|Foggy morning on Frog Lake|
Arriving at the sno-park that morning, we debated whether to use our snowshoes or not. A few days of warm sun and freezing nights had transformed the snow-covered trail from powdery fluffiness to white concrete. After much hemming and hawing, Catherine and I finally decided to leave our snowshoes in the car. We started out, our hiking boots easily traversing the well-packed snow covering the road to Frog Lake.
|Photo op with classic Mt Hood view|
After a quick mile we reached the turn off to the Frog Lake campground and day use area. Following a rougher trail, Catherine and I dove into a thick forested lane, sunlight filtering through the tree branches.
|Mt Hood looking over Frog Lake|
Peeping through the foliage, Catherine glimpsed snow-covered Frog Lake and bushwacked to it's shore. I followed suit, post-holing through some deep snow pockets until I came out onto the fog-covered lake. Morning sun shining through the misty clouds made for some great photo ops.
|My turn for a photo op!|
Both Catherine and I had previous visits to this picturesque lake during warmer times. Remembering an amazing view of Mt Hood from the far side, we followed the snowy shore in search of our favorite mountain. Lucky for us, by the time we reached our destination, the fog had lifted to give us picture-perfect mountain views.
After LOTS of photo ops, I packed away my camera and eyed the icy east shore. A very faint boot-packed trail snaked through the snow up a steep slope. It looked as though this path was the only way around the lake, so we gingerly climbed over slippery rocks. The ice got so bad, I pulled out my microspikes and gave one to Catherine, while I put the other over my boot. Figuring some traction was better than none at all, we slowly made our way up and over the icy track until thankfully reaching flatter, snowier woods.
|Beautiful snowy woods|
Making our way through the snowy campground, Catherine was happy to discover the outhouse still open - and even had a small amount of tp left on the roll! Then following the campground road, we located the trail to Frog Lake Butte. Should we continue? Of course the answer was yes.
|Snow-covered tree trunks|
So up, up we climbed, through beautiful snow-sparkled woods. At one point the trees cleared and I got a great view of Mt Jefferson. Although the day was cold, the steep climb warmed me enough that I was removing layers trying to cool down. Finally a junction with the Twin Lake trail came into view. Catherine and I took a quick snack break, re-donned our jackets, and dusted off the snow-crusted trail signs.
|Lower Twin Lake|
After climbing for nearly a mile and a half, the downhill trek to Lower Twin Lake was a wonderful change. However, snow was much deeper on this side of the ridge, and if not for a well-packed base underneath, we would've definitely needed our snowshoes. The snowy woods here were absolutely gorgeous, and I may have taken a few photo breaks. :)
|Blue sky at Lower Twin Lake|
After a lovely mile romp through the beautiful snow and forest, Catherine and I came upon another junction at ice-covered Lower Twin Lake. Happily, blue sky was breaking through the clouds and sunshine sparkled off the snow.
|The locals have noticed our presence|
A great place to stop for lunch! And we were famished. Catherine found a log near the shore, and we gratefully slipped off our backpacks and readied ourselves for a nice break.
|Friendly Gray Jay|
But.....Catherine noticed a half dozen gray jays had perched in the tree directly above us. And they were eyeing our food. When we didn't immediately produce the goods, the birds flew over to another group of hikers to investigate their lunch offerings.
|Catherine makes a new friend|
Yes, I know feeding wildlife is a no-no, but the birds were so cute, we couldn't resist crushing up a small handful of trail mix nuts to tempt them back our way. In no time, Catherine became popular with our feathered friends. She had an entire flock landing on her outstretched arms.
|Very popular with the birds|
The birds were so intent on stealing a bite of my lunch, I had several land right on top of my head, just waiting for a chance to grab an apple slice. It was obvious that these birds were very much used to getting handouts from hikers.
|They all liked my hat|
After spending a delightful hour eating lunch, enjoying the view, and being entertained by the gray jay's antics, it was time to continue our trek. We climbed out of the Twin Lake basin up through more thick forest. The afternoon sun occasionally burst through an opening, creating some nice scenes.
|Afternoon light through the trees|
For the final mile, Catherine and I followed a hard-packed, snowy Pacific Crest Trail, closing the loop back to the parking area for Frog Lake. As we were packing up the car, a man with a huge backpack stopped by and asked if snowshoes were necessary to access Lower Twin Lake. The man said he was planning to spend the weekend at the lake. Although we'd traversed the entire loop without needing them, since snow was predicted for the weekend I advised the man to bring his snowshoes for the trip out. Both Catherine and I were a little surprised the man had planned such an ambitious outing without checking the forecast.
It was a fun day exploring a new hiking/snowshoeing loop in the Mt Hood National Forest. And Catherine and I got away with a snowy trek sans snowshoes.
Hike No. 1 of my 2020 challenge is now in the books!