Trip Report: Snowshoe & Cross-Country Ski Tours
New snow fell on the Cascade Mountains this past week. Beautiful snow, draping the hemlocks and fir with mantles of white, blanketing the rolling hillsides, and providing ample opportunity for making fresh tracks. Perfect conditions for a Next Adventure Outdoor School Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe Trip.
The snow was only a few inches deep at the 3000 foot elevation trailhead, but the snow got deeper the higher we went. The snowshoe group explored up the Fanton Trail, topped out at about 3600 feet, and saw the deepest snow. The xc ski group kept to gentler slopes for an introductory lesson and winter wonderland experience.
The cross-country ski tour lay down fresh tracks along a spur road, pausing to discuss and practice the basics of grip and glide, getting used to skis in Cascade conditions, putting more spring in your diagonal stride, and, as always, bending your knees. We followed our tracks up and down the easy grade several times, gaining confidence with each run, then paused in the woods for a snack and hydration break.
Back at the main road, we cruised south, pausing to practice some more advanced cross-country ski skills, such as side-stepping up a steep slope, and riding out a downhill run.
Lunch was at our turnaround point. The snow lay like a blanket over everything, muffling sound, so the stillness was deep. Not a creature seemed to be stirring, though we had seen a number of deer and rabbit tracks in the snow. Then we heard Raven calling from the tops of the tall Doug-firs.
We came across the tracks of the snowshoe group on our way back up the road, and saw that they had gone up the Fanton Trail. We opted to return to the van and swap out the skis for snowshoes. We took an easy stroll up the main road and found the snow got deeper very quickly. We took another long pause, sitting on a snowbank with a broad view of the valley. The north face trees were still white and laden with snow, but the trees across the valley with southern exposure were green. We heard Raven again, but still didn't see him. We enjoyed a pleasant moment in nature, just being there in wilderness solitude.
The sky was mostly overcast, but when the sun broke through the clouds, the bright white was almost blinding. Sunglasses helped ease the squinting. Our way wound in and out of big trees between open meadows, alternating warm and bright with cool and shady. As the tour continued, the sunbreaks grew less frequent, and the clouds grew thicker and purple with the promise of more snow.
Our snowshoe back down to the van was equally leisurely, stopping often to identify lichens and trees (primarily Western Hemlock, Douglas-fir, Western Red-cedar, Red Alder, and Rhododendron). Finally we not only heard his rattle and awk, but also saw Raven drift from tree-top to tree-top above our heads.
The other group met us back at the van for hot cocoa and cider. We shared our experiences on the ride back to Portland. Both groups had fun times and enjoyed their experiences. On either cross-country skis or snowshoes, it was a great day to be out learning new outdoor skills and exploring the snowy woods of Mt. Hood National Forest in February.
Snow has been somewhat scarce this winter here in the Pacific Northwest. But there is snow in the mountains, and more snow is forecast to fall this weekend.
Come along on with us on a Next Adventure Outdoor School Winter Trip! We've got more snowshoe, cross-country, and even an overnight winter camping trip coming up in February and March.
Find out more and sign-up for trips on-line at: nextadventure.net/outdoor-school
- Greg Hill is Lead Guide and Program Manager for the Next Adventure Outdoor School, based in Portland, Oregon.