Burton Butte (Southwest Oregon) 06-Feb-2022

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.

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Mount Ashland Snowshoe (Southwest Oregon) 03-Mar-2021

March? So soon? One day we’re buying our annual Sno-Park pass and the next the snow is melting. More storms are forecast but they’ll increasingly bring rain (if we’re lucky) rather than snow. Winter isn’t a protracted business here – our local ski area typically closes at the end of April. In just another month or so, we’ll be going on and on about wildflowers – which, although very good things, are not snow. So although we had some longer hikes in mind for today, we decided instead to do a short, but aerobic, snowshoe sprint to the summit of Mount Ashland. Get the blood flowing. Feel a cold wind in our faces. Discover seemingly bottomless voids in the snow cover. Totter over steep slopes with boards strapped to our feet. Take in the view. Further amortize our snow pass. And so on…

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Daley Creek Snowshoe (Ashland, Oregon) 04-Feb-2021

The weather had alternated between wet and dry for a few days, with an inversion fog in the valley. Then a really big storm blew through yesterday, leaving in its wake a nice layer of fresh powder snow in the high country. We’d been confined to town by volunteering, work, and the weather. But when today dawned bright and clear and our schedules were (suspiciously) empty, we took the opportunity to head up to the Deadwood Junction Sno-Park for a snowshoe hike near Daley Creek. This particular route had been on our to do list for a few years, ever since we saw it on the Ashland Hiking Group’s website.

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Brown Mountain Snowshoe (Southwest Oregon) 18-Jan-2021

We had a nice, big (for Southwest Oregon) snowstorm at the start of 2021. This allowed us a first-of-the-year snowshoe below Mount Ashland through wonderfully fluffy powder snow. Since then, however, not much frozen joy has fallen from the sky. What has descended is a little more rain at warmer temperatures. We are, of course, hoping for colder temperatures and more snow before Spring – mainly because that snow is our water supply. In the interim, we figured it would be prudent to do some snowshoeing on what snow we have. In addition, getting above the thick fog (again) shrouding the valley seemed like a great idea. Plus, we could slap a little more amortization on this year’s annual Sno-Park permit. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Bull Gap Snowshoe (Mount Ashland) 05-Jan-2021

Finally, finally, 2021 has arrived and the year that will no longer be named is gone. We’re all hoping the year ahead will be better and brighter. And we’re willing to believe it will – in time. But the Big V is still loose in the land, and the vac jabs are running late, so there’s likely to be more suffering to endure before it’s over. We’ll get there. In the meantime, we’re not going to heap so many “wonderful” expectations on still fresh 2021 that it suffers performance anxiety and disappoints. It’s fine with us if it just ends up being – gasp! – boring. ๐Ÿ™„

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Summit Shelter Snowshoe (Oregon) 06-Jan-2020

Trail sign for the Jackson Klamath Winter Trails system outside Klamath Falls, Oregon

Today the snow telemetry (SNOTEL) site at Billie Creek Divide indicated a snow depth of just 25 inches – less than half the historical median depth for this day. o_O But we deemed it enough to snowshoe some of the Jackson Klamath Winter Trails near Billie Creek. These trails are old roads that wind their way through the forest starting from the Summit Sno-Park off Highway 140. We sketched out a figure-8 loop on the Petunia, McLoughlin, and Lower Canal Nordic Trails with the Summit Shelter as our goal (and turn-around point).

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Burton Butte Snowshoe (Oregon) 14-Mar-2019

Yes, we’ve had plenty of snow this winter. Plenty of snow. So one would think we’ve been snowshoeing like crazy these past few months. No. The snow this year came in waves, plastering the mountain roads each time. By the time the roads were clear, or at least not too exciting to drive, the next storm hit. The snow itself was beautiful, soft, DEEP powder – superb for skiing, not so for snowshoeing. So we waited until the storms eased, the roads were clearer, and the snow had settled some. Looking for something different, we spied Burton Butte (6,090 feet), sitting about a mile southeast of the Pedersen Sno-Park on the Dead Indian Memorial Highway. There’s an old road (Forest Road (FR) 3862) that runs almost to its broad summit – a road we thought might work with snowshoes. So on a cold, but otherwise bluebird morning, we drove up to the sno-park,

Just a little snow at the sno-park

geared-up,

The LovedOne pretending I can’t see her ๐Ÿ™„

and headed south on the snow-covered Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), following a few blue blazers and an obvious divot in the snow. The snow – of which there was A LOT – was powdery, soft, and totally untracked – an amazingly pristine experience in a crowded world.

Following the PCT’s divot through deep snow (arrow points to a PCT blazer)
Along the PCT
Going in 8-12 inches even with snowshoes

After about 0.75 miles on the PCT, we turned east into an area that aerial photographs show as an old clear cut, now some 20 years or so into regrowth. Unlike the more open PCT, here we had to thread our way through smaller, more tightly packed trees, each laden with snow blobs. The LovedOne also managed to collapse a snow-covered air pocket, almost getting her snowshoe stuck under a buried tree as a result.

Almost trapped…

After less than a half mile of wending our way through this young forest, we came to FR 3862, which was also totally untracked. We’re guessing that it may not appeal to snowmobilers since it doesn’t connect directly to any other roads.

On FR 3862

As we went up the road in the brilliant sunshine, we noticed that the snow was losing its powdery quality and becoming “stickier” so that it now clung to our poles and shoes. Our hike was becoming seriously aerobic as muscles not used to repetitively lifting clots of snow came into play. Our original plan had been to follow FR 3862 to FR 3862-240, follow that to near the top of the butte, and then go cross-country to the top. But, as we rounded the butte’s southwestern ridge, we decided it would be easier (or no harder) to just leave the road and strike directly up the very gently sloping ridge. We took the appearance of a dynamically balanced snow sculpture as affirmation of this decision…

Snow sculpture or directional portent?

Going up through the trees was somewhat easier than working through the softening snow on the road and we soon emerged in to a big open meadow now thickly covered with a smooth blanket of absolutely pristine snow. Wonderful! This is probably a wildflower paradise in late spring and early summer.

Entering the meadow
An expanse of untouched snow
Our tracks and our tracks alone
Sunshine in the meadow
Shadows on snow

Had this been a dirt hike, we’d have just been getting started (these meadows are only two miles from the sno-park). But breaking trail in soft and sticky snow had taken its toll. Continuing on might have ruined an otherwise stellar day through overexertion. Plus the actual top of the butte is tree-covered and viewless. So we enjoyed the meadow a bit more, then headed back.

Contemplating our hike back
Back across the meadow
Back along FR 3862, with the tip (arrow) of Brown Mountain visible on the horizon
Back along the PCT

Despite being only 4.3 miles round-trip with 500 feet of gain, this hike had given us quite a work-out (certain muscles echoed this sentiment until silenced with ibuprofen). But this minor suffering was well worth it for the opportunity to cross untracked snow on a beautiful day to a big snowy meadow! ๐Ÿ˜€ And, with all this snow, there may be more than a few weeks left in the snowshoe season. And time for the snow to settle just a little bit more. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our track to the meadows on the side of Burton Butte
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Summit Shelter Snowshoe (Oregon) 13-Jan-2019

The Summit Shelter is nestled in the forest southeast of Mount McLoughlin, the most striking peak in Southern Oregon. In winter, the shelter can be accessed via a network of old roads converted to Nordic trails. The last time we visited the shelter was during the BIG snow winter of 2017. Snowfall thus far this year hasn’t been nearly that epic, but the Billie Creek Divide snow telemetry site (the closest one to the shelter) currently shows 30 inches on the ground. Plenty for snowshoeing if we stayed on the trails. So when the weather gurus promised us a full-on bluebird day, we had little choice but to unlimber the shoes and head for the forest.

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