Tag Archives: Oregon

The first cross country ski adventure of the season!

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Thursday, 30-Dec-2021


After my friend Mike headed out, I went up to the mountain!

The storm hadn’t fully receded yet, but it had definitely calmed down quite a bit. And, more importantly, traffic was pretty much non-existant. I mean, in comparison to the usual traffic on this road, that is. For some reason, the drive to Mt. Hood just… it just takes so much longer than it logically should. I mean, it’s 70 miles. Mostly on highways. Why does it take 2 hours???


Anyways. Drive looked good, I had newly waxed cross country skiis, and I was feeling energetic after having some good socialization time. Tossed the gear in the car, filled my coffee thermos with some hot drink, and headed into the blizzard!



Now I know what you’re thinking.

“Ben! How could you take pictures while driving in the snow???”

“Well, other-Ben, As you can see there’s quite a bit of space between me and the next car… that’s because traffic was moving at approximately 20mph, and had pretty frequent stops. Thankfully this was only for a short distance, but those stops gave me just enough time to snap a picture while waiting to make sure the car in front of me didn’t backslide into my sweet snow-stang”

Yeah. The drive was… not as bad as it could have been, thankfully. But it was still slow once we got to the snow.

Thankfully, traffic petered out pretty quickly after one initial slowdown, and I was able to make it to the trailhead without much difficulty. I should clarify – I didn’t go to the originally-planned trailhead.


See, I love Elk Meadows, so that was my original plan. I had my hiking ski boots on (ski boots that are crampon compatible, and comfortable for ascending in), crampons, and everything ready for some vertical movement… but the roads and conditions were getting pretty bad as I passed the pullout for the Timberline Lodge. I probably could have made it, but I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous or risky today.

Instead, I stopped at Trillium Lake – usually jam-packed with people, but thanks to the snow it was only packed. I was able to find a pretty safe parking spot without much difficulty, geared up, and headed in!



The trail was beautiful and fun – Deep snow, clear going, and nicely downhill pretty much the whole way.

Then I made a mistake.

I went off-trail, excited that I had newly-waxed skis that I thought could take me anywhere. And they could! Anywhere that was downhill.



When I hit a river and decided to turn back, I learned the mistake I’d made. Remember how I mentioned that the skis were newly-waxed? Well… the folks that had waxed them put a nice, thick layer on… just like you’d do for downhill skis. But Cross Country skis have little scales on the bottom to grip the snow, giving you traction when you push off. Scales that are small, and easily covered by a thick layer of wax…

Going into the adventure, I hadn’t noticed that the scales were covered up. Downhill I’d just glided beautifully, no issue and no hassle.

When I tried to climb back uphill though, I was stuck. I stepped forward, and the ski slid backward. I actually made negative progress for a little while.

I tried taking the skis off and just hiking out. No dice – the snow was 3+ ft deep, not something I could crawl through.

I tried going sideways. No dice – the trees were thick, and I didn’t quite have the room to manouver.


I legitimately got scared for a while – I had the safety gear to be okay, of course, and even call for help if absolutely necessary… but I really didn’t want to have to send up a satellite beacon because my skis were slippery.

After quite a bit of sliding and falling and being frustrated (okay, maybe like 20min, max) I was able to struggle my way out of the low-ground. It was mostly a lot of creative switchbacks, using poles and trees for leverage, and more pizza-walking than I ever expected to do on a pair of cross country skis.



With my escape made, I seriously considered just turning back and heading home. I was tired, and had walked quite a bit in the last few days… and after nearly getting stuck in the deep powder, you can’t blame me for wanting a bit of an escape from my escape into the woods, right?

So I rested a bit, had a bite to eat, and drank some water from my unfrozen water bottle. I even chatted with some other skiers who, ironically, were having the opposite problem than I was! Their skis were sticking quite a bit on the heavy snow, and they were having just as rough of a time making headway as I was.


With my spirits buoyed by the snacks, and knowing I wasn’t along in my struggles, I forged onward. Instead of turning around, I stuck to the groomed trail for the rest of the trek – gliding pretty easily, though still being quite frustrated every so often by the backsliding that my skis were doing.

After a while though, it seems like the thickest part of the wax rubbed off enough that I could almost get traction! This gave me enough speed to make it all the way to the lake, where I got some… well, not views, really. but I did see the lake! Sort of.



Since there weren’t really any views, and the lake was completely exposed to the driving snow and biting wind, I headed back into tree cover. Ate a quick bite of lunch in a conveniently placed shelter, and took the chance to relax and enjoy the sheer simple quiet that fresh falling snow gives.

I think that’s one of my favorite parts about the winter. The simple quiet of the world… It was cold, sure, but I had the right gear to keep myself warm. And in that simple comfort, the entire world seemed completely still and utterly serene… not a single sound aside from those I made myself.

I rested a while, and even took the chance to patch up some holes in my snow pants, since I was warm enough without them. But daylight waits for no one, not even as intrepid an adventurer as I am, so I did have a timeline to keep. I ate a few more slices of brie, rearmored myself in the snow layers, packed the warmth layers into my backpack, and headed back toward the car.



I’ll admit – I was worried about the way back. My skis were getting a bit better traction, sure, but it still wasn’t optimal… and if you recall, the route from the car was mostly downhill. I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to get enough traction to get up the trail easily.

In the end, my concern was well founded. My skis didn’t cut it, but that’s where having backup plans come into play – I just took them off and hiked out in my boots. No hassle, no mess, and no forging through deep snow, thanks to the groomed trail. Soon enough, I was back to the car and warming myself up for the long trafficy slog home…

A visit to the Portland Zoo!

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Wednesday, 29-Dec-2021


For the second day that my friend Mike was in town, we’d originally planned on heading to the snow – Mt. Hood, specifically, aiming to do some hiking up on the flanks of the mountain.

But… plans change, sometimes – Like I mentioned in a previous post, we were in the middle of a pretty intense cold snap. While we had quite good snow-travel options (a chained-up Mustang and an all-wheel drive Mazda with top of the line snow tires), the actual traction part wasn’t really a concern. The real challenge with snow driving in Oregon is, unfortunately, other drivers.

See… Driving in the snow is easy. If you’ve grown up with it.

I think I’ve mentioned, but most of Oregon doesn’t really get snow, or any seasons aside from “rain” and “not-rain”. So very few people (it seems, at least) are used to driving in the snow.

That means that, when snow does show up in unexpected places, traffic gets bad. Like, “30-min commute turns into 6 hours” level of bad.


Mike and I… we weren’t really feeling a long traffic-filled drive. Not really feeling it at all.

So instead, we went to the Oregon Zoo!




Going to Zoos isn’t really something that I’ve regularly done historically… but in the past few years I’ve been re-introduced to the idea… and honestly, it makes for a really fun day out. The Oregon Zoo especially – I love how well their habitats are made, and how the pathway through the zoo just melds seamlessly between one environment into the next. It’s a really cool experience, and if you haven’t gone then I very much recommend it.



So we walked, chatted some more, and saw lots of animals. It was neat.


Afterward, we got home just in time for a really nice sunset walk, and… this is really starting to sound like a date, isn’t it?



You know what? What can I say – I hadn’t seen Mike in ages, and it’s been nearly as long since I’ve had a really good date to go all out on… so yeah. Then I cooked an awesome dinner.

It wasn’t a date, damnit!



Yeah, maybe it was a little bit of a bro-date. A lot a bit of a bro-date.

It was a really good day, wasn’t it?

A beach in winter

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Tuesday, 28-Dec-2021


My friend Mike came to visit!

It’s been a while since I’ve seen him – Back over spring break, if I’m remembering correctly, and I was super psyched to hear that he’d have some free time over Christmas to come up to Oregon and visit. I came up with tons of plans – keeping in mind that weather would be a pretty major contributing factor to what trouble we got into.

Without giving a full blow-by-blow of the adventure, I’ll fill you in on a snapshot of the conditions we found ourselves in: The world was burning down (or rampantly infected, more accurately) with the Omicron variant of COVID. Mt. Hood was getting belted with a full-power winter snowstorm. The roads between Mike and I were similarly under a snowy assault. And, to top it all off, both of us were pretty well burned out from the rest of the adventures of the year.

So what do you do when the whole world seems a little bit crazy?

Go to the beach! Duh.




“But Ben! Those are pictures of snow! That’s not the beach!”

“Right you are, other Ben! For you see… Mt. Hood and Mt. Shasta weren’t the only places getting pummeled with persistent precipitation! The roads to the beach were also under snow!”

But hey. We’re two New England boys, in Mike’s car with brand new snow tires. We got to the beach without any difficulty or fuss.



Once at the beach, we grabbed some lunch at a local Brewery before walking said lunch off exploring the coastline.

Have I mentioned that Oregon is beautiful?

Let me reiterate that fact:

Oregon.
Is.
Beautiful.

The walk was perfect – for me, at least, but I’m pretty confident that it was exactly what both of us needed. Low-Key, relaxed conversation. With a gorgeous background.



And no – I’m not going to transcribe everything we talked about. Because that would be crazy. And, while I’m absolutely crazy, I’m thankfully not that kind of crazy.

Though… Maybe someday we’ll start a podcast or something. Pretty sure our crazy would sell pretty well. Maybe.

For now – Enjoy a few interesting signs that we saw before the final installment on the day’s adventure!




**CONTENT WARNING**

***BUG AHEAD***

****WE WENT TO RED LOBSTER ON THE DRIVE BACK****

(I didn’t even know we had Red Lobster, to be honest. Many thanks to Mike for introducing me to Maine Lobsters in Oregon!)