Ray Benson - North Loop

February 7, 1999

This trip turned out to have too much snow! Five of us Peggy Lee Mathes, Anne McLucas, Bill Ward, Sue Wolling and leader Clare Tucker — knowing full well Santiam Pass had collected 24 inches of snow overnight, drove the two-plus hours it took to get there (chains required), to finally come to rest in the Hoodoo parking lot, because Ray Benson wasn’t plowed yet! It was snowing a little, and blowing too but after being in the car for so long we were eager to ski. We skied out the road to the North Loop trailhead, finding it much more windy than we had realized, as a gust stopped us in our tracks. So we stopped at the shelter there, and as it was almost lunch time had a snack. The Forest Service person there said the Pass had gotten three feet of snow in the last two days, no one had been on any of the trails, and the trail signs were under the snow. He suggested we ski on a snow machine track into Blue Lake. So … we’re flexible, we took his advice and started to Blue Lake. The further we skied the whiter it got. Not just a lot of snow coming down now, but swirling around, everything was white. When the skier in front of me disappeared into the white, I knew it was time to head back. So … we turned around and called it a day. At least that’s what I thought we were doing. But first we got stuck in a traffic jam trying to get out of Hoodoo, because of an accident on the highway. After waiting about 20 minutes, we started moving, and immediately got stuck in a white out — we couldn’t see anything! The cars ahead of us disappeared, and nothing was behind us, as if everyone had been swallowed up by this great white swirling. Bill opened the passenger window, and Peggy opened the rear window and directed me, “a little to the right, more to the left” and we drove (very slowly) down the Pass to the intersection with 126. There was no traffic coming up, it was piled up at the bottom, three lines thick, waiting for the wind to let up. Unfortunately, our “other car” was struck waiting to get out of Hoodoo for over two hours! (thank goodness Sue had a newspaper!). She and Anne also experienced this wondrous, frightening white out as they journeyed down the Pass, passing the same cars at the bottom, waiting to go up! We didn’t get much of a ski out of along ride, but we didn’t have to break any trail, and we surely had plenty of snow!

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