Burton Butte Snowshoe (Oregon) 14-Mar-2019

Yes, we’ve had plenty of snow this winter. Plenty of snow. So one would think we’ve been snowshoeing like crazy these past few months. No. The snow this year came in waves, plastering the mountain roads each time. By the time the roads were clear, or at least not too exciting to drive, the next storm hit. The snow itself was beautiful, soft, DEEP powder – superb for skiing, not so for snowshoeing. So we waited until the storms eased, the roads were clearer, and the snow had settled some. Looking for something different, we spied Burton Butte (6,090 feet), sitting about a mile southeast of the Pedersen Sno-Park on the Dead Indian Memorial Highway. There’s an old road (Forest Road (FR) 3862) that runs almost to its broad summit – a road we thought might work with snowshoes. So on a cold, but otherwise bluebird morning, we drove up to the sno-park,

Just a little snow at the sno-park

geared-up,

The LovedOne pretending I can’t see her 🙄

and headed south on the snow-covered Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), following a few blue blazers and an obvious divot in the snow. The snow – of which there was A LOT – was powdery, soft, and totally untracked – an amazingly pristine experience in a crowded world.

Following the PCT’s divot through deep snow (arrow points to a PCT blazer)
Along the PCT
Going in 8-12 inches even with snowshoes

After about 0.75 miles on the PCT, we turned east into an area that aerial photographs show as an old clear cut, now some 20 years or so into regrowth. Unlike the more open PCT, here we had to thread our way through smaller, more tightly packed trees, each laden with snow blobs. The LovedOne also managed to collapse a snow-covered air pocket, almost getting her snowshoe stuck under a buried tree as a result.

Almost trapped…

After less than a half mile of wending our way through this young forest, we came to FR 3862, which was also totally untracked. We’re guessing that it may not appeal to snowmobilers since it doesn’t connect directly to any other roads.

On FR 3862

As we went up the road in the brilliant sunshine, we noticed that the snow was losing its powdery quality and becoming “stickier” so that it now clung to our poles and shoes. Our hike was becoming seriously aerobic as muscles not used to repetitively lifting clots of snow came into play. Our original plan had been to follow FR 3862 to FR 3862-240, follow that to near the top of the butte, and then go cross-country to the top. But, as we rounded the butte’s southwestern ridge, we decided it would be easier (or no harder) to just leave the road and strike directly up the very gently sloping ridge. We took the appearance of a dynamically balanced snow sculpture as affirmation of this decision…

Snow sculpture or directional portent?

Going up through the trees was somewhat easier than working through the softening snow on the road and we soon emerged in to a big open meadow now thickly covered with a smooth blanket of absolutely pristine snow. Wonderful! This is probably a wildflower paradise in late spring and early summer.

Entering the meadow
An expanse of untouched snow
Our tracks and our tracks alone
Sunshine in the meadow
Shadows on snow

Had this been a dirt hike, we’d have just been getting started (these meadows are only two miles from the sno-park). But breaking trail in soft and sticky snow had taken its toll. Continuing on might have ruined an otherwise stellar day through overexertion. Plus the actual top of the butte is tree-covered and viewless. So we enjoyed the meadow a bit more, then headed back.

Contemplating our hike back
Back across the meadow
Back along FR 3862, with the tip (arrow) of Brown Mountain visible on the horizon
Back along the PCT

Despite being only 4.3 miles round-trip with 500 feet of gain, this hike had given us quite a work-out (certain muscles echoed this sentiment until silenced with ibuprofen). But this minor suffering was well worth it for the opportunity to cross untracked snow on a beautiful day to a big snowy meadow! 😀 And, with all this snow, there may be more than a few weeks left in the snowshoe season. And time for the snow to settle just a little bit more. 🙂

Our track to the meadows on the side of Burton Butte
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4 comments

  1. There’s something oddly satisfying about being the first to make snowshoe tracks across an open snowy field! Maybe it’s the feeling that no one else is around and it’s just you, snow and nature.
    Wonderful pictures!

    1. Thanks! From the Pedersen Sno-Park, you can go north to the Brown Mountain Shelter – a popular and well-tracked path. But going south on the PCT from the sno-park, like we did, it was just us, unblemished snow, and nature. 🙂

    1. It is very beautiful up there, particularly when decorated with all the snow we’ve had this year. We just underestimated how thick & unsettled all that snow is even this late in the season. But it’s only going to get better until it melts… 🙂

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