A Vista Ridge Snow Trek
With snow levels receding a bit, I headed on the long drive out to the Vista Ridge Trailhead on the northern side of Mount Hood. Grading and graveling roadwork that was finished last fall have made the journey on FS-18 from Lolo Pass a much more pleasant experience by eliminating the endless procession of potholes. The road was clear all the way to the trailhead, which was baking in the mid day sun.
The climb up through the forest leads to the Wilderness Boundary and the edge of the Dollar Lake burn from 2011. Through the vibrant undergrowth below the standing white forest the Avalanche Lilies, which thrive in such post burn environments, where blooming at their prime. Snow began on the trail after about 1.7 miles, around 5200 feet, and became expansive after that.
Snow became several feet deep, in waves and swells of drifts and funneling tree wells. To the west side of the ridge some melted out forest was visible, but on the east and looking out over the expanse of Wyeast Basin and up towards Barrett Spur was just a great solid expanse of snow.
Pressing up the ridge I realized I passed over the Timberline Trail, and doubled back to check on the trail, which was unidentifiable as far as I could see under snow in either direction, only knowing I was standing on it based off the slew of GPS tracks I had to reference.
I continued up the ridge until around 6400 feet where I would have been introducing myself to too much fall exposure for having left my ice axe at home on one side, and being pushed into the dense scrubby low forest on the other.
I dropped off the west side of the ridge, descending to the Timberline Trail at as spot between Vista Ridge and Ladd Creek. There are some huge drifts on the trail here, and around the edge of the burn. I found some tree wells that looked nearly ten feet deep. Other spots, where the terrain curves, the trail was completely exposed, and I followed it a bit until it disappeared once more into a steep snowbank that sloped precariously open down towards Eden Park. From there I headed back up onto Vista Ridge, and down from winter back into spring.