Friday, January 20, 2017

More From Central Oregon

While visiting Central Oregon for Christmas, I was lucky enough to witness lots of photo-worthy scenes (in this part of the world, it isn't difficult).  Although tons of photos were amassed, I didn't feel there was enough of one subject to constitute an entire blog post.  Sooo......instead I've decided to create a hodge-podge featuring my fave random images from the holiday weekend. 


Three Sisters at sunrise

The house my daughter and her boyfriend are renting has killer views of the Cascade peaks.  One morning, my hubby and I happened to be awake in time to watch sunrise turn the snow-capped Three Sisters mountains pink.

View towards Smith Rock State Park

There's also a wonderful view of the snowy peaks near Smith Rock State Park from her front door.

Frosty branches

My brother's house has a stand of gorgeous aspen trees in his front yard.  The day we arrived, bright sunlight was illuminating their frozen branches.

Blue sky and aspens

There's nothing that says winter like snowy white aspens against the blue sky!

Colorful ornaments

My sister-in-law loves to decorate for the holidays.  She hung a bunch of colorful ornaments on a nearby tree, and recent snowfall left them all with snowy, white hats. 

Snow-topped ornament

What great photo subjects, don't you think?

Great holiday decor!

I especially liked this large blue and gold striped ornament. 

Snow-flocked bush

I had a bit of cabin fever, so decided to grab my camera and take a walk through my brother's snowy neighborhood.  A harsh winter thus far, there was about three feet of snow piled up on the ground.  But it sure made for some great flocking on this nearby bush.

Snowy weeds

It even made these dry, brown weeds look lovely.  Snow crystals seemed to glitter in the bright sunlight.

The locals having lunch

In my brother's neighborhood, one thing that's not in short supply is the wildlife.  Large numbers of hungry deer prowl front yards in search of food.

The deer make themselves at home

And they're not very afraid of humans.  Or their cars.

Bright red berries

I loved these snow-covered red berries in someone's yard.  Very festive!

More snowy berries

Although not as vivid, I thought these berries were pretty too.

My brother's front yard had lots of snow!

I like this view of my brother's front yard, surrounded by tall, white aspens (and plenty of snow!)

Hungry buck

Later that afternoon, it was wildlife watching at it's finest, as a herd of deer ambled through the front yard.  They were right outside my brother's bedroom window - I didn't even have to leave the house!

Raiding the bird feeder

The deer were attracted to some spilled grain from a bird feeder.

Doe and fawn

My favorite was a fluffy little fawn, following his mother.

The fluffy little fawn was adorable!

Although the winter months can be tough on wildlife, these deer looked well fed.  Between raiding bird feeders and soft-hearted people leaving out food, they seemed to be doing just fine.

Too cute!

Although I'm not in favor of feeding wildlife, it was fun to watch these beautiful creatures from the comfort of a warm house.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Christmas Day Snowshoe

Time for new traditions!

With both kids now living farther away, and neither able to make it home for Christmas, my hubby and I decided we'd spend the holiday in Central Oregon.  Both my daughter and brother live in the Bend area.  As the state's top mecca for winter sports, what better place to celebrate?

Someone made this cool snowman!

Central Oregon received more than their share of snow throughout December, and by Christmas Day, there was no shortage of the white stuff.  Santa brought me a pair of snowshoes and I was dying to try them out.

Trekking through snowy woods

Christmas Day dawned with sunshine and cold, but clear skies.  I convinced my hubby and brother Dale we needed to get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather.

Fun with my brother

The mountains and forests surrounding Bend boast a plethora of winter activities.  There's Mt Bachelor's huge downhill ski area, miles of snowmobile trails, and also several "sno-parks" providing access to cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails.


We headed up the Cascade Lakes highway in search of a good sno-park.  In past winters, my destination had always been Mt Bachelor.  Although I'd noticed the highway signs, this would be my first visit to one of these recreation areas. 

Trails were well-signed

Spotting a sign for the Virginia Meissner Sno-park, my brother suggested we check things out.  Pulling into a huge parking lot, I chose a spot in the empty second row.  Then my hubby, brother and I bundled up for our winter adventure.  Since Dale didn't have snowshoes, we loaned him a set of my trekking poles for balance.  He said he'd try and walk along with us, providing the snow wasn't too deep.

Follow the snowshoe guy!

Approaching the base area, I was impressed to see a cute log warming hut, nice restrooms, and large informational sign.  Someone had also built a snowman nearby, complete with moss eyebrows and mustache!  From the warming hut, several nicely groomed ski trails radiated out into the forest.  A large group of cross country skiers, decked out in brightly-colored spandex, congregated nearby.  I'd never seen so many serious XC skiers in one place!

Meissner Shelter

Having cross country skied before, I knew that snowshoeing on groomed ski trails was frowned upon.  Not wanting to commit a faux pas, I studied the sign's trail map hoping to determine where snowshoeing was allowed.

Broken Top Mountain view

Luckily, the Meissner Sno-park offered two large loop trails exclusively for snowshoers.  Locating the first, I was pleased to see the trail had been tramped down enough to enable Dale, our hiker to walk along.  According to the sign, the entire loop was a mere 3 miles.  Perfect for my maiden snowshoe voyage!

Broken Top close-up

Roger and I strapped on our snowshoes, and off we went!  The path led us though a dense forest.  Lack of sun dropped the temperature several degrees, and my hands began to get cold.  But the snow-covered trees were so beautiful, I couldn't resist stopping and snapping photos (which did nothing to warm chilly hands.)

Eastern views weren't shabby either

Despite being our first time here, navigation was a snap.  Not only were wooden guide signs placed at every junction, tiny blue diamonds sporting a snowshoer image lined the trail.  One of the destinations pointed towards the Meissner Shelter, so we decided to check it out.

Lots of skiers taking a break

About a half mile from the shelter, we emerged from the dark forest into a sunny clearing.  I was happy for the sun's warmth and enchanted by the bright, sparkling snow.  Roger and I deviated from the trail and had fun tromping through a foot of fluffy powder.  I tried to capture a few sunbursts and images of the glittering white landscape.  Truly a magical place!

Sunburst through snowy trees

The shelter was located in a ridgeside clearing.  Two small log buildings sat facing a spectacular view of Broken Top Mountain.  To the east, one glimpsed panoramic scenery towards Bend and the snowy plains beyond.  What a great place to site a shelter!

Roger makes a snow angel

As expected, the place was full of skiers and snowshoers taking a break.  Several people were inside the larger of the two buildings, which I assumed was a warming hut.  But the bright sunshine made being outside quite pleasant, so I didn't feel the need to venture in.

Delightful meadow

Instead of retracting our steps, my hubby, brother and I decided to follow the rest of the loop trail and see where it led.  We plunged back into another dark forest.  The snowy trees made interesting patterns, and I stopped to get some photos.  In one spot, the vegetation thinned just enough to let a tiny burst of light through, making another great sunburst shot.

Here comes the hubby!

After trekking downhill for a good distance, we emerged into another meadow, covered with a thick layer of sparkling powder.  I couldn't resist making tracks in it's fluffy goodness.  My hubby even plopped down into a deep bank and and made a snow angel.  We felt like little kids on a snow day.

Enjoying the scenery

On our return trip, we met quite a few fellow snowshoers heading the opposite direction.  Nearly everyone greeted us with "Merry Christmas," and we responded in kind.  It was nice to see so many happy people out enjoying the outdoors.  We did, however, encounter one grumpy man, who upon passing us only muttered "Bah humbug!"  (He apparently wasn't having a good day....)

Winter wonderland

Although we didn't see any animals, my hubby did spot a set of tiny tracks leading into the forest.  He guessed they might have been made by a mouse.  And as we neared the trailhead, midday temperatures had warmed enough that huge clumps of snow began falling from the trees.  I was lucky enough to capture one such mini-avalanche, filling the air with sparkling flakes.

Tracks from a little critter

Returning to the trailhead, I removed my snowshoes and noticed a few large pieces of black plastic in the snow.  I didn't think much of it until back at the car my hubby joked  "Gee did your feet stay warm?"  Not realizing why he was asking I looked at my boots again.  I've had my snowboots since the 90s, and since it doesn't snow a lot in Portland, only use them occasionally.  Apparently the plastic outer shell doesn't last forever, because it had cracked up into pieces and disintegrated, leaving the inner liner exposed to the elements.  Good thing it waited until I was almost done to self-destruct.....Guess it's time to go boot shopping!

Snow falling off trees

What a wonderful way to spend a sunny Christmas Day!  I was totally impressed with this Central Oregon winter recreation area.  Next time I visit Bend, I may bypass downhill skiing in favor of another lovely snowshoe trek.  (Well.....maybe!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Wildlife on a Snowy Day

Winter started with a bang here in Portland, Oregon.  Although our mountains get tons of snow every year, it's a rarity in the Willamette River Valley.

But so far this year is anything but normal.....

Little birdie on top of the feeder

Our first storm came in early December.  Meteorologists tracked a huge band of moisture moving northward towards the city, and warned it was bringing large accumulations of snow and freezing rain.  Since our local governments don't have a huge amount of snow removal equipment and most people aren't equipped to drive in the white stuff, schools and workplaces were preemptively closed metro-wide.  We got the news early one Thursday morning, before any flakes had even begun to fall.

Striking a pose

It was weird sitting home on a snow day without any snow.  My hubby and I busied ourselves with household chores.  But I became distracted by the many hungry birds visiting our backyard feeders.  Grabbing my camera, I tried to capture their antics through our dining room window.

The snow came down fast and furious!

Just when I thought the weatherman had missed the ball, I noticed snowflakes twirling in the wind.  It didn't take long for the sky to turn white.  And pretty soon our backyard did too.

Big snowflakes

Oh, the falling snow was so pretty!  Some of the snowflakes were huge, drifting softly to earth.  I stood by our back window mesmerized. 

"Don't bother me, I'm eating!"

The cold and snow brought birds out in force!  Our feeders are close to our house, and I think not only did they offer food, they also provided a bit of shelter from the wind. 

This bird sat right down in the seed

One little bird even made himself comfortable in the seed box!

A bird feeder bandit!

Of course, birds weren't the only critters attracted to the bounty.  I caught this furry bandit atop one of the feeders.

Amazing acrobatics

Squirrels are amazing acrobats!  This big guy hung from his hind legs while nibbling on a chunk of suet.

Showing me his best side!

Although I'm not happy with the squirrels stealing all the seed, I have to admit they are awfully fun to watch.  What better entertainment on a cold, snowy day?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Icy Day at Timberline

When November rolls around, I watch the weather like a hawk.  While others bemoan the rainy days and colder temperatures, I rejoice.  The mountain is getting snow!

And when the snowpack gets deep enough, it's time to strap on my skis.

Young and I team up again!

I set my sights on the first Saturday of December for a quick trip up Timberline Ski Area's upper lifts, conning my friend Young and her hubby to join me.  But the forecast didn't look great...Friday temps on the mountain warmed above freezing and a bit of rain fell.  The following day was supposed to get cold again, and I was afraid all that wet snow would freeze solid.

Still, you don't know if you don't go, so Saturday morning I packed my car anyway and headed up to Mt Hood.

Ice-crusted trees

Driving up Timberline Road, strong winds buffeted my car and snowflakes clouded visibility.  Parking at the climber's lot, I could hardly make out the nearby lifts, let alone the top of Hood.  It didn't look promising!

But when Young, her husband John, and their son pulled up, the only words from John were "suit up, let's go!"

Young is happy to be outside

Since Young and I are slower uphill skiers (and also like to stop and take photos) we buddied up, and let the men move at their own pace.  Bundling up against the wind gusts, we started out climbing a tall bank and crossing a snowy knoll before finding our groove on the packed snowcat track.

Low clouds and blowing snow

Snow was falling, but the wild winds blew it around so much visibility was low.  Although happy to see the white stuff, I was dismayed to discover a thick layer of ice under the meager accumulation.

Taking a photo (aka rest) break!  (photo by Young)

But my friend and I were happy to be outside, even if the weather was less than perfect.  Climbing uphill soon warmed out bodies, and we chattered away, getting caught up on each other's lives.  And, of course, every once and awhile we'd stop for a photo break!

Hood peeks out of the clouds

Many uphill skiers tackle the steep climb from Timberline Lodge up Mt Hood's snowy slopes.  First, one follows the snowcat track that parallels the Magic Mile ski lift's trails (but for safety we're required to stay off the designated runs).  The first leg ends at the top of the Magic Mile and the Silcox Hut.  The second leg climbs above the Magic Mile, following the Palmer Chairlift (which due to extreme weather usually isn't open in the winter but is only used for spring/summer skiing).  Our destination today was the top of the Palmer, approximately two miles and 2500 feet of climbing.

Mt Hood and the Silcox Hut come into view

Although battling wind and near-whiteout conditions, as Young and I neared the top of the Mile, we suddenly noticed clearing skies.  The Silcox Hut's snow-covered roof came into view.

John is waaayyyy ahead!

And then, the clouds parted, and Mt Hood's lovely white summit emerged from the storm.  We also got a glimpse of John, wayyy up the slope!

Silcox Hut is hiding behind a snowbank

Nearing the Silcox Hut, our track became bumpy and icy.  Navigating the tall berm around the building was a real challenge.  But Young and I made it!

Checking out the hut

The Silcox Hut is a rustic mid-mountain lodge.  Built by the WPA, it was originally the upper terminal for the Magic Mile Lift, and also served as a warming hut and starting point for climbers.  Restored in the 1980s, the hut is now rented out to groups for weddings and overnight lodging.

Snowed-in front door

Reaching the hut, Young and I used it's walls as refuge from the wind, and took a quick snack break.  It was also a great opportunity for some photographs of the building's details.  Well, those that weren't covered in snow!

Yup, it's the Silcox Hut!

I especially noticed the metal inscription on the front door.

Fantastic views above the hut

John and Young's son were raring to reach the top of the Palmer Lift, and opted to forego a stop at the Silcox Hut.  However, although the skies had cleared by the time we'd reached this point, the snowstorm wasn't done yet.  As Young and I prepared to leave our sheltered break area, we were slammed by an new squall.  And topping it off, the slopes above this point were nothing but ice.

Magic Mile and Palmer Lift houses

Traction on this glittering surface was difficult.  Young took a hard fall and bumped her knee.  With visibility worsening, and the snow treacherously slippery, turning around wasn't a hard decision.  As Young and I were removing the climbing skins from our skis, John came sliding back downhill.  He'd also been forced to turn around by the icy conditions.

The trip back downhill was not fun.  The bumpy, icy slopes were difficult to navigate.  I must've fell at least a dozen times.  Not only were skiing conditions terrible, visibility deteriorated, making it hard to see where you were going.  Some of my falls were due to skiing into tall berms that I couldn't see.  It was survival skiing at its finest!

Foiled by icy conditions!

But near the lodge, John directed us into a small gully.  Wind-blown snow had filled in the very bottom and I enjoyed a few sweet turns in the light, fluffy powder.  Almost made the strenuous uphill and terrifying downhill worth it.  Well - almost!

Everyone in our party made it to the parking lot in one piece.  And we all agreed, even though the day's conditions were challenging, it was good to get outside and enjoy a bit of winter on the mountain.