The last few weekends, I’ve been up in the mountains. Snow, cold weather, beautifully crisp air… I love it.
Sometimes, we need a change of scenery though – Sticking with the theme of the weekend, I was hiking with a friend today, and she’d gotten into a crash while snowboarding back on Friday… so she wasn’t quite feeling like hanging out in the snow, which is rather understandable after cracking your helmet after flying through a whiteout.
We went in the other direction, trading cold snow and crisp air for warm breezes and salt spray!
Falcon’s Crest is a fairly short hike, with a surprising amount of mud in that short hike… but it’s a beautiful few miles, with light elevation gain and excellent views. The trees are covered in Moss, the forest is lush and green throughout the year… and while you can’t quite smell the sea air, you can still somehow sense that the ocean is nearby. Maybe it’s the subtle noise of the breakers, or the salt tint to the breeze… I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but it’s still always an amazing feeling.
We hiked in, avoided as much mud as we could, and enjoyed a nice snack out on the point overlooking the waves.
We hiked back, rested for a while on a bench by the beach, and watched the surfers rock the breaking waves. Having Aliona along, I got to learn quite a bit about the surfers… or more accurately, the waves that they were chasing. That’s what I love about meeting new people, and spending time with friends – you can always learn more about something, if you have someone along for the ride to talk to.
Every activity has such surprising depth to it, and I truly love getting to learn the intricacies behind why people are doing what they’re doing.
After beach-gazing for a while, we headed back to the parking lot for a quick snack before driving back to town – Aliona pulled out a full camp cooking kitchen from the back of her car, and I got to enjoy a rather amazing late-lunch of indian-spiced ramen noodles. Not something I’ve ever thought to try, but it was gloriously delicious – smooth, spicy… an excellent end to a beautifully salt-sprayed day!
I’ve lived near it for years, now… and somehow, this winter is really the first time since probably 2017 that I’ve regularly gone up to visit. I love the snow, and I’m finally remembering just how much I can enjoy getting out onto the snow fields.
This weekend was a little unique – instead of going on a long solo adventure, I went with someone! Woo actually socializing! Go Ben!
It was a weekend of firsts – My friend Laurel had retreated into her winter cocoon for a while, so this was the first time I’d seen her since the Oregon rains has swept into town. It was also her first time putting chains on her truck, and her first time on cross country skis! Double-win, for double excitement! We met up in Portland, transferred probably too much gear from my car into her truck, and headed out toward the mountain with grins on our faces; there’d been a storm a few days prior, and the forecast was looking beautifully blustery.
Perfect weather to cross country ski in, right?
Things went pretty much exactly as planned – The roads before Mt. Hood were nice and clear, with a bit of rain and a smattering of traffic… but not much of either, thankfully. We ate breakfast sandwiches as we drove, stopping for coffee along the way. Soon enough we got to the pull off where the traffic cameras showed snow starting to accumulate, and we pulled over to put the chains on the truck before grinding upward into the snow.
Laurel did gloriously; not having much trouble getting the chains on, and then holding a steady hand on the wheel as we forged upward in elevation. Really, not much to say past that – the drive went well, with surprisingly few other cars doing strange things. People… seemed to be pretty sane this weekend, driving slowly and cautiously, with not a single person sliding sideways down the highway (unlike last weekend).
We parked, geared up, and headed into the snow.
The terrain was glorious – the snow was a bit deeper than it had been the weekend before when I was backpacking, but traveling was much quicker thanks to the skis, and the fact that I wasn’t carrying a 40lb backpack through the snow drifts.
Similarly to driving, Laurel did great on the skis – and as always, I got a deeper appreciation for the activity myself after seeing someone new taking to it. It’s why I love teaching people, and exposing people to new things – when you show someone something new, you have the chance to see it through their eyes for a few moments… and remember what it was like the first time you tried that activity.
It’s awesome, and I really appreciate getting to remember just how special and fun some of these adventures of mine are… especially when they start to become almost routine.
We skied ’till we couldn’t ski anymore.
Literally – we got right up to the foot of the glacier, where the trees stop and the mountain begins. It was beautiful.
It was beautiful, but also rather intimidating. Mt. Hood made it clear that we weren’t quite welcome today; the wind picked up as we left the cover of the trees, to the point that making forward progress was basically impossible… and seeing more than 10ft in front of ourselves was completely out of the question.
We’d come far enough though – our goal had always been just to explore and enjoy skiing, while catching up on the last few months, and we were accomplishing that goal quite well. So we didn’t press our luck – we took a short break in the lee of a tree, to have some cocoa and a quick snack of brownie bites. Then, headed back down the mountain toward the parking lot.
The way down was… interesting.
See, Laurel had rented her skis, which meant that they were in great condition and well waxed. Myself, on the other hand, had my pair of hand-me-down skis that some old neighbors had gifted me when they moved out of town. I haven’t ever waxed them, and I’ve been going on quite a few trips so far this year.
When we started downhill, I was pretty quickly left behind. One of my skis was still pretty well waxed, but the other was noticeably less so. But I’m nothing if not resourceful, so as we descended I pretty quickly got the hang of… well, basically skateboarding down the mountain. I’d balance mostly on my waxed ski, pushing off with my unwaxed one. I could control my speed pretty well, and was able to keep my fear of crashing to a pretty controlled unease.
I couldn’t quite keep up, still, but I think I did pretty well, all things considered.
After we arrived back at the truck, the cocoa thermos came out again. Sandwiches were made, cocoa was drank, and views were admired.
We drove home, a drive as uneventful as the drive up, thankfully. Nice and simple – a very good day on the mountain.
Then I got home, after transferring my inordinate amount of gear back into my own car, and found out that Laurel had sneakily attached a tiny hand to my antenna. The danger of hanging out with friends again – the pranks resume.
Sometimes, I go on an adventure to get somewhere or to accomplish a specific goal.
More often though, I go to feel something or to experience something. You know, the whole “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” sort of thing? I enjoy that – the sense of exploration and experience, being able to be in the moment. Instead of chasing after a specific goal or location, chasing a feeling or an experience!
The goal of this adventure was to feel like an alpinist. An explorer from a bygone era, someone forging into the arctic unknown, battling the elements in the hope of being the first person to explore a new land.
Let me tell you, I found that feeling. The cold, the solitude, and the savage wilderness. Untouched snow, piled high for me to forge my way through… not that the trail was unwelcoming, more that it was testing me, to make sure that I really knew what it had in store for me.
See, this is what happens when I have a great time. I get poetic and junk.
It was beautiful, is the short version.
I drove up on Friday, in the late morning.
I didn’t rush my departure – the roads were in pretty good condition, but the longer that I let them bake in the sun, the less chance I’d need to stop on the side of the road to put the chains on the Mustang. I’d also get to sleep in a bit more, which is always a bonus too… so I combined the two and felt quite secure when I left the house around 11:30 or so.
The drive went smoothly, and my delayed departure paid off when I made it all the way to the far end of the parking lot without any concern about traction. I parked, coordinated my gear, chatted with the Boy Scout troop setting up camp next to me, and then forged forward on the trail.
The first mile or so was gloriously easy – the trail had been packed down beautifully by all the sledders, and I made quite good time. My crampons crunched, my poles poked, and the snow drifted lazily around me… just a simple and crisp walk in the woods.
As a side note – that’s one of the biggest things I’ve missed in the last few years. The crisp air; I think it’s the smell of ice, and possibly snow, that you smell when you walk outside for the first time on a cold morning. I hadn’t been snow camping in years, and now that I’m on my own I’ve been more times this winter than in the last four years… and I’ve finally rediscovered that beautiful smell of fresh snow and crisp air.
Anyways, I tramped onward, up the trail toward the Timberline trail.
Soon enough, the packed snow faltered and vanished as I walked past the last good sledding hill. There were a few cross country ski tracks, but trying to follow them was actually more challenging than just forging my own path – when I walked in their tracks, my feet would hold for a moment before breaking through the snow layer… which basically meant that I was doing step-ups the whole time, and then wading through the snow.
Instead, I opted to just wade through the knee-high snow straight away. Slow, plodding steps took me another mile and a half, give or take, before I called it a night. I needed time to set up camp, and trust be told I was exhausted. The powdery snow of the Cascades is definitely easier to push through than the concrete snow of some other mountains, but… it’s still tiring, man.
Once I found a suitable campsite, nicely sheltered in the lee of a small tree, I marked out a nice 10ft x 15ft pad, and then spent 30min or so trampling it down into a nice packed campsite. I had little walls around me to shelter the tent, and I even made a cute little cooking nook to plop the stove on. It was lovely, and I quickly set about pitching my tent and cooking up a nice dinner.
The rest of the evening was glorious – quietly watching the sunset, and then watching the lights from the nearby ski resort wink into brightness. Resting in the tent, then reading… all while nice and warm in my sleeping bag, listening to the snow fall on the tent before the wind scattered it back away.
I slept really well, to the surprise of absolutely no one.
I woke up to a beautiful green glow, as the sun started shining through the green plastic of the tent.
It was pretty well muted though, and I made sure to knock the accumulated snow down from the fly before I sallied forth to make breakfast (and coffee, of course). It was a beautiful day, and I had a great time (notice a theme, here?) sipping my steaming coffee and wolfing down some sausage and gravy breakfast… sharing some with the Gray Jays that somehow always find me whenever I’m on the mountain.
Fortified, I packed up camp, marked my gear, and then left it at the campsite while I headed upward toward the base of the glacier. I was half planning on going up to where I’d been back in mid-January. I made it pretty far, but didn’t venture up onto the glacier itself… as the day wore on, the snow was getting a bit more intense, and I wasn’t quite up for trying to go too high up without any heavier gear… or at least my ice axe to self-arrest in case I slipped.
That’s not to say it was snowy and bleak the whole time, though!
The sun absolutely peeked out quite a few times, and I was able to get some beautiful views of the trail and the snow every time it came out from behind a cloud. It was a reminder of just how variable the weather can be, and just how beautiful every day on the mountain can be. Ahhhhhhh I miss it, if you can’t tell. Sitting at home by the fire, sipping lemon water in my warm clothes… I love both places, but there’s always a special place in my heart for the snow.
I hiked, I headed back, grabbed my gear, and walked down to the Mustang.
There’s not much more to the story from here – the hike out was lovely, with views just as awesome as those when I was hiking up. Packing up the car went smoothly, especially since the Boy Scouts let me use their warming tent to change into my driving clothes. I put the chains on the car quickly and easily, and the drive was… well, not smooth thanks to all the folks having trouble with the road conditions… but it went easily.
The Mustang was fine with its chains, and I wasn’t in a hurry. I’d spent the last few days bashing my way through deep snow… an hour or three of sitting on a heated seat was a nice change of pace.