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.
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.
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.