We met some hikers coming towards us, who told us that the snow covers the road ahead, so they turned around. But we hiked on, because a little snow doesn't stop us.
Now a lot of snow can be a challenge. About 3.5 miles into our hike the snow got deeper.
As we reached drifts a couple feet high, we trudged on. We had met a bicycler who was planning to take a mountain bike trail from the top of Larch Mountain. But he took the time to give some wanderers from Oklahoma some great advice for our future travels. We saw his prints in the snow, evidence that he was still ahead of us and still pushing his bike through these drifts. When we got to the parking lot, we could see that it was covered with drifts as tall as four feet. Even a mountain biker will turn around here.
But we knew there was a trail to a lookout point somewhere under all this snow. Sure enough! We found a little patch of the paved trail, so we knew we were heading through the forest in the right direction. We know from listening to the local weather that on our recent rainy days, there was still snow falling on the mountains at elevations over 3500 feet. But this snow has a healthy layer of pine cones and needles on top of it. We walked about a quarter mile more through these drifts into the forest.
Suddenly we saw steps that took us straight up to the view point. We had made it to Sherrard Point!
We wanted to come to the top of Larch Mountain because this is one of the best spots to see the summits of the surrounding five snow-covered peaks. This was the best weather day of our week here, but we still have clouds scattered in our blue sky.
We have found that it is hard to tell white clouds from snow covered peaks when you are standing at a viewpoint. It's even harder to tell the difference in a picture. But that didn't stop us from taking pictures anyway.
The closest of the peaks we are looking at is Mount Hood. At just 22 miles away, it is a majestic sight from here. There are several ski areas on Mount Hood, and there is so much snow they are open eleven months each year. Locals told us that they usually have enough snow to ski year round, but they close in late summer for a month for maintenance. We never did get a completely clear shot of Mount Hood. But at times we could see the bottom and peak at the same time, with clouds covering the mid-section.
The tallest mountain is Mt. Rainier at 14,410 feet. But because it is almost 100 miles away, we can't see it on this partly-cloudy day. The next tallest is Mt. Adams at 12,307 feet. Our best picture of Mount Adams still has a generous cloud cover over its peak.
We kept waiting patiently for the clouds to clear. Mark found a perch outside the fenced viewpoint that gave a fence-less view of the mountains. That picture also shows off his new Keen hiking boots, that he really likes so far.
His perch also included a recliner-shaped rock that was quite comfortable. We are here to see the tall peaks, but it's also nice to see such healthy forests of evergreens below us. We have hiked through many forests riddled by damage from pine beetles, and we aren't seeing any of that in Oregon.
To get that view without the chain-link fence, Mark did have to climb over the fence and out of the view-point on top of Larch Mountain.
Denisa found that the cement floor can be soft enough for a nap. The weather was perfect and it was very quiet on the top of Larch Mountain.
We are planning a trip to Mount St. Helens, and that was another peak we could see this day. Actually, Mount St. Helens is just 8,363 feet high since it blew its perfectly conical top 37 years ago this month. But that jagged top was hiding in the clouds today.
The least known to us was Mount Jefferson, standing over 10,000 feet and about 60 miles south of here. It was the only mountain that we got a clear shot of while we waited on the top of Larch Mountain. On a completely clear day, this would be a spectacular view. Even on a partly-cloudy day we knew we had wandered into another of God's wonders.
With the trails covered in snow, only the heartiest of hikers will make it to this viewpoint. We visited with two of those hearty local hikers at length while they ate their packed lunch. They know these mountains and trails well. They suggested that instead of hiking back down the road, there is a trail that would take us back through the woods.
It was a great idea, and we enjoyed new scenery as we made this unexpected outing into a loop hike. We have to say that this was a muddier option than the asphalt road.
After our tough hike and bike ride yesterday, this was supposed to be a resting day. We did take it a little easier, but we tallied up almost ten miles on this easy day. We had a picnic lunch at the viewpoint, but we decided we didn't want to cook anything else this evening. Besides, we really like the pulled pork sandwiches at the little grocery store right across the road from our campground. They absolutely stuff a large bun with smoked meat, then top it off with a generous mound of cole slaw. We have never repeated meals while we stayed in one place. But this sandwich is so good we ate this three different times during our eight day stay.
We did something else unique at Crown Pointe RV. We moved to three different camp sites during our stay at one campground. We wouldn't normally go to such lengths, but we really wanted to spend a good long time in the Columbia River Gorge. The campground manager here greets her visitors warmly. She has gifts for her guests--including homemade strawberry jam and a souvenir flashlight. We felt welcomed here! It was a good last day on the gorge, but we're heading across the border to a new state tomorrow.