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…Continue reading “Mount Ashland Snowshoe (Southwest Oregon) 03-Mar-2021”
The wildfires burning west and north of us have been toned down a bit, thanks to the efforts of thousands of firefighters and their support personnel. The fires in California, however, are still – despite similarly heroic efforts – burning and, in some cases, expanding. Lives and homes have been lost. Smoke from these fires is impacting an area hundreds of miles across, including the Rogue Valley, where the air quality index (the measure of small, harmful particulates in the air) this morning is hovering around 200 (very unhealthy). Since breathing isn’t optional and hiking is, you’d think we’d be sheltering in air conditioning. Well, ah, hmmm, ah, no.
Siskiyou Peak rises just south of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) about 3 miles west of the Mount Ashland Ski Area. Reaching it involves an easy hike on a particularly gentle and scenic stretch of the PCT, with big views to the south starting almost immediately. It’s only 9 miles (and 1,400 feet of elevation) if you start from where the PCT crosses Forest Road (FR) 40S15 (but parking is limited). With all of it being over 6,500 feet, it’s a refreshing option on days when valley temperatures approach those of a blue star. Wildflower season also runs later up here and a variety of blossoms (and bumblebees) are out well into August. I did this hike solo a year ago June and thought then that The LovedOne would really like it too. So on this day of bluebird perfect hiking weather, we went up there for the views and to give her much improved knee a bit of a workout.
We dutifully purchased our 2017-18 Sno-Park Pass last October. It snowed soon thereafter (yeah!) and we readied our snowshoes. Then it was unseasonably warm and the snow melted (not yeah). Then the weather did everything but snow. Our snowshoes languished. We did dirt hikes. We went to Florida. We gazed at the sky while holding ice cubes to our foreheads. No snow. Finally, finally, La Niña kicked in, giving us cold and wet at the same time and, hence, enough SNOW for shoeing (and to open the Mount Ashland Ski Area – extreme yeah). Then we had to wait for another clear day, which was today. Fearing that this weather window would be short-lived (it was), we dragged our snowshoes out of hiding and zoomed on up to the Mount Ashland Sno-Park. Continue reading “Snowshoes on Mount Ashland! 27-Feb-2018”
I first became aware of this trail from a 2013 Ashland Hiking Group post and then later found it posted as that on the Hiking Project. In both posts, the trail was described as indistinct, brushy, and hard to follow in places. Yet I could see it as part of a hike and bike loop – perhaps the last one of the 2017 summer season – involving it, Forest Roads 20 and 22, and the Wagner Butte Trail. So I girded myself for some bushwhacking and route-finding and set-off on a perfect bluebird day to explore this variation on the classic hike to Wagner Butte. As this loop progressed, I would be pleasantly surprised to find that the Ashland trails plan that has been in the works for years had finally come to fruition for this tread.
Continue reading “Split Rock Trail (Ashland, Oregon) 28-Oct-2017”
I opened the online edition of our local paper this morning to find that, considering those in Southern Oregon and in Northern California, there are now 500 square miles of wildfires burning around the Rogue Valley. The air quality index (AQI) for the valley was on its way up from 187 (unhealthy) as I read the paper. But the LovedOne – having temporarily satiated her library volunteer urges earlier in the week – was now keen to get outside rather than hunker in the bunker breathing through wet towels until this winter’s rains (eventually) cleared the air. So we bet that reasonably close Mount Ashland, at 7,532 feet, would be high enough to poke above most of the smoke and, with an early start, would also be cool enough for us to dodge heat stroke. Well, ya laces your boots and ya takes your chances on the trail…
Siskiyou Peak rises just south of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) about 3 miles west of the Mount Ashland Ski Area. Reaching it involves an easy hike on a particularly gentle stretch of the PCT, with big views to the south starting almost immediately. It’s 9 miles if you start from the ski area parking lot; 12 miles starting from where the PCT crosses the Mount Ashland Road. With all of it being over 6,500 feet, it’s a refreshing option on days when valley temperatures approach those of a blue star. Wildflower season also runs later up here and a variety of blossoms (and bumblebees) are out well into August. Today I did the 9-mile option just for a good leg-stretch and the views – and also to marvel at the numerous chipmunks scampering along, around, and across the trail. There was no overt begging or my sack of trail food wouldn’t have lasted as far as the summit!
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.
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!
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.
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 Niño, 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…
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.
We followed FR 20 for about a mile,
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,
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.
Along the way, we had a nice view of snow-plastered Mount Ashland,
and of Mount Shasta,
as we worked our way across the gentle, snow-covered bowls that become exuberant wildflower meadows in summer.
After 2.3 miles, we reached the shelter,
which harkens back to the Civilian Construction Corps (CCC) days of extremely sturdy construction,
complete with a fire pit that reminded us of the one at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.
The view of Mount Shasta from the front of the shelter was amazing…
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,
enjoying one last view of Mount Shasta bathed in sunshine.
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!