I got out of the kale sprouts and flowers on two separate trips to snowy Mt. Hood this past weeked. The snowiness of the trips was vastly different, but both were great.
On Saturday, I led a group to the Clark Creek area to look for tracks in some pretty old snow. (That was as a trip leader with Cascadia Wild, an awesome little organization that runs a lot of neat naturalist activities. Check ’em out!) Clark Creek is on the south east side of the mountain, right by highway 35, at about 4500 feet. It runs off the Newton Glacier further up the mountain, paralell to and south of the slightly larger and more energrtic Newton Creek.
The area we wandered about is just about where the pin is on the map — a flat, easy area between the creek and the highway, south of Elk Mountain, which rises sharply off the North side of Newton Creek. We ended up following a couple coyote trails and getting side-tracked to the west into the Mt. Hood Meadows groomed Nordic area, so we occasionally crossed a ski trail, but otherwise had the woods to ourselves.
As I said, the snow was pretty old. There hadn’t been much fresh stuff lately, and even a bit of rain, so the snow was pretty crunchy and dirty with flakes of bark and needles from the trees. (Of course, by city standards, it wasn’t dirty at all.) We could see signs of melting, especially in the layers of snow visible along Clark Creek.
When I checked the weather on Saturday morning, it gave a “Winter Weather Advisory” about a cold front moving in midday and bringing a lot of snow with it. We set out anyway, figuring that if it looked like the roads would be dicey (or icey), we could just leave early. It ended up being pretty cool to feel the front move in, starting around 11 — the wind picked up and switched direction, and a persistant but light snow started falling.
It was really no big deal, and to be honest, I couldn’t tell if the NWS had been predicting something more severe when it issued the Winter Weather Advisory, or whether it was exactly the intensity they predicted and they were just sort of alarmist in describing it. Apparently, I’m not the only person who wonders about these things, because they’re trying to clarify for the public what their terms mean. How is a Winter Weather Advisory different than a Winter Weather Warning or a Winter Weather Watch? If you’re interested in bureacracy, weather, or both (like me), you’ll find this interesting.
On Sunday, I went with some friends back to Laurance Lake, where I’d started my expedition to The Pinnacle a few weeks ago. This time, we stayed fairly low, following the southern bank of Clear Branch of the Middle Fork of the Hood River west from the lake for a while, before heading Southeast over the lower section of Pinnacle Ridge and following the Pinnacle Creek drainage back down to the lake.
To see this on the map, we basially followed what is shown as a road to the east from the map, then went off the road to the Southeast to hook up with the road that is shown making a Z. The end of the Z is in the Pinnacle Creek drainage.
It had been snowing all night, thanks to the system that I had seen the start of the day before, so we were in a classic, fluffy winter wonderland.
It was beautiful. We sunk in even on our snowshoes, but it was incredibly pleasant to move through the snow. I don’t know exactly how to describe that, but usually when a group goes out on snowshoes, they fall into a line by default, with the first person breaking the trail and the rest taking the easy route they’ve created. In this snow, we ended up walking next to each other more often, because breaking trail was a pleasure rather than a chore.
It was neat to be back in this area a few weeks after my last trip, and also neat to be back on the mountain for a second day in a row. It’s just neat to see how different things can be a few miles away or under slightly different conditions — everything the same, everything different (sort of like spring). I suppose the experience of the street outside my house is a lot different in the rain than it is in the sun, and a lot different than in the park a couple miles away — this phenomenon is obviously not confined to the mountains. Whether for lack of habituation or for some less scientific reason, though, it’s definitely more magical up here.