Phoenix is world famous for it’s scorching Summer heat. It’s borderline uninhabitable here during the Summer months, but our Winters are nothing short of amazing for beautiful weather. However, that means we don’t really get a traditional Winter with frigid cold, crisp ice and beautiful soft snow. I grew to appreciate the Winters around Reno and Tahoe for the short time I got to spend up there with Merelyn before she was transferred to Texas. I missed the snow and the cold.
In December, Sedona got it’s first snow of the season and I dropped everything and ran up there to enjoy the snow and capture some photos with a fellow shutterbug. After that amazing trip, I wanted more snow. I wanted to really get some quality Winter time in and I knew January was going to be full of opportunities.
Since my wife works retail, we don’t get to travel on Christmas. So in January, we headed up north to Oregon to visit my brother and his family. My mother also came out to visit and we had a late family Christmas together at my brother’s new house. Merelyn had never been to Portland and I was excited to get her on the plane for a new adventure in Northern Oregon. It helped that a storm had been rolling in and there had been fresh snow throughout that part of the country. I just hoped the freeways were clear as we crawled into the SUV with my brother for the drive across the state.
Merelyn and I had been sitting for hours and were looking at another long sit in the car, so we had asked if we could stop and check out any short hikes along the Columbia River. My brother suggested we check out Multnomah Falls. None of us had ever hiked it before and the falls is located just off the highway so it seemed like an easy choice. It was cold and rainy and Merelyn wasn’t feeling well, she’d caught the seasonal crud like everyone else. But she curled up in one of my new Columbia shells and braved the weather with my brother and I.
Multnomah Falls is 620 feet high, making it the second highest year-round waterfall in the Country. The trail sets off from the lodge and crosses a couple of quaint, picturesque bridges before turning into a series of paved switchbacks that offer views of the Columbia River before reaching the top. There was some trail maintenance going on at the top so the end of the trail along the edge of the water was nothing but thick, sticky mud. My brother and I slogged through the mud to the overlook which offered a view straight down the 620 foot drop. Nothing spectacular, but I would recommend anyone do the hike at least once if you’re in the area.
Weather was clear for the rest of the drive, and we arrived at my brother’s place in the dark. We had a great time with the family and I was finally in cold and snowy conditions allowing me to put some of my Winter gear to the test. Columbia had sent me a battery powered Winter jacket just as the weather turned warm in Arizona and I hadn’t had a chance to use it all year. I was finally spending a week in weather down to 4 degrees allowing me to test it’s functionality.
I really just enjoyed the cold. I was outside every chance I got, even if just to walk out onto the back porch while it was snowing to play with the dogs. I’ve always preferred the cold over heat. How I ended up in Phoenix of all places sometimes eludes me.
All of us took one particularly cold afternoon and visited the Oregon Trail Center in Baker. While most everyone was happy to stay indoors and casually meander through the displays, I breezed through the covered wagons and educational videos and headed outside to the snow covered trails. My footprints were the only ones out there besides the birds and a few cats. I was bundled up and I had my camera to capture some really nice shots of the sun flooding through the stormy clouds over snow-covered valley. It was a really nice area and so different than the scenery in Arizona.
My mother left early to try to make it out of the valley before the next storm hit. The next day we all bundled up and headed out early for an afternoon on the slopes. I had never snowboarded before and was anxious to try it out. On the way out, we stopped at the Elk Feeding Station outside Baker City for a quick tour of the Elk. Operated by T&T Wildlife Tours for the last 22 years, they use huge draft horses to haul people down the hill to the feed operation where you can watch the Elk feed only a few yards away. They also offer a wealth of information about the animals and the feed operation.
After the Elk we headed up the hill to Anthony Lakes to try out some snowboarding. We got our passes and rented the gear we needed for the afternoon. Merelyn, feeling a little better by now, rented skis and I got boots so I could strap into a borrowed snowboard. The kids were off for some lessons at the you-don’t-belong-here slope while my brother tried to talk me through the basics. We joined the kids at the tiny we-don’t-know-what-we’re-doing area where I was surrounded by miniature skiers and snowboarders who already knew more than I did.
Entirely frustrating at first, once I learned how to stand up without immediately falling back down I started to have fun. My brother had little patience for this, as did I, so as soon as I could stand up he suggested we get on the lift and try a real hill. “You’re not going to learn anything on this”, he had said at the bunny slope. He was right.
Of course I did my fair share of falling, but not as much as I expected. I really only toppled over a few times and recovered quickly. It was also not nearly as exhausting as I expected it to be and we managed to get a couple of runs in on one of the longer intermediate slopes. Our second time out the whole family went up and while my brother helped his youngest with his snowboarding, Merelyn skied circles around me. Still, I had a blast and wished we could have done more. I was just starting to get comfortable on the snowboard when it was time to go. I look forward to getting more opportunities to learn.
On the way back we grabbed sushi and the six of us had a great dinner together. I downloaded the images I managed to get off of my new GoPro for everyone to check out. The next day I took the GoPro out again and got some video of the kids sliding around on the icy roads while we walked to their grandmother’s house. Those kids love to be on camera and really ham it up. I loved it.
Leaving was bitter-sweet. I hated to go, but I knew I’d be heading to Salt Lake City and Idaho within a week or so of getting home and that would be another fun adventure in awesome Winter weather. It was snowing in Portland as we left and I couldn’t help but think how nice it will be when, one day, we can live where the Winters are white.
Somewhere like, oh…I don’t know…maybe TAHOE!