Tag Archives: Oregon

In which Ben takes a winter walk, and pretends to be a lumberjack

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Friday and Saturday, 12 & 13-Feb-2021



Portland doesn’t really see much winter. Sure, there’s a dusting of snow once or twice. Every few years a bit of accumulation, maybe. But nothing that sticks around for very long, and temperatures almost never get below freezing. Wilsonville’s a bit further South, and farther from the river, so we see even less out here.

Less doesn’t mean none, though.

This time, we got ice. Not a little ice either, but quite a lot of ice. Tree-snapping, power-line breaking, road closing and car enshrouding ice. Multiple inches thick, solid accumulating ice.


It was quite a surprise, actually. I’ve gotten so used to the regular weather of Oregon (sun in the summer, rain in the winter) that I don’t really even look at the weather reports. If I bike in the summer, I don’t bring rain gear. If I bike in the winter, I wear the rain gear regardless. It’s simple and predictable.

When I heard trees starting to shatter on Thursday night… well, that’s not quite what I expected to hear on Thursday night.

When I got going in the morning, the first order of business was to sneak outside and assess the damage… mostly because I’m understandably paranoid about my freshly-repaired convertible… since everyone knows that Mustangs, while clearly the coolest thing on the road, aren’t particularly resilient to falling trees. You know, unarmored canvas tops and all.

Thankfully, while quite a few limbs had fallen nearby (or slid into the car, in some cases) no real damage was to be found. The real issue was the sidewalks – with so many trees and limbs down, most of the roads and sidewalks around my place were impassable.

The roads were out of my reach – the trees fallen across the roads were huge, and fell in ways that weren’t safe for me to try and remove without power tools and far more experience than I have.

The sidewalks, however… those were small enough branches that my axe and I could do some solid work. A quick breakfast was had, and then branches were hacked apart by the energized Ben. Partially energized by the breakfast, but mostly energized by finally having a chance to swing an axe for a good cause!

With all of that completed, I put all the tools away and set out for a bit of a winter wonderland walk.

With rain gear secured, and a helmet on my head to protect against the constant icefall from the trees, I headed out into the great Wilsonville arctic wilderness! My first stop was exploring the nearby park, though on the way I ran into a few other adventurous souls exploring around, and we even grouped up to pull a few of the larger branches out of the streets and off of the sidewalks… but overall, I saw almost no one on my wanderings – the park was beautifully quiet, though the ever present sound of icefall and snapping tree limbs did keep me pretty well focused on the present.

It was really nice, honestly, and quite helpful for keeping a present mind. Which makes sense, since… you know… falling tree limbs and such.

I wandered, explored, enjoyed taking photos, and greatly appreciated the chance to feel the cold. It’s been ages since it’s really felt like winter…

In Oregon, winter almost always stays in its little box up in the mountains, which can be nice when you’re commuting, but it definitely leaves me feeling a little sad and stuck. I’ve missed waking up to a snowstorm, to snow days, and to forging around town through the cold on a completely unnecessary quest to get some silly thing to cook for dinner. It’s not about the destination, but it’s about forging out into the cold, and feeling like an intrepid explorer!

Thanks to this unexpected ice storm, I got to relive a bit of that adventure – and even better, it was all melted away by the time I had to get in the car and drive to work on Monday morning.

I guess there can be some advantages to winter staying in its corner, after all.

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

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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 – Hiking Elk Meadows

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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.