Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Another Trip Up the Palmer

As some of you know, I'm one of those crazy people who likes to ski uphill.  Yeah, uphill.

Although chairlifts are nice, once and awhile I get the urge to earn my turns.  So I strap on climbing skins and head to Timberline Ski Area.  Timberline allows uphill skiing on it's upper trail when the Palmer Lift isn't running.

Morning light on Mt Hood

The sun was just lighting up Mt Hood one beautiful January morning as I pulled my car into Timberline's parking lot.  After capturing the tail end of sunrise, it was time to gather my gear and head up her slopes.

My trek begins...

My uphill trek started near Timberline Lodge, elevation 6,000 feet.  Today's goal - the top of the Palmer Lift, approximately 2 miles and 2,500 feet up.

The view behind

Because uphill travelers must avoid the ski trails of the Magic Mile lift, my journey started in an out of bounds area just to the east of the resort.  A wide open area of snowy plains, finding my way was no problem due to the numerous ski tracks and bootpaths criss-crossing the landscape.  And Mt Hood's gleaming white summit anchored the skyline, beckoning me on.

The sun is trying to break through

I'm not the speediest uphill skier, and before long other people began to pass me by.  But I poked along, enjoying the wide open skies and good weather.  Not in any particular hurry, I stopped when I felt like a break, or when a lovely scene appeared, just begging to be photographed.

Skiing selfie

I had a little fun with my camera's self timer, trying to capture the perfect skiing selfie.

Still a long way to go!

Once past the top of the Magic Mile Lift, uphill travelers are allowed to follow a groomed ski track adjacent to the Palmer Chairlift.  This lift, the highest on Mt Hood, normally only opens for spring and summer ski seasons.  These wide open slopes catch high winds, and are often too stormy to allow winter operations.

Timberline snowcat

But - never fear!  Timberline offers another option for snow-riders who want to ski the Palmer in winter.  When weather permits, anyone purchasing a lift ticket can ride a snowcat to the top terminal.  While toiling up the mountainside, I watched this little yellow cat make a couple of laps. 

Following the Palmer lift towers

But, those skiers were cheating!  No easy ride for me - I was out here earning my turns.  Feeling smug, I continued my slow uphill slog.  But the slopes adjacent to the Palmer lift were steep, and climbing was getting tougher.

Snow-shrouded summit

And, boy, the lift terminus didn't appear to be getting any closer......  But the views looking ahead to Hood's summit were mighty fine, so that helped.

Snowboarder and his dog

About halfway up the Palmer's slopes, I began to encounter skiers and boarders heading back down.  Envious, I watched them gracefully carve up the groomed track.  Some people made slow, elegant turns, while others gleefully bombed downhill.  One snowboarder came tearing down the slopes, accompanied by his dog.

There they go!

The dog looked like he was having as much fun as his master.

The last pitch is steep!

Counting the lift towers, I slowly inched my way upward.  When only two remained until my goal, I looked back downslope.  A steady line of uphill skiers and hikers fanned out below.  The Palmer's lower terminal looked so far away. 

My reward

The last pitch was super steep, necessitating a bit of fancy side-stepping to traverse.  But I'd made it!  Time to grab a seat on the snow, have a snack, and soak in the glorious views.

Relaxing on top of the Palmer

My tired legs appreciated the R 'n R.  And my camera reveled in the stunning mountain scenery from on high.  Not bad rewards for a morning's climb.

Unloading the snowcat

I watched the snowcat slowly motor it's way to the top.  A waiting ski patroller opened the door, and a dozen skiers spilled out.  Again, I felt a glow of self-satisfaction.  Although those folks may have gotten an easy ride, I'd earned every inch of my downhill trip.

Headstand attempt

It was entertaining to watch the skiers all pick up their skis from the snowcat's rack and head downhill.  Deciding to wait until the mob cleared, I busied myself with people-watching.  By now, a steady flow of uphill skiers and snowshoers began crawling over the berm.  A couple of young ladies sat down next to me, and one of them attempted several headstands.  Although she had no trouble getting into position, the weight of her ski boots kept pulling her over.  I did manage one photo before she toppled.

People pushing towards the summit

Looking behind, I noticed many people continuing up from the Palmer's top terminal.  Most were skiers, attempting to climb higher for a longer downhill run.  The mountain climbers had already descended for the day.  (They begin their climbs in the middle of the night while the ice is frozen, and descend in early morning)  The summit didn't look very far away, but I knew that it was still a very tough 2700 vertical feet of climbing.

My skis

Seeing a lull in the downhill traffic, it was time to remove my climbing skins for the final reward - a nice, easy ski down the Palmer's groomed runs.

The Silcox Hut

A most enjoyable end to my trek!  Taking my time, I soaked in the surrounding snowy foothills as I made my way down.  Back at my car by noon, I'd fit in a good bit of exercise, fresh air, great scenery, and exhilarating downhill run into a glorious winter morning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Back to Bachelor

Mid-January and snow was falling fast and furious in the Cascade Mountains.  You know what that means.....time for a girl's trip to Mt Bachelor!  So one weekend I loaded my car with ski buddies Kim, Young, and Hollie and drove over the pass to Central Oregon.

Rock star parking space!

I love skiing at Mt Bachelor.  Not only do they have drier snow and tons of terrain, Bachelor also offers front row parking to carpools of four or more people.  On the first day, I snagged this awesome spot right next to the lodge!

Young and I are ready to go

Although stormy weather was predicted, the sight of snowflakes whipping in the wind made me giddy.  Who doesn't love a powder day?

Girlfriends on the lift

We all jumped on the lift and took a few runs with Hollie, who's been taking lessons.  After coaching her down a couple of runs, we all agreed she was doing great.  Hollie encouraged Kim, Young and I to go ahead, promising to connect at lunch.

Kim points the way

After meeting up with my brother Dale, my friends and I set out for a few laps down our favorite runs.

Snow-flocked trees

This year, Mt Bachelor opened a brand-new chairlift - the Cloudchaser.  I'd been dying to try it, so we headed over to the mountain's east side. 

The gang's all  here

We were not disappointed!  The lift was constructed over an area offering interesting terrain and fabulous tree skiing.  Combined with a coat of soft, fluffy snow, it made for a morning of great fun.

Taking Hollie down Marshmallow

After a white-knuckle drive down the mountain, we returned the following day for more skiing adventures.  Kim and I thought Hollie was ready for a challenge, so we took her down the Marshmallow run.  Although she did fine, Hollie decided that was enough excitement for the day.  She returned to the bunny slope for more practice, and Young, Kim and I headed back to Cloudchaser.

Perfect pose!

Although the weather was still overcast, the snow gods had delivered a good six inches of fluffy powder.  Time to make some tracks!

Denise and Chris joined us

Midday, my daughter Denise and her boyfriend Chris joined us for some riding.

The sun came out....and it was magical

And then - miracle of miracles - about 10 o'clock the clouds parted to reveal brilliant blue skies!

Ski track patterns

Newly-fallen white snow against the bright blue made for some stunning scenery.  It was magical!

Looking towards the summit

I made lots of stops and the camera came out again and again attempting to capture it all.

Someone is happy

Is Kim a happy skier or what?


Yup - nothing better than a surprise bluebird day.  Yahoo!

Sweeping views from on high

Sunshine, new snow. and stunning views.  I was having such a good time I didn't want to leave.

Wave for the camera!

But....we all had to work on Monday, so after a wonderful morning on the slopes, my friends and I packed it in and headed back over the mountains.  But have no fear - Mt Bachelor, we'll be back!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hike Like A Woman

Hello blog readers!

I'm pleased to announce I've been selected as one of the contributors for the Hike Like A Woman website.  After stumbling across this site a few months ago, it so impressed me that I filled out an ambassador application on the spot. 

Today, the site is debuting my first article.  Check it out here.

Hike Like A Woman is dedicated to inspiring women everywhere to hit the trails.  The website boasts tons of interesting articles about exploring the outdoors, links to female outdoor bloggers, gear reviews, and even a podcast.  I've found it a most supportive community - and hope to get more involved soon.

In the meantime, I encourage all of you to check it out:  http://hikelikeawoman.net/   And tell them I sent you!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Snowmageddon, Day Five

During the rare times when Portland actually receives measurable snowfall, it usually melts away by the following day.  However, during this January's big storm, not only did we see a whopping 9 inches of white stuff on the ground, thanks to below-freezing temps, it stuck around for an entire week.

The park is still snow-covered

As I've mentioned in previous posts, the Portland metro area doesn't have a large fleet of snowplows, nor does it use salt to clear the streets.  So the deep snowpack sat on the roads and was quickly compacted into icy ruts.  After two perilous ski trips to the mountain, I'd had my fill of navigating the slippery freeways through town.  By day five, which coincidentally happened to be MLK day, I was ready for this snowfall to be gone.  Although a holiday off from work, I opted to stay home.

Wintry scene

It didn't take long for cabin fever to set in.  (One can only do so much reading and web-surfing after all!)  Desperate for an outdoor fix, I grabbed microspikes and camera and headed into the neighborhood.

Reflections a tiny patch of open water

Although tracked up by numerous visitors, the local park was still quite lovely wearing it's winter white.  An adjacent water-filled drainage ditch also looked better with a coat of snow on the banks.  I even captured a few reflections in it's ice-rimmed waters.

Mossy fence

I continued down the slippery main road (so glad for my microspikes!) to our local recreation center.  This place not only has dozens of sports fields, it also boasts a lovely little natural area on the outskirts. 

Brown seed pods

I discovered some unusual-shaped circular snow patterns on the surface of this icy pond.

Interesting snow patterns on icy pond

This snow-covered creeklet draining the pond was also especially lovely.

Snow-lined creeklet

I had fun trying to capture some of the natural beauty created by snow and ice.

Snowy circle patterns

Even some of the fence posts were sporting a dollop of snow.

Snow-topped fence

Wandering by the ball fields, I spotted this snowman on home plate!

Snowman on home plate!

And tried to capture the sparkle of snow crystals on this field.

Shadows on the snow

Back at home, I noticed several small birds visiting our feeder for lunch.

Hungry birds

The following morning, a setting moon bathed our backyard in lovely light.  Late for work or not, I couldn't resist capturing a few images of the scene.

Early morning moon

A full week later, warming temps and abundant rainfall finally washed our snowmageddon away.  Although it was fun while it lasted, I'd much rather keep the snow up in the mountains where it belongs.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bluebird Day!

A day after the big storm brought over 9 inches of snow to the Portland area, streets in town were still covered with snow and ice.  My ski bus, scheduled to drive to the mountain that day, was cancelled due to poor road conditions.

Empty parking lot!

I was bitterly disappointed.  Who ever heard of a ski bus cancelled because of too much snow?  Adding salt to the wound, my local ski area boasted a huge dump of new snow and sunny skies.  Bluebird days are few and far between here in the Pacific NW, and I didn't want to miss out.

Skiers heading to the lift

But.....I could still drive up.  My ski bus buddy Dean might want to go.  And we both had snow-worthy vehicles.  I fired off a text message to my friend.  He enthusiastically accepted - and even offered to drive!

Beautiful snow covered trees

Next morning Dean and his wife Kathy picked me up early, and we began our journey to the mountain.  First Dean had to negotiate rush-hour traffic through Portland on very treacherous snow-packed roads.  Although the amount of commuters was less than normal, unplowed still-icy freeways slowed everyone down.  We gaped at the amount of abandoned vehicles from the day before, littering Hwy 26 and the approach to the Marquam Bridge.  Then Dean bumped and slid over icy ruts on I-84.  It was a little bit frightening - I just had to look away a couple of times.  Major props to Dean for tackling driving duties!

Perfectly groomed slopes
Surprisingly, driving conditions improved once we left the last Portland suburb.  Highways were mostly clear until the climb up Mt Hood.  Although the pavement wore a tiny coating of snow and ice on the pass at Government Camp, we found the mountain roads to be way better than in town!

Winter wonderland

The forecasters had been spot-on.  Deep blue skies greeted us as Dean pulled into Mt Hood Meadows' nearly-empty parking lot.  Trees were flocked in new fallen-snow.  Absolutely gorgeous!  Totally worth the nail-biting ride to get here!

Skiers heading into Heather Canyon

The three of us jumped on the HRM Lift for a couple laps on freshly-groomed corduroy runs.  The new snow was silky smooth, and we reveled in long stretches of perfect turns.

Soaking in the view

Views on the higher lifts were fabulous.  The surrounding foothills were cloaked in wispy fog, otherwise skies were as clear as a bell.

Frost coated trees

Some of the frosty trees looked like they'd been sprayed with whipped cream.

Kathy makes a turn

Dean is an excellent skier, zipping down the slopes and always looking for the steep terrain.  He's lots of fun to follow down the mountain.  Kathy, more cautious than her hubby, is more partial to the intermediate runs.  But she was a good sport, telling Dean and I if we wanted to try a black diamond or two she'd take the easy way down and meet us at the lift.

Hangin' out on the slope

Dean and Kathy are such a fun couple!  I had a blast skiing with them all day, and catching up with their lives.  Skiing is such a great way to reconnect.

Hood really stands out against the blue sky

Mt Hood's perfectly white summit stood out against the bold blue of the sky.  A photo op if I ever saw one!

Admiring our tracks

I stopped to memorialize our tracks through a patch of barely-touched snow.

Fog bank hovering over the foothills

Stadium, one of my favorite runs at Mt Hood Meadows, is usually closed for racing every weekend.  But on a slow Thursday, the ropes were down and I was raring to ski it.  Although it's a tiny bit steep (I refer to Stadium as an "easy" black diamond) I convinced Kathy come with me  and give this run a try.

More spectacular white trees

The route to get to Stadium is half the fun.  It's quite scenic.  A ridgecrest passes by a stand of lovely snow-clad trees.  Sweeping vistas peek through forest gaps, just begging to be photographed.

Nothing but blue skies

Although Kathy was a wee bit apprehensive looking down from the very top, I told her to take it slow, keep her hands downhill, and make wide turns.  And she did great!  At the bottom, Kathy thanked me for taking her down this run.

Lots of photo ops

Dean's knee started to bother him, so we quit early and headed back to town around 2:30.  Hoping to beat rush-hour traffic, we made it through downtown as dropping temperatures began refreezing the roadways.  Dean slipped past an elevated on-ramp right before a large truck spun out on black ice and blocked the entire thing.  Whew!

A great day!

So glad I was able to get up to the mountain!  The white-knuckle drive through snowy Portland was worth every minute of this heavenly bluebird day.