Bald Mtn. Mental Health Facility (aka Top Spur snow report)

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Thunder Thigh 3
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Bald Mtn. Mental Health Facility (aka Top Spur snow report)

Post by Thunder Thigh 3 » December 28th, 2013, 11:54 am

I took a sick day on Friday the 27th. I really was sick - sick and tired of the pervasive fog shrouding every day this week. I work outside for a living and as a general rule make an effort to not complain about the weather - doing so just puts me on a quick downward spiral - and instead focus on gratitude for being outside on the nice days. Rain and clouds usually don't faze me, but this fog has really shaken my anti-complaining resolve. Obviously. Perhaps it's the fact that I know that just above this all encompassing shroud of gray is a beautiful sunny day, perfectly accessible in the higher elevations a short drive from home and work. All that sunlit adventuring but a breath away while I'm entombed in fog like a fish bowl. So yes. I really was sick. And so I did what any reasonable North-westerner would do - I took a mental health day and made a bee-line for the mountain. It didn't take much convincing to rope my folks into the jaunt up to Mt. Hood. We decided to check out Top Spur Rd., off of Lolo Pass Rd., to see what the road conditions were, if the trailhead was accessible, where the snow levels were, knowing we would also get the immediate reward of the open trail around Bald Mtn with an incredible view. An incredible view in the sunshine.

But let me back up. Road conditions - Lolo Pass road was pretty slick with a very heavy coating of frost. I slowed way down after sliding around a bit on a straight stretch. From there to approximately 3 miles shy of Top Spur TH there were just patches of frost-coated road to be careful on. Within the last 3 miles the road became rutted in snow-turned-ice and was pretty slick. I made it through okay in a 2WD Rav, but a lower clearance car dragging along the high snow median would be harder pressed to make it through without extra traction assistance. The road was really only icy and holding lingering snow on the sections that never saw the sun and had been compacted down by previous traffic. There was no appreciable snow on the ground, and we made it to the TH parking area, which was devoid of other vehicles.
It really was quite astonishing how un-wintery this trail looked. We used our supplementary shoe traction on the trail where previous foot traffic had compressed the snow into ice, but the vast majority of the trail and trail side was snow free. Having now ascended above the inversion, a relatively warm breeze wafted through the trees and bear grass, carrying with it the feel of a chilly late September morning. It seriously did not feel like the end of December!
Of course there were no flowers, but with the ground still bare, some of the foliage was enough to give the curious hiker pause, such as this purple leaf of a penstemon.
We enjoyed the views from Bald Mtn on the way up and then decided to push our time frame and go up to the bear grass clearings along the ridge trail to McNeil Point. Wow, what a view. There was still no trail side snow, just patches in the trail here and there where it had just enough shade to prevent sun-driven melting. Speaking of sun… oh, I felt as though my soul had been released from a dungeon!
It was all sunshine and light and fresh air and ‘wow’ up there. I looked behind us to see the ever present bank of fog still entombing the valley, which made me feel all the better for being above it in the terrain without air stagnation advisories flashing in red banners across my view.
With some previous engagements driving us down off the mountain earlier than we would have otherwise done, we turned around here and hiked back down, taking the Bald Mountain trail option again – in the sun, with the views – and breathed in the vitamin D saturated healing.
It’s incredible that the mountain trails are still so accessible. I don’t remember a lower snow year. I will gladly partake until we get some real snow. Two suggestions if you choose to go up there: bring some sort of shoe traction accessory for the icy stretches of trail, and take a slightly higher clearance vehicle than your average passenger car (although with current weather trends I'm sure a passenger car could get up there without any problem as the snow and ice continue to melt this weekend).
Happy trails!

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Re: Bald Mtn. Mental Health Facility (aka Top Spur snow repo

Post by Crusak » December 28th, 2013, 1:50 pm

Beautiful pictures! And incredible to see the lack of snow. It's been a dry December.

Great way to spend a 'sick day' to bolster your mental health! :) I'm sure it's exactly what the doctor would order.
Jim's Hikes

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Re: Bald Mtn. Mental Health Facility (aka Top Spur snow repo

Post by Splintercat » December 30th, 2013, 11:25 pm

Thanks - great Hood shots! As much as the low snowpack is opening up trails that really shouldn't be open right now, the roads to the trailheads are a different story -- thanks to a really persistent layer of packed ice/snow from being driven on... argh! I scraped bottom a lot going up there about a month ago (in a Highlander), and it sounds like it hasn't changed all that much..! On the plus side, it was sort of light slot-car racing by simply letting the ruts guide you down the hill... well, until they led into the ditch, anyway..! :lol:

Thanks for posting!

Tom :)

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