Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Sunrise Fail and Bennett Pass Snowshoe

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!

Foggy forest


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.


White River

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.


Frost-crusted tree


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.

Lovely clearing


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.

Grand viewpoint


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....

Sparkly snow

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.

Snow roller

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.

Nature's beauty
I'd heard there was a place on this trail that skiers referred to as the "Terrible Traverse."  From my research it appeared this spot was located about 2.5 miles from the parking area.  Curiosity drove my decision to check this area out.  Why did it have this nickname?  Was it really that terrible?

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! 


  1. ...Linda, these are magical. Here we don't have snow or sunshine, but we have a lot of gloom.

  2. YOu are always wise to make an early start! I'm glad you avoided most of the crowds. It's good people are getting outdoors, but I wonder what the impact will be on the natural environment? I love your Mt Hood photos and the wonderful forest shots. Retirement??

  3. You will always make the best of a bad situation. Nicely done.

  4. What a wonderful day in the frosty snowy forest!

  5. By looking at these pictures, I would say it was a win. Just spectacular scenes.

  6. Wonderful snowy views as ample compensation for the lack of a sunrise. I've done a few early morning hikes that have had no reward apart from a glorious late breakfast on my return!

  7. Hello,

    I loved the foggy scenes and photos. Beautiful captures from your outing, the views of the Mt Hood are just fabulous. Take care, enjoy your day and week ahead.

  8. Lost for words here all I can say is Stunning, wish I were there to see it but sound like you have idiots like we have here. So dumb they never learn. One day you will get that shot

  9. Even if your sunrise was a fail...the rest are lovely photos! Hope you are enjoying your retirement!

  10. The fog made for nice photos!

  11. An absolutely magical morning, captured creatively and brilliantly. I love the shot of Mt Hood from the turn round spot. What an awesome surprise.

  12. I'm surprised REI is having a big group right now! Guess it is all about the money. I'm always impressed how you find the good in a not so great situation.


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