Winter Shade

I feel very lucky to have made two trips to the Columbia River Gorge area in the past week, one in the snow and one in the grass. I also feel lucky to be writing another entry about winter light so soon after my last one.

My first recent trip was with a couple friends up to the Wind River area, near Carson, WA at about 1900 feet, to play in the snow. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but we started by wandering up the east side of a ridge into the shady forest. We brought snowshoes, but didn’t need them because there was an icy crust on the snow. We weren’t at all worried about sinking in, only about slipping. I was a little bit surprised the firs bit of the slippery, crunchy ascent because I knew it had snowed recently, and it seemed like we’d seen fresh powder during the drive.

I didn’t think much more of it until we descended, after lunch, into the flat river valley below, and found ourselves walking through a few inches of dry, powdery snow on top of the crust. (It was great for following a few sets fresh of elk tracks we found, where the few tracks we saw up on the slope were crusty and devoid of detail.) One of my friends pointed out that this same snow had fallen on the trees on the forested ridge, so it didn’t provide the same cover for the icy snow in the woods. It may, she said, even have made the snow in there crustier, as some of it melted and dripped down from the trees. The snow on the ground was shaded by the canopy from the fresh snow, and then exposed by it to drips. I like hanging out with smart people who can point these things out to me.

The river valley was beautiful, by the way.

Wind River Panorama

Later in the week, I made further east to the Catherine Creek area, also on the Washington side, between Bingen/White Salmon and Lyle. It’s about 1500 feet lower, and gets a lot of sun on its northern side of the Gorge this time of year, so it was still a wide open, grassy area.

I followed the top Western edge of Catherine Creek’s little canyon uphill/North for a while in the afternoon sun (more common this time of year here on the East side of the Cascades). After a while, I was just wearing a sweater, even though I could see my breath from time to time.

On the edge of the canyon, I was also on the edge of the remaining sunlight – the sun can’t have been more than 15 degrees above the horizon that time of day, so it was casting deep shadows. When I dipped into the East-facing shady areas from time to time, I could easily feel how much colder it was. These areas had gotten some sun this morning, when everything was still cold, but hadn’t been benefiting from the sun’s afternoon rays for a while now.

In some of these shaded areas, there were patches of snow and ice, and even some a few tiny ponds that were iced over (perhaps better referred to as large puddles, except that it looks like they’re probably there for a good part of the year – I’ll have to come back and check in the summer). Being in the shade all day was enough to keep those spots in a much darker winter than the rest of the area.

I wonder if this is typical in the winter here, or if it’s specific to the particular temperatures and humidities we’ve been having recently. I’ll have to come back to Catherine Creek to check it out. Next time, I’ll bring my camera.



I’ve created a Google Map with places that I’ve mentioned in my posts about the Great Outdoors so far. Check it out below. We’ll see how this goes, but it seems like it could be fun to see a visual reflection of where I go, and have it double as a way to index those entries by place.

At this point, I’m leaning towards having the points reflect general areas I visit, rather than be so exact that I can refer to terrain the way I did in the White River post. This is a tester project, though, so let me know what you think.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s