New Year’s Eve in the Sky Lakes 31-Dec-2015

Summit Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

After waiting out a freezing fog (again), we had time for a short end-of-the-year snowshoe hike into the Sky Lakes Wilderness. The LovedOne had gotten new snowshoes and poles – once we were sure there would actually be snow this winter. πŸ˜€ We also wanted to scout the winter route to Mount McLoughlin from the Summit Sno-Park. Some climbing guides suggest parking right along Highway 140 at Mile Post 31 and heading north toward McLoughlin from there – presumably just to save the $5 use fee. Maybe.Β  But we couldn’t see how you could park on the highway since the snowplows leave almost (or no) shoulder. Plus the Fremont-Winema National Forest now has no parking signs on its part of the highway…

The nearby Billie Creek SNOTEL site reported 67 inches of snow and an air temperature of 24ΒΊ F when we pulled into the sno-park.

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
The winter trailhead

The snow was almost all fresh powder, with little consolidation, so even with snowshoes we were sinking in 12 to 18 inches fairly often. Good work-out…

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Going through unconsolidated snow

No weather had come through to disturb the snow clinging to the trees,

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Through a canyon of snowy trees

so it was like hiking through an intricate marble sculpture garden.

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Intricate

Absolutely amazing! πŸ˜€

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Snowy trees as penitentes

After 2.5 miles and 1,200 feet of climbing, we’d thoroughly tested the new snowshoes and established a direct route to the upper slopes of McLoughlin. So we found an opening in the trees and took a snack break in the sun.

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Taking a break

After that, down we went, back through the winter wonderland…

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Heading back

Occasionally a gust of wind would dislodge snow ranging in size from crystals to hiker-thumping globs…

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
The forest was raining snow

It was a real treat hiking across miles of freshly fallen, un-tracked snow,

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Untouched snow looks like melted marshmellows

on a bright, sunny day. πŸ™‚

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Sunshine & Snow

This hike was all down in the trees (which is why folks taking the seeming “short cut” directly south off McLoughlin can get seriously lost), with only one small view of the summit. Judging from the snow plumes streaming off the summit ridge, the winds aloft were fierce and unpleasant. Just as well this was a scouting trip and not a summit attempt.

Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Wind whips across McLoughlin’s summit

And then we were back, bringing to an end both a fun snowshoe hike and a great year of hiking. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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