Snow, But No Shoes (Mt. Ashland, Oregon) 12-Dec-2018

The Mount Ashland Ski Area opened last week, with about 24 inches of snow on its upper slopes.  Our one (and only) snowshoe last winter had been a flounder-fest to the top of Mount Ashland through snow too soft and thin to keep us out of the underlying brush. We ended-up shuffling back along the plowed road. ūüė• So, would there be enough snow lower down to support an out-and-back snowshoe to the Grouse Gap Shelter? Only field work could address this conundrum. Throwing the shoes and poles in the truck, we drove up to the Mount Ashland Sno-Park.  As soon as we got there, it was apparent that: (a) the snow was (again) too thin to keep us out of the brush if we tried going cross-country with snowshoes, (b) skiing would have been fun if we still had our Nordic skis, and (c) we could easily walk to the shelter without snowshoes.  So we had a nice five-mile walk out to the shelter and back along Forest Road 20 in weather that would have been perfect if clouds hadn’t blocked our view of Mount Shasta.  We also had the rare experience of ours being the only tracks in the snow for the last half-mile to the shelter!

Mount Ashland from the campground
Approaching the headwaters of Grouse Creek
Mount Ashland
Grouse Gap
Un-tracked tracks at Grouse Gap
Arriving at Grouse Gap Shelter with Mount Ashland in the distance
Grouse Gap Shelter

When we got to the shelter we found that douchbags ūüĎŅ had dumped piles of trash in it – way more than we could haul out in our packs. ūüė¶  People that do this are either used to wallowing in piles of trash, too stupid to find a garbage can, believe they are “entitled” to have someone else clean-up after them, or all of the above.  We assume the Forest Service will eventually come out and excavate this mess, thereby putting our tax dollars to work pampering idiots. ūüôĄ

Douchebags were here. And illiterate ones at that. ūüĎŅ

After fighting off having this garbage pile buzzkill our day, we headed back. Weather conditions remained full bluebird until just before the Sno-Park. Then the boiling pack of clouds in the Shasta Valley (that had blocked our view of Shasta for the entire day) managed to get a whiff of vapor as far up as the road. This added a touch of atmospheric complexity to our day. ūüôā 

Back to Grouse Gap
Back along Forest Road 20
The clouds finally make it as far up as the road
Cloudy here but clear by the time we passed the ski area
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McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

McDonald Peak Mount Ashland Oregon

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.

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A Day in the Snow (Mount Ashland, Oregon) 16-Dec-2016

Mount Ashland Oregon

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 Ni√Īo, 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 Ni√Īa (El Ni√Īo’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!

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Siskiyou Loop Road (Forest Road 20) 21-Aug-2016

Siskiyou Crest Drive Forest Road 20 Oregon

The recent run of 100+¬ļF days on the valley floor has been sapping¬†our enthusiasm for hiking, even at altitude. ¬†It hasn’t been cooling off as much at night, so even elevations above 6,000 feet have been getting¬†pretty warm before noon. ¬†So, if actual hiking wasn’t an appealing option, then we could at least drive around and look for¬†places to hike once the weather moderated. ¬†The drive we chose is called (at least by the U.S. Forest Service) “The Siskiyou Loop” (USFS brochure). ¬†The most interesting, and largely unpaved, part of this loop is Forest Road 20 (FR 20), which runs along the scenic¬†crest of the rugged Siskiyou Mountains¬†between the Applegate Valley to the west and Mount Ashland to the east. FR 20 provides access to several trailheads along the crest – including the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in several places.

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Mount Ashland Meadows 16-Aug-2016

Mount Ashland Meadows Oregon

Mount Ashland is our local ski area and this winter ‚Äď thanks in large part to El Ni√Īo ‚Äď there was plenty of snow and it was open on its regular winter schedule. ¬†On¬†the two days of the week it’s normally closed, we used the Sno-Park next to it as the starting point for three¬†snowshoe¬†hikes in the snow-covered forests and meadows to the west: one out-and-back to the Grouse Gap Shelter (post),¬†one¬†just to the summit of Mt. Ashland when a storm was rolling in, and, finally, a loop over the summit, out to the Shelter, and back partially cross-country on some steep snow¬†(post). ¬†But we’d never been up there in the summer!

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Mount Ashland Snowshoe 30-Mar-2016

Mount Ashland Oregon

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 Ni√Īo – 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.

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Grouse Gap Snowshoe (Mount Ashland) 27-Jan-2016

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon

With predictions of an “atmospheric river” (one forecaster dared say “Pineapple Express”) incoming, we decided to take advantage of what sunlight remained for a quick snowshoe hike up on Mount Ashland. Unlike the last two years, when there was essentially no snow on the mountain, this year, thanks to El Ni√Īo, we have a 100-inch base!

Last time we tried this, conditions were not at all hospitable. This time, it was all sweetness and light…

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Mount Shasta over a sea of clouds

The trip out to the Grouse Gap Shelter is only about five miles roud-trip (closer to 7 miles if you make a loop), but enough to enjoy the sun, get some exercise, and give The LovedOne’s new showshoes a further test (spoiler: they didn’t pass). The ski area is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, so it’s not crowded and parking is easy. Our hike started at the Mount Ashland Sno-Park (permit required) and followed Forest Road (FR) 20 passed the campground, both of which are happily snowed-in this year.

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Deep snow at the campground

We followed FR 20 for about a mile,

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Along FR 20

to where the service road to the ski lift and comm gear on top of Mount Ashland (snocats and snow mobiles are allowed in this stretch) continues on,

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
The service road continues ahead; unplowed FR 20 goes left

and now unplowed FR 20 branches left toward the shelter, across the Grouse Creek drainage. From here on, it’s just skiers and snowshoers – you just stay out of each other’s tracks.

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Unplowed FR 20 crosses the Grouse Creek drainage

Along the way, we had a nice view of snow-plastered Mount Ashland,

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
The west side of Mount Ashland

and of Mount Shasta,

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
On the horizon: Mount Shasta (L) and Mount Eddy (R)

as we worked our way across the gentle, snow-covered bowls that become exuberant wildflower meadows in summer.

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Crossing the bowl below Grouse Gap

After 2.3 miles, we reached the shelter,

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Grouse Gap Shelter (and outhouse)

which harkens back to the Civilian Construction Corps (CCC) days of extremely sturdy construction,

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Inside the solidly built Grouse Gap Shelter

complete with a fire pit that reminded us of the one at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Grouse Gap Shelter fireplace

The view of Mount Shasta from the front of the shelter was amazing…

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Mount Shasta from the Grouse Gap Shelter

We’d thought about doing the loop but The LovedOne’s new snowshoes were acting-up – no matter how we laced or buckled them, they kept twisting inward – so we relunctantly headed back the way we’d come,

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Re-tracing our tracks

enjoying one last view of Mount Shasta bathed in sunshine.

Grouse Gap Shelter Mount Ashland Oregon
Mount Shasta from FR 20

The atmospheric river arrived overnight and looks to be with us for a few days. That will give us time to get the snowshoes sorted so we can come back and do the loop!

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