of function determined to impact my employability. It would be a help.

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World made black and white.

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Playing with the sepia feature.

 

Sunshine glistens off the water of Beaver Creek on my property.

Sunshine glistens off the water of Beaver Creek on my property.

After the heat of Santiago, I arrived at the airport in Portland to the winter season once more. In a few hours I was home in Rainier, where a thin layer of snow still covered the ground. Over the week that followed, more snow fell. It’s not a lot of snow as far as snowy places go, but for our area it is unusual. And just in time for Christmas!

Winter is not so bad when it's this pretty.

Winter is not so bad when it’s this pretty.

Looking along a different stretch of the creek.

Looking along a different stretch of the creek.

Snow collects on the top of the frozen pond.

Snow collects on the top of the frozen pond.

Chicken tracks.

Chicken tracks. When I arrived home, the chickens were lose and running free through the snow. They missed me and were glad to be led home.

Kitty covering her nose for warmth.

Kitty covering her nose for warmth.

Deer don't mind snow much.

Deer don’t mind snow much.

The view out my home office window. Having a view like this while I work makes me grateful in so many ways.

The view out my home office window. Having a view like this while I work makes me grateful in so many ways.

Tara and I bought a $5 tag from the U.S. Forest Service and went up into the mountains to collect a tree. We didn’t find much in the way of trees, but we had a great adventure. Soon after we entered National Forest land, we came upon a couple of young men trapped in a little car on an icy bridge. They had tried to cross the bridge the night before and became high-centered on the snow berm in the middle, and couldn’t get any traction on the ice. They had spent the night out there and were SO glad to see us! I towed them off the bridge with the Jeep and we pushed the car to help them turn it around and get them out of there. They looked in pretty good shape, but were ready to eat and get warm again.

Waterfall in the forest.

Waterfall in the forest.

Tara bundled up.

Tara bundled up.

Things turned violent.

Things turned violent.

We made it home with a tree from a U-cut tree farm instead.

We made it home with a tree from a U-cut tree farm instead.

front of the old note

front of the old note

back of the note

back of the note

In the chill, it’s obvious my thoughts keep going back to those warm days such a short time ago. I’m still peeling from the sunburn, but the mosquito bites are all healed. Yay! I’ve got the stamps on my passport to prove it really happened. I was gathering some of the money together to send to my brother, who collects foreign currency as I do, and it occurred to me that my Uncle Sean was a missionary for the Mormon church in the 1980s and did his mission in Chile. He sent me a 100 CP note back then and I still have it. The currency has de-valued, and Chile doesn’t even *make* 100 peso bills anymore.img_2697

 Merry Christmas everyone and have the happiest of New Year’s celebrations! My long, annual Christmas missive is delayed, obviously, but I’ve had a really productive December. I spent two weeks on vacation, I finished the Mt. Hood Cherokees newsletter this morning, and sent it out to everyone on the mailing list. I’ve got all Tara’s presents wrapped. The tree is up and simply gorgeous. Santa comes tonight and we are all very excited about it!

Snow coming down at my place

Snow coming down at my place

Longtime friends of mine recently returned to their Spokane home from a New Year’s vacation in Australia and remarked on leaving the greenery down under and arriving at the whitery at home. I have shamelessly adopted their humor as my own. 🙂

chicken in snow

chicken in snow

I live in a valley that is about 500 feet in elevation. That’s not really worth raising an eyebrow at in the Pacific NW, but it does mean a bit more snow than if I were at sea level. The cold air sinks to the bottom of my valley and means the snow lingers a little longer too. I like it. I’ve lived in places most my life where winter was a serious situation: Vermont, Colorado, northern Nevada, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, and the worst winters of all in Idaho. It’s luxury not to have to shovel snow for months, but I also miss having the white stuff around. I only need enough to make it feel like winter is here for real.

In the past six weeks we’ve had enough snow to warrant some photos and a post.

Looking at the tiny hen house from the deck.

Looking at the tiny hen house from the deck.

Chicken hussies were not phased by their first snow, and treated it as they do everything: tasting it. Snow proved edible, and they spent all morning eating it.

Chicken hussies were not phased by their first snow, and treated it as they do everything: tasting it. Snow proved edible, and they spent all morning eating it.

This is Jamie. I can tell her from her twin by the patterns on her back.

This is Jamie. I can tell her from her twin by the patterns on her back.

What's up? Chicken butt!

What’s up? Chicken butt!

Looking up at the house. Even in the winter I am pretty sure I need a couple of trees hanging over that deck. Guess I'll be planting this spring.

Looking up at the house. Even in the winter I am pretty sure I need a couple of trees hanging over that deck. Guess I’ll be planting this spring.

The pond froze over, so the wild ducks went off to find a more accommodating home.

The pond froze over, so the wild ducks went off to find a more accommodating home.

So remember when I blogged about the flooding here? The creek water was so high that it eroded the banks and turned everything that was left to mud. A couple days later there was an enormous downburst in this area, and that blasted high winds into the trees in Rainier. Mature trees were snapped off everywhere, at about 30 feet up from the ground, blocking many roads. Many more were torn right out of the soggy ground, and laid flat. This was the case on my property, where most of the trees down were those whose roots were exposed and loosened due to the flooding. Fresh snow on the downed trees makes it easier to see them on a dark winter day.

Alder in the creek. In total, I have eight trees down. Six are in the creek.

Alder in the creek. In total, I have eight trees down. Six are in the creek.

The log resting horizontally here shows high water level back when the creek flooded.

The log resting horizontally in the air was dropped there when the creek flooded.

Tara and I made a trip up to Moyie Springs, Idaho to visit my stepdad. Our timing was not so great, as we encountered a storm in Hood River, Oregon (about an hour out of Portland), and the snow and slick roads continued all the way through Kennewick, Washington through Spokane and Coer d’Alene, and finally stopped coming down in Sandpoint (about an hour from our destination). It was a 12-hour day, but the Dragon Wagon (my Jeep) did a great job and we were safe all day long. We arrived at Jim’s house to dry ground, but by morning the storm had caught up with us.

View from the Hood River Starbucks as we got some fuel for the road.

View from the Hood River Starbucks as we got some fuel for the road.

View from Jim's cabin in Moyie Springs the morning after we arrived.

View from Jim’s cabin in Moyie Springs the morning after we arrived.

Jim loves antique cars, and so I'm going to assume these are here intentionally, waiting under the snow for some future TLC.

Jim loves antique cars, and so I’m going to assume these are here intentionally, waiting under the snow for some future TLC.

Now these are clearly well loved cars. Tara and I have been for a ride in the one in the center.

Now these are clearly well loved cars. Tara and I have been for a ride in the one in the center.

What do you do when it snows? You shovel, of course.

What do you do when it snows? You shovel, of course.

Now granted, these photos don’t show the worst of what winter can be. Snow only piled up about two inches deep here, and after four days it melted. We’ve had a few more snow falls since, and as you see from the photos, it is just enough to cover the ground. The temps were low in Moyie Springs, down around 18 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. Here in Rainier it dropped into the 20s for a few days, but now it’s up into the nice toasty 40s again and all the whitery is gone.

So I’m satisfied. My Winter check box has been checked, and I’m ready for Spring now.

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain.

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain. Volcanoes are in the background, trust me. No really, they are.

I managed to get out with my hiking group again on Sunday. Saturdays are sooo busy (this one was my Mt. Hood Cherokees meeting), and the option for Sunday hikes is appreciated.

My hike the previous weekend to Poo Poo Point gave me a chance to prepare my body a little, because this hike was 6.8 miles to the summit from the trailhead. It was .2 miles from the car, totaling 14 miles hiked and over 4000 foot elevation gain in one day. Believe me, my legs are still having a conversation with me about what took place…

One fun thing about the trail is that it begins at Multnomah Falls. You will be amazed to hear that I did not take a single shot of the stunning falls while I was in the viewing area with all the tourists. I have hundreds of photos of Multnomah Falls and was trying to practice restraint, ha ha! But if you want a reminder of which falls I mean, check out one of my posts on it from winter 2013  or from winter 2012.

One mile of paved trail leads you to the viewing platform at the top of the falls: 611 feet above the pool at the bottom.

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn't this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn’t this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

The trail after that is not paved, but is in great shape and there are so many more remarkable waterfalls I lost track. I included several photos of my hiking companions on the trail, to help with perspective, and add a contrast to the extravagant opulence of all the green. The ground was wet from a lot of run off and creeks crossing the trails, but we found solid purchase for our feet for the first five miles. We crossed five bridges, if my memory is correct, and each one of those was an adventure in itself. The first over Multnomah Falls, then a Troll Bridge, one that warned us it was falling apart, and two very sturdy bridges built from a single log with the top flattened for us to walk on, and a railing attached to one side. So clever.

Let me explain one aspect of my photos before I get too far. A friend who looked at my photos pointed out – correctly – that if I was in front of the group and turned back, I could get photos of all the lovely faces of the ladies I hiked with. This is absolutely true and it’s a loss that you won’t see them here. However, I am sensitive to the fact that when they registered for this hike, none of them signed up to have their faces on the Internet via my blog. I got permission to post butts (ha ha), but I promised not to show faces or names.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs that had been carved out for us. See the waterfall in the distance here?

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs and is called Dutchman tunnel. See the waterfall in the distance here?

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

To our surprise, about 1.5 miles from the top, we walked into snow. It started off so beautifully: a lovely layer of white to change our forest views. We were very excited, taking photos and giving some accessories to a tiny snowman that someone else built along the trail.

The snow never got very deep, but it did make for some terrible trail conditions. First, the several inches of snow on the dirt trail ensured that it was a mud trail, particularly in the afternoon return home, when many many boots had tromped the slush into a dreadful slippery mess. Second, the snow on the branches of the trees above us slowly melted throughout the day, causing “tree rain” sufficient to soak us through despite the sky teasing us with copious blue that we spotted up through the trees. Luckily we all had jackets for protection, but it was impossible to stay entirely dry at that point.

At 1:00 pm were tired and discouraged and still walking uphill through the mud and tree rain. But occasional bursts of sunshine and the persistent blue above the trees were a tease that we couldn’t resist. Besides, we had come too far to give up.

Walking past yet another waterfall.

Walking past Ecola Falls.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

You go first!

You go first!

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Isn't this just lovely?

Isn’t this just lovely?

The summit was worth it! A lovely little rest spot has been built right at the top of the mountain, with benches and a fence to keep us from tumbling over the side. We gathered with other tenacious hikers and ate lunch. The sun had melted the snow off the tops of the benches, where we were able to sit. There was very little wind to speak of, but it did get a bit chilly when we stopped moving.

Sadly, the clouds had been gathering all morning, so by the time we arrived, all the volcanoes were obscured. Remember my view from Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain? On a clear day, the same views can be seen from Larch Mountain. Though the volcanoes (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson) were hidden, we had a great view of the valleys around us, including the Columbia River.

The journey back down was somewhat lighter, since downhill is so much less of a struggle. Typically downhill is my challenge – not uphill – but my bad knee only hollered at me a couple of times, and I was able to get to the bottom without the help of any curse words!

It was somewhat surreal to finish the hike at a popular tourist destination, and I felt distinctly out of place, with my coat and pack and mud splashed up my legs and bleached blonde hairs frizzing out in all directions. The lovely people around me had perfect hair and clean clothes and some wore sandals (and heels! good gracious). But I could still smile to myself because I had just seen things that they would not. 🙂

There it is! We made it!

There it is! We made it to Sherrard Point!

Islands in the Columbia

Islands in the Columbia

Icicles caught my eye

Icicles caught my eye

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake

Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake

In December I hiked to Mirror Lake and Tom Dick and Harry Mountain for the first time. Though the whole region was sunny that day, there was a little microclimate engulfing our local volcano, Mt. Hood. Snow actually fell during the hike. At the summit of the mountain, I was told that it is typically one of the best views around. Instead of vistas, I entertained myself with close-range snow and fog shots as the weak sunlight made half-hearted attempts to break through and did not succeed. You can read that blog post here if you like.

I went back last week. And this time I found what I had been promised: incredible views!

Looking across the lake up to the summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, my next destination.

Looking across the lake up to the summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, my next destination.

Trying to capture the iceberg blue in the shadows, but it doesn't show up.

Trying to capture the iceberg blue in the shadows, but it doesn’t show up.

The snow at this point was easy to walk through.

The snow at this point was easy to walk through.

First I had to get there. While the trail was clear in December, this time it was snow-covered from beginning to end. The popularity of this particular trail helped me, since I was able to follow tracks all the way to the summit. My timing was excellent because of the old snow and the weather. I wore only my regular hiking boots that I’ve been wearing for a decade, but the snow was frozen enough that I was able to walk along the top of it.  The day was warm enough that the top inch of snow was soft, so I got some traction, and most of the time I wasn’t in danger of sliding down the mountain on the frozen snow. (did you notice how I used the word ‘most?’)

I walked all around the lovely Mirror Lake. I was glad I decided to hit the lake first and catch some sun. By the time I left the mountain, it was deep in shadow due to our short winter days.

Only a few inches deep at the trailhead, the snow on the trail above the lake was at least two feet deep, possibly three feet deep as it reached Tom Dick and Harry mountain. Others before me had used snow shoes, and I saw ski tracks beside the trail as well.

As I neared the summit, the trail was hard to find because wind had swept away most of the tracks. But I could see the rocks at the top, dry in the sunshine and calling me up. The snow was not as hard there, possibly because of the warmth of the day. My boots punched through and I sank above my knees every third step. Hiking in snow is a fabulous workout! I highly recommend it. You work your legs and your butt, you gulp in that fresh mountain air, your pay-off is an amazing view, and your cool down is to head back down the trail again.

After a last gasping (like I said: it’s a workout) push through the snow, I made it to the top!

The glorious sun had baked the rocks dry at the top.

The glorious sun had baked the rocks dry at the top.

The south side of Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake.

The south side of Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake.

I expected to see Mt. Hood, and there it was, right in front of me and gloriously snow-covered. The bright blue of that much snow is a sight that always stirs me. Reminiscent of the first blue glaciers I ever saw, the summer when I was 16 and went to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Soldotna, Alaska. Despite the fact that I’ve learned to expect that kind of blue, it is still a wonderful sight.

What I did not expect to see was a whole string of volcanoes. Mt. Jefferson to the south, and Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams. And since this day was spectacular for miles and miles, I could clearly see Mt. Rainier from all the way up in Seattle! That is a view of FIVE volcanoes from one spot. I think it’s my record.

I had no one to share my enthusiasm with, since it was a Wednesday afternoon and the trail was empty. But I had cell reception on top of Tom Dick and Harry, so I sent a few selfies to Tara and to my friends at work.

I had not hiked far. In the bottom left, you can see the curve of the highway. That spot is just a few feet from where I parked the Jeep.

I had not hiked far. In the bottom left, you can see the curve of the highway. That spot is just a few feet from where I parked the Jeep.

Here's the money shot! Click the image so you can see them all, left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood. (Picture me jumping up and down with glee)

Here’s the money shot! Click the image so you can see them all, left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood. (Picture me jumping up and down with glee)

I included a shot of this ridgeline in the December post. It looks different this time, with all the sunshine!

I included a shot of this ridgeline in the December post. Different this time, with all the sunshine!

Mt. Jefferson to the south, beyond hazy azure hills.

Mt. Jefferson to the south, beyond hazy indigo hills.

I passed the lake on the way back down, and caught the evening light.

I passed the lake on the way back down, and caught the evening light.

One last look back up at the mountain where I had stood in the sunshine. Then it was time to go Into The Woods, and head back to the Jeep.

One last look back up at the mountain where I had stood in the sunshine. Then it was time to go Into The Woods, and head back to the Jeep.

Snowy ridgeline at the top of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

Snowy ridgeline at the top of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

My days have been full, but if I don’t get outside now and then, I go a little stir-crazy. So I hiked to a new place called Mirror Lake, which sits at the base of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. Isn’t that a great name for a peak?

Blogger friend LB had challenged me on facebook to post 5 black and white photos in 5 days, and once I was above the snow line, it was obvious that I was surrounded by black and white photos. Every photo in this post is in full color, but you wouldn’t always guess it, huh? The day was forecast to be mostly sunny, and that turned out to be true almost anywhere but over the peaks. I stayed at the top of the mountain for at least an hour, but the sun only teased me: a bright sunbeam here and there, a glimpse of blue sky overhead as a hole in the fog drifted past, but basically it was a snowy cloudy day.

And a brilliant day!

Fresh snow was falling and decorating branches around the lake.

Fresh snow was falling and decorating branches around the lake.

Modern art: stripes of red and white and black. Sort of ;-)

Modern art: stripes of red and white and black. Sort of 😉

The snow was really coming down at this time, and you can see it in the background where there are no sheltering trees.

The snow was really coming down at this time, and you can see it in the background where there are no sheltering trees. What a lovely name for a forest: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.

Sunbeam alert!

Sunbeam alert!

Mirror lake wasn't as mirrory under ice.

Mirror lake isn’t as mirrory under ice.

I was tempted to use this one in my B&W challenge. What a pretty twisty tree branch.

I was tempted to use this one in my B&W challenge. What a pretty twisty tree branch.

Willows along the marshes on the side of Mirror Lake.

Willows in the marshes on the side of Mirror Lake.

At the top of the mountain, sun periodically lit up the bits of cloud moving through.

At the top of the mountain, sun periodically lit up the bits of cloud moving through.

This little guy along the trail on the way home gave me a happy "So Long!"

This little guy along the trail on the way home gave me a happy “So Long!”

 

Me, gazing at the rolling waves of clouds breaking over the ridge of Mt. Jefferson.

Me, gazing at the rolling waves of clouds breaking over the ridge of Mt. Jefferson. In case you were wondering, yes, this is yet another fabulous Oregon volcano!

{Read my post from Day One here.}

Arno hung a thermometer in the tent and when we checked it in the morning, it read 30 degrees. Below freezing inside the tent.

The morning was cloudy and windy, which made us reluctant to get moving. But my knight left me snug in my down sleeping bag, and got up to make coffee. I had been mostly warm during the night. In our rush to pack, we had accidentally brought the summer tent, made primarily of mesh to encourage a brisk airflow. Though I had the extra-luxurious air mattress, it was not enough to block the freezing temperature of the snow from chilling any part of me touching the ground. One nice thing was that I had thought to bring my wet jacket into the bag with me and by morning it was dry. Voila!

We drank the first press pot (yes, coffee snobs must use a French press even while backpacking) and ate breakfast in our bags. While Arno was making the second pot, I finally emerged from the tent to see that the clouds were burning off and the sun was out! What a difference the sun makes when it’s so cold.

To our surprise, another backpacker came through camp around 9am on snowshoes. He had camped at Russell Lake, and was now exploring. Our plan for the day was to go exploring up toward Russell Lake. For the rest of the day, we saw his snow shoe tracks all over the place and I was glad we had met him, so I knew who to imagine when I spotted the wandering tracks.

Arno breaks trail where the snow shoes had only scuffed the surface.

Arno breaks trail where the snow shoes had only scuffed the surface.

We returned to the Pacific Crest Trail, and soon left behind the footprints of Saturday’s day hikers. For much of the day, we were breaking new trail, watching for the little triangle brand mounted on trees to mark the PCT.  I liked the idea that we might be helping a future hiker, so we tried to stay on the trail. Breaking the trail was hard work, but welcome effort, because it kept us warm. We took turns being in front, since the one following had an easier time of it.

Our earlier hiking was easier because the snow was more frozen and we didn’t sink in very far. As the day warmed the snow, we sunk deeper and deeper.  We passed lots of lakes. So many that they aren’t all named. Some frozen over, and the larger ones liquid and sparkling in the sunshine.

Around mid-day we found a snow-free zone beneath some trees, and we stopped for lunch. We had to carry our down coats and thickest gloves and hats for the stops, so that we didn’t freeze when we stopped plowing the snow. I was grateful that Arno thought of this ahead of time, and that way I stayed warm all day.

Arno pumping water at a tiny lake beneath Mt. Jefferson

Arno pumping water at a tiny lake beneath Mt. Jefferson

After lunch we punched a hole in a lake and pumped some water to fill our bladders and a spare Nalgene bottle, then went back to camp. Not quite ready to stop for the day, we continued past camp and circled around Scout Lake to the other side, and discovered some truly stunning views of the mountain across the lake.

Looking back across Scout Lake toward our camp, and the volcano behind.

Looking back across Scout Lake toward our camp, and the volcano behind.

The sun had dried some duff on the north side of the lake, and we went to the place to sit and rest in the failing daylight. It was obviously a campsite, cleared of nearly all human traces. Except for one sandwich-sized ziplock bag of a thick brown substance. “Looks like a bag of poo!” I said, in my delicate ladylike way. Now why would someone leave this? WHAT is this? Eew. I could just imagine the conversation of the people leaving camp.

One says to the other, “Don’t forget the bag of poo. I’m not carrying it.”

“I don’t want to carry the poo! Let’s bury it.”

“You can’t bury that, it’s plastic! Why did you put poo in the bag in the first place?”

Fall colours still visible in the snow

Fall colours reaching  up through the snow

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We found a spot to sit and read the map, eat some trail mix, and talk about stuff. Arno and I can talk a blue streak. I complain sometimes that he talks too much, but I’m a total jabberbox too. We talked and stretched and took photos and laughed in the sun till there was almost no more sun. The moment the sunbeams left us, it got cold quick. It was time to go back.

But… there was still something that had to be dealt with. Arno shook the last of the trailmix into his mouth. “Hand me that bag,” I said. “I’ll put the poo in here.” And I did. And I carried it out. Bleh. People.

We spotted our trail down the steep hill from our camp to the lake

On the way back we spotted our trail down the steep hill from our camp to the lake

The hike back went pretty quickly and it was still early evening when we unloaded our gear at camp. We crawled into our bags in the tent and played a game of Yahtzee. Then ate sausage jambalaya for dinner. Yummy and filling.

Evening sun sets on Park Butte, where we had been sitting for the past couple hours.

Evening sun sets on Park Butte. The far shore is near where we had been sitting for the past couple of hours.

DSC_0178 -1Monday morning dawned brilliantly! Clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. Diamonds sparkled across the snow and in the branches of the trees. We had our coffee outside, and ate orange cranberry muffins. We finally caved to the begging Whiskey Jacks and shared our crumbs. They were obviously used to people and came very close to us. One even hopped onto Arno’s boot, so we got out the camera and took a bunch of bird photos.

Look at this bold little guy

Look at this bold little guy

I'm sitting with the birds. (Look! It's so warm I'm not even wearing gloves!)

I’m sitting with the birds. (Look! It’s so warm I’m not even wearing gloves!)

The hike out was amazingly beautiful. So warm I took off my snow pants and just hiked in leggings. We counted people heading up and passed 16 of them! Only two had full packs, so the rest were just day hikers. I was doubly glad we had stomped the trail for them.

Sun through leaves near the trailhead

Sun through leaves near the trailhead

Mt. Jefferson in snow-capped loveliness

Mt. Jefferson in snow-capped loveliness, as we hiked out on Monday.

After the Goat Rocks hike, Arno asked me to pick a future weekend to squeeze in one last hike. My schedule is often full, and the first date that looked promising was Columbus Day weekend, which would be three days off due to the federal holiday. I planned not to work overtime, to give us three days in a row to play in the mountains.

Since then the government shut down, and though I had to continue working, the mandatory overtime policy was temporarily canceled. Shut downs don’t allow a holiday off, so we were all furloughed for one day on Monday. Ha, ha, the stuff the government comes up with in order to conform to its own silly structure. In any case, the weekend arrived with all three days still available.

We picked Jefferson Park as our destination, because Internet photos showed it to be beautiful, and because neither of us had been there. Jefferson Park includes the area surrounding a group of lakes at the base of Mt. Jefferson, Oregon. The hike from the trailhead is an easy climb – only 1800 feet – in 5.2 miles.

I assumed the weather would be cold.  The forecast was for a chance of rain/snow showers Saturday, then dry the next two days. With Arno’s help I have collected a decent amount of cold weather gear. He brought his super-duper winter sleepingbag for me. I indulged and brought the thick, full-length sleeping pad which is heavy & bulky for backpacking, but I expected it would be worth it to get myself off the cold ground.

Maybe I haven’t told you, but I am a fair-weather camper. I like hiking in shorts and a tank top. I like jumping into snowmelt lakes for a refreshing swim. However, to get fabulous fall foliage views, I was prepared to be be cold for a few days. As long as I was warm at night, I could take it. With a fire to warm my hands in the evening, even better!

This is the trail we followed to Scout Lake.

This is the trail we followed to Scout Lake. Click the image for the source.

Information boards and no available permits at the Whitewater Trailhead

Information boards and no available permits at the rainy Whitewater Trailhead

DSC_0199 -1It was raining when we arrived at the Whitewater Trailhead. I went to fill out a mandatory camping permit, but all the blank permits had been used and were jammed into the box for collection. I went to use the outhouse and there was no toilet paper. Seasoned traveler that I am, I noticed this the moment I stepped in the door, and went back to the truck for paper. Coming back to the outhouse, I noticed the sign on the door, which explained the source of the problems.

We reasoned that if Rangers had been furloughed, then no Ranger would be on the trails checking to see if we had a permit. After gearing up in the rain, we headed up the trail.

The trail was in good shape because it wound across mostly rocky areas and wasn’t muddy from the rain. In a short while, the rain switched to snain, and then full-on snow. We had one creek crossing that wasn’t too much trouble. I was not concerned about the snow falling. What caught my attention was that as we climbed higher, there was an increasing amount of snow already on the ground, from the previous week of heavy precipitation. Arno had hiked Mt. Hood the week before, and saw that snow level remained above 6000 feet, and we guessed that it would be the same here. We had guessed wrong.

Snow starts to come down hard as I realize our destination is a much higher elevation.

Snow starts to come down hard as I realize our destination is a much higher elevation.

We passed three women and an older couple coming out of the park after day hikes. They confirmed for us that there was a lot of snow around the lakes. The man said he sank up to his knees. It was still a little hard to imagine the depth of the snow they were describing, since I had my mind set on fall colours. Luckily we were well-dressed and stayed warm as we climbed higher.

Soon our trail merged with the Pacific Crest Trail, and we followed that famous border-to-border trail for the rest of our hike.

The first lake we spotted was Scout Lake. It was beautiful and inviting and I pressed Arno to leave the trail and investigate for signs of a place to camp. I was still sort of hoping for a clear patch, but gave up hope rather quickly.

The trail we made from the PCT to get to our camp.

The trail we made from the PCT to get to our camp.

We were the first people to leave the packed down PCT since the snow had fallen. It was about two feet deep at the point where we left the trail. Arno suggests 1 1/2 feet deep. Either way, it’s a lot to break trail through.

We found a beautiful spot on a hill above Scout Lake, with Park Butte to the north and Mt. Jefferson to our south. There was an area large enough for a tent, and Arno showed me how to tromp down the snow into a hard-packed surface so that we could pitch our tent on top of it. I have never camped ON snow before. I recalled hunting camp as a kid, when sometimes we’d wake in the morning to a couple fresh inches of snow on the tent. But this was an entirely new experience and I had some anxiety. I am finding that Arno pushes me outside my comfort zone on a pretty regular basis, but so far I’ve come away better each time, so it’s ok.

The snow had stopped, and as the darkness fell, the setting sun dropped below a cloud deck and struck beams out across the water for us to marvel at. (In case you’re wondering, the sunny photos from this post are from Monday, when we hiked out, since the first photos I took on grey, foggy, snowy Saturday are not as nice.)

Tent on snow. Brrr!

Tent on snow. Brrr! That is Scout Lake, and you can barely see Park Butte.

Arno began making dinner and I tromped through the snow gathering firewood. It was hard to find anything dry, since the previous week had been so very wet. I gathered the sticks with the most potential, and made a heap on top of the snow. I am the pyro of the family, and my record has been so far unblemished. But this time my skills failed me. The wood was sopping wet and I had nothing dry to start with. Even the lichen, that I typically use to get everything going, was soaking wet. I had brought a new box of matches, and thought to myself I will sacrifice the whole box of matches for the cause. The matches were dry wood, after all. I thought if I could hold a match flame up to a stick for a long enough time, it would have to dry it out enough to burn it. One after another match burned till I used the entire box, successfully burning the branches I aimed for, but nothing else. Then realized I now had a dry paper box to burn! I borrowed Arno’s lighter, carefully placed the cardboard matches box and pressed tiny branches all around it and burned the box to no avail. Every so often, I could eek out a couple minutes of flames, which would heat the nearby branches and burn them up, and set my hopes soaring. Like the effect of slot machines, those tiny near-victories kept me coming back. My competitive nature, my pyromania, my pride, kept me at it for 30 minutes. I just KNEW if only I could get a decent burst of flame, I could get it all going properly. But fuel…. I needed paper!

Before we left home, Arno had photocopied the big map to get just our trail onto one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet that I could carry while he had the big map. It was paper. But a little voice in my head squeaked Isn’t burning your map kind of crazy? I asked Arno, “Can I burn the map now?” He looked dubious, but agreed. We had found our destination, after all, and we had a second map. Again I carefully prepped it all, placed the driest lichen, the best tiny branches, and the paper charred and smoked and sparked a little, and burned up without doing me a bit of good. Then the lighter ran out of fluid. It had to be a sign. I quit for good. To help me resist the temptation to go after the last book of matches (Look, I’m not stupid enough to use up ALL our flame, ha ha), I carried away all the dry branches I had gathered and scattered them in the heaps of snow away from camp.

By this time, dinner was nearly ready. We were cold and the bacon carbonara with sun dried tomatoes was warm and delicious. Whiskey Jacks (grey jays) showed up to see if we had any food to share yet. We got to talking about the ingredients for mulled wine and got the idea to heat our evening’s wine on the stove. Brilliant! Hot wine in the snow: one more “first” to add to my list.

Before we went to sleep, the moon became visible in the clearing sky. I had not brought a tripod, so I leaned against a tree to get a few night shots of the mountain above us.

{Read my post for Day Two and Day Three here.}

The moon waxing over Mt. Jefferson, as viewed from camp.

The moon waxing over Mt. Jefferson, as viewed from camp.

A recent email from my boyfriend, Arno, was so entertaining I asked if I could make a blog post out of it. He gave his permission. Following is his email, unedited.

Arno at the stone hut on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood Oregon

Arno at the stone hut on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood Oregon

Driving up to the ski area (where the Tilly Jane trail head is) I turned off of Hwy 35 just after a northbound Toyota Landcruiser with Canadian plates. The Landcruiser was older (but not too old). It had a lift kit and oversize wheels, with more of a “go places trail worthy” look than the overbuilt penis compensating look. It also had a roof rack and an air intake snorkel. The easy guess was that the driver and passengers were young(ish) adventurers from up north, eh.

I followed it up the twisty road to Cooper Spur inn, and then it turned and ended up going all the way to the same Tilly Jane parking lot that I was going to. I pulled in and parked, and got out to start putting on my boots. The driver of the Landcruiser got out and wandered over to the trail head sign. Then he saw me and wandered over. It turned out that the rather capable looking Landcruiser was being piloted by a 72 year old retired engineer and co-piloted by his 65 year old wife. They were from Parksville BC which is on Vancouver Island (not to be confused with Vancouver the city) BC. They make an annual pilgrimage to Oregon to play around and their plan had been to drive up to the Cloud Cap parking lot eight miles further up the road. But the road is closed at Tilly Jane. That’s why the guy came over to talk to me, he wanted to know why the road was closed. I explained the Hazard Tree harvesting project this summer, and we talked briefly about forest fire management. He looked disappointed to have to hike up from so far down (I’d given him the data on how far it was to tree line). Then I asked if he and his wife had ever hiked Tamawanas falls. It turned out that they hadn’t, and it sounded a much better time to them than hiking up Tilly Jane. They thanked me and drove away.

It was not too cold (48F) and only mizzle when I started, so I warmed up quickly. I tried to hike slow enough to keep my rain shell on, but kept getting hot, so eventually I took off the shell and hiked in just my long sleeve thin icebreaker base layer shirt. The mizzle was light enough that I wasn’t getting too terribly wet (I kept my rain pants on cuz they were too much of a pain to change out of). The lower part of the trail, within the first half mile, has a couple of sections of soggy trail where people have put down logs. With all of the recent rain, the trail was a complete bog in places. Even the logs seemed soggy. Fortunately, my boots are exceedingly waterproof.

About a mile up the trail I caught a bit of brown motion in my peripheral vision and stopped. There were three doe black tail deer standing about 20 meters uphill from me, all three watching me intently. I stayed where I was and talked quietly, saying “hello my deer, how are you?” They didn’t answer back, but they didn’t take off running either. I keep talking gently, and started walking again. And they stayed where they were, I guess deciding that I was safe enough they didn’t have to run. Believe it or not this is the first time that I’ve seen deer on that trail. It struck me as odd at the time, but I guess it probably isn’t all that strange. It’s the time of year that deer move to lower elevations and this is the first time I’ve hiked that trail in late September.

About a half mile farther up the trail, more brown motion. This time, a solitary buck. When I saw him he was already in “cartoon” mode. He was moving from north to south, with that four footed jumping motion that deer can do. That casual, effortless looking spring into the air that says, “Hey, look at me you possible predator. I’m fast and springy and it’s really not even worth thinking about trying to chase me and eat me because I can spring away from you so fast it will make your head spin”. It was wonderful to watch him bound across the trail.

As I neared the Tilly Jane A-frame, patches of snow appeared on the ground, and the mizzle started to change over to sleet, then snain, and finally at the A-frame itself it was snowing, but only lightly. I stopped briefly to eat a ham sandwich that I’d packed. The only layer that I added for warmth was my rain shell, and that proved a little too light. I started to get chilled, but didn’t really want to dig out extra clothing, so instead I ate only half the sandwich, then packed up and started hiking again to generate heat, this time leaving my rain shell on for added warmth.

From the A-frame, the trail goes through woods for almost a mile before reaching the Timberline trail about a thousand feet higher up the mountain. As I gained altitude, the wind howled louder in the trees, and the snow both fell heavier and covered the trail more heavily. At first, there was only slush on the trail and spots of snow. By the time I was in the stunted growth trees, there was 6-8″ of snow on the trail. As I closed in on tree line, the snow was at least a foot deep. I paused to pull up my hood, contemplated getting out my ski goggles (it was obvious that once I cleared the trees the snow would be blowing sideways) and kept going.

It’s only a few hundred meters from the shelter of the trees to the shelter of the stone hut. The wind was spectacular. It was foggy, snowing, and blowing snow. I did a mental check to see if I remembered the compass heading back to the trail as I exited the trees. I could still see the trees, but if the clouds closed in only a little more, I could lose sight of the trees only 20 meters away. A compass is a useful tool. I didn’t want to get lost!  I go to the stone hut, took a picture, contemplated eating, then decided that the weather was worsening and opted to start back down instead. In the 20 minutes it took me to clear the tree line and get to the hut, and then start back, the wind and snow were strong enough that my tracks, punched through 18 inches of snow, were already almost covered over in places. The sky was noticeably darker, the wind stronger, the snow stinging. These were the kind of conditions that can get people who don’t know what they’re doing.

On my way down, back in the trees, mostly out of the wind. I was hiking along, making very good time descending, and was close enough to the A-frame that there wasn’t much snow on the trail. I came around a bend in the trail and almost ran into a guy in a yellow rain shell. He was more surprised than I was and actually let out a little shriek. We both stopped, and exchanged basic greetings. He was very surprised to see anyone else on the trail, and asked how much farther it was to the stone hut. I told him it was about half a mile and asked if he’d been up there before. He said that he had, but not by this trail. He’d always driven up before and taken the upper trail from the old Cloud Cap Inn, but with the road closed he’d been forced to hike. He then explained that his grandmother in-law had died the previous year, and they’d taken her ashes up to the moraine by the stone hut (he didn’t say moraine, he said the edge of the valley with the view, but he meant the moraine). Then he continued his story, saying that his grandfather in law had just passed away, and the family wanted his ashes spread at the same place. He was the one that got to do the extra-long hike to do the job.

He seemed reasonably well prepared based on his gear and how he was using it. I was a little concerned that he wouldn’t be prepared for the transition in weather above tree line (it really was like night and day with the wind and snow, vs where we were standing having a conversation). I actually contemplated asking if he wanted me to go up with him, but then decided against it. I told him how much farther he had to go, mentioned the wind and snow and how my tracks started to get covered up pretty quickly and asked in a left handed way if he had a compass with him (he did, in his pack, I almost suggested that he should take it out now before he hits the wind so that he would have it to take a bearing, but I stopped short of saying that. I just suggested that taking a compass bearing above treeline was a good idea.

And then I resumed my descent. I ate the other half of my sandwich at the A-frame on the way down. Marveled at the worsening weather (the mizzle was a very solid rain at the lower elevation), and didn’t see any more deer. Back at the truck I changed into dry layers and then headed home.

So, like I had texted you, a moderately eventful trip.

The retired folks with the mondo 4×4 were entertaining and unexpected. The guy carrying his grandfather in-law’s ashes reminded me of the closing scene in the movie “The Bucket List”. And also reminded me that I want someone to do that with my ashes. Maybe even haul my ashes up Cooper spur. Only it would have to be past the stone hut to at least the top of the pyramid at 8K feet. The view is better there.

-Your mountain geek.

The stunning Mt. Hood in early December

Feeling the tug of a winterscape, my girl and I drove west to Mt. Hood; it’s brilliant white peak beckoning from Portland. We were blessed with a sunny, blue-sky day that set the mountain off to perfection.

Me and Terra in front of the mountain

We were nearly at the mountain before our landscape became a true wintry wonderland, but the trip was relatively short and oh, so worth it! At the base of the road to Timberline Lodge, we stopped to pick up two young snowboarders.

“What are you doing stranded out here at the bottom of the mountain with no ride?” I asked.

“There’s a place to ski all the way to the bottom,” they answered, “but there is no lift to take us back from here. So we hitch back up!”

The seven mile road to the lodge was solid snow pack, but well sanded, so my little Saturn dragon-wagon made it up with barely a slip. I took the chance with no chains (Saturns can’t use them), and no snow tires, but the gamble paid off. We let the boarders out, parked, and were up to our knees in snow in no time.

playing

winter

After the snow soaked through our clothes, and the mountain wind did it’s best at us, we went inside the lodge and found a roaring fire where we could brush the snow off onto the hearth. Timberline is one of the few old time lodges that, to me, are the only authentic ski lodges. Terra’s dad and I were unable to find lodges like this in Vermont when we lived there, which is sad.

Timberline

inside

The windows of the lodge look up the mountain as well as down, with panoramic views of Oregon and skiers in all directions. The second floor opens up to the third, which contains a restaurant where diners can look outside onto the snow or inside onto skiers taking a break on the sofas or reading books by the fire. Timberline has a three-story fireplace (don’t ask me how it’s done) in the center. The first floor has an old U.S. Forest Service museum of sorts, which brings back warm fuzzy childhood memories of growing up in a Forest Service family.

fireplace

pool

We explored all over the building, found an outdoor heated pool with heaps of snow melting over the edges, and many impressive wood carvings and details throughout. Once warm again, we trekked back outside and played in the snow a little more before heading back down. This time the sun was lower, causing ice to firm up on the road, and the dragon wagon did some sliding around on the way down. Yipes.

looking down the mountain

At the bottom of the hill, I looked, and sure enough I spotted the hill the snowboarders were talking about. I also spotted three more skiers hoping to hitch back up to the top!

This is a scene we like to see in December!

Next we drove out to our campsite from the summer, to see if the road was plowed to it, in case we wanted to do any winter camping. The plowed road stopped just short of the camp turn off. We parked and walked the remainder of the way, meeting others out walking dogs and cross-country skiing. I snapped some more photos of the stunning Mt. Hood in waning sunshine, and we made our happy way home.

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