Bronze's Expedition Log

Expedition Log

Weather Remarks

On July 8th I made a scout of the trail conditions south of Highway 58.  My aims were to ascertain the frequency of snow its and depth along the trail, to compare said measurements with reports I had received from hikers 7 days prior, to thereby judge the rate of snow melt and improvement of trail conditions per week, and to ultimately judge it’s navigability by stock in the week to follow.  Also of great interest to me was the amount of grass and forage available to my mule.

I departed Corvallis at 5 am and drove to around 120 miles to Windigo Pass.  Hiking north on the trail up to and around Cowhorn Mt. I observed patches of snow 1-2 feet deep beginning at 6800 feet.  In north-facing clearings the snow would sometimes reach 3-4 feet in depth.  It covered less than 50% of the trail.  I was dismayed to note a minimal improvement in conditions based on the observations reported by the hiker form 7 days prior.  Of particular interest was an open, east-facing ridge to the NW of Cowhorn Mt, where ” At one point the trail drops just below this ridge on the east side where it is impossibly steep and [the snow is] many feet deep”.  I found this ridge to be very treacherous indeed, with a 10 foot cornice impeding passage.  It was, however, not utterly impassable, giving me hope that some meager improvements in the trail had been affected over the course of the week.

Grass was very sparsely located along this section.  In the 5 or 6 miles I traveled up the trail I saw but little eligible forage for my mule.  What grass I did locate seemed random in its placement to me, such that I could not form any opinions on the conditions required for its growth.  In general this area seems ill-disposed to promote the growth of grass, favoring manzanita and small scrub instead.

I then drove to the Mt Thielsen trailhead and prepared to ascend to its juncture with the PCT, where I had been informed it “is 95 – 100 % covered with 2 – 5 feet of snow.”  Lack of suitable footware on my morning hike had rendered my feet so swollen and sore that I was not relishing the 4 mile, 2000 foot climb before me.  I was relieved to encounter 2 groups of returning hikers at the trailhead, whom I queried about the snow levels.  Both avowed no snow whatsoever at the juncture–welcome news indeed.

I was expecting “This snow continues past Thielsen Creek, Pumice Flat, Tipsoo Peak until the trail drops to about 7000 feet,” and since I was now relieved of my duty to climb Mt Thielsen, I determined instead to climb Tipsoo Peak to gauge snow levels at the northern end of this altitudinous section.  It was a 3 mile hike that brought me above 7600 feet.  I did encounter patches of snow, 1-2 feet deep, covering less than 50% of the trail.  This seemed to be a considerable improvement over previously reported conditions.  However, from my vantage point near the ummit of Tipsoo Peak I could still observe quantities of snow running south to Mt Thielsen, but could not determine to what extent they lay on the trail.  Returning down from the summit my hiking boots became so intolerable that I was compelled to finish the last mile in my socks.  As they were of thick wool I found it a considerable improvement.

At this time I determined that a continuance of the expedition was possible.  While particularly difficult sections like that on Cowhorn Mt remained snowbound, in general the depth of snow seemed to have diminished significantly.  It would take another week for me to ready myself to depart, in which time the snow would surely melt further.  The utter lack of grass was a great concern however, leaving me anxious for the ease of our passage.

On July 9 I loaded 240 lbs of alfalfa pellets and sweet feed into 4 plastic storage bins and drove south to Dunsmuir, CA.  In the prior week I had carefully selected locations along the trail where I hoped to cache a week’s worth of feed.  Thus Bootsie would be encumbered with only 1 week’s supply, not 2, saving her nearly 50 lbs of cargo.  Working north, I stashed te bins in the bushes at the trailhead, or once with an RV park that agreed to hold it until my arrival.  I was pleased to note that grass seemed more plentiful further south along the trail.  Searching for an eligible location at the entrance to the Sky Lakes Wilderness, I discovered that no grazing was allowed within the region before August 1st.  In addition, there were so many requirements and regulations with respect to camping and stock usage as to make passage through this area seem nearly impossible.  The prohibition on grazing alone was enough to convince me that this area be avoided.  

Thus I have decided to resume the expedition southward from Highway 140, just south of the Crater Lake and Sky Lakes Wilderness.  The lingering snow and lack of forage in the areas between Willamette Pass and Crater Lake, combined with the regulations against equines and campers in the above sections, are enough to convince me to avoid them altogether.  Having lost 2 weeks, I now have the opportunity to regain the time by starting further south, and thus increase my odds of successfully reaching the Whitehorse Ranch.

I am now searching for transport for myself and Bootsie to Fish Lake, where I may resume my journey.  I hope to be underway in a matter of days!

One Response to “Weather Remarks”

  1. Grannyhiker says:

    I think you are wise to make this change. We’ve had a week of cool and cloudy weather in the Portland-Mt. Hood area (at least in the Cascades–here in the valleys it cleared and got warm in the afternoons), and it was really cool and raining yesterday (I heard rumors of snow above 6,000 ft., but didn’t verify). Both aerial and ground photos taken of the Mt. Jefferson area a couple of days ago show a LOT of snow still up there.

    Starting farther south will make up for the time you’ve had to miss waiting for the snow to melt. IMHO, a “normal” start time with stock in the higher areas would have been mid-July. Not this year, though, as it turns out!

    There was a large forest fire in the Sky Lakes Wilderness last summer, and this may be why the extra restrictions. The USFS is keeping roads closed all summer on the NE side of Mt. Hood for the same reason.

    Best wishes for a safe and successful trip!