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Cascade Huts LLC has three huts for rent in the White River Valley and along Barlow Ridge. We had the opportunity to snowshoe two miles to the Barlow Butte Hut and spend the night Friday. We started at the Barlow Pass SnoPark around 5:15 PM just as the sun was setting. The temperature was about 26° F and there was no wind. One to two feet of fresh snow had blanketed the area during the week.
The parking lot was nearly empty except for two other vehicles, one of which had unfortunately just lost their Husky dog. We started on the trail, with me pulling my pulk sled and Katie carrying a backpack. We packed more than we needed, even though the Barlow Butte Hut is well-stocked with sleeping bags, mattress pads, portable propane heater, propane lights, propane stove, and dishes. For full details and pricing, visit www.cascadehuts.com.
We snowshoed along the untouched trail in total silence. It was serene and relaxing after a week at work. We passed below Barlow Butte where we hiked a couple weeks ago. Even after the sun had set, it was still light enough to hike without headlamps. We even had a nice view of Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort, with their bright lights illuminating the nearby trees.
It took us about an hour-and-a-half to snowshoe to the hut. We arrived in the dark and quickly lit the propane lights inside. It was very clean with a great floor plan designed to sleep up to six people. There were two single bunks on one side and a double and single bunk on the other. The sixth bed is a fold-out cot.
While Katie unpacked a few things and enjoyed the warmth of the propane heater, I went outside to try taking a few photos in the dark. They actually turned out okay. I used my headlamp to provide a little illumination on the hut. For dinner we ate sandwiches and I even brought along a beer to enjoy. I was starving after our hike and dinner in the hut revived my energy. I used my ice axe to cut some steps into the snow leading to the front door of the hut. I didn't want to slip in the middle of the night after walking back from the outhouse.
We had to turn the propane heater off before bed, in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. We came prepared with our winter mummy bags even though there were six sleeping bags already in the hut. We stayed warm and slept okay after getting comfortable. I never sleep well the first night away from home. It takes me a night or two to get really comfortable. Throughout the night, we heard lots of noises as the wind relentlessly pounded the hut. Snow cannon balls launched off the trees and pounded the sides and roof of the hut. Luckily the hut was built very solid and didn't even shake despite the howling wind. At one point I got up thinking my pulk sled was being tossed up against the hut, but luckily that wasn't the case. In the morning the wind was a little calmer and it was partly sunny.
We ate breakfast and enjoyed the views around the hut. The wind was so strong the night before that all our tracks around the hut were gone. The wind-blown snow reminded me of a sandy desert. It is amazing how powerful the wind can be.
We tidied up the hut, locked the door, and took a few photos before leaving. We planned to hike back to the truck, unload our gear, and then go on another hike to Ghost Ridge.
On the way back, we could see our trail from the night before. It was very faint in places and quite visible in others. It just depended on how sheltered the area was from the wind.
The scenery was beautiful on the way back. We enjoyed the generally downhill terrain. Pulling a pulk sled is much easier on level terrain and even I get tried when going uphill.
We took more pictures of Barlow Butte as we passed by. We didn't meet anyone else on the trail until we were nearly back to the SnoPark. The solitude was nice and made for an enjoyable trek back. The parking lot was overflowing by the time we returned. The recent snows, nice weather, and holiday weekend seemed to bring hoards of people to the mountain. We timed it just right.
Special thanks to James and Don of Cascade Huts for providing the Barlow Butte Hut. We had a great time.