Mount Ashland is our local ski area and also a Sno-Park. During the last two drought years, it suffered mightily from a lack of snow – to the point where it didn’t open for skiing at all in 2015 and had to get an emergency loan to survive. This winter – thanks in large part to El Niño – there was plenty of snow and the lifts were running on a regular schedule. The two days of the week when the ski area is closed is a perfect time to use the Sno-Park as the starting point for cross-country skiing or (in our case) a snowshoe hike in the forests and snow-covered meadows to the west.
We had managed two previous showshoes here – one out to the Grouse Gap Shelter which was abandoned when the LovedOne’s new snowshoes malfunctioned and another to the summit of Mount Ashland in the face of an on-coming storm (very cold and windy) – but one which accented Mount Shasta very nicely. Today, armed with new snowshoes and near perfect weather, we headed out to hit the summit, the shelter, and finish the loop we’d tried earlier. Conditions were optimal (and the moon was still up) as we started up the service road (actually NFDR 20) from the Sno-Park.
A short ways up the road, we turned north and went directly uphill toward the summit, with Mt. Shasta keeping us company on the horizon to the south,
and Mount McLoughlin to the east.
Hiking Mount Ashland is hardly a wilderness experience because – aside from the ski lift – its summit is adorned with NEXRAD (the “soccer ball”) and communication sites. It’s kind of erie being shadowed by what looks like a huge soccer ball.
But the summit does provide expansive views all around – Mount McLoughlin to the east,
the Red Butte Wilderness to the west,
and the Siskiyous and Siskiyou Wilderness to the southwest. By this time last year, thanks (?) to the snow-free conditions brought by the drought, we’d already done several hikes along the Siskiyou Crest and in the Red Buttes Wilderness. While we appreciated these early hiking opportunities, it’s much better all around to have the snow now and do our hiking later.
From the summit, we continued west along the ridge toward Grouse Gap, noting the bare patches indicative of the melt-out getting underway.
We crossed the meadow area below the Gap,
with Mount Ashland now looming above us.
After about 2 miles, we came to the turn-off to the shelter – a popular destination and gathering place both winter and summer. It reflects the extremely sturdy construction of its Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) roots.
From here, we had the option of either going back the way you came or of continuing south on a snow-covered road for a bit and then going cross-country to the east to connect with FR 40S15 which would take us back to the Sno-Park. We chose the latter and ended-up doing a somewhat exciting traverse in to and out of the upper reaches of Grouse Creek – which was choked with snowbridges and open holes – before finally connecting with the road.
Then it was east on the road, below the ever looming NEXRAD dome,
to the Sno-Park. A short (6 miles RT, 1500′ elevation gain) but very fun snowshoe under perfect conditions.