Cross Country Skiing Bennett Ridge Trail
Part of Bennett Ridge Trail on Pages 186-189 of Cross-Country Ski Routes: Oregon, 2nd Edition
Saturday, January 12, 2008
This was a trip I did with my friends Tasha, Cara and Kara and Kara’s dad and sister, Brian and Laura. The trail started out from Bennett Pass Sno-Park, off Hwy 35 on the south east side of Mt. Hood. We were all fairly novice skiers, so we just did the first 2.3 miles or so of this trail, turning around just before a section called the Terrible Traverse for a total distance of about 4.6 or so miles. It was a very enjoyable trip and made me really want to learn how to better ski on free heel skis. We made it there and back safe and sound with only one near death experience. ;)
I guess Bennett Pass is the highest highway pass on Mt Hood, and so the snow was plentiful. Everything was covered with thick layers of it, making for beautiful scenery. It was raining the whole drive up until right before we got to the Sno-Park when the precipitation turned to ice pellets, blowing hard into our faces in the parking lot. But as we got into the woods the ice pellets turned to nice snow, and it continued that way for the rest of the trip. It was very nice.
In these first two photos I think I had snow on my lens, therefore the hazy image. This is Brian and Laura on the trail. Their family used to cross country ski together when the kids were younger, but none of them had done it for a while. It was nice to have Brian on the trip to keep me company with all the girls.
The snow was piled thick on all the trees, and quite often throughout the trip huge masses of it would fall off, making such loud sounds that you almost thought a gunshot was echoing across the valley. It was a little scary at times when the wind would pick up, but I don't think any of us got hit too bad.
From left to right: Tasha, Kara, Brian, Laura and Cara. We stopped for a snack at this large intersection in the trails. We had come from the right in this picture and to the left was a trail that went up to White River Overlook. We got some advice from other skiers who pointed us to the continuation of Bennett Ridge Trail to the left and behind me (as I was taking this photo). The trail to the right and behind me led to a viewpoint that might have been nice. I can't remember why we chose not to check it out.
This was evidently a common lunch spot because the birds were out and looking for handouts. We almost had some swipe sandwiches out of our hands while we were obliviously munching on them.
These guys were really interesting. They were hauling a sled of sorts loaded up with long poles. Some of my friends stopped and talked to them while I was taking photos and I guess they were bringing the poles to make a teepee up somewhere near the White River Overlook, where they would spend the night. It looked like a lot of work, but it was a cool idea.
Maybe about a half a mile after that big intersection where we had lunch we arrived at this clearing with an amazing view across the valley. If the weather had been less cloudy it would have been even more spectacular.
Cara at the viewpoint.
Laura at the viewpoint.
Again from left to right, Brian, Kara, Laura, Tasha and Cara.
Getting everyone lined up for this photo was a little harder than it would seem for novice skiers like us. The drop off to the left and behind the group was pretty intense, and none of us were super proficient skiers, so we were very careful to keep our skis pointed in such a way that if we started going we wouldn't be going off the cliff!
This time Cara volunteered to take a photo with me in it.
Shortly after that nice viewpoint we came to some switchbacks that went up to Windy Saddle where we turned around. Now, I learned on my last cross country ski trip that it is infinitely easier for me to go uphill on free heel skis than to go downhill. This was Kara on the way down the switchbacks. And Kara definitely wasn't the only one to bite the dust on these slopes. I think all of us fell at least once, and I fell many times trying my luck speeding down the hill. It was fun, though, and I think with a little instruction and practice on turning I would really enjoy these neat downhill sections.
Cara opted for not crashing and took her skis off and walked down this steep curvy hill while Tasha sped by her, trying her luck that way. Tasha actually stayed up on that particular run, which impressed me greatly. I think she has done this perhaps more than any of us at least recently. Incidentally, this was Cara's first time ever on cross country skis and she did great.
I think this is where Tasha managed to come to a stop without crashing. Pretty impressive. :)
I really liked how these small trees looked as they curled over under the weight of the heavy snow.
A little bit of blue sky started to come out behind these tall trees. Just after I took these photos it clouded up again.
This was the site of the aftermath of our near death experience of the day. It's hard to see clearly, but a fairly large tree fell across the trail right in between Laura and I. The wind picked up and snow started falling off trees all around us and we started sort of ducking for cover ...
Laura was preparing for the possibility of huge piles of snow falling on her and sort of turned to look back at us when I saw this tree which was right near her begin to fall. It fell directly toward me, and only missed Laura by maybe five feet. I was far enough behind her that the top of it missed me by maybe ten feet, but Brian and I were pretty scared for Laura who didn't even see what almost hit her until after it had crashed.
If you look closely you can see the "stump" of the fallen tree on the hillside. The tree was pretty big, but its weight and the force of its crash made it sink into the deep snow quite a ways, so only the outer branches were visible on top of the snow. It was a pretty scary incident and the wind was still blowing hard, so I took a couple of quick shots and got out of there. It would have been nice to document it a little better with closer shots, but I was pretty nervous about something else falling, huge mounds of snow if not limbs or entire trees.
This was a sign marking one of the roads near the trailhead. Yep, pretty primitive I'd say.
Someone had made a pretty cool looking snowman at this intersection near the trailhead.
So, shortly after the tree-falling incident we arrived back safe and sound at the Sno-Park. As you can see, the snow was pretty deep and we had to climb down maybe six feet or more from the trail height to the parking lot.
The Bennett Pass Sno-Park sign.
Brian was kind enough to drive their new Subaru which had plenty of room for the skis. I'm not sure where we would have put them in my car if he hadn't. Anyway, we loaded up the gear, piled in the cars and headed back to Sandy to return our rentals and enjoy a wonderful dinner at Thai Home--the best restaurant in Sandy (in my humble opinion). :) It was a great trip. I'm excited to go up again.