It was the last Monday of the year. I had one final deferred holiday that needed to be used before retirement. Sunny weather was predicted for the mountain. Since there had been many spectacular sunrises lately, I got a bright idea to arrive early enough to catch sunrise over Mt Hood at White River Snopark.
|Sun trying to break through the fog|
Rising at o'dark hundred, I made the 1 1/2 hour drive to Mt Hood, through silent freeways and icy roads. And then, only a couple of miles from my destination, I hit a dense fog bank on Barlow Pass. Driving the final miles through thick clouds was nerve-wracking - visibility was so low I nearly missed the White River turnoff. Pulling in to the parking area, I turned off the car and stared into foggy predawn blackness. I couldn't see a thing!
Should I go to another place? Not really keen on driving back through the heavy fog I decided to stay put and hope that things cleared before sunrise. Spoiler alert......that didn't happen. While waiting for daylight, three other vehicles pulled up. The people in these vehicles were friends that had the same idea as I. When the light became bright enough to make out some nearby trees, we all emerged from our cars and walked over to river's edge.
Ugh - there had been spectacular sunrises all week and I'd picked the one place with fog! But I was here now and there was nothing else to do but make the best of it. Wandering around the snow with my camera, it was time to stretch my creative juices to their fullest.
The trees were all covered in beautiful white frost and these made great photo subjects. And although I cursed the fog initially, it did make for some nice images, especially when the sun began to rise through the clouds.
|Teaser glimpse of the mountain|
I spent a happy couple of hours roaming the area between the river and well-tromped trail capturing winter scenes. And of course just as I was preparing to leave, the clouds parted and Mt Hood finally peeped through. But by that time the sunrise was long past.
|Bennett Pass Road|
Time for part two of my grand plan! A short drive down the highway (now mostly clear of fog) brought me to Bennett Pass. The parking area here provided skiing and snowshoeing access down a closed Forest Service road. I'd read trip reports about this trail and I decided to check it out.
|Tall, snowy trees|
Now nearly 9 am, the parking area was already filling up. Strapping on my snowshoes, I passed a huge group of beginning snowshoers (an outing sponsored by REI) and tromped down a well-packed road through the woods.
Well above the foggy White River, there was nothing but blue skies and sunshine here.
|The snow-covered forest was most lovely|
The snowy forest was lovely. A delightful winter wonderland! I loved the heavy snow coated branches, the white-dusted trunks, and abundant green lichen draped over the trees. So very scenic!
|Mossy tree trunks|
As I traveled down the road, small rays of sunlight randomly shone through the trees. I couldn't help but try and capture a few of these wonderful sunbursts.
|Lots of sunbursts|
I passed a few cross country skiers returning from their early morning trips and one woman on snowshoes. The woman told me of a "fantastic viewpoint" not far down the trail.
And boy was that woman right! About 1.75 miles in, I came to a clearing. And there was a drop-dead gorgeous view of Mt Hood. A couple of skiers were just leaving so I had the place to myself. Perfect place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and snacks. And....maybe try for a selfie or two....
After my wonderful break, it was time to continue the journey. Before resuming my trek I couldn't help trying to capture the nearby sparkly snow. Sunlight reflecting on it's surface made the snow glitter like diamonds. So hard to capture with a camera, I still gave it a good try.
After the viewpoint I had to climb up a moderately steep hill. Most of the trail thus far had been fairly level, so I grunted, groaned and sweated. Then the trail leveled out to another clearing and I passed through an area where the trail (road) had been cut into a steep bank. Snow rollers had formed on the downhill side, and they made fun photo subjects.
|Fog lingering in the valleys|
The views were pretty nice here too. I loved the sweeping panoramas of the adjacent forested foothills and the fog lingering in the valleys.
|The Terrible Traverse - my turnaround point|
Well.....the answer was yes. I came upon a portion of trail that was precariously perched on the side of an extremely steep slope. Snowmobile and ski tracks led over this precipice, so it appeared others had successfully navigated the area. But eyeing the steep slopes above, and not wanting to be swept away by falling snow, nor slip into the forest below, I decided this would definitely be my turnaround point.
|Nice view of Hood from the traverse|
As I turned around and prepared to head back, there in front of me was a killer view of Mt Hood. A nice consolation prize. So intent on making forward progress, I hadn't thought to look behind me until now.
|Glorious mountain view|
So back I tromped, checking out the snow rollers once again, down the hill, returning to the wonderful viewpoint. Now occupied by a group of snowshoers, I kept my distance and instead captured a different view from atop an adjacent hill.
|Loved these dense, mossy forests|
Then I made my way back to the trailhead. By now it was nearing noon, and the rest of the world had woke up. I passed several skiers and snowshoers. From the one mile mark, I began to see all kinds of people, mostly newbie snowshoers and families with sleds, trying to find a clear hill. The closer I got to the end, the more people I began to see. The parking area wasn't very big, where were all these people leaving their vehicles?
|One more Mt Hood view near the trailhead|
I returned to a chaotic scene at the trailhead. People were everywhere, sledding on the side of the parking lot, walking through the adjacent forest, driving through looking for a spot to park. Vehicles were lining the adjacent road almost to the nearby ski area entrance. Time to get the heck out of dodge!
On the way home, I couldn't believe the amount of people that had descended upon Mt Hood. I'm sure the combination of a sunny day, the fact it was a holiday week, and COVID closing many places of entertainment all contributed to the large crowds. People had parked right along the highway and were out of their cars playing in the snow. Right along a busy highway! (The local news later reported that people parking along the highway would be ticketed and towed.)
Although my sunrise plans were skunked by fog, I ended up with a pleasant snowshoe trip through a wonderful new trail - and the early arrival meant I avoided most of the later crowds. I'd call this trip a win!