Jeff and Emi Nishimura and their friend, Jean Kastner, love to play in the snow because it keeps each of them feeling young and active in winter.
The three friends recently discovered that snowshoes don’t slow them down but have opened up the outdoors to new adventures in the winter months like the Trillium Lake Trail in the Mt Hood National Forest.
Emi noted, “They’re so easy to walk in, they’re not heavy at all and it’s really beautiful out here in the winter. I never knew it could be so much fun to hike in the snow – or rather, on top of the snow.”
They’re not alone – thousands of folks have discovered that Oregon’s winter landscape is inviting and easy to travel through with a pair of snowshoes strapped to their boots.
Drew and Emiko Hall decided to get away from it all on a day long adventure to Trillium Trail because it’s easy to reach just past Government Camp along State Highway 26.
“We love to hike but we’re not really into skiing or snowboarding,” noted Drew. “We figured get out here during the winter months. It’s the fresh air, the scenery, and fewer people out on the trails.”
His wife, Emiko, added, “ If you’re a true Oregonian, a little rain or winter mix won’t throw you off – just go do it.”
If you’ve never done it before – you might stop in and chat with an expert before you go – someone like Erin Harri at REI in Hillsboro.
Erin really knows snowshoes – she’s been enjoying the sport the past decade and said that the shoes you choose have come a long way over the years:
“Lightweight aluminum has made all the difference. Plus, the latest flexible plastics have made the uppers and the bindings fairly malleable and yet they withstand frigid temperatures.”
Harri advised that you look for a “one step” binding system that allows you simply step in and pull one strap to tighten your boot into the shoe.
A word about those boots – think waterproof! You will be in snow after all, so keep dry is critically important.
“If you are doing recreational light hiking, wear light hiking boots,” added Harri. “If you’re running and racing in your snow shoes, wear water proof running shoes. But above all, it’s critical to keep the water out.”
Clothing is critical too! Harri advised layering with synthetic-based clothing that wicks moisture away from your body – never wear cotton but wear a synthetic base layer, then an insulating layer of fleece or down and then top it off with a waterproof or windproof jacket.
“Layering is all the difference because you’re working up a sweat while you walk so as you get warmer, you can remove a layer, then add it back when you stop for a break.”
She added that many local outdoor stores – including REI offer snow shoe clinics that will teach you more about the shoe styles, proper fit, clothing options and places to go.
That brings us back to Trillium Lake – according to Harri it is one of the best beginner sites around:
“It’s a pretty good decline as you’re heading in (about two miles) so a bit of elevation on the way out but around the lake it is fairly flat and wide all the way around.”
If you are a beginner, allow a full day for your hike into Trillium Lake. Bring a lunch, energy food and lots of water – as aerobic as it is, you lose a lot of water – it is important to remain hydrated.
There are many places for newcomers to try beyond the Trillium Trail in the Mt Hood National Forest. Consider Frog Lake, White River Sno-Park and the Tilly Jane District at Cooper Spur on the north side of Mt Hood.
Something else to keep in mind – Harri noted that this winter has been called “weather fickle!” That is, the snow level has risen and fallen up thousands of feet each week, so check on the snow conditions and the weather forecast before you go.