Category Archives: Alpine hiking

Fernando, Fatigue, and Glacier Gawking


I stayed up way past my bedtime Saturday night.  That’s okay, it was in support of the great Fernando Viciconte and his band of merry men rocking their way through the night.  He has an album coming out later this month featuring heavy hitters like Peter Buck of REM.  You should check it out if you like rootsy rock with a twist.  He happens to be one of the nicest guys  I know too.

So that’s why I was tuckered on Sunday, and my hiking ambitions started to lag. I can be pretty lazy if I allow doubts to linger.  The forecast called for more heat.  Bagging a peak would be nice, but nothing within a 90 minute drive sounded appealing.   I decided to fall back on an old standby and headed to Timberline Lodge, which was having its last day of summer skiing–actually early for them due to the unusual heat.

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I had no particular plan, but ended up choosing to ad lib an adventure along the upper reaches of White River Canyon.  The entire area is above treeline, so navigation is both easy and difficult.  I started going straight up a ski lift acess road, which was a mistake in that I was now far from the trail I wanted to be on.  So I sidehilled across multiple small drainages, finding the last remants of natural snow, mostly buried beneath a coat of dirt, presumably windblown.

Strange piles of dirt in the bottom of the drainages that seemed to have been the subject of violence.  Large cracks crossed the deep brown soil.  I surmised it might be from soil once blown atop snow which later melted, undermining the dirt, creating the cracks. Just a theory, and probably not a very good one.

The weather was not terrific, with rain falling briefly and winds buffeting me almost constantly.  Still,  the temperature was comfortable once I’d donned a shell.   I climbed slowly, and was slightly depressed when a younger man toting a couple ice axes passed me.   By the time I turned around, I was probably lose to 8000 feet, and as a lowland dweller now, the altitude taxed me more than it used to.

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Skiers and snowboarders were enjoying their last turns for a while.  I watched them for a while, but ultimately found White River Glacier and White River Canyon more fascinating.  My descent was easier than the climb, although I was reflecting on the unique dynamic of hiking in wild environs not far from a ski lift.   I was a speck on the horizon to them, but they were omnipresent to me.   Had I ventured to a similar alpine area on any other side of the mountain, it would be an all day affair rather than the few hours I spent above Timberline.  That’s the trade off.

I had lots of ashy soil to pour out of my boots when I was done, and I was glad to get back to a place where the water actually looked clear.