White River Snowshoe and an Epic Avalanche Exploration

Tuesday, April 24th, 2023:

This was to be a rather pedestrian hike but as we progressed up the White River a very unusual sight caught our attention: An avalanche! It appeared to have happened very recently, perhaps as recently as the past weekend when there was a heavy rain event that could have triggered it. The Snotel site recorded a period of above freezing temperatures for the 21st to the 23rd and about three inches of precipitation over that time. Enough, apparently, to trigger this avalanche.

The slide went down the west branch of the White River canyon from the White River Glacier and ended under the powerlines to Meadows. The genesis, apparently, from a huge broken-off slab below and cornice about a third of a mile east of Silcox Hut at about the 6,800 foot level. The final runout is at 4,650′ elevation. Distance between these two points is about 2.3 miles as near as we could determine.

Once as far up-canyon as we could get without going out onto the slide, (Kel didn’t want any part of that!) I decided to trek out onto the ice and do some exploring. I made my way, with some difficulty, along the top of the slide for 3/4 miles until I reached its terminus, recording what I saw. This was a fun adventure but now I have a major sunburn to deal with! My bad!

3.5 miles, 781′ EG. Hike #46 for the year.

A few photos of the adventure:

Columns of snow pushed up 12 to 15 feet high at the sides of the slide.

Here’s where I went over the edge of the slide and started exploring down its length. The apparent start of the slide in the upper right. I was able to gauge its location and elevation by lining my map up with Illumination rock in the distance.

On other snowshoe treks, we’ve crossed into the canyon here to continue up. Glad we weren’t here when this happened!

I’ll bet much of this won’t melt this year – or maybe even next year!

Looking up-canyon from where I went over the edge of the slide.

This was very difficult terrain!

Getting across this made off-trail bushwacks seem like a piece of cake!

In a few places, the slide took out some pines that lined the canyon edges. You can see their remains in this photo.

The above serac is over 15 feet high.

The final run-out of the slide:

It’s hard to gauge the scale – this thing is about 15 feet high, maybe more.

Slide terminus. You can see the Mt. Hood Meadows powerlines above. This is .95 mile from the snow-park and 1.1 miles from the Hwy 35 bridge.



Bunker Hill, Jan. 16th, 2023

This is one of Kelly’s favorites and today was the first (mostly) non-rainy day in over two weeks, so, why not!

Bunker Hill is a short, but steep hike with a nice flat start to warm you up for a relentless 1,250′ elevation gain in only 1.4 miles. Kel likes this also for its lack of rocks on the trail and a very smooth surface that’s really easy on her bad knee. Add to that a mature forest with dozens of huge old-growth firs and the chance to sight deer and even elk on occasion.

Normally, this is about 4 miles, out and back from the Whistle Punk TH but today we had to park well short due to deep snow and no possibility of parking, even if we could have gotten to the regular TH. As it turned out, we hiked 5.1 miles total.

We gave up on the access road, realizing that parking and even turning around might prove to be impossible. I backed up a quarter mile or so, found a wide spot, turned around and parked so we got an even better warm up than usual – and what a warm-up it was!

This area is notorious for its micro-climate, and it really showed off today with deep snow on the valley floor and hardly any once we climbed just a short distance up from the valley floor.  Knowing this from a half century of experience in the area, we persisted through two feet of mostly untracked snow, post holing down 18″ and more. Even Kel, who usually can walk atop crusted snow, sank to her knees. For me, of course, I didn’t have a chance staying on top and resigned myself to getting a decent cardio workout hoping our previous experience would again prove correct.

Still on the valley floor, even under a complete forest canopy, the snow was still about two feet deep. The postholes shown in this photo are all from a heard of elk.

As usual for this time of year, there’s a long section of trail past the initial meadow that has a stream running across and even along it. Last March, I cut 36 rounds form nearby downed trees to make a series of stepping blocks to bridge water as much as 10 inches deep – and even more at times. Here’s Kel harvesting the benefits of that work.

I completely cleared the trail last year and only four or five small trees have fallen across it since, but all are small enough to take out with a hand saw. We removed dozens of branches today so it’s in better shape than we found it but still needs a bit of picking up. Nothing bigger than the easy step-over tree and debris shown in the next two photos.

We reached the PCT junction less than a 100′ elevation above the meadow and even there, the snow was significantly less deep. By the first switchback in another 50′ elevation, we could avoid the snow altogether and soon there was hardly any at all.

There are many truly ancient old growth trees here, also on the east side of the hill, should you choose to come in on the PCT from that side. I think the density of big trees is even more on that side, but the parking is minimal and today it would have been non-existent.

Once on top, no snow at all so we sat down and enjoyed a well-earned break and enjoyed the view.

5.1 miles, 1,358′ EG

Hike # 6 for 2023.

Wyeth to Herman on a very cold day – solstice hike

The 400 trail west from the Wyeth TH is one of Kelly’s favorites for the solitude it usually provides, not to mention the great views. It’s 8 miles out-and-back and only gains about a thousand feet in that distance.

It looked as if the gorge was going to shut down due to ice storms for a few days, so we gave it a shot ahead of the storm, though the wind and temperature was daunting.

We arrived at the TH just before noon after visiting my trail elf friends on Lower Archer on the way. They were busy reconstructing a bridge and both Kel and I wanted to see how they were doing and give them a thumbs up.

It was 26 degrees when we started out Wednesday, but the wind wasn’t too bad. The parking area was a very slippery sheet of ice but once we got onto the trail proper, the traction was great and there was only snow underfoot the rest of the way.

A few hundred yards farther, the “summer” TH was decidedly lonely:

This new bridge over the creek is a nice addition to a previously sketchy crossing: Kel got ahead of me when I had to go back to the car and lock it. That’s her, just before reaching a few fallen logs in the right-center of the image. It took me another ten minutes to catch her – she was on a roll today.

This trail has quite a few sections that are rocky but today, with just the right amount of snow cover, it was smooth as silk:

That’s Indian Point on the right, 2,000 feet above us:

A look back – Wind Mountain on the far left and the snow-covered meadows of Dog Mountain to its right.

The forest burned in the Sept. 2017 fire, but the upper canopy is intact the entire way, and the blackened trees create an interesting contrast.

Along the way, we spotted this huge rock not far from the trail, and I just had to climb it!

We met a couple of folks coming back at the very start of the trail so we can’t claim first tracks. However, their tracks stopped at the two-mile mark so it was first tracks

after that. Only deer had preceded us the rest of the way:

There are about 15 trees down on the trail but only three of any size. This smallish one is an easy walk-around.

This one was more of a problem. Kel rolled her eyes when I said, “just back up a few paces and take a run at it”. So, she did, but first she pulled her Wonder Woman cape out of her pack and Voila, problem solved. 😉

In another hundred yards or so, yet another big one down. This wasn’t much of a problem, though.

Continuing to the Herman trail junction, I took a quick look to see if any more big trees were down for future trail work and only found a few mid-sized ones.

This is the view looking up the Herman Creek trail: Three trees in sight and all could be cut with a hand saw. Good, because this is the start of the wilderness area.

There were also three at the start of the Gorton Creek trail: Not sure why the sign is crooked. It looked like it was purposely installed that way. Too much Christmas egg nog?

On the way back, we were treated to a stiff headwind and a temperature of 19 degrees and less. Bracing, but we were dressed for it and glad to have had a great day in the woods


8.6 miles, 1079′ EG, hike #123 for 2022.



Multnomah Basin Trail & Road Clearing

I’ve worked to clear the trails in the Multnomah Basin for over twenty years, but this was the first time I’ve worked with a Trails Club work party. This first group of photos taken on Saturday, November 26th, 2022.

Jeff Lawton invited me along, so I showed up with my trusty battery chain saw and got to work. Here’s Jeff, on the job with his brand-new Makita battery saw and Paul, starting to work with his gas saw, (on the right).

This photo’s staged – Paul finished this one off.

There were some nice messes along the road in the basin.

I think this photo was taken on the road between the brown gate and the green gate.

Lunch camp on the basin road. Glen on the left, then Cindy, and Linda sitting down.

Enjoying a few moments rest before starting back.

A few photos of the work done along the road.


Here’s a few before and after photos during earlier work trips along the trails in the basin. I didn’t start in earnest with this project until I replaced my saw with a back-packable gas saw in 2005. That worked well, but the Stihl battery saw, introduced in 2010 really made the job fun: No problems starting, no hearing protection needed and only ten pounds. Besides, when the battery was done, I was usually tired and ready to stash the equipment and continue on with a hike. I had grown tired of the many downed trees and had to do something about it.

On March 1st, 2020, I went up to the basin with my friends, Guy, Chiyoko, Pascal and Kazuko. Here’s Chiyoko, Kazuko and Guy crossing one of the bridges in the basin.

We had lots of real messes to clean up that day:                                                                                                                                               Guy and Pascal showing off our hard work.

More before and after pics:

A nice rest at the lodge before heading back. We cleared every trail in the basin that day, taking out about 70 logs.

I even lassoed son Paul in on the project the week before: Here’s a few pics from Feb. 26th, 2020:

Having Paul along is great – I cut, he moves!

Here’s a real mess I did alone on Feb. 20th, 2020: The start:                                                                                                                                    Stage One:

Stage Two:                                                                                                                                                                                      Done – except for that big log in the distance:

It was bigger than it looked once I got over there:                                                                                                                    Done!:

This is only a small sampling of work done in the basin. I usually work alone and usually don’t take photos. This last was an exception.

Defiance-Green Point-Nick Eaton Death March with EP and Mayhem – 082011

There’s nothing better than getting together with true TFF’s and hitting the trails. Even better, is turning it into an epic death march hitting major gorge landmarks and living to tell about it.

Saturday, August 20th, 2011, promised to be a perfect day, with clear blue skies and barely a hint of wind. I rendezvoused with Eric (AKA Ragnar or EP) and Mark (AKA Mayhem or Way to GO!) at the Herman Creek TH at 7 AM, way early for me but if pressed, I can do it! The guys moved the start time so I could get my sorry butt out of bed in time to make the date, too. They must have really wanted to see me suffer! To make the day perfect, the Portland high temperature that day ended up at 96 degrees, and likely about the same in the gorge.

We hit the trail at 7:06 with Eric wearing his customary 100 lb. pack (This helps equalize the fact he’s 25 years younger than me). – just kidding, at least about the pack – it’s usually about 30#+ though.!

First, we headed up via the Gorton Creek trail and tagged Indian Point. I don’t remember if I climbed to the top of the spire, just because, but probably.

Here’s Mark taking a selfie at IP:

Afterwards we headed directly to Deadwood Camp and then up to Ridge Camp.

Deadwood Camp:

Ridge Camp:

As we passed by the Wyeth trail junction, we bumped into a guy that Eric and Mark knew, so we all got a picture taken:


A deer posed for us along the way:

Then a long slog downhill 500 vertical feet to the SW trail up to Mt. Defiance passing by North Lake on the way.

We were totally out of water by then, finding Eric’s water purification pump not working properly.

The trail gods smiled on us when we met a guy who had just climbed Defiance with gallons of extra water for training weight. He gave us all we could carry and off we went, confident that we weren’t going to expire from dehydration after all. Our hero:

On the way back down from Defiance:

After coming down from Defiance, we suffered through a mile and a quarter of hot road walk to access the route up to Green Point.

Eric, enjoying the road slog:

The view back towards Defiance from Green Point:

We survived, tagging GP and now it was all downhill for the 9.4 miles of the rest of the trek. We passed by Ridge Camp once more and hiked a couple of minor uphills to tag the HP of Nick Eaton Ridge.

HP of Nick Eaton Ridge:

Scene along the ridge: I remember thinking: this has a ton of dead trees, it’s going to be bad when this burns as it inevitably will.

Yep, it burned up in the fire of 2017:

Then it was down the steep, narrow Casey Creek trail to the Herman Creek trail and back to our cars. I had to get back home by 7, so after okaying my plan with Mark, ran back to my car the remaining four miles.

This turned out to be 28.1 miles and 7,328′ EG, 11 hours, 8 minutes.

Nesmith Point on a Snowy Day

I’ve been Jonesing to get back to Nesmith for a couple of weeks since I learned that the trail is open again. Closed since the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, I was curious to see how it has fared and how some of my favorite old-growth forest icons were doing. Sadly, none of my favorite oldest and gnarliest trees survived. The good news, however, is that the trail is in decent shape, all but a couple downed trees are gone from the route, and it’s been brushed out in its entirety.

One of the more majestic of the old-growths in better days:

How it looked on the 3rd:

Here’s what’s left of a 10′ diameter cedar. (The stump in the center of the photo) It appears the top has completely burned away, and the remnants have fallen into the canyon:

The Nesmith Trail always was rocky and also steep in many places and that hasn’t changed but there are a few new stone steps here and there and that’s an improvement.

The trail has burned up to about the 3200′ level and after that it’s just as it was before the fire.

I was expecting a little snow over the trail higher up so was surprised to see it starting at under 2k’, intermittent until about 2400′ and continuous after that, reaching a depth of 7 or 8 inches by the summit. I wished I’d thought to bring my micro spikes for traction, but I survived, even on the return when I really needed them. It was about 40 degrees at my start time of 8:15 and just below freezing at the summit with a light breeze, just enough to make me zip up my jacket.

Snow laden vine maple still with a full complement of green leaves!

I was making the first tracks as I approached the summit. The entire way, for that matter. This final bit to the summit is part of an old road leading to the fire lookout that once graced the highest spot.

Here’s the view at the very summit:

On the return, it started raining lightly about a mile and half from the TH, but it wasn’t too bad.

9.1 miles out and back and about 3920′ EG. hike # 103.

Eagle Creek Trail – On Ice

The gorge is an amazing place at any time but even more so on those choice occasions when the thermometer heads for the basement. The first couple of weeks in January, 2017 were noteworthy with a persistent cold weather system keeping the gorge especially chilled. I concentrated on the Eagle Creek trail, logging 65 miles and over 10k’ EG over seven days. Then the increasing accumulation of ice and snow forced the road to be closed and that was that for a few days. This is the story of one of those days, Thursday, Jan. 5th, 2017.

By the 5th, the cold had been continuous since early on the 1st, below freezing all day and dipping in to the mid to low teens overnight. I wanted to hike as far as I could on the trail, taking in what I knew would be some great views of icy waterfalls.

Unusual for Eagle Creek, the TH was deserted but at 14 degrees on a weekday, not unexpected! On the way, I paused briefly at Horsetail falls for a photo presaging what I’d see later:

At the start of the trail the icicles were growing:


The trail became increasingly difficult less than halfway to Tunnel Falls:

After over 6 miles, I finally made it to Tunnel Falls, and it was amazing. This was the first time I’d ever seen it so iced up. I walked through the tunnel and took a couple of apprehensive breaths before continuing:

Here’s a short video:

Tunnel Falls on ice – YouTube

Here are some still shots taken after passing through the tunnel:

Now the trail got even worse, but I wanted to see the next falls before I headed back.

A quarter mile farther is Criss-Cross Falls:

Above Criss-Cross falls, the trail got decidedly narrow and even slipperier, so I called it a day.

One last look at the inside of the tunnel:

A look back:

13.3 miles RT, 1,880′ EG.

Finding Frank and Ruth

In April of 2004 a couple of hashers were bushwhacking in Forest Park and stumbled on a man and young girl camping in the park. They notified the police, thinking an older man and a young girl living in a remote and well- hidden camp looked suspicious. As it turned out, the man, Frank, was a Viet Nam war vet and decided that he would protect his daughter from the evils of drugs, alcohol and crime by getting away from society and living off the grid. They had been there for four years.

This compelling story has been made into a movie and a book has even been written. Both, however, are highly fictionalized though use the general theme of a father and daughter living for years off-the-grid.

The true whole story is here.

I’ve wondered for years just where their camp was located. I’ve hiked every trail and fire lane in the park and can say with certainty there are many places one could disappear and not be found for years – if ever.

I found the location of their camp in May, 2020 after researching the area and using the available information. Nothing remains of the shelter. A Forest Park clean-up crew must have dismantled it and taken it out years ago. However, one thing remains and that is the rope swing Frank made for his daughter those many years ago. The small excavation in the hillside is evident as is the level spot where the dirt from the excavation was placed. A small garden spot is also there with eroding but obvious terracing. A small pool in the streambed a few feet from the shelter site is there too.

On the way to their campsite on what may have once been their trail:

Here is Ruth’s rope swing:

The terraced garden site:


A place in the stream for keeping perishables cool:

Looking up the canyon:

The site of their shelter under an old cedar tree:

A rocky trail leads a circuitous route to the site but it’s now only a game trail – and discontinuous at that. The trail is accessed from St. Helens Rd. and in a spot where Frank and his daughter could have easily entered the woods without being noticed. There may be other places where a hidden entrance could once have been but now too overgrown to be still visible.

The trail, such as it is, is now overgrown in many places with vines, blackberries, nettles, and even poison oak in a few spots. I think there may be an easier way in as well but that’s for another time.

I hope Frank resolved his demons and that Ruth was able to have a good life. They are surely very resourceful people.


Three Days in Christmas Lake Valley

Kel wanted something special for her 70th birthday and was adamant about not getting any more “stuff”. We really enjoyed our time in Christmas Lake Valley, in south central Oregon, a couple of years ago, but it was too hot to do much hiking. This time we chose the last possible time for good weather before the onset of the cool/cold season and hit it perfectly. Kel’s main birthday wish was to hike Hager Mt., a 7,185′ peak overlooking the valley on the SW side.

We booked a couple nights in the little town of Christmas Valley, planning to hike a couple of small peaks along the way, in particular, Sand Rock. Kel found this interesting little bump-in-the-desert in one of William Sullivan’s hiking books and I agreed, it looked intriguing. It appeared that a more efficient way to get to Sand Rock would be to enter the valley via Hwy 20, not the usual way via Hwy 31 so that’s what we did. A side benefit would be we would pass directly by a little peak called Frederick Butte. It turned out a little shorter to do it that way, but the downside was over 60 miles of gravel and dirt road!

Arriving at Frederick Butte, Kel decided to save her energy for the next day, but I went ahead and climbed it, entirely on cow paths, no trail, taking an hour and a half while she explored the desert around the car. We then headed out to find Sand Rock and despite miles of rocky, dirt road, we made it to its base just before sundown. This was only about a mile, total, out and back and I made the summit just as the sun was setting. Kel got there shortly after, and we headed down and drove out in the dark. Arriving in Christmas Valley, there were no open restaurants, so we ate at a gas station. Anything is good if you are hungry.

The Lakeside Terrace Motel had been completely renovated since last we were there and it’s a surprisingly nice place now with great views of a little lake in the center of town.

The next day we got an early start and hiked the 8 miles round trip and 2,100′ EG to Hager Mountain seeing only one other person the entire trip.

We found the only open restaurant that evening, a little Mexican place, and got great service and really good fare.

Leaving the next morning we headed straight for Fort Rock, exploring an old cemetery along the way.

Fort Rock is an ancient tuff ring, formed hundreds of thousands of years ago when magma broke through the bed of the ancient ice-age Christmas Lake. (Sand Rock is composed of the same but is an oval shaped lump now, having been much eroded over the eons.) I stopped by Fort Rock in August of 1969 but didn’t do much exploring and no climbing so now was our chance. We spent a couple of hours exploring and called it a day.

By now, we were tired out and ready to transition to a wet and familiar fall season.  On the drive back to town, we could see the wildfire smoke on the horizon and the incoming clouds promising the start of the long anticipated rainy season.

Frederick Butte, 1.8 miles RT, and 687′ EG.

Summit rocks of Frederick Butte:

Sand Rock:

Summit of Sand Rock:

The view from the motel:

Hager mountain from the valley:

Views along the trail up Hager Mountain:

An interesting mix of ponderosa pine, juniper, sage brush and fir.

A local in town told us that these meadows were flush with wildflowers in the summer:

Near the summit, a picnic table with arguably the best views in the state:

A view from the summit:

The summit from a little side peak to the north:

Kel, approaching the side peak’s summit:

We could see all the peaks from Mt. Shasta to Mt. Jefferson. Also, the peaks on the rim of Crater Lake. They don’t show up well in a cell phone’s wide-angle view, but we could see them just the same.

The next day we headed out to Fort Rock:

A little cemetery at the base of the rock:

My Gaia app indicated the rounded dome at center was the HP, but once there, I could see it was not. The west side looked higher so down I went and up the west side.

A view from the true HP:

The western, and true HP from near the faux HP.

Some of the terrain reminded me of some of the scenes from the Alien movies.

The final pitch to the summit. Good holds, solid rock, but don’t slip!

On the way home we could see the smoke rolling over the passes and the welcome rain clouds in the distance.

Three days, 4 hikes, 14.4 miles, 3,694′ EG, 689 miles driven.








Misc. photos for linking to other sites

Duncan-Cynthia Loop to 110922

Lower Archer trail system to 111822

Lower Archer Falls the day after the deluge of 111222

Grapes on the trail to Lower Archer, 09422

Working with Scott below the crux: 101422

Trail signs for Archer pre-installation:

Bullet Car sign as installed:

Archer Mt. sign as installed:

Archer sign after coloring and one year of weather:

Archer sign after sanding, re-coloring and sealing. July 4th, 2022:

Big Leaf Bridge sign as installed:

Cynthia sign as installed: