Sunday, March 29, 2009

Backcountry at Tilly Jane

Life is about learning new things... at least that is what I keep telling myself... This past weekend, my friend Jerad and I embarked on a new adventure where we learned many new things. Our plan was to have our first back country ski/snowboard experience on the Tilly Jane trail, which is on the Northeast side of Mt. Hood. We planned to snow camp for one night and we had rented splitboards. These are boards that double as cross country skis and a snowboard. I wanted to rent one of these boards because backcountry boarding is something I really want get into.

So we set out early Saturday morning from Portland, arriving at the trailhead around 9am. We put on our gear, including 35 pound packs, and started up the trail on our our splitboards. We put them in cross country mode with skins on the bottom allowing us to trek up the mountain. It was a bit awkward at first, because the ski option was not gracefully designed. We got used to it though. What I didn't get used to was going up 2000 feet over the course of 2 miles on clumsy skis. The journey took about 3 hours and 2 of those hours were spent in the pouring rain. Backcountry adventures are definitely not for wussies. I found myself feeling sore, with blistered feet, and wondering how on earth we would spend the night in a tent on the side of the mountain. Luckily, our luck changed! We ran into someone Jerad knew who said the Tilly Jane cabin was only 30 minutes away and there were still warm embers in the wood stove. I knew that cabin was up there, but didn't know how far away it was. When we finally arrived at the rustic cabin it felt like the Hilton. We had it made!

The cabin was charming and full of notes and stories from past visitors. There was plenty of firewood. We were lucky enough to have two groups of visitors who were happy to enjoy the warm fire with us. We spent the afternoon exploring the area and then had an awesome meal. I took a ton of pictures to document the trip.....
This was a picture of my equipment set up in the parking lot before embarking on our adventure. The board is basically split down the middle and there was a plate that my previously owned snowboard bindings were attached to. This plate was secured only in the front and so I could lift my heel for a cross-country motion.
The trail up was no picnic. I was full of energy to start off, but then the rain became a downpour and the winds picked up. I was soaked and tired with serious blisters. The hike up definitely tested my toughness!

Arriving at the cabin was like Christmas! The stove was still hot and we immediately started shoving Winco trail mix down our throats. I love eating trail mix!
Jerad played with all the gadgets in the cabin, while I took a ton of pictures. There were lanterns, tools, journals, maps, etc. After we played around for a bit, we explored the territory around the cabin.
The winds kicked up and Baby's little face froze! We promptly headed back to the cabin at this point. The conditions outside were blizzard-like and I kept thinking how cold a tent would have been! Yay for Cabins!
The upstairs had an open loft. We set up camp upstairs, hoping the heat would stick around. We were also warned of the rat problem that existed in the cabin, with strict instructions NOT to leave anything out the rats might want to eat. This was good to know, especially since we heard the critters roaming about on the bottom floor throughout the night. There was no way I was going to get out of my sleeping bag during the middle of the night. I didn't want to have a chance meeting with one of those yucky things. This also meant that baby was confined to the top floor too. Luckily for me, she was quite comfortable sleeping in my sleeping bag, providing what I believe is the most effective sleeping bag heater ever! I love my pumpkin!
We precooked some chicken and prepared some fantastic spaghetti complete with a 2006 Pinot Grigio straight from a cardboard container. Seems nuts, but these meals are MY FAVORITE!
We realized the next morning that this large bucket was a rat trap. I'm kind of glad that we didn't set it up the night before, because I'm not sure I could have handled seeing one of those huge critters (or so I read in the cabin journal).

P.S. No bicycle riding please.The cabin looked so beautiful the next morning. It snowed about 20 inches. It was amazing!!Cabin icicles.....Our splitboards-
A snowy cabin pic-
Alright... This may be one of my favorite pics ever. The snow was so deep that there was no way baby could follow us. She would have taken one step and been lost to the snow drifts. So- she had to go in my pack. I had never asked her to do this and was almost sick with nervousness, because I was going to be testing her trust in me. Turns out, she was so comfortable she napped while we were trekking up the Mt. on day two. I couldn't believe it and I also couldn't have been more proud of her. I love my dog.Looking back on our fresh tracks.
Two peas in a pod (almost literally)....
Baby enjoying the scenery of the nearby ridge.A picture of the nearby ridge and valley.... I think it was called the Polallie Creek area.
Baby in my backpack...
Jerad was the trailblazer. He had a GPS gadget, which helped a lot. I never thought I would want one, but I do! and I want this one: My dream gadget . A girl can dream I guess.

There was a forest fire about a year and a half ago. The contrast of black burned out trees and white snow was stunning. The pictures do not do the scenery justice.
Okay-- Let's get to the part where I learned a lot from this trip. There were few amateur mistakes that I won't be making again.
  1. pack rain gear. I was soaked from the trek up and had the cabin not been there, it would have been a miserable day and evening.
  2. the split board is not for me. The equipment felt clumsy and slow- leaving me with blisters and bruises. I will opt for snowshoes and a board strapped to my back next time, with the goal of finding a shorter, fatter ski with a X-country type binding that is compact enough to strap to my pack.
  3. Backpacks equipped for overnight camping and boarding do not mix. This was by far the biggest upset for me. We hiked up even higher on day two with the hopes of making the most beautiful powder turns ever! Turns out a full backpack (dog included) is not conducive to powder boarding. We fixed the equipment to the snowboard mode only to sink down about 2 feet making boarding impossible. I can't really describe the painful reaction this created deep within me. I LOVE powder and I LOVE boarding in trees. This day should have been epic. We ended up tele-skiing down, which was actually not so bad. Live and learn.
Overall, this trip left me starving for more. I want to research backcountry options and find a way to get back up there! I really do need to win the lottery. I think despite the upsets, this trip was a major success. The weather was unreal and so is Oregon. I continue to be shocked by the beauty of Mt. Hood and I hope we can become better friends over the years to come.

No comments: