Tag Archives: Elk Meadows

Cross Country Skiing out to Elk Meadows – Saturday, 19-Dec-2020


Saturday, 19-Dec-2020

Elk Meadows really is my go-to destination for the second half of this year, isn’t it?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it does make quite a bit of sense, if you think about it… It’s quite close to home (compared to most other things), it’s fairly empty, and it’s not too long… with quite nice views at the top. It’s also nicely segmented – there’s the flat starting section, then the river crossing, then the steep section, and then the final flat section.

It’s exactly what I want these days – simplicity, consistency, and meeting expectations.

As always, Elk Meadows provided.

The hike started out a bit late, and a bit non-standard… the usual parking lot was snowed in, and so I had to park at the Mt. Hood Nordic Ski Center… not a bad thing, since it was mostly plowed, but it did lead to a slightly different start to the trail. It was a small variation though, and added a bit of interesting spice to the hike – so totally acceptable in my book.

The rest of the trail cruised by pretty much as normal – I skied the flat bits, carried them for the steeper bits, and took them completely off once I crossed the river and started up the really steep bit.

About a year ago I had bought a new pair of cross country ski boots… which is a weird thing to add to a blog, but bear with me. They were a bit more expensive than I’d planned, but they had the huge advantage that they were really hiking boots with ski clips. They were comfortable, warm, and had connection points for crampons, which is exactly what I needed for this hike.

Once I was over the river, the skis were strapped to my backpack, the crampons strapped to my feet, and up, up, up I went through the switchbacks. It went fairly quickly… but I’ll freely admit that it was much harder than I was expecting. The snow was a little deeper than usual, sure, but the real challenge was having these massive, six and a half foot long skis strapped to my back. I kept kicking them, or catching them on trees, and they’re heavier than you’d expect… at least heavier than I expected.

But it went. Slowly but surely, grinding up the trail ’till I made it to the last flat section.

Which turns out not to be flat, but to be slightly downhill… and thankfully, exactly the right amount of downhill that I was able to safely and happily slide my way nearly the whole way onto the Elk Meadows boundary trail. That’s where the beaten path ended, and the “normal” people would simply walk through the wood into a small part of the meadows, take a picture, and then go home. At least, or so the tracks showed me.

Which was awesome, because it meant I had completely untouched snow to ski on!

It was beautiful.

The snow had a nice crust of ice on top – not enough to be annoying or unpleasant, but just enough to help keep me from sinking completely into the powder below. It rasped beautifully; not loud enough to be frustrating, but just enough that it kept that excellent feel of winter exploration going.

I cruised through the meadow, stopping constantly to take pictures and say hi to my little feathered friends that I’ve gotten to know over the course of the year. They were as inquisitive (read: hungry) as always, and even came by to perch on my hand and ice axe a few times. They didn’t really ride along with me, unfortunately, but they were still awesome and fun to spend some time with.

I took a short break at the Elk Meadows shelter, which looked like it had been pulled straight out of a painting, and read a bit as the sun started dipping below the horizon. I enjoyed the quiet, relaxed, and got myself ready for the return trip…

When I forged out from the shelter the snow and wind had started whipping up and the sky was getting darker. It was gorgeous, and the falling snow gave the whole meadow an amazing arctic feeling. That sense was what I had ventured out looking for – the feeling of exploration, and of driving snow hammering down around me.

It was perfect, and the ski / hike out back to the car was exactly what I had been hoping for, and exactly what I needed to help me get myself psyched up for the week ahead.

A Thanksgiving adventure – Backpacking Elk Meadows


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.

A Thanksgiving adventure – Hiking Elk Meadows


A Thanksgiving adventure – Hiking 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...

Saturday, 21-Nov-2020

My first adventure of the week was low-key, just a quick hike in the snow up to Elk meadows, on the flanks of Mt. Hood. Somehow, Elk Meadows has become my go-to hike this year… it’s straightforward, a medium-length drive, not too difficult. Something about it just speaks to me, and I’ve embraced this unexpected friendship.

Today’s hike was an out-and-back, not staying overnight and not packing too much gear. It also wasn’t particularly rushed… which is to say, I didn’t leave the house until somewhere around noon thirty or one o’clock. Which… could have been a problem, when the sun sets around four-thirty. But it wasn’t any concern – this is a relaxed week, not a time to stress out. If then sun sets on me as I hike out… so what? I’ve got warm gear, I’ve got headlamps, and I’ve got crampons for when the trail ices over.

It’s all good.

If the sun sets while I’m up, that just means that I’ll get pretty sunset pictures.

By the time I parked at the snowy trailhead, I was pretty confident that I’d be getting those sunset pictures. Parking itself was interesting, but not particularly challenging thankfully. The road in was snow-covered, but the Mustang performed just as well as I knew it would, easily getting me parked nice and close to the trailhead itself.

The hike in?

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

The trail was heavily snowed in, of course, but had been nicely packed down by the days traffic, so I was able to make quite good time, only post-holing a couple of times. I appreciated those instances though, since they served to remind me just how deep the snow was – hiking, it’d be easy to make the mistake of thinking that the snow was only four or five inches deep… but that was just the difference between the trail and the top layer. Below the packed trail was a solid two or threw feet of snow before you actually made it to ground level.

That snow-cover gave the whole forest a beautiful feeling. “Winter Wonderland” comes closest to describing it, and I enjoyed every minute of the hike up to the Meadow. And when I got to the meadow itself? Wonderland overload.

Seriously – Elk Meadows in the winter is amazing.

The snow was untouched, except for a faint trail etched through the snow heading off into the distance toward Mt. Hood. Mt Hood itself stood proud in the afternoon light like a sentinel, and the trees slowly swayed in their winter coats. It was beautiful, and I’d timed it perfectly to see the first rays of the sunset start hitting the mountain.

I spent quite a while just enjoying the sights and sounds. I had the meadow compleely to myself, as seems to be the norm these days, and I took the time to appreciate the solitude and rustle of the wind before heading out into the meadow itself.

I love walking in the snow – it’s not easy, of course, and breaking trail absolutely builds up a sweat surprisingly quickly… but I still love the feeling of forging into the wilderness. There’s something about it that makes me feel like an intrepid explorer, breaking trail and forging onward to unseen glories.

I forged onward, explored the meadow, and enjoyed the crisp air as the sun dipped down below the horizon. My headlamp came out, snacks were snacked upon, and I was careful to keep sipping water so that my camelback wouldn’t freeze.

In short? Perfect. Simply, absolutely, perfect.

Getting back to the car was no problem at all, and thankfully nor was pulling out from the snow-covered trailhead. The Mustang once again proved its worth… or at least the combination of car & driver proved their worth, and soon enough I was cruising through the mountain roads back toward home. Slowly and carefully, thanks to the slowly icing conditions… but consistently just the same.

That would be the theme to the week – and a good one, to be sure. Slowly but consistently, moving forward and onward.