Winter here got off to a strong start, with a magnificent snow dump over the Christmas holidays. This encouraged what were, perhaps, optimistic expectations. We thought that this first big snowfall would settle, additional snow would follow, and then we’d go snowshoeing under “ideal” conditions. But after that big one, it’s been nothing but clear skies, warm days, cold nights, and dry, dry, dry. That earlier snow has been melting and compacting for weeks. So, rather than wait for mythical “ideal” conditions, we decided to just put on our snowshoes and go.
Three years ago, we’d tried to snowshoe to the summit of Burton Butte (6,090 ft / 1,855 m). This tree-shrouded and otherwise unremarkable named high point sits just east of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and south of Lake of the Woods. On our first try, there was plenty of snow. A lot of snow. Snow that was deep and soft and (in the afternoon) sticky. Snow that was exhausting to plow through. Although that snowshoe hike proved to be a great workout, it didn’t take us to the top of Burton. Hiker’s honor demanded a rematch here.
We threw our snowshoes into the truck not knowing if there would be enough snow on Burton this year for us to even need them. Fortunately, such pessimism was misplaced. There was, on average, about 2 feet (60 cm) of snow remaining. Slick icy spots and breakable crust in morning, with some softness and scattered posthole opportunities in the afternoon. The traction claws got good use going up and we needed the flotation to ease the journey back in the afternoon. It proved to be a day for needing snowshoes. 😀
From the Pederson Sno-Park on DIM Highway (where is was 25℉ / -3.8℃ when we started), we made our way cross-country through the forest to Forest Road (FR) 3862 – a little used dirt road that curls around the south side of Burton and then ends. We followed FR 3862 south and up to a junction with FR 3862-240. These old roads are relatively easy to snowshoe on and there were even some old Nordic ski tracks in evidence.
A little ways up FR 3862-240, we struck off cross-country toward the summit through open forest and a few snow-covered meadows.
The top of Burton is marked by a few gigantic boulders strewn among the trees. Unlike some of the other peaks in this area, Burton was never home to a fire lookout and the trees here are the primordial originals. So we did some stooping and ducking and weaving to catch a glimpse of Mount McLoughlin through these trees. Otherwise there are no views.
From the top, we charted a straight, path-of-least-resistance course down through the forest and meadows to FR 3862-240 and then retraced our steps back to the trailhead.
Overall, a very good day in the forest. 😁 True, there’s not much to Burton Butte but it was great exercise getting there and back (6.1 miles (9.8 km) round-trip, with 750 feet (229 m) of elevation gain). And we actually needed our snowshoes! By the time we returned to the trailhead, the air temperature had risen to 50℉ / 10℃, continuing the current pattern of below “normal” nighttime temps and above “normal” daytime ones. But then we no longer think of historic normal as much of a guide to our future weather.
We decided to spend the calorie credits we’d just earned – and set aside (at least temporarily) thoughts of ominous portent re: the climate – by having a late lunch / early dinner at Caldera 🍔🍺 on the way home. Doing that made for a truly great day! 🤩
You can probably follow our tracks part of the way! 😉
This is a timely post as I am planning to go to Burton Butte as part of the Summits on the Air amateur radio game this coming weekend. I’m trying to get all of the winter bonus points that I can! 🙂
I was planning to bring my snowshoes, now I know I definitely will want them! Thank you for sharing!