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!
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.
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....)
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!)