We dutifully purchased our 2017-18 Sno-Park Pass last October. It snowed soon thereafter (yeah!) and we readied our snowshoes. Then it was unseasonably warm and the snow melted (not yeah). Then the weather did everything but snow. Our snowshoes languished. We did dirt hikes. We went to Florida. We gazed at the sky while holding ice cubes to our foreheads. No snow. Finally, finally, La Niña kicked in, giving us cold and wet at the same time and, hence, enough SNOW for shoeing (and to open the Mount Ashland Ski Area – extreme yeah). Then we had to wait for another clear day, which was today. Fearing that this weather window would be short-lived (it was), we dragged our snowshoes out of hiding and zoomed on up to the Mount Ashland Sno-Park.
It was cold (15ºF) but clear and sunny when we pulled in to the lot – along with more than a few other skiers and shoers seeking their long-delayed snow experience. Our plan was to head straight up to the summit of Mount Ashland, then down the ridge, and back via Forest Road (FR) 20.
The snow was Colorado-style light, dry powder – great for skiing but still a little soft for shoeing. So we used the compaction offered by the numerous off-piste snowboard tracks coming down from the top of the upper lift.
We go up to Mount Ashland because it’s a great work-out (particularly in soft snow) at altitude culminating (if the weather cooperates),
in an awesome view. So up we went.
Part of the trick of climbing Mount Ashland’s south side, winter or summer, is avoiding the patches of manzanita shrub, which are sharp and clinging in summer and hide deep holes in winter.
Today there was almost enough snow to bury these pesky shrubs, but not enough to fill in some surprisingly deep holes between them, holes which The LovedOne became despairingly adept at finding.
But, after digging out, we kept on,
Eventually reaching the ridge just below the summit,
and then the summit itself, easily identified by the giant football (soccer ball) sitting next to it.
The day had been bluebird when we left the parking lot but, as we ascended, high, thin clouds had started streaming in from the north – oracles of the next big storm due in the next day or two. But these clouds were not enough to obscure the big views we’d counted on the summit to provide.
The air was cold on the summit (the day’s high was only 22ºF), but there was little wind, so it was quite pleasant. Having had our fill of snow-covered manzanita for the day, we abandoned our plan to follow the ridge down (which is a great route when the snow consolidates), and we went down the service road instead.
On the way down, we had an expansive view of the snowy Siskiyous,
and of Wagner Butte. It’s highest point is on the butte’s left but the popular (but lower) old lookout site is on the right.
Us being us, it wasn’t enough to just follow the service road to Forest Road 20. Noooo, we had to do some more cross-country,
AND find some more deep holes in the snow,
before finally reaching FR 20 for the easy walk back to the parking area.
After a delay to answer a Forest Service recreation survey, we reached the truck and the end of our first short, but sturdy (2.9 miles; 1,000 feet of elevation gain), snowshoe hike of the winter. This event was sufficiently worthy to require a late lunch at Caldera Brewing in Ashland for rehydration and the re-building of our energy reserves for the drive home. And thus ended another great day outdoors in Southern Oregon!