Tag Archives: Snow

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 – Camping in Vantage, Washington

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A Thanksgiving adventure – Camping in Vantage, Washington

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...

From Sunday, 29-Nov-2020 through Monday, 30-Nov-2020



I am drunk, and I am happy.

It’s been ages since I’ve been camping in the desert, and even longer since I’ve sat out under the stars by a campfire. This one is well-earned too – scrounged firewood from the various other campers, who’d headed home to Portland and Seattle earlier in the day.

The drink was earned too – This was my second-to-last night before heading back to work, and the ending of my first Thanksgiving vacation alone… ever, in fact. I’d driven nearly five hours from my home in Wilsonville to get here, and the views of the stars that I have right now were worth every second on the road.




Sunday, late morning


The day started quietly… just like nearly every other day of this vacation.


I got up, had a bite to eat, and finished packing up my gear into the Mustang. Then I got onto the road – stopping for a latte and a bagel for the road first, of course, but mostly just cruising on the open road, listening to music and enjoying the serenity of having a destination still hours in the future.

That’s something that I discussed with my councilor, during and shortly after my breakup with Sarah, that’s stuck with me – Everyone needs their own form of meditation, and for ages I was missing mine. One of the best ways for me to meditate, it turns out, is long drives… something that I got regularly in Boston driving up into New Hampshire, and something that I got while living in Hood River, and driving out to Portland.

Unsurprisingly, commuting to and from work didn’t quite scratch that itch… and now that I’m aware of it, I can enjoy drives like this even more.

So I drove.

As the sun set down toward the horizon, I got further into Washington, and closer to camp. My plan for the evening was simply to set up camp, have a quick dinner, and then enjoy the quiet of the desert night. Maybe have a fire, if I could scavenge enough firewood that had been left behind by other campers over the weekend.

As you may have guessed from the into to this post, dear reader, I succeeded in all of those goals.


Firewood was found – not a lot, but easily enough to have a quiet little fire that needed minimal tending.

Dinner was cooked, and fairly quickly scarfed down under the open sky.

Relaxation, and whiskey, were both had while sitting by the fire in my fold-out camp chair, staring up at the stars as the moon rose over the cliffs.




Monday morning


It snowed overnight!

I love waking up to snow – really anytime that I don’t have to shovel it, but especially when I’m waking up in a tent, looking out over a snow covered field.

The sun was quickly melting everything it touched though, so I quickly got myself moving and made a lovely quick breakfast and cup of coffee, enjoying the smell of the snow, and the crisp air for as long as I could.


Of course, as the day wore on the air warmed up quite nicely, and soon enough I was hiking around in just a long sleeve shirt, exploring and enjoying the landscape. Normally when I’d drive up to Vantage, it would be to climb… but since I was solo this time I spent the time wandering around places that I hadn’t had reason to go to before – the trails around the clifftops, farther down the ridgeline, all of those neat places that I’d passed by previously.

There’s not too much to say about them, aside from that it was completely beautiful and excellently relaxing. No stress, no timeline, and no pressure. Just enjoying the views and playing photographer until the sun started to set.

As the sun got closer to the horizon, I headed back to camp to pack up and start the drive home.

As we get closer to the solstice, it definitely does stink that the days keep getting shorter and shorter… but as with everything there’s a definite silver lining to be had – I was able to photograph during golden hour, and was still on track to get home before 9pm!

That was, until I got back to camp and ran into a subtle delay in plans… As I walked back, I could see my car from quite a ways away. I noticed, though, that I couldn’t quite see my tent though…

As I got closer, it became very obvious that my tent was, in fact, not standing next to my car. Now, one advantage to camping is that it never even crossed my mind that someone could have stolen it. That’s literally unthinkable, thankfully. Instead, I noticed the gusting wind, blowing sand, and remembered just how windy is can get at Vantage during the day – especially in the campground.

I was starting to formulate search plans to find my wayward camping gear when I arrived back, and was pleasantly surprised at just how amazing people really are – someone had saved my gear! My tent, with sleeping bag and everything still rolled up inside, was packed tightly down under my car, secured with a few rocks from nearby.

I spent a bit of time cleaning it up and packing it fully into the car, before wandering off in search of my mysterious benefactor.

I asked a few folks around if they’d been the ones to help me, or if they’d seen the ones who’d saved my gear, with the goal of gifting them my bottle of scotch as a thank-you gift. Unfortunately no one had seen anything, but on the way back to my car I was able to return the favor when I found someone else’s tent in the same predicament that mine had been – their camp was strewn around, thankfully caught on a few bushes, with their tent maybe 200 yards downhill, in a small gully.

As a return of karma, I was able to pack their gear up, secure it with a few rocks, and hopefully make someone’s day just a little bit brighter than it would have been otherwise.

With that happy, karmically-balanced, ending point… I drove off. Back onto the main highway, through the hills, quickly rolling back the miles to home.