Snow Camping Near Bonney Meadows, Oregon

I took Katie on her first snow camping trip this weekend. She agreed to go as long as I kept the wood stove going all night to keep her warm. We had originally planned on going to Mt Saint Helens, but the weather forecast was not as good as we would have liked. Instead we planned on going to Bonney Meadows which is on the Southeast side of Mt. Hood about 1.5 miles NW of Boulder Lake.

We got an early start from Frog Lake Sno-Park and were the only ones there. That's a first. I guess the forecast of rain scared many away. It was cloudy and around 34°F when we arrived.

We hitched our fully loaded gear sleds to our snowmobiles and started off down the trail. Our route would take us on forest service road (FSR) 2610 from Frog Lake Sno-Park to FSR 43 to FSR 4890 to FSR 4891 and finally on spur road 120 to Bonney Meadows campground. The trip is about 17.5 miles one-way.

All Alone at Frog Lake Sno-Park     Towing all our Snow Camping Gear behind our Snowmobiles

My gear sled was a little top heavy, so we had a couple roll over incidences along the way. I need to come up with a better system of packing to keep the gear lower in the sled. We were surprised to find a couple bare spots of pavement on FSR 48. I hope that's not an indication that Spring is almost here. Otherwise the trails were well packed until we turned off FSR 4890 onto FSR 4891.

I know some people were snowmobiling up at Bonney Meadows last Saturday, but it appeared no one had been there since the most recent snow storm dumped about a foot of snow mid-week. Due to the warmer temperatures the last couple days, the snow was very wet and not nearly as fun as fresh powder. I broke trail which was interesting while towing over a hundred pounds in the gear sled. I definitely prefer groomed trails when towing. We made it to within about half a mile of Bonney Meadows when I got stuck in a snow drift. I could tell that the trail was just going to get worse by looking at numerous snow drifts traversing the slope ahead. We decided to unhitch my gear sled so I could get out of the drift and snowmobile on ahead to see if we could make it. While I was digging out my snowmobile, Katie worked on digging out a turnaround in the trail so I could turn around on my way back.

I said goodbye and went the last half mile or so to Bonney Meadows alone. I had a couple close calls where I almost got stuck, but I made it to the campground. On my way back I was hoping the trail would be better since I had made one set of tracks, but it was not. There was no way we were going to be able to traverse the snow drifted hill with our gear sleds in tow. We decided to turn around and set up camp about two miles back where we had found a nice flat spot with a partial view of Mt Hood.

Mt Hood from the Trail     Jason Packing Down the Snow Before Setting up the Tent

We set up camp, erecting our "snow condo" facing Mt Hood to the West which is where the wind was generally coming from. I wanted the smoke from the wood stove pipe in the back of the tent to blow away from us, plus the view was nice.

View of Mt Hood from the Front Door of Our Tent     Snow Tent Condo

Like always, I was a busy bee going from one task to another. First up was procuring enough firewood to get us through the night. After all, I had promised to keep Katie warm all night long.

Cutting Firewood     Jason Splitting Firewood

Just before 4 PM the weather started to turn sour. The wind came up, the temperature started dropping (it was in the mid 40s early in the day), fog rolled in, and it started to rain lightly off and on. We scrambled to get the snowmobiles covered (I like to keep them dry as much as possible) just in time.

Inside Our Warm Tent     Snowmobiles Covered Up for the Night
Watching the Weather Roll In     Wood Stove Pipe Coming out of the Back of the Tent

We retired into our tent where we spent most of the rest of the evening. It was warm and cozy.

Katie Relaxing in Bed     Light Rain By Early Evening

For dinner I cooked one of my favorites: chicken, corn, and salsa cooked in a dutch oven over the wood stove. It was accompanied by Texas toast and really hit the spot.

Chicken, Corn, and Salsa Cooking in Dutch Oven on the Wood Stove     Katie Waiting for Dinner

Once it started to get dark, I ran outside to snap a few photos of our tent at night. I love the way tents glow at night. By about 8 PM the temperature had dropped below freezing and the light rain showers had turned to light snow showers.

Glowing Tent at Night     Snow Camping at Night

We went to bed around 9:30 PM with a fully stocked wood stove. I set my alarm for every two hours, so I could get up and add firewood to the stove. The wind had really picked up with gusts that seemed determined to rip our tent out of the snow and into oblivion (luckily it didn't happen). I ended up waking up without my alarm and added wood several times throughout the night. The tent we were using had a hard time holding in the heat in the windy conditions. The fabric was much lighter than the canvas spike tent I normally use. Katie had to wake me up once because the fire was nearly out and she was getting cold. I quickly got it roaring again so we could both sleep warm.

We awoke Sunday morning to a brilliant sunny sky and crip cool air. It was in the low 20's overnight, but never colder than mid 40's in the tent. The wind had died down and there was a light dusting of snow. I cranked up the wood stove and soon we had to open the door as it approached 90°F inside.

Beautiful Sunny Morning at Camp     Mt Hood Trying to Show her Face

I baked cinnamon rolls (from a can) in the dutch oven for breakfast. They were delicious although a bit overcooked. Getting the timing right in a dutch oven is a real art.

Cinnamon Rolls for Breakfast     Jason and Katie Snow Camping

We packed up camp and headed back to Frog Lake Sno-Park. Once back at the sno-park we unhitched the gear sleds and went on a short snowmobile ride where we could pick up the speed a bit. We turned down a trail we haven't been on before and found what appeared to be a steep gravel pit that made a fun place to play. After a little bit of fun we headed back to the sno-park and finally home. We had a great time together and plan to go again if winter hangs on a while longer.

Jason and Katie     Jason Snowmobiling Down a Hill

Gear List

'02 Polaris 500 RMK Snowmobiles
Pelican Snow Trek 60 Gear Sleds
Pelican Sled Metal Tow Hitches
GMAX GM76X Helmets
Smith Phenom Turbo Fan Goggles
REI Pinnacle 50 Pack
Deuter Futura 32 Pack
Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Max Electric Boots
Merrell Women's Whiteout 8 Winter Boots
Columbia Men's Echochrome Ski Pants
Columbia Titanium Hightail II Softshell Jacket
Columbia Sportswear Men's Lhotse Mountain II Parka
Columbia Powerfly Down Puff Jacket
Columbia Sportswear Women's Alpine Alliance Parka
Head Digital Sport Liner Gloves
Outdoor Research Ambit Gloves
Columbia Men's Fast Trek Fleece Hat
Costco Aluminum Instant 10' x 10' Canopy with Sidewalls
Four Dog Stove Co. Two Dog DX Camp Stove
Anodized Aluminum Dutch Oven
Marmot Lithium MemBrain 0°F Sleeping Bag
High Peak Alpinismo Arete 0°F Sleeping Bag
Earth Products Jamboree Military Style Aluminum Camping Cots
Mac Sports Padded Tripod Chair with Cup Holder
GCI Outdoor Quik-E-Seat
Century Mighty Lite Single Mantle Lantern
HighGear ATF8 Altimeter
Petzl TIKKA XP 2 Headlamp
HighGear ATF8 Altimeter
Olympus Tough TG-1 Camera
Lifeline Aluminum Sport Utility Snow Shovel
Echo CS-271T Chainsaw
Fiskars 28 in. Splitting Axe
First Aid Kit
iPhone w/NeoTreksGPS
Suunto A-10 Compass


robert kroontje, Sun, 11/03/2013 - 22:38

I Immediately looked up your tent. Thanks for posting your gear choices . Just wondering how the polyester tent walls handled the presence of a wood stove. I"m assuming you had the stove jack sewn in?

jloomis, Mon, 11/04/2013 - 05:10

Thanks for visiting Loomis Adventures and commenting. The polyester walls worked fine with my wood stove. They did not hold the heat as well as thick canvas in the presence of wind, but other than that they worked great. I riveted in a stove jack instead of sewing to save time.

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