Mossy Forest Wanderings
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
A wandering journey in Mount Hood National Forest.
Wandering: moving from place to place without a fixed plan. Thanks Dictionary.com. This definition will come in handy later.
I planned on going for a hike today. My mom said she’d go out with me. We got all ready, put our stuff in the car, grabbed breakfast, gas in town, and then we were on our way towards the mountain.
I wanted to try accessing a certain trailhead which I was sure was well above snow level. I was also pretty certain we wouldn’t make it all the way there, but I wanted to try. About 20 minutes from our house I realized I had totally forgotten my backpack. I had water, my SPOT, clothing layers and camera gear. Just no backpack. I had been so distracted by other things happening during the morning I hadn’t grabbed it from my outdoor gear area.
I navigated while my mom drove. We found the forest service road and turned off the main highway. It started out as a one lane paved road that drove through a very mossy and fern covered forest. It quickly turned into a gravel road that started to climb up the side of a huge hill. It dropped off on one side and went straight up on the other. The road had large potholes (that covered 3/4 of the road and were 8 ft long) and there were quite a few washed out areas where we had to navigate the 2 ft “canyon” that weaved its way down the road.
We had to stop a few times to check around the next corner to see if we wanted to go over a certain rough section of road. There were very few places to turn around. My mom is a pro at backing up, but trying to carefully navigate a washed out area of road on an incline with slush and mud while backing up really wasn’t something we wanted to do. We kept being able to go farther and farther. It was foggy and definitely a lower elevation winter day in the Cascades.
We started to see snow on the ground and it got more and more prominent. I enjoy driving back roads as much as I love hiking or bushwhacking. It’s pretty fun regardless of whether I’m driving or a passenger with my mom.
We’d gotten probably around 2 miles down the road when we hit an area we didn’t want to try and traverse in our Honda CRV (which doesn’t have 4 wheel drive). It wasn’t snow that ended up stopping us, it was 1 ft deep potholes filled with water that stretched across the entire road. They were over 10 feet long and there were two of them back to back. We didn’t want to try and get ourselves out of that if we got stuck. We’ve driven across a river before in our truck, but it had a very rocky bottom, no mud in sight.
So we decided to turn around and try accessing a different trailhead nearby that was at a lower elevation. We drove back down the road and at one spot I had my mom stop. I wanted to take a short jaunt to the edge of the hill where I expected there were rock cliff faces which I had seen on the drive up.
I grabbed my hiking boots because there was about 1 inch of snow on the ground. I pulled them out of the plastic bag I keep them in when they’re in the car. They were still damp from the last outing, and then when I pulled them all the way out I discovered they were growing mold. I was very grossed out and felt like an idiot. I had totally forgotten to air them out after my last hike which was in wet snow.
I quickly put them back in the bag and decided I would not be hiking today. I decided to wear my “car shoes” (my Nike slides) for my hike through the snow. I already know slides and snow do not equal a good outcome, but I wanted to go so I went anyways—in my slides and pajama pants! I “bushwhacked” through the forest a few hundred feet to the edge of the hill. I was right. There was a rock cliff face which was really cool.
I found a spot along the edge where I could look out across the valley to the other large hill on the opposite side. It would come in and out of visibility with the heavy, misty, fog rolling through the area.
The hike back to the car was worse than the hike to the ledge because it was downhill. I slid a few times and then at one point fell all the way down. There were a lot of the Oregon grape bushes so it was a prickly fall. My feet and butt were soaked from the fall in the snow. I made it back to the road nearly falling on my ass again as I came around the back of the car. The snow was slick. I finally made it back to the car and took off my socks and pants and just sat in my boyshort underwear for the rest of the drive. It was quite the eventful outing: moldy shoes, having to just sit in my underwear, hiking in slides (definitely do not recommend).
We continued our drive back toward the highway. I got out at one point to take a low quality phone picture of a waterfall by the edge of the road. My mom proceeded to video me from the car while I walked around taking pictures in my underwear (they look like Nike spandex, think volleyball, so it’s not that risqué—lol).
We drove to the road that accessed the other trailhead. It was easy peasy compared to the last road we’d been on. It was kind of hidden and there were a few large potholes at the start that took up over half the road. We made it to the trailhead. It was really pretty and mossy. I will definitely be coming back to hike this trail. It’s a low usage area so the likelihood of seeing more than one person is low, which is my preference in the outdoors.
We decided to wander around on backroads a bit more. Most are inaccessible due to snow which makes for a very limited number of roads that are actually accessible during winter. We ended up driving down a road next to a river. There was a huge tree across the road that had been cut just enough for a car to get through. We hit snow and continued a ways. We found a place where we could walk over to the river. It was really pretty and chilly. Wet rocks and slides also aren’t a good combination. Don’t worry I wore my pants for this outing.
We were both hungry so we drove back into town and got some food on our way home.
This is a great example of how some days just don’t go as planned. Some days plans change multiple times. Some days just wandering is what I need. It’s probably one of my favorite things. It’s something I’ve discovered that I can do even when I’m flaring. I can drive backroads alone or with someone and still get out. I end up finding awesome views, cool hidden places, and fun challenges. There’s something exhilarating about seeing a road and just going down it because I want to see where it goes, and then another and another. (Just a quick note that I have navigation tools and keep track of where I’m at so I don’t get lost.)
Wandering is how I’ve found some of the most incredible places and lesser known views. It’s also how I find some of the most epic dispersed camping spots. They end up feeling like they’re just mine. So if I write about my wanderings I won’t be sharing the location of where I wander or of the places I find. My goal is to inspire you to wander and discover your own places. That’s what makes them so special—they feel like they’re yours and yours alone.
Ending notes: When I got home I cleaned my shoes with a chemical that kills the mold not just wipes it off and I will be carrying my running shoes in the car from now on as a back up for my hiking boots so that I don’t get stuck tromping through snow in my slides again. Also since I used my phone for pictures today they aren’t the greatest quality due to the limited light in Oregon on grey days.
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