A Thanksgiving adventure – Backpacking Elk Meadows
Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. This is my first year being single in half a decade, and thanks to the COVID Pandemic it’s also the first year that I can’t travel, and don’t have any friends still in town. I’m flying solo, have a ton of vacation to burn, and am feeling energetic...
Monday and Tuesday, 23 & 24-Nov-2020
This… looks really similar to the previous post. Which is because it was, in fact, very similar!
Instead of hiking Elk Meadows as a day-hike though, I went as an overnighter – Nothing too intense, but an excellent chance to get out of the house, out of the city, and out of the insanity of what the entire year has become. Instead, I could get into the woods, the quiet, and the calm crisp air of winter.
Ohh man, did I succeed.
It was beautiful, cold, and amazing. I started out late in the day, similar to when I’d hiked… with the advantage that I didn’t have to make my way back to the car after I got to the meadows. In trade, I had the downside of schlepping my pack along with me… and since it was winter camping, it was a solid 45lbs, food and water included. But, thanks to good boots, poles, and fairly consistent time on the stairmaster, I was able to cruise up to the meadows pretty much as quickly as I’d done the previous time… It took a little longer, but not as much as I’d expected.
Once I was there… ohh man. Not much more snow had fallen, it seemed, but getting to watch the sun set over Mt. Hood while I was cooking up dinner was truly sublime.
The rest of the night was just spent… being quiet. I can’t really describe exactly what I got up to… It wasn’t really anything, truthfully. I read a little, but mostly I just took the chance to be. To be quiet, to be under the stars, and to feel the cold slowly seeping into me. I know that sounds like a negative thing… but believe me, it wasn’t. It’s something I hadn’t realized quite how much I’ve missed, living in Oregon, but I love the feeling of camping in the snow, and feeling the cold slowly engulf you.
It’s calm, and quiet. It’s beautifully relaxing, and it makes worming my way into the sleeping bag that much better afterward.
The next morning, I awoke to the comforting sound of cannon fire, ringing out across the mountain.
Yeah, that… that was definitely cannon fire.
Well, I was camped sort of near the ski area? So… that’s probably what it was?
I was worried for a few moments. I couldn’t imagine anyone triggering an avalanche anywhere near where I was, and I know that I’d camped in a quite safe spot (off to the side of the meadow in the trees, far away from any high-angle snow) but it was still definitely a disconcerting way to wake up.
Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures from the day… I’d turned my phone off overnight to save battery, but I’d left it in the pocket of the tent. Which, as it turned out, got extremely cold… cold enough to nearly kill the battery completely. I had a portable charger back at the car, of course, but that wasn’t going to help me out on the trail. Since my camera is also my phone, which is one of my pieces of safety equipment, I wasn’t going to risk it just to get a few extra pictures.
So accept my apologies, and enjoy the few pictures that did snap, before I realized just how low the battery had gotten.
As has become tradition at Elk Meadows, I breakfasted with a family of small birds – Gray Jays I believe – who flittered around and kept me company. Or, more accurately, constantly tried to literally jump inside my cup of coffee. It’s warm, I guess, and seemed to make a good change of pace from trying to jump inside my breakfast.
Freaking birds are lucky that they’re cute.
The rest of the day went beautifully. I kept the theme going, pretending to be an intrepid explorer by breaking new trails, exploring the meadow, and appreciating the crisp air of the mountain.
Elk Meadows is at roughly 5,200ft elevation… so not quite as high as Denver, but definitely a noticeable increase from Wilsonville’s 150ft elevation. It’s enough that I noticed it, but not enough that I was really winded while breaking trail… Combined with the cool air and snow, and it made for an amazing experience.
When I got back to camp, ready to pack up, I was happily tired out, and ready for the quick snack I had before heading down the trail back to the car. Packing the tent was a bit interesting, since the day’s sun had melted a lot of snow on the trees… leading to my tent getting completely soaked from the constant drip of meltwater. But that’s why I carry a spare (clean) trashbag with me, and soon enough I was heading back to the car – with the plan to hang my tent up as soon as I got home.