We live about an hour and a half from Crater Lake National Park and, while we’ve visited several times, we don’t get to it (or at least the Rim) as often as we should. Too busy with tourists in the summer months; too challenged by snow and weather in the winter months. A little touch of guilt here – particularly now that there’s talk of privatizing National Parks and abolishing National Monuments (so sad, so stupid). So, yesterday, with the LovedOne mostly recovered from a bout of bronchitis, we went for a short – but amazing – snowshoe hike to Discovery Point on the lake’s west rim.
I usually like to take a break between hikes but what with the latest decent weather window only two-days wide, I felt impelled to do back-to-back hikes. With the LovedOne up in Portland for the Rose City Yarn Crawl, I felt empowered (or sufficiently unsupervised) to have yet another go at a winter climb of Kerby Peak in the Siskiyou Mountains east of Selma, Oregon. We’d first done this peak in the low-snow winter of 2015 (post) but had no luck in the “real” winter of 2016 – we’d turned back halfway when the LovedOne started postholing to her waist. We hadn’t taken snowshoes on that hike and so I thought if I tried it this winter with snowshoes then all would be different. This is not known as a winter hike – snowshoes or not – so I’m not sure what I was thinking here. Later, I would come to embrace this as yet another hike encouraged by hubris and deflected by irony…
As the latest manifestation of this winter’s active weather pattern wound down on Tuesday, the forecast said we would be granted two sunny, clear days during which we could renew our weather-burdened spirits. A not-too-hard snowshoe hike with a view seemed about right, so we selected Hobart Bluff in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as our goal. Hobart Bluff, reportedly named after a local rancher, is part of the first national monument to be protected solely on the strength of its biodiversity. It’s where the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges converge, creating a region of unusual biological diversity and varied landscapes. In summer, reaching Hobart Bluff is an easy, pleasant three or six mile (round-trip) day hike through white fir and oak/chaparral forests and high-country meadows to the Bluff’s craggy basalt cliffs with their expansive views of such peaks as Mount Shasta, Mount McLoughlin, and Pilot Rock. Getting to the Bluff in winter is another matter and our Plan A did not survive first contact with the snow.
Mount Ashland is our local ski area and also a Sno-Park. Thanks to the ski area, the Sno-Park, despite its being at 6,600 feet, is usually readily accessible with little, if any, winter driving drama. Thanks to plentiful snowfall these last two years (the current base is over 100 inches!), we’ve been able to use it for several snowshoe trips involving Grouse Gap Shelter and the summit of Mount Ashland. Last December, we started out for McDonald Peak, which is west of Grouse Gap and just north of the Siskiyou Crest, but stopped short once we saw the peak enveloped in clouds. With today predicted (correctly) to be a full bluebird day above the stagnant air clogging the valley floor, I (the LovedOne being preoccupied with sewing a sleeve on a sweater) headed up to the Sno-Park to have another go at McDonald.
It took a few days following the Great Storm for the weather to return to being abundently clear and sunny and for us to feel the urge to try out the volumes of snow the Storm had dumped on us. Having made the short snowshoe out-and-back to the South Brown Mountain Shelter before the Great Storm, we thought we’d try a little longer trip to the Summit Shelter. This shelter sits in a cluster of nordic trails (more details here) just north of Highway 140 near Lake of the Woods, Oregon; trails that are readily accessible from the deluxe (it has ample parking AND a pit toilet) Summit Sno-Park. It was clear, sunny, and about 12ºF when we pulled in to the sno-park, with its great view of Brown Mountain to the south (post).
In February of this year, I snowshoed to the summit of Brown Mountain (post), a relatively small shield volcano located in Oregon’s Klamath and Jackson counties, directly south of its more prominent neighbor, Mount McLoughlin. Then, later in the summer, we circumnavigated the mountain, on a combination of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and other local trails (post). While planning for these trips, I’d come across mention of the South Brown Mountain Shelter, lying just west of the PCT about two miles north of Dead Indian Memorial (DIM) Highway. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, which seems to have a plethora of shelters, they are few and far between on the PCT. Which, of course, made a visit to this one all that more attractive. So we waited until it could be done as an early Winter snowshoe and then drove – carefully – to where the PCT crosses the DIM at Pederson Sno-Park. This is an informal sno-park (with no amenities), so no permit is required to park there.
Mount Ashland is our local ski area and also a Sno-Park. Thanks to the ski area, the Sno-Park, despite its being at 6,600 feet, is usually readily accessible with little, if any, winter driving drama. 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) snowshoeing on the forested slopes and snow-covered meadows along the Siskiyou Crest to the west. Last winter (2015-16), thanks to the plentiful snow brought by an El Niño, we were able to do several snowshoe trips from here to the Grouse Gap Shelter, Grouse Creek, and the summit of Mount Ashland (post). A La Niña (El Niño’s flip side) now seems to be settling in, bringing with it substantial early season snow (the ski area opened a week early) and starting the winter of 2016-17 toward (we hope!) being as much frozen fun as was last winter!