Tag Archives: Mt. Hood national forest

Cross Country skiing up the mountain… a little ways up the mountain, at least.

Standard

Saturday, 27-Feb-2021

Mount Hood.

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?

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.

A Thanksgiving adventure – Hiking Elk Meadows

Standard

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.