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Frog Pond Butte

Monday, January 08, 2007
A couple weeks ago, my friend and I decided to climb up Larch Mountain in the middle of a stalled front that was dumping metric tons of water all over us. This was "awesome", but not always "fun."

Yesterday, we decided to try snowshoeing. Despite the forecast for 70% precipitation, we drove up to Otto's in Sandy, rented a couple pairs of snowshoes, bought a map, and decided to go to Frog Pond Butte, just on the east side of Mt. Hood. There's a black diamond cross-country trail there (which isn't as meaningful on snowshoes) that's also a snowmobile path as well.

At first, all went well. We had better gear this time and snowshoes, so our feet were far less likely to get wet like they did on Larch Mountain. The cloud level was low, but we weren't getting dumped on. As we started, there were several dog-sled teams just unloading. I guess there was some sort of event going on - but not on our particular path.

The first thing I noticed as we slogged up the hill was that snowshoeing isn't easy - even on the trail (not groomed) that we were on. I mean to say that I was wearing a waterproof jacket, thermal underwear, snow pants, boots, snowshoes, a hat, and my hiking backpack full of stuff and I was working hard just moving up that slope. It was great exercise.

Playing in the snow
As we climbed, we were passed by a pair of snowmobilers (going respectfully slowly) but otherwise saw no one. It wasn't quiet, though. The wind was starting to pick up and snow was being shaken off the trees as the weather started to catch up to the predictions.

Given our plans for the day, we wanted to turn around at 12:30 - regardless of whether or not we made it to the top. Realizing that coming down was going to be a lot easier than going up, we decided to change that to 12:45 (since we'd need less time for the descent.) While we had a map, as the clouds descended and visibility dropped we had no real idea where we were in relation to the peak and, getting tired, we contemplated eating and turning around. However, due to our adventurous natures, we decided to keep going and at 12:30 emerged into what can only be described as "nightmarish, but kind of fun" conditions. Think of snow and ice being driven sideways in 50-foot visibility weather. We figured - since trees were scarce - that we were close to the top but were still following old snowmobile tracks. Then we saw it: the cell tower at the top!

Barely able to look up, we trudged towards it figuring that the top would be where they'd put something like this. We snapped a few pictures, marveled at the weather and at how we were still actually enjoying ourselves, and turned around, having decided to seek better shelter for eating lunch.

We descended back into the trees, ate lunch, and quickly hiked down. The snowshoeing experience is definitely one that I'd repeat, though I must say that once I left the trail it got REALLY, REALLY difficult. I was out of breath trying to climb literally 10 feet up a slope. Crazy!

So that was our adventure, more or less. Fun times, and I'll definitely be doing it again.


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