Tag Archives: Winter hiking

A quick hike to Mirror Lake, 28-Dec-2020

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Monday, 28-Dec-2020



This will probably be be my last hike of 2020… Not that that’s a good, a bad, or any other type of thing… it’s just a thing, right? An interesting observation, for better or worse.

2020’s been an interesting year, to say the least, and I’m starting to write up some sort of overview post to go over what happened… but for now, I went on a hike to keep my mind occupied.

Instead of hitting up my go-to hike of the year, I went with a shorter, closer, and a bit more heavily trafficked hike – Mirror Lake, one of the first hikes by Hood that you run into on the drive from Portland (or Wilsonville, in my case. The parking lot was… pretty much exactly what I expected it to be, which is to say a madhouse, but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as my paranoia had convinced me it would be. There were still spots to park, at least, so… small victories, right?

With small victories come small hurdles though, and this hurdle was simply called “a lot of ice”. The parking lot, while not completely full of cars, was absolutely coated in a nice slick of ice… far slicker than the Mustang could navigate safely. I mean, I could absolutely have driven through it… but as I drove power to the wheels they’d started slewing to the side… which was enough of a risk of bumping someone that I held off on trying to out-drive the ice.

Instead, I put the chains of for literally the last 5ft of the drive… just enough to safely park without the car slipping or yawing into one of the cars on either side of me. Seems silly… but I’ll take the 5min to put on chains, over the 30min to trade insurance information any day.

With the car safely parked, I clipped on the crampons and headed into the beautiful winter wonderland that I’ve come to expect from Mt. Hood. This trail was far more trafficked, of course, but it was still gorgeous – tons of waterfalls, small rivers, and beautiful bridge crossings to keep me company.

There was quite a bit of foot traffic, of course, and I was quite thankful for my crampons giving me traction on the slick trail… one of the fun parts of winter hiking, when the whole trail turns to ice? Definitely thankful for the spiky bits attached to my boots.

Aside from the icy parts, the hike was beautifully relaxing and quiet… as quiet as it can be while passing people every few minutes, of course. Soon enough I was at the lake, circumnavigating along the ice, taking chances to admire the views of Hood, and have a few bites of my bars. Even relaxed and read a bit… once I found a nice little cove a bit off the beaten path, of course.

The hike wasn’t anything too crazy, but it was a nice chance to get into the snow, and away from town. I’m always thankful for the crisp air, and am already looking forward to the next chance I get to hike through the snow…

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.

A trip to Smith Rock

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Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 17, 18 & 19-Nov-2017

 

Bill and Greta, Sarah’s Mom and Dad, came to visit us for Thanksgiving this year!  Since they’d be visiting for the week ahead of Thanksgiving itself, we planned out a few various adventures for us all – the first one being a trip to finally show them Smith Rock!

 

We met Bill and Greta at the airport, complete with Ollie in her little Wonder Woman outfit.  After some impressive face licking and tail wagging we were back at the house, and then fairly quickly back on our way, driving South past Mt. Hood and down into central Oregon.  It was a bit of a hurricane, we’ll readily admit, but it payed impressive impressive dividends impressively quickly.

Sarah had put together an adventure for us all – Our first target was a small house that She’d reserved from AirBnB in Redmond; not right next to Smith itself, but pretty darn close in the scheme of things.  Sarah and I would usually just camp out while visiting Smith, but this time we had a request from Greta to fulfill – it was her birthday, and Scotland isn’t exactly known for exceptional steaks…

Yup – turns out, Scotland doesn’t have steaks like the US does.  They have whisky and mountains, deer and kilts… but no US-quality steaks.  But that’s something we could easily remedy – we hit up the butcher shop on our way out of town, and picked up a few rib eyes.  Once we were settled into the house, we set Sarah loose; we’d brought the cast iron skillets, the seasonings, and the tools.  Sarah has many skills that set her apart from the crowd, and one of those is definitely her skill with searing steaks up right.  Soon enough we were feasting, sipping wine, and settling in.

It was a lovely evening, especially after the whirlwind of driving, unpacking, repacking, and getting ourselves out to Smith.  We relaxed, caught up, and got ourselves ready for showing off our little playground in the desert.

Sarah and I have hiked and climbed at Smith Rock more times than I can count.  We’ve had epic adventures, relaxing days, and made tons of good memories.  Alongside that, Smith is a pretty unique piece of geology; a beautiful chunk of rock soaring out of the high desert.

Bill and Greta are both geologists, and have heard Sarah and I talk about climbs and hikes at Smith tons of times… but somehow, we’d never had a chance to all visit Smith together.  Now was our chance, and since they’d been doing a lot of hiking out in Scotland, we figured that it’d be pretty safe to drop all of us into the deep end, with a short hike called “The Misery Ridge Trail”.

 

It’s kind of miserable, from the first look of it: You hike a ways down into the valley, then hike all the way up to the top of the ridgeline, then back down for a long walk along the river before hiking back out of the valley.

We were in high spirits though, and needed to burn off the huge steaks that we’d eaten, so we got to it with a vengeance… and honestly had a really great time of it!  The hike always seems harder and longer than it actually is, and we all had a great time traipsing around, looking at the rock formations, and even doing a little bit of climbing on the far side of the trail, at a small cliff called Waterfall Slabs.  Mostly though, we just explored and enjoyed the walk.

 

Since the hike was the primary goal of the trip, we didn’t really have too much else planned.  After a bit of deliberation, we settled on finishing plans over dinner – sticking with the theme of “things you can’t find in Scotland”, we found an awesome BBQ pit-style restaurant and ordered a rather impressive pile of dinner for ourselves.  We gorged, tasted some pretty impressively delicious local beer, before heading back to the rental to continue catching up and relaxing.

 

Sunday dawned nice and early, to the delicious smell of re-heated brisket and ribs.  Our plans for the day, after devouring the leftovers from the night before, was to drive back to Portland while doing a hike in the Mt. Hood area.   It was mostly a chill day – the hike at Smith hadn’t been particularly intense, but it had still been enough that we weren’t planning on anything too intense the day right afterward.

Our hike turned out to be perfect – It was in an area that Ollie could run free, unlike Smith, and the trail was a gorgeous bouquet of winter wonderland covered in light snow and ice.  The trail we’d chosen was along a river, heading up into the mountains toward a few waterfalls; in short, gorgeous.

We hiked for a while, though we didn’t end up making it all the way to the final viewpoint – as the trail wound onward and upward, we started encountering more and more snow, followed by icier and icier conditions on the trail.  We finally hit our limit a ways in, when the path took us through a boulder field.  It had iced over nearly completely, and upward progress was basically impossible.  So we had a rest and a lunch break, before heading back toward the car, and to Portland.