Viewpoint along Salmon River

Viewpoint along Salmon River

This past winter, Oregon got a pretty good helping of snow. In fact, in some areas, there’s still snow several feet deep at fairly low elevations. What this means to hikers and backpackers is more trips later in the season, rather than earlier access to Oregon’s backcountry. Never fear: we are a hardy bunch and are patient, too.

Brad and I decided upon a hike which we thought ought to be fairly snow-free since the elevation was fairly low, so we packed up the gear and the dogs, met our friend Chris, then headed out. Our intention was to hike up to the top of Salmon Butte, located near the Salmon River and the town of Welches (on the way to Mount Hood).

Fawn Lily

Fawn Lily

However, our plans were somewhat thwarted as we were heading up to the trailhead. Suddenly, a bank of snow blocked the road. It was very clear that Mother Nature was telling us that this was the end of the line, as far as she was concerned. Unfazed, we turned around and settled on our Plan B, which is the Salmon River trail, a favorite hike no matter what season.

We hit the trail and I was amazed at how the seasons made such a remarkable difference – it was like hiking a totally different trail. New ferns tentatively poked their fiddleheads out of the ground, and the trailside was dotted with the delicate nodding blooms of fawn lilies. I’d never seen them before, and took several photos for later identification.

Chris hiking on snow-packed trail

Chris hiking on snow-packed trail

The trail continued with a pleasant ramble with occasional ups and downs, dotted with crossings on rustic log bridges over streamlets that tumbled down cliffs to feed the Salmon River far below. Finally, in a straight stretch of trail that I always fondly think of as a ‘shamrock patch” in the summer time with all of the hordes of plants softly framing the trail, we reached… snow. Chris took the lead and we slipped and slid over the 2-3 feet of snow that stubbornly refused to melt in the sheltered trees. Apparently, the sun hadn’t hit this section yet!

After about a quarter mile or so, the sun won the contest, and the trail appeared, snow-free. We finally reached our turn-around point, the overlook, which put us at about the 7.2 mile round-trip mark. Ah, lunchtime!

Video: The view from the top of the Salmon River Trail

Chris, Brad and I spread out and sat back, enjoying the surrounding vista including the higher peaks and the plunging Salmon River canyon below. Not very high above us, clouds swirled around the mountain tops, providing glimpses of the heavy snowpack still intact. The wind softly beckoned of the warmer weather to come, and we absorbed the quietness of the entire moment.

Yes, we are patient. Mother Nature will release her wintry grip on the mountains in her own time, and we will be there, waiting, with boots laced up and feet itching to hit the trail.

For more information on hiking trails throughout Oregon, please visit our Outdoor Recreation section.

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