May 13, 2008
Snow, snow and more snow! As we drove down the highway toward Mary’s Peak, a lot of white was visible on the mountain. I attempted to assure my passengers what we were seeing were low clouds and unusual rock formations. But I didn’t convince anyone. Weather was cloudy and cool with no rain in the forecast.
Conditions were normal at the trailhead, west of Philomath, at the 2000 foot level. The trail climbs the ridgeline in a steady, but not steep, ascent of 2000 feet-assuming one reaches the summit. As expected, the well engineered trail had received no maintenance yet this season. As a result, much scrambling over logs and debris was required. The trail climbs through a beautiful hemlock/cedar forest with little undergrowth except in the lower elevations. The usual Spring flowers such as trillium, wood violets and flowering currant were abundant on the lower section of the trail.
We began to encounter snow much lower on the trail than I had experienced in past years, probably around the 2500 foot level. By 3000', at the junction with the South Trail, snow level was up to a foot. When we emerged from the woods at the 3500' level, just below the parking lot, the snow was two feet deep. In the meadow leading to the parking lot, snow depth had increased to more than three feet. Fortunately, the snow was hardpacked so breakthrough was kept to a minimum. Because of the snow, debris and limited tree markers, we had to be careful to stay on the trail. In fact, at one point we strayed off and had to double back to find it.
The southern end of the parking lot had been largely blown free of snow by the wind. That location proved to be the best lunch spot although it was cool and windy in the open.
Looking towards the mountain, visibility was roughly zero. Even the road leading up to the peak was not visible from 200 yards away. The group consensus was that attempting a peak climb, which would require a lot of work and no view, wouldn’t be worth the additional investment of energy required. Thus, we ended the hike and headed down the mountain to the trailhead.
The hike had been scheduled two weeks later than in prior years. Apparently it will need to be scheduled for early June next year.
Hikers were: John Agnew, LaRee Beckley, Brad Bennett, Larry Dunlap, Dick Hildreth, Pat Hutchins, Lynne Moody, Jim Pierce, Lamonte Smith, Charley Wright, Leslie Wright and Dan Christensen, leader.