Winter on Marys Peak

I try to get up Marys Peak at least once a month.  The weather there is truly unique, perhaps typical of mountaintops elsewhere.  The mountain sticks up high enough into the windy layers of the atmosphere that weather conditions are hardly affected by night and day.  If it is warm aloft it can be 50 degrees all night in December.  If it is cold aloft it can start out at 24 and only get up to 27 despite bright sunshine.  The latter was the case yesterday when we set off for a hike, from Conner’s Camp (2600 feet) up to the summit (4100 feet).

Road note:  I often check Google for Marys Peak road conditions and usually find my blog among the top hits, so in case anyone else is checking the road is currently open to the top, with snow and ice above 2500 feet.  We didn’t drive to the top as we were aiming for a longer hike, but we saw a Prius up top so it appears that clearance is not an issue for now.

A cold showery system brought 1-2″ of snow down to about 1500 feet on Saturday, giving a beautiful frosting to the evergreen foliage of the rainforest understory.

Snow on salal among tall Douglas firs


Rock outcropping halfway up

Near the summit we found a forest of trees all bent at the bottom.  It appears that deep snow, or perhaps a landslide, flattened them when they were small, and they reoriented to grow upward.

Winter above, spring below. Looking east over the Willamette Valley.

Southwest toward the ocean amid shifting wisps of cloud and a sun halo.

The weather report from the summit said 27 degrees and no wind, but since it is almost never wind-free up there I guessed that the anemometer must be iced up.  Indeed it was.  Everything near the summit – antennas, fence, branches, blades of grass, even rocks, had 2″ of snow on the windward side, west-northwest by the look of it.


Iced-up anemometer

Elizabeth on top, looking south

Someone built this snow hut along the trail

We looped back by a different trail, passing a few other hikers.  About six miles in total.  This was the last day of the annual contra dance weekend, and we had friends staying with us from Portland who came to dance.  We aren’t hardcore enough to dance all weekend, but we did have a great time at the open evening dance, with bands Wild Hair (from Portland) and Perpetual E-Motion (all the way from Maine).  PEM was just two guys with an electric fiddle, electric guitar, didgeridoo, footpad percussion, and a lot of loop pedals.  They made a full, energetic sound that was a joy to dance to.

Onion seeds are germinating in my room – when they sprout they will go in the greenhouse to grow until late April when they will go in the ground.



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