Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

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Chip Down
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Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by Chip Down » November 10th, 2020, 8:54 am

Pretty straightforward hike: Up PCT from Road 23 (Williams Mine TH), up to the RTM junction at Horseshoe Meadow, on to the PCT/Riley junction, down Riley to the connector trail that runs roughly parallel to Road 23, and then the final stretch of PCT back to car. Oh, and the little jaunt to Crystal Lake and her two neighbors.

First time this season I've walked on snow right from the trailhead. It was a slooooow day. Looks like it was around 12 or 13 miles, 5:15am to 6:09pm. One mph isn't a bad pace for me, except for one thing: This was a trail hike! Well almost entirely. The snow was never all that deep, maybe around 6-8" from the meadow to Riley, but that really slows you down. I wanted to do more exploring up high, and I could see the ridgecrests were wind-scoured and easy to travel, but just getting from PCT to the alpine zone would be terrible. Still, maybe I should have. The scenery on that stretch of PCT was poor, not worth the work.

Weather was a big surprise. NOAA said sunny, should have been a beautiful day. As it started to get light, I saw dark clouds, and snow started falling. At Horseshoe Meadow, there was some brief clearing. The view of the mountain was nice, if you don't mind some clouds and trees in the way. That was the last time I saw her. Clouds dropped, snow fell some more. I wasn't watching the temp, but around 1pm I noted it was 22F. There was a little new snow on my car when I returned. I really didn't mind the weather too much. I wanted to see Adams from Crystal Lake, but other than that, I enjoyed the eerie somber mood that comes with a cold cloudy day, and the sub-freezing temps kept things dry. I'm really glad there was virtually no wind. That could have ruined the day.

Getting to Crystal Lake was harder than expected. For starters, I departed PCT too late/low, a little above Sheep Lake. I don't recall why. Maybe my side trip to Crystal Lake was an extemporaneous thing. I found her little neighbor to the west first. Crystal Lake was very close, but still took some looking. If you weren't looking for it (if you didn't know there was a lake there) you could walk right past it. Not because it's tiny, but because it's tucked away strangely. Funny though, on the way down, I stumbled into the lake NW of Crystal, with no intention of finding it. (No, I don't mean I literally stumbled into the lake. That wouldn't have ended well.)

On a hike like this, I'm always confident I won't see anybody, but I had a surprise. I was just getting started down the Riley trail, and paused to sort some gear, change layers, drink a beer, etc. So I was slightly off trail and silent. Thought I heard footsteps. Sure enough. She must have nearly jumped out of her boots. She knew there was nobody else ahead of here (because snow), so imagine her surprise when she realized there was some guy standing in the trees ten feet off trail! She didn't ask, but I said I was doing a loop, which she probably would have figured out eventually.

Almost forgot to mention, I saw a pack of coyotes in the dark, when I was just getting started in the morning. They scattered when they saw me. I was surprised, I figured they would stick together. At least a couple scurried towards the McMenamins at 15th/Broadway, while one or more ran deeper into Irvington.
Attachments
sign.jpg
Crystal.jpg
Crystal Lake
Sheep.jpg
Sheep Lake
bonus.jpg
No-name lake, which I didn't notice on my previous Riley hike.
hiding in plain sight.jpg
I had read about this, but missed it before. Along the Riley trail.
Luminous Cave.jpg
14% abv, guaranteed not to freeze.

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retired jerry
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Re: Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by retired jerry » November 10th, 2020, 9:32 am

"Almost forgot to mention, I saw a pack of coyotes in the dark, when I was just getting started in the morning. They scattered when they saw me. I was surprised, I figured they would stick together. At least a couple scurried towards the McMenamins at 15th/Broadway, while one or more ran deeper into Irvington."

Now, if you had said "cougars" I would have thought this was just humor :)

Wow, I've seen single Coyotes. Like next to the Portland Golf Club in SW Portland. My neighbor saw one walking down my street. I think a couple of my cats became Coyote food.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by Don Nelsen » November 10th, 2020, 6:53 pm

Chip Down wrote:
November 10th, 2020, 8:54 am

Almost forgot to mention, I saw a pack of coyotes in the dark, when I was just getting started in the morning. They scattered when they saw me. I was surprised, I figured they would stick together. At least a couple scurried towards the McMenamins at 15th/Broadway, while one or more ran deeper into Irvington.
Wow, coyotes - I grew up in Irvington and never saw one. Quite the surprise I bet.

It takes a little over two hours to get to the PCT crossing of road 23 from Irvington so you really got an early start!

I got my usual late start and was over at Indian Heaven Sunday and had much the same conditions/weather. A little warmer though, 24 at noon at 4800' and 31 at 4:20 when I got back to the Thomas Lake TH. You had a heck of a day trudging through snow for that much distance. Nice!

I think we're done up there for the year without snowshoes. That will slow us down!
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by Don Nelsen » November 13th, 2020, 1:31 pm

Update on the snow conditions: On the 8th, when both Chip and I were hiking, he on the SW side of Adams and me in the east central part of Indian Heaven, the closest Snotel sites showed no snow depth at all. In reality, there was about 5 inches in Indian Heaven and Chip said about 6 to 8 inches where he was. Also, I noticed a couple of inches of heavy, packed snow under the fresh snow as a base in IH. Perhaps the Snotel measuring devises need a bit more than that to start registering? I don't know.

In any event, at noon today a lot of new snow has fallen and the sites indicate it. The Potato Hill site, at 4,510' elev. 9 miles north of Adams showed 21 inches of snow and 3.4 inches of water content. The site only a mile north of the northern reaches of IH, Surprise Lakes, showed 23 inches of snow and 3.5 inches of water content. Of course, in both cases, it may be at least 5 inches more than that. Sounds like a good opportunity for a snowshoe hike to physically measure the snow depth.

Time for snowshoes!
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Chip Down
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Re: Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by Chip Down » November 13th, 2020, 5:28 pm

I just had a funny thought. I've had this irrational hope that maybe a fluke warm spell will melt this out, allowing some more alpine hikes. I know it sounds crazy, but it's not impossible, we've seen it happen before. Don's post above confirmed my fears: this is the end of it.

The reason I find this humorous: I just realized how similar this is to Trump clinging to hope, irrationally thinking there's some way things will turn in his favor.

This isn't an anti-Trump post. I'm just amused at the similarity, that's all.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by Don Nelsen » November 13th, 2020, 6:45 pm

Yes, we've seen snow melt out late in the year but it's rare. It would take a lot of relatively warm rain to melt it out now.

I downhill skied for over thirty years so paid attention to these things. The most spectacular meltout/slow start to the season I've seen was in 1980. We had an unusually warm and wet late December that melted almost everything, ending the ski season by late December, through most of January. Even through February it was lousy. I got tired of it so drove to Salt Lake to see what I could find that was any better. Not much, as it turned out, but at least there was some snow. After a few days of skiing slushy snow I drove up to Jackson Hole and that was slim, but better. Then I drove over to Sun Valley and that was great. (Funny thing, I went back to Salt Lake in December of '81 and got hit with a storm that put down over ten feet of new snow in just three day, but that is another story.) To repeat an old axiom: Climate is what we expect, but weather is what we get.

Then there was Nov. of 1985 for contrast: Looking at the old data, at the start of Nov. the snow water content at Surprise Lakes was 1.1 inches, basically a half a foot of compacted snow on average. By mid month it was up to 5.1 inches and at the end of the month it hit 12.2 inches. So, round numbers, 2 1/2 feet by the 13th and over 6 feet by the end of the month. Of course, snow compaction can change a lot due to temperature, humidity, etc. etc. so one has to take the numbers with some understanding that it can vary - a lot.
Last edited by Don Nelsen on November 14th, 2020, 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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retired jerry
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Re: Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by retired jerry » November 14th, 2020, 7:25 am

sometimes there's snow now, it slowly melts off until January, then in the early spring there's a lot

I can think of times I've gone somewhere in January that seemed unseasonal like the Ochoco Mountains or the Coast Range

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drm
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Re: Adams: Crystal Lake via PCT/Riley loop (100% snow) Nov 8

Post by drm » November 14th, 2020, 8:28 am

More often it turns into a hard crust or just plain ice if we get a dry spell following something like this. Good spiking conditions. It's hard to get warm enough to melt it off with the sun so low in the sky for the next three months.

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