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The weather Thursday in the Northern Oregon Cascades can only be described as perfect. The sun was shining, wind absent, and temperature around 20°F. John and I headed to Frog Lake SnoPark (SE of Government Camp on Hwy 26) on what turned out to be one of the busiest days of the year. The traffic was so bad it made the news. After about an hour delay, we finally made it to the SnoPark and set off on snowshoes to Twin Lakes. Area map.
We both pulled pulk sleds with all the gear we would need for a comfortable evening in the snowy wilderness. John pulled about 60 pounds of gear in my Paris Expedition Sled while I pulled about 100 pounds in my new Pelican Snow Trek 60 Sled. The pulk poles I fabricated worked very well. Both sleds worked flawlessly minus a tip-over each due to a couple steep spots on the trail. The first 1.5 miles of the trail to Twin Lakes is all uphill with about a 400 foot elevation gain. The last half mile is downhill to Lower Twin with an elevation of about 4,200 feet. While hiking we only ran into two other people and their two huskies. We stayed ahead of them most of the way, but then stopped to rest and let them pass. We made great time even with our heavy sleds going uphill.
We arrived at Lower Twin Lake just after noon and headed to the same spot I had been the week before with Katie and Grandpa. We were eagerly greeted by a flock of Gray Jays who boldly ate from John's hand.
The campfire pit we dug out last week was nearly filled in by the huge snowstorms from the prior couple of days. I quickly went to work with my Lifeline aluminum shovel and dug out a new campfire pit. John dug out the firewood I left from the previous week and after adding a step-down to the pit, we were soon relaxing around a roaring fire. A group of three cross country skiers came over and chatted with us for bit while enjoying our fire and company. They snapped a few photos of our camp while inquiring about our pulk sleds. People seem to really like our setup.
For lunch we ate sandwiches (prepared by John) and instant cup noodles. The soup really hit the spot especially with the addition of an egg before adding the hot water. We now had plenty of energy to cut and chop enough firewood to last through the night.
We pitched my Eureka two person tent nearby after packing down and leveling the powdery snow. This was my first trip with my new High Peak Mt. Rainier -20°F waterproof mummy bag. As the sun began to drop, so did the temperature. By eight o'clock it was hovering around 4°F! Luckily there was only a very slight breeze. The next morning the condensation had frozen on the inside of the tent, but we stayed toasty warm and dry in our mummy bags. I was the most comfortable I have ever been on a backpacking trip. A good sleeping bag and pillow really makes a difference.
For dinner we cooked my specialty, Backcountry Loomis Potatoes. They consist of diced potatoes (usually red or yellow), chopped onions, cut chicken, olive oil, butter, and seasonings all wrapped up in a foil packet. They get cooked in the fire for 15-20 minutes flipping every 5 minutes. Its a complete meal that works very well for snow camping because I prepare it beforehand. For desert we had a real treat. John brought freshly smoked salmon and steelhead. What a great way to end the evening before bed.
The sunrise was gorgeous Friday morning. Our winter camping spot overlooked Lower Twin Lake and we could see the ski tracks from the previous day light up as the sun came out. The sky was almost completely blue except for a few passing wispy clouds. It had been so cold overnight that my Sorel Conquest boots had frozen solid. It was a battle to get them on, but luckily they warmed up after I started walking around camp.
Before packing up, John dug a hole in the snow and buried most of the remaining firewood we had cut using the Stihl chainsaw I packed in on my sled. It sure is nice having a warm fire. While hiking back, we ran into at least fifty other people snowshoeing or skiing to Twin Lakes. I have never seen so many people on the same trail before. It sort of detracts from the beauty and solitude of the area. Hopefully next time it won't be as crowded.