Snow & Woodsmoke
2015 started off so normal I didn’t even notice the new year had crept in. Waking on January 1st, 2015 Adam and I had big ambitions… to get the heck out of town & properly ring in the new year on a ski trip. Instead a whole day whizzed by in the chaos of small errands and the tying of lose ends. We decided to step away from the endless home life business and re-start 2015 in the backcountry. It was time to head out into the Cascades on our skis & breath in a bit of woodsmoke tinged mountain air.
After a nice Friday night of car camping in a parking lot, we stuffed our sleeping bags, packed our packs, stuck skins on our skis, & struck out onto a snow covered trail. Our plan was to ski to the furthest of two shelters for Saturday night & loop in to the closer shelter for Sunday night. The route can be found on the Oakridge Oregon TrailMap by Adventure Maps.
We found ourselves on the frozen shores of Waldo Lake after hours of skiing through snow coated forest.
Settling in to the South Waldo Shelter for the night we fired up the wood stove, cooked some dinner, & snacked on christmas cookies, hot cocoa, and bourbon.
I had forgotten how refreshing it can be to spend 12 hours in a sleeping bag, & how challenging it is to get out of that bag in the chill of the morning. We woke to a gray sleety drizzle, & were thankful to be in a wooden shelter rather than our little tent. The three sided shelter with it’s sleeping platform and hooks for hanging packs reminded me of the Appalachian Trail, only this one had the luxury of a wood stove & solitude.
We taped up our feet to help them weather another day on the inside of sweaty ski boots & set off and up to the flanks of Fuji Mountain. The sleety rain stopped, but it had turned the snow pack dense & sticky. When we left the parking lot the day before there had been a sparkling layer of hoar crystals coating the 18 inch snow pack, now all the glitter was gone & the snow had slumped closer to the ground. Even with the less than ideal conditions, the forest was beautiful & the skiing was doable.
Navigating around Fuji Mountain to the Fuji Shelter was a highlight of the trip for me. We broke away from the ski trail and made our own path to the shelter for the last mile or so, landing almost at the door to the shelter. Not much compares to the success of a good day of getting yourself where you want to go.
Fuji Shelter has a spectacular view of Diamond Peak, which glowed pink as the sun set.We cooked up Adam’s Awesomeness for dinner (ramen & mashed potatoes), which has become one of my all time favorite backcountry meals. The darkness crept in and we climbed the ladder to the sleeping loft for another solid night of the best kind of slumber.
Morning arrived and the temps had never ducked below freezing, rendering the snow pack even more solidified. We were impressed that such a slim snow pack was still skiable, but hope the winter will come back sooner than later.
The ski back to Gold Lake Ski Park was a bit bumpy because of the condensing snow pack, but the trail was well marked & the terrain was engaging down to Waldo Road. For some reason I had envisioned being able to ski down to our truck at the Gold Lake Trailhead, but found myself floundering up a never ending hill until I finally put my ski skins back on. This just wasn’t the trip for the fun downhill run!
Returning to the truck and easing back into our home life after a refreshing few days of forest bathing set our new year on a good track.
Sorting through the wet and smelly laundry and hanging the packs back up may have put the trip to bed, but the snow and woodsmoke remain in my mind. The trip doesn’t have to last for months to have a lasting impact on my soul. I hope 2015 is filled with these little wild gems for everyone out there!
Happy New Year!