Getting the most out of the Sno-Park pass

 Huh. My hair is frozen.

(Now mind you, I am no stranger to my hair freezing; I've been in too many nasty, blustery mountain conditions to not be acquainted with that crusty, clumpy, dripping sensation of haircicles touching my collarbone. But this was a bluebird day.)

Oh. It's the sweat in my hair that froze. [Gross.] 

Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
~5 miles, ~1800 feet

Yesterday, while on a slog around the neighborhood block to work the cobwebs out of my brain, it began snowing on me. Well, more like the rain was *thinking* it might fully convert to snow, but that's beside the point. The point is that those fat, icy pieces of falling sky were enough to have my snow withdrawal come crashing to the surface, enough that I was contemplating skipping class and taking a mental health day (clearly it's that time in the term where I am beyond being reasoned with, and most days I just want to throw my computer out the window).

Checking my school email that night, I see in my inbox that class is cancelled due to professor illness.

Wow. The stars really aligned here. If that's not a message, I don't know what is.

Regarding the snow withdrawal, it has just been that kind of a year. Beyond the obvious school thing taking up a large chunk of my time, snow levels on the mountain are acting bonkers, flitting from pass levels (where the trailheads are) up to mountaineering levels (where the goats go). Hood had the beginnings of a nice winter coat in November, then December and January passed with a seeming snow drought, just intermittent sun and rain. Lately, my backyard mountain will see a glorious dumping of fluffy white stuff only to have the freezing level rise the next day which, of course, means rain all over that glorious new snow. To top it all off, lovely new snow time never coincides with when I can actually get myself up to the mountain- it's been a vicious, irritating cycle.

[Soapbox over.]

My annual sno-park pass really needs to see more action.

Like I said, the stars aligned.

I arrived at the White River Sno-Park at 10:45am to 22° and bluebird. Jackpot. My goal was Boy Scout Ridge, some almost 3ish miles away near the head of the White River Canyon. The White River Sno-Park is one of the most popular places on Mount Hood, so the first 1/4 mile is almost always a mad throng of families and dogs and sleds and people in varying stages of snow sport ability. Today, it was blissfully quiet, only two groups getting out on the trail in front of me.

The snow was good; better than good, actually: fantastic. It was approaching almost sugar quality, that coveted Wasatch-type snow Andy and I seek out in Utah on semi-annual ski trips, but that we never, ever get here unless the temperature happens to plunge into the teens or lower. Even then, it's only *sugary* relative to our Cascade Concrete. Whatever, for here, it's bomb diggity, and I was mooooore than happy with it.

Breaking trail for almost three miles through it though was going to be fun. 

first tracks

Most snowshoers head up the lower slopes of Boy Scout Ridge just past the White River Canyon's "Bowl" about a quarter mile beyond the sno-park. I continued straight, following the undulating, snowbound river's edge, settling into the rhythm of my lungs and legs working in concert as I continued across the smooth, white world. 

By the time I reached a bend in the river with no snow bridge to cross, I was breaking trail through roughly a foot of sugary snow. Beautiful. Taxing. But also exhilarating. On a personal note, fitness is something I have struggled with over the last decade- to be able to break trail to this degree says to me I am regaining what I lost, and that I can continue on this journey forward.

From here, I popped up a tiny ridge to the left and slogged through intermittently burned, sparse forest on my way to my goal. Mount Hood rose in the distance, beyond the head of the White River Canyon, Boy Scout Ridge, my goal, to my left. I stood for a while, taking in the views, the shape and relief of the stark, white world and watched a random, backcountry snowboarder make some turns down the ridge.

Instead of heading up the traditional knife edge path to the top of Boy Scout Ridge, I picked a path to the left of where the snowboarder had just come down and prepared to get to work. It was going to be a trudge. Here, wind had packed a tremendous amount of snow into this gully- a hard, icy layer, perfect for my snowshoes to grip, could be found under two plus feet of powdery brilliance. In places, I was almost up to my hips as I put one foot in front of the other, my trekking poles nearly to the hilts as I climbed the ridge. Halfway up I pondered the wisdom of my decision but stubbornness prevailed, and I continued onward.

I won. Cresting the top of Boy Scout Ridge, I set about re-layering, making lunch and discovering the frozen hair debacle. After wandering around a bit, the light changed, a stormy, brooding quality settling over the area, and I decided to make my way back. My mental health day was complete- I was exhausted, settled and in a perfect space of physical and emotional contentment.


Mount Hood beyond Boy Scout Ridge
eerie light in the White River Canyon

On the way back, the light changed and I impromptu sat down for a snowshoe feet picture: my new favorite. [GRIN]