Finding sites to snowshoe takes some work


Late January generally isn’t a difficult time to find snow for snowshoeing, but it took a little more effort this past weekend (Jan. 25-26). Friends visited from Olympia, and we wanted to show them a stellar time on Mount Hood.

The lack of snow had even caused organizers to cancel the annual “Winter Trails” event at the White River Sno-Park. That’s one of our favorite snowshoeing venues, because the mountain is in full view as you ascend White River Canyon.

Other sites didn’t offer much promise. The forests surrounding Mirror and Trillium lakes, normally smothered in the white stuff, looked strangely dry and bare. A quick call to the Zigzag Ranger Station in the Mt. Hood National Forest convinced me that we might have better luck on the east side of the mountain.

The ranger also suggested a good map, “Mt. Hood Winter Trails,” published by Mark H. Wigg of Salem.

We were staying at The Resort at the Mountain, on the west side, so we opted to take Highway 26.

As we turned off Highway 26 to Highway 35 on our way to Hood River, we drove past one barren Sno-Park after another. Traveling along the east fork of the Hood River, the temperature, which had been hovering above 40, fell to about 25. The northeast side can be colder than the west, and it was helping preserve a bit longer what snow had fallen. Frozen fog bearded the firs and pines.

We exited Highway 35 onto Cooper Spur Road and began driving uphill to the Tilly Jane Sno-Park, having already purchased our Oregon Sno-Park Pass. We drove past Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, which looked like a snow-sport ghost town. The ski area and tubing park were closed. “Pray for snow,” their website pleads.

We turned onto Cloud Cap Road and drove about two miles to the Sno-Park. A couple dozen cars jammed the lower and upper lots. We strapped on snowshoes, adjusted day packs and trekking poles, and proceeded up Cloud Cap Road.

The open forest canopy above the road allowed snow to fall to the ground, and the trees shaded the frozen snow. We hiked on four to six inches of icy crust, marveling at the preserved prints of deer, elk and either a very large dog… or a cougar. With white path below and blue sky above, we hiked about two miles before enjoying a picnic lunch and making the trek back down the hill.

On our return, we were duty-bound to visit the Crooked Tree Tavern, the newest addition to the Cooper Spur resort. With not many winter recreationists about, our hosts were happy for the business. We then headed back to our lodgings in Welches, enjoying mountain air, a starry night and the joy of being outdoors.

For the forest,
Paul Barnum


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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