Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

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VanMarmot
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Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by VanMarmot » December 18th, 2010, 8:50 am

The weather was good on Thursday, but the forecast was grim for Friday, so I sat in my office all day Thursday thinking that I was missing my chance for a hike in decent weather. But Thursday night the forecast for Friday went from gloom to great. So on Friday I started from Herman Creek and took the PCT up to the Benson Plateau to check out the snow and maybe catch a view. Mine was the only car parked outside the Herman Creek gate in the morning (there was 1 more when I got back) and I saw no one the whole day. Table Mountain, still with a good blanket of snow, was visible on the way up.

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I had thought about bringing snowshoes but guessed, based on the weather pattern the previous week, that there’d be consolidated snow with minimum new stuff, and so it was. This saved me from carrying snowshoes up 3000’+ just for “exercise.” The PCT was free of snow until just past the wilderness boundary at about 2000’, where about 1-2” appeared,

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increasing to about 6-8” on the crest of the ridge at 2400’.

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This “snow ‘shroom” sprouted just before the first viewpoint at 2800’,

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and once there, I could see SE across to where clouds were pouring over Green Point Mountain,

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and NE to where Mt. Adams was just visible above the fast moving clouds.

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While it was clear and sunny all day, the air temp was at or below freezing in the sun and, with the wind whipping across the ridge, the windchill was intense. The little tiny controls on my camera are really hard to operate with partially frozen fingers. From the viewpoint on, the snow deepened to about 12” with a good base – little or no postholing. Someone had used snowshoes from here on but they weren’t really needed (which is likely to change if the next round of weather brings the promised 12-24” of new snow).

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Teakettle Spring was flowing, with more water visible than I've ever seen in summer – so if you wanted to snowcamp on the Plateau, the spring is currently a source of running water.

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I love this “avenue of trees” that marks your arrival on the Plateau.

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My usual turn-around spot at the informal camp near the 405B trail junction had changed since I’d last seen it in October. Then (remember summer?)

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and now.

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As I was retracing my route back to the TH, I noticed, in the boulder fields just before the PCT-406 trail junction, that it had never gotten warm enough during the day to melt the frost off of the plants.

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This is a good hike – about 12 mi RT, 3900’ – summer or winter. In winter, the trail is easy to follow, has views, and gives access to the Plateau, where you could wander around in snowshoes to your heart’s content. I, on the other hand, headed back for a hot shower and a cold drink...

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Crusak
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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by Crusak » December 18th, 2010, 9:30 am

I haven't been to Herman Creek in a while - how far from the gate is the trailhead? I seem to recall that it's not very far.

Did you have to wear any kind of traction at all on your feet, or just go at it in boots?

I like the winter/summer comparison pictures at your 'turn-around' spot, definitely shows the contrast between the seasons.
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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by jdemott » December 18th, 2010, 9:56 am

Sounds like a great trip. Very nice photos--I especially like the avenue of trees and the two shots of frost covered leaves. I was hiking along the Eagle Creek Canyon below the Benson Plateau, feeling much warmer with no snow and no wind.
The little tiny controls on my camera are really hard to operate with partially frozen fingers.
I wear a pair of silk glove liners, that I think were about $10 at REI. When I take off my outer gloves, the silk liners are thin enough I can easily operate a camera (or anything else that requires finger dexterity), but they still provide sufficient warmth so I can tolerate holding the camera in cold weather. If you are doing a lot of photography in very cold weather, there are mittens that allow you to fold back the covering of the tips of the fingers and thumb (you can wear the liners underneath), while keeping the rest of your hand covered.

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markesc
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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by markesc » December 18th, 2010, 10:14 am

Nice photos! I like dark clouds in that one...and the last 2!!

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VanMarmot
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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by VanMarmot » December 18th, 2010, 10:24 am

Crusak wrote:I haven't been to Herman Creek in a while - how far from the gate is the trailhead? I seem to recall that it's not very far.

Did you have to wear any kind of traction at all on your feet, or just go at it in boots?

I like the winter/summer comparison pictures at your 'turn-around' spot, definitely shows the contrast between the seasons.
It's probably no more than 0.25 mi from the gate up the road to the TH. The gate is closed but the restroom at the TH is open during the winter. I took my Microspikes along just in case but didn't need them.

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VanMarmot
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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by VanMarmot » December 18th, 2010, 1:54 pm

jdemott wrote:Sounds like a great trip. Very nice photos--I especially like the avenue of trees and the two shots of frost covered leaves. I was hiking along the Eagle Creek Canyon below the Benson Plateau, feeling much warmer with no snow and no wind.
The little tiny controls on my camera are really hard to operate with partially frozen fingers.
I wear a pair of silk glove liners, that I think were about $10 at REI. When I take off my outer gloves, the silk liners are thin enough I can easily operate a camera (or anything else that requires finger dexterity), but they still provide sufficient warmth so I can tolerate holding the camera in cold weather. If you are doing a lot of photography in very cold weather, there are mittens that allow you to fold back the covering of the tips of the fingers and thumb (you can wear the liners underneath), while keeping the rest of your hand covered.
Good advice. I was wearing Manzella windstopper gloves on the way up to the ridge and was thinking about switching over to a Manzella liner/REI gauntlet mitten combo I use for cold weather. Once on the ridge, however, I got caught in the photo moment, forgot to switch, and next thing - freezing fingers.

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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by justpeachy » December 18th, 2010, 3:52 pm

Ooooh, I love the shots of the frosty leaves. Very cool!
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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by drm » December 19th, 2010, 9:54 am

There was one car parked at the lower trailhead when I drove by on the way to Portland for the Meet-n-Deet that evening. Must have been yours.

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VanMarmot
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Re: Benson Plateau via PCT 17-Dec-2010

Post by VanMarmot » December 20th, 2010, 7:23 am

drm wrote:There was one car parked at the lower trailhead when I drove by on the way to Portland for the Meet-n-Deet that evening. Must have been yours.
There was a red car (mine) and a greenish car (not mine). I'm still surprised that there weren't a few others since Herman Creek is popular (even on Fridays).

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