Tag Archives: Winter hiking

Backpacking up the White River Glacier in the snow

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Friday and Saturday, 19 & 20-Feb-2021



Sometimes, I go on an adventure to get somewhere or to accomplish a specific goal.

More often though, I go to feel something or to experience something. You know, the whole “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” sort of thing? I enjoy that – the sense of exploration and experience, being able to be in the moment. Instead of chasing after a specific goal or location, chasing a feeling or an experience!

The goal of this adventure was to feel like an alpinist. An explorer from a bygone era, someone forging into the arctic unknown, battling the elements in the hope of being the first person to explore a new land.

Let me tell you, I found that feeling. The cold, the solitude, and the savage wilderness. Untouched snow, piled high for me to forge my way through… not that the trail was unwelcoming, more that it was testing me, to make sure that I really knew what it had in store for me.

See, this is what happens when I have a great time. I get poetic and junk.

It was beautiful, is the short version.




I drove up on Friday, in the late morning.

I didn’t rush my departure – the roads were in pretty good condition, but the longer that I let them bake in the sun, the less chance I’d need to stop on the side of the road to put the chains on the Mustang. I’d also get to sleep in a bit more, which is always a bonus too… so I combined the two and felt quite secure when I left the house around 11:30 or so.

The drive went smoothly, and my delayed departure paid off when I made it all the way to the far end of the parking lot without any concern about traction. I parked, coordinated my gear, chatted with the Boy Scout troop setting up camp next to me, and then forged forward on the trail.

The first mile or so was gloriously easy – the trail had been packed down beautifully by all the sledders, and I made quite good time. My crampons crunched, my poles poked, and the snow drifted lazily around me… just a simple and crisp walk in the woods.

As a side note – that’s one of the biggest things I’ve missed in the last few years. The crisp air; I think it’s the smell of ice, and possibly snow, that you smell when you walk outside for the first time on a cold morning. I hadn’t been snow camping in years, and now that I’m on my own I’ve been more times this winter than in the last four years… and I’ve finally rediscovered that beautiful smell of fresh snow and crisp air.

Anyways, I tramped onward, up the trail toward the Timberline trail.

Soon enough, the packed snow faltered and vanished as I walked past the last good sledding hill. There were a few cross country ski tracks, but trying to follow them was actually more challenging than just forging my own path – when I walked in their tracks, my feet would hold for a moment before breaking through the snow layer… which basically meant that I was doing step-ups the whole time, and then wading through the snow.

Instead, I opted to just wade through the knee-high snow straight away. Slow, plodding steps took me another mile and a half, give or take, before I called it a night. I needed time to set up camp, and trust be told I was exhausted. The powdery snow of the Cascades is definitely easier to push through than the concrete snow of some other mountains, but… it’s still tiring, man.

Once I found a suitable campsite, nicely sheltered in the lee of a small tree, I marked out a nice 10ft x 15ft pad, and then spent 30min or so trampling it down into a nice packed campsite. I had little walls around me to shelter the tent, and I even made a cute little cooking nook to plop the stove on. It was lovely, and I quickly set about pitching my tent and cooking up a nice dinner.

The rest of the evening was glorious – quietly watching the sunset, and then watching the lights from the nearby ski resort wink into brightness. Resting in the tent, then reading… all while nice and warm in my sleeping bag, listening to the snow fall on the tent before the wind scattered it back away.

I slept really well, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

I woke up to a beautiful green glow, as the sun started shining through the green plastic of the tent.

It was pretty well muted though, and I made sure to knock the accumulated snow down from the fly before I sallied forth to make breakfast (and coffee, of course). It was a beautiful day, and I had a great time (notice a theme, here?) sipping my steaming coffee and wolfing down some sausage and gravy breakfast… sharing some with the Gray Jays that somehow always find me whenever I’m on the mountain.

Fortified, I packed up camp, marked my gear, and then left it at the campsite while I headed upward toward the base of the glacier. I was half planning on going up to where I’d been back in mid-January. I made it pretty far, but didn’t venture up onto the glacier itself… as the day wore on, the snow was getting a bit more intense, and I wasn’t quite up for trying to go too high up without any heavier gear… or at least my ice axe to self-arrest in case I slipped.

That’s not to say it was snowy and bleak the whole time, though!

The sun absolutely peeked out quite a few times, and I was able to get some beautiful views of the trail and the snow every time it came out from behind a cloud. It was a reminder of just how variable the weather can be, and just how beautiful every day on the mountain can be. Ahhhhhhh I miss it, if you can’t tell. Sitting at home by the fire, sipping lemon water in my warm clothes… I love both places, but there’s always a special place in my heart for the snow.

I hiked, I headed back, grabbed my gear, and walked down to the Mustang.

There’s not much more to the story from here – the hike out was lovely, with views just as awesome as those when I was hiking up. Packing up the car went smoothly, especially since the Boy Scouts let me use their warming tent to change into my driving clothes. I put the chains on the car quickly and easily, and the drive was… well, not smooth thanks to all the folks having trouble with the road conditions… but it went easily.

The Mustang was fine with its chains, and I wasn’t in a hurry. I’d spent the last few days bashing my way through deep snow… an hour or three of sitting on a heated seat was a nice change of pace.

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.