A few things had held us (or, more accurately, me) back:
1 - Driving in the snow. I hate having to deal with it, and I have no chains. Thankfully this past weekend the roads up to Mt. Hood were perfectly clear. I have a feeling I will be buying chains here at some point though, just in case.
2 - The right clothes. For some reason we just never really had clothes fit for snow and cold temperatures. Part of that is having waterproof stuff. I bought my first pair of waterproof hiking boots in my life this past year. That's kind of key for walking in snow for extended amounts of time. Sure, I live in a place where it rains a lot, but I don't spend time outside in the rain - and definitely not extended time. The rain doesn't necessarily bother me, but who wants to do that? Plus, we don't ski or snowboard, so it was never really a need.
3 - Literally having no idea what we are doing. I mean, it's just hiking in the snow with tennis rackets on your feet, right? How hard can it be? Me, though, I like some kind of training when it comes to a new sport - I'm not one to just throw myself into the deep end.
Well, a couple weeks ago REI came through for us. They had a free seminar at the one closest to our house about getting ready for snowshoeing where they promised to talk through the gear, clothing, where to go - things like that. Since you can't beat free and we shop at and respect REI, we decided to go, even though it was after a hellish 1.5 hour workout courtesy of Jillian Michaels and her training books (that's another post).
The seminar was informative, but honestly I'm glad we didn't pay for it. It was all pretty logical: dress warm but know you will sweat (it's a heck of a workout), dress waterproof, snowshoes are pretty straightforward as to types and how to use them, stay out of the cross country skiing lines, pack food and water - you know, all the things you would do for hiking, except recognizing it's cold and wet.
It also turned out REI was having a rental special last weekend for $5 instead of $20, but despite the price were pretty sure this was something we would not only enjoy once but over and over. So what the hell - we each bought a set from Atlas that came with poles and a bag - plus a one-day Sno-Park pass so we could legally use it. The seminar gave some ideas on places good for beginners, so we chose Trillium Lake.
Sunday was a nice drive up Highway 26 to the Government Camp area. Dry roads, not too much traffic. I think we ended up pulling into the sno-park lot at just before 11, probably setting off down the hill towards the lake just after 11 after getting ourselves situated with layers and into our snowshoes.
The person at REI told us that if you can walk, you can snowshoe. For the most part that's pretty much true, but it did take some time to get used to the wider strides. Our hike started off with a 200-foot downgrade, so that didn't make it the easiest beginning, but we got the hang of it. (By the way - waterproof hiking shoes are an absolute must. Without those snowshoeing would be miserable.)
We took our time, getting mostly passed by people who had obviously done this before and were in better shape, but we made good time. It's about two miles to the lake from the parking lot, with some up and down after the initial descent - all of the rises and falls are smooth though, nothing too steep.
View Down/Up the Trail
There was one weird thing. We were walking towards the lake, about a quarter mile in, and noticed red spots in the snow. It was pretty evident it was blood, but it took us a bit to realize it was in a pattern. What it looked like is a dog - and there were plenty on the trail, so we won't be bringing Ruby - had some kind of cut on it's paw. Closer inspection of the pattern made it clear. Poor pups - he must have cut himself on something or it's also possible something split in his paw because of the cold. Hopefully his owner got that fixed up.
It took us about a little over an hour to get to the lake with frequent breaks. It was pretty busy, with people going both ways on snowshoes, cross country skis, and even just on foot. Well, busy, but it's not like it was cramped or anything like that. Thankfully also the bathroom at the lake was open (literally - the door didn't close, which was fun...or something). We had our lunch there and took some pictures, while also dodging a loud raven. (At least, someone said it was a raven. I have no idea, I just know it didn't sound like a crow.)
Unfortunately the top of Mt. Hood was firmly stuck in the clouds when we go there, so all of our pictures show a topless mountain. Who knows, maybe some people are into that.
The Famous Wy'East
View From the Dam
About the time we started our trek back the sun started to come out, which gave us a nice picture of sun rays on the frozen lake. (If you go, please know, it will NOT support your weight. No, I didn't try it.)
This was nice - when we got back to the parking lot all the clouds from around the mountain were gone. Oh well.
Beginning of Lonely Trek Back
Speaking of that hike back - it was long. Well, it probably wasn't longer than the hike out, but we were getting tired because apparently a five-mile trek is a bit much for your first time. Also, there was much more uphill - especially the last quarter mile or so - and you know what happens when you are snowswhoeing and you get tired? You don't pick up your feet enough and the crampons on your toes get stuck in the snow when you try and walk. Thankfully neither of us fell, but I came close a couple times.
Mt. Hood - Late Afternoon From the Sno-Park
Overall, it was fun - we just should have gone a shorter distance for the first time out. Both of us ended up with a blister or two on our feet because our shoes were too loose. Not loose in the snowshoe, but our physical foot inside the hiking boot. I think both of us would like to look around for better socks that help fill the shoe, or perhaps maybe even actual snow boots of some kind. We also need new waterproof pants. We both had Columbia waterproof shells we've had for a few years - mine was a tad on the large side. (I mean, yay for me it's too big, but having to stop and pull up my pants every 100 yards was kind of annoying.)
About the only bad thing that happened all day was my sno-park pass apparently glued itself to the inside of my windshield. Now I have to figure out how to clean that off.
Trillium Lake was beautiful. We'll probably go back there sometime on snowshoes, maybe even hike around the lake a bit, but we will definitely go back in the summer. You know, when you can drive that two miles to the around-the-lake trail instead of wearing yourself out getting there. There are also lots of side trails that looked intriguing, but we agreed it's best to check those things out in summer rather than winter. At some point I probably want a GPS too (if you have a suggestion, please leave a comment - much appreciated!).
A View Like This Made It Worth It
Good times - can't wait to go again!