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My pond in the winter, and a sign alerting visitors to faerie activity.

I grew up in Idaho. Winters could be brutal, with weeks of temperatures below zero, and heaps of snow that never melted. Then I left home and spent winters in Illinois, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

So. Many. Brutal. Winters.

Now I live in Rainier, Oregon! Winters are grey and wet. People ask me, “Doesn’t all that rain bother you?” My answer: “I don’t have to shovel rain!” Sometimes winters get cold enough here where the snow will stick on the ground, but usually you can still see the grass growing up through the snow because the layer is too thin. In 2016/17 we got a good snow. Last winter, I recall one day in which flakes fell from the sky, but the ground stayed too warm for snow to collect and make a layer of white. That was our snowiest day of the year.

I miss the snow in years like that. Not that I want another Idaho winter, but there are things about snow to love. This year, winter lasted for a week!

Looking up the hill at the house.

My little creek in the snow. You can see it off to the right.

I think it’s so beautiful when snow is heaped on trees.

For a few days the snow fell, and then melted a little in daytime warmth, then snowed again at night. For my area, this was a massive major snowfall and I was having a blast. I built a snowman and made a snow angel and giggled at the Hussies in the snow.

snow angel

Fern for hair

I followed the Hussies around, giggling at them trying to make sense of the snow. They pecked at it…scratched in it…and then in a group decided to go back into their purple chicken house where there is no snow.

Hussies in the snow.

Some of the deepest snow was in the early morning or at night, when the temperatures stayed cold enough for it not to melt.

Early morning snow on the deck.

Nighttime snow on the deck. Who made those tracks?

When you have to shovel snow for only one snowstorm all winter, it’s fun!

I think this photo captures the snow at the deepest point. It had been snowing and then melting a little, off and on for a few days.

All good snow storms come to an end, especially if you live where I do. Soon it got warm. And then more upper level moisture moved in. From what I hear, it dumped another foot of snow on Seattle, but it was warmer here, and dumped rain. And rain. And rain.

My snow buddy valiantly stood in the rain for as long as he could, but like so many of us, succumed to the winter blahs.

{Stay tuned. Guess what happens when tons of rain falls onto a thick blanket of snow? Yup. Flooding.}

The North Fork Toutle River valley, west of Mt. St. Helens, obscured in the clouds.

Earlier this month, my two dear friends Norman and Rodel invited me to spend the day with them. The plan was to drive up to Mt. St. Helens. That day the partly cloudy sky was slowly clearing as we made the trip, and we had fingers crossed for a mountain view when we got there. Sadly, the clouds remained clustered around the peak of Mt. St. Helens. We had a great day together, and the views were gorgeous (as you can see above), but we never did get to see the mountain.

Their idea stayed in my head. Sunday morning I had to run an errand, and as I was driving I looked from a hilltop near my home and saw crystal clear in front of me: Mt. Rainier, 80 miles distant as the crow flies, indicating that the air was very clear. I immediately looked East and saw Mt. St. Helens (38 miles) bold and clear, rising on the horizon. I made a decision right there to head back to the volcano, on this brilliantly sunny day.

I stopped first at the Visitor’s Center, because there is a 3/4 mile trail that’s supposed to be lovely, and has a view of Mt. St. Helens. I asked an employee where to find the trail, and she asked which trail, and before I knew it she had convinced me to skip the one at the visitor’s center and to instead drive another hour down the road to the Hummocks Trailhead.

Hoffstadt Creek Bridge is 370 feet (113 m) high and 600 feet (183 m) long.

On the way I stopped for a bridge overlook. There are four similar bridges that span deep mountain canyons on the way to the mountain, with fascinating and eye-catching architecture. I like the look of the curved bridges better, but this straight one gives you an idea of what they look like.

Do not adjust your set, this is a perfectly focused photograph of Noble Firs.

Something that always baffles me is the eye-crossing effect of looking at the forests of Noble Fir planted by the Weyerhaeuser Company. These trees are the same age and look like exact duplicates of themselves for acres upon acres. Your eyes get confused trying to make sense of what you’re seeing. A Ranger I met at the Johnston Ridge Observatory a couple years ago called them Lego Trees, and that’s apt.

The road to the Johnston Ridge Observatory is closed for winter. But the road is open as far as the Hummocks Trailhead. It’s a clear trailhead with ample parking. On this sunny weekend day, half the spaces were filled. It makes me happy that so many people want to get outside and do things in November. During the winter I’m more inclined to curl up with my laptop and a blanket. Maybe I’m projecting, but I am so proud of myself when I do something ambitious in winter weather, that I am proud of all those other people too!

Sign at the beginning of the trail.

With the sun low in the sky, I faced directly into it. That was annoying, but it also made exaggerated shadows that added interest to the scene.

I arrived at 2:45 pm and moved quickly down the trail, aware that sunset is 4:30. It felt comfortably warm at about 52 degrees, but as soon as the sun set it would drop quickly to freezing. I did not want to be caught out wandering the valley after sunset.

The trail was well-worn and easy to follow, and lovely. It travels through the famous Mt. St. Helens hummocks. These hummocks are big chunks of the former peak of the mountain that were blown off the top and side during the eruption in 1980. The whole valley surrounding Mt. St. Helens is filled with these mini-mountains, and scientists have tracked each one back to where its original location once was on the long-lost pointed peak. Why on earth they would do that is beyond me, but bully for them for completing such a daunting task.

Trail wends over and through hummocks, west of Mt. St. Helens.

For the layperson, what may be most relevant about these hummocks is that they are remnants of a volcanic blast, they form today a most interesting landscape, and that there is a trail allowing us to get a nice close look at them and even to walk on top of them.

There were also stunning views of Mt. St. Helens from multiple locations.

These hummocks are still eroding, because of the Toutle River there. This leaves the face exposed and bare, instead of grass- or tree-covered.

Hummock hills are noticeable to the left, with the volcano on the horizon. You can see here that the blast in 1980 was not directly up, but to the side. In this photo, the left side is missing, leaving a U-shaped volcanic cone.

With the valley filled with hundreds of tiny mountains, it follows that a bunch of new tiny lakes were formed.

Portions of the trail are forested. Here the trail follows a creek.

I recall the volcanic eruption from my childhood, and the aerial images of barren moonscape left in all directions for miles. Thus it is delightful for me to stand in a forest, beside a creek, and know that this has all formed since that devastating day. The size of the trees may not seem impressive at first, considering that it has been 38 years. But it’s not that the trees were cut and the forests were free to begin re-forming the next day. Today’s forests had to recover from this:

Photograph two days after the May 1980 eruption. Photo by Jack Smith / AP

My path was through fields, streams, and forests. There were ducks on the ponds. It’s a healthy land and in a quick glance does not reveal that the old forest floor is buried beneath many feet of volcanic ash, and all this beauty before me sprung out from that poor beginning. Nature keeps me in awe.

Information sign at the shores of Coldwater Lake.

I completed the Hummocks Trail loop with plenty of sunshine left, so I went to explore nearby Coldwater Lake.

The trail at Coldwater Lake is wheelchair accessible, a trail feature I often notice. I think possibly I’m making a list in my mind of trails I will still be able to visit when my future self needs a wheelchair. Hiking a nature trail is one of my greatest joys in life, and I’m reassured that if my legs ever stop working, I’ll still be able to hit some trails.

The sun was very low and that made all my photos warm with light despite the quickening chill in the waning day.

Massive logs from the volcanic blowdown in 1980 remain for us to ponder.

The paved trail turns into wide boardwalks suitable for wheelchairs.

A family plays at the waterside in the reflection of Mt. St. Helens.

The boardwalk spans over the lake.

Some kayakers were returning to shore after a foray into the lake.

On my way home I stopped at the Castle Lake Overlook and spotted not only the snowy tip top of Mt. Adams, but also Mt. Rainier! The moon became visible, and an excited little boy yelled “Daddy! The sun is rising and the moon is rising AT THE SAME TIME!” He may not have had the semantics right, but his Daddy understood exactly what he was saying.

Moon over the tip of Mt. Adams (can you see it above the lake?) and Mt. St. Helens.

The view from the overlook. Again, the tip of Mt. Adams peeks into view.

Golden sunlight strikes the remaining leaves, as well as the snowy mountain.

On my way home along Washington Highway 504, I spotted a good view of Mt. Adams and pulled over to get this better shot for you.


Our famous Multnomah Falls, as I've never seen it before

Our famous Multnomah Falls, as I’ve never seen it before

I get to rave about one of my favourite places for scenery in the country: The Columbia River Gorge. I keep finding new reasons to talk about this place because it’s JUST SO AMAZING.

We’ve had a cold snap like everybody else. It makes ice like everywhere else. In the land of waterfalls, it makes our own backyard look like a foreign land.

Portland Public Schools kept schools closed Wednesday.  It’s typically the day I work overtime, but I was scheduled to work only 4 hours of OT, so I had lots of hours to play first. The morning was warming up and a toasty 29 degrees by the time I checked, with a forecast high above freezing, so I knew that if I was going to see the waterfalls with ice, it was now or never.

Sadly, I was too late to find the winter wonderland at its peak. Much of the ice was melting and breaking away already. It was worth it anyhow. The ice was still remarkable and the day was beautifully sunny, though our canyon is steep and forested, and no sunbeam ever reaches the falls in the wintertime.

The picturesque bridge is always a place to experience the roar and spray from the water. This time: icy spray.

The picturesque bridge is always a place to experience the roar and spray from the water. This time: icy spray.

Multnomah Falls Lodge

Multnomah Falls Lodge

Walking up to the lodge

Walking up to the lodge, we could see the top of Multnomah Falls behind it

The Columbia River Gorge

Hard for any Gorge view to compete with this one of the Vista House.

A closer view of the Vista House

A closer view of the Vista House

Miss Tara walking ahead of me on a trail

Miss Tara walking ahead of me under a rocky overhang

Once a weeping cliff; now still

Once a weeping cliff; now still

There is a falls here, but so much water spills that the entire hillside has frozen

There is a falls here, but so much water spills that the entire hillside has frozen

I hiked up to the waterfall in the photo above, and found an ice cave behind it!

I hiked up to the waterfall in the photo above, and found an ice cave behind it!

That's me doing my best to find a good shot

That’s me doing my best to find a good shot

portrait by Miss T

portrait by Miss T

The stunning Mt. Hood in early December

Feeling the tug of a winterscape, my girl and I drove west to Mt. Hood; it’s brilliant white peak beckoning from Portland. We were blessed with a sunny, blue-sky day that set the mountain off to perfection.

Me and Terra in front of the mountain

We were nearly at the mountain before our landscape became a true wintry wonderland, but the trip was relatively short and oh, so worth it! At the base of the road to Timberline Lodge, we stopped to pick up two young snowboarders.

“What are you doing stranded out here at the bottom of the mountain with no ride?” I asked.

“There’s a place to ski all the way to the bottom,” they answered, “but there is no lift to take us back from here. So we hitch back up!”

The seven mile road to the lodge was solid snow pack, but well sanded, so my little Saturn dragon-wagon made it up with barely a slip. I took the chance with no chains (Saturns can’t use them), and no snow tires, but the gamble paid off. We let the boarders out, parked, and were up to our knees in snow in no time.



After the snow soaked through our clothes, and the mountain wind did it’s best at us, we went inside the lodge and found a roaring fire where we could brush the snow off onto the hearth. Timberline is one of the few old time lodges that, to me, are the only authentic ski lodges. Terra’s dad and I were unable to find lodges like this in Vermont when we lived there, which is sad.



The windows of the lodge look up the mountain as well as down, with panoramic views of Oregon and skiers in all directions. The second floor opens up to the third, which contains a restaurant where diners can look outside onto the snow or inside onto skiers taking a break on the sofas or reading books by the fire. Timberline has a three-story fireplace (don’t ask me how it’s done) in the center. The first floor has an old U.S. Forest Service museum of sorts, which brings back warm fuzzy childhood memories of growing up in a Forest Service family.



We explored all over the building, found an outdoor heated pool with heaps of snow melting over the edges, and many impressive wood carvings and details throughout. Once warm again, we trekked back outside and played in the snow a little more before heading back down. This time the sun was lower, causing ice to firm up on the road, and the dragon wagon did some sliding around on the way down. Yipes.

looking down the mountain

At the bottom of the hill, I looked, and sure enough I spotted the hill the snowboarders were talking about. I also spotted three more skiers hoping to hitch back up to the top!

This is a scene we like to see in December!

Next we drove out to our campsite from the summer, to see if the road was plowed to it, in case we wanted to do any winter camping. The plowed road stopped just short of the camp turn off. We parked and walked the remainder of the way, meeting others out walking dogs and cross-country skiing. I snapped some more photos of the stunning Mt. Hood in waning sunshine, and we made our happy way home.

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