Monday, February 19, 2007

Snowshoeing in the Cascade Mountains

KP and I set off on Friday for a long weekend of snowshoeing in the Cascade Mountains. Neither of us had ever been snowshoeing before and we didn’t know what to expect. I assumed that the Cascades were impassable through the winter. It’s the main thing that’s been scaring me out of trying to fish eastern Oregon the past month or so. Turns out, I was way off.
From MattStansberry

Highway 126 didn’t have a drop of snow on it from Eugene to Sisters. The state keeps it pretty well maintained. You can run into issues when there are storms, and that’s why you carry chains in the car, but for the most part it’s pretty simple.

Earlier that day I’d gone through chaining up the practice tire in the Les Schwab showroom three times, concentrating as if my life would depend on it, literally, in the next couple hours.
From MattStansberry

After getting the chain lessons I picked up our Atlas snowshoes from a surly gear manager at REI, Eugene, who didn’t offer a bit of advice or even instruction on the things I was asking about:

Is this a good map of the area?

REI guy: I don’t think the area you’re going to is on there…

It was on there.

What about this snowshoeing book, is it any good?

REI guy: We sell out of it all the time.

It was pretty crappy and confusing.

Any advice on putting these things on?

REI guy: They’re pretty simple

I had them on the wrong feet for at least half of the trip. And I’m still not sure which feet go where.

When we started driving up the Cascades, the sky had opened up and the entire western side of the range was socked in with rain. We checked into our hotel and decided to keep heading east, rather than wait out the rain, and worst case we’d just go to a bar, fly shop, bookstore or something in Sisters, OR.

Just as we were crossing the pass, up around the Metolius River, the sky broke and it was a blue bird day in Sisters. We stopped in at the local fly shop (where I always go for advice, even if it's not about fishing) and the guy sent us out to Three Lake Creek, a Snowpark just south of town.
From MattStansberry

We parked in the Snowpark where some RVs and snowmobiles were set up and started hiking at the snow gate. I didn’t look at the sign on the gate or read the snowshoeing book carefully. If I would have, I’d have known we were attempting a 13 mile roundtrip route with a 1000 foot elevation gain, 90 minutes before dark.

We were a little too scared to get off the rutted snowmobile trails. Broken snowmobile parts littered the snow and you could hear them revving in the background. Also, three jets flew overhead while we were walking, taking away the idea of the snowy wilderness. We must have been on some sort of eastbound flyway. We were not seeing the full beauty of the snowshoe enthusiast’s isolation.

Obviously we didn’t reach the top of the hike, but I kept thinking a viewpoint was around the next corner so we kept pushing. Eventually I tried to do a shortcut to see over the ridge, but all I could see was more trees so we turned back, craving Mexican food in Sisters.

Download an Oregon Outdoor Journal Wilderness-cast MP3 on the Three Creek Lake snowshoeing debacle.


Double Haul said...

Hey Matt, my buddy listed your blog on his website and I just found it. I like the writing. I'd have to agree that you are a true Wet Booter. Do you have an email address where I could reach you? I'm just graduating college (Journalism major) and looking at moving to Oregon. Wanted to see what you knew about the newspaper gigs out there.

matt_stansberry said...

Double Haul,
Shoot me a note whenever you get a chance. I know a few people and can at least tell you what your options mighht be, plus my girlfriend works in the J-school here.

Any said...

as far as you saying about Hwy 126 "...for the most part it’s pretty simple."

I suppose you've now realized that isn't very accurate!! Hope you check out before you travel.

The week or so of good weather was definitely an anomaly. The pass normally SUCKS. Slick & crappy, with too many drivers going way to fast.

Be safe the next time you come to my side of the mounain ;)

matt_stansberry said...

Any: You're probably right about 126 being bad at certain times. But what I was expecting was 8-foot drifts across the main road and I didn't see anything like that.