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In an effort to take advantage of the relatively good weather promised on Sunday, Jason and I decided to venture to Cooper Spur and snow shoe 7.4 miles round trip to the Tilly Jane A-Frame Cabin and Cooper Spur Stone Shelter. We left Portland early and arrived at Tilly Jane SnoPark just below Cooper Spur Ski area around 8 AM. Cooper Spur is located on the Northeast side of Mount Hood approximately 23 miles South of Hood River, Oregon. The parking area was nearly full when we arrived, with most vehicles having obviously been left for a day or more. We set off on the Tilly Jane Ski trail #643 around 8:30 AM under light snow, calm winds, and a temperature in the low 20's F.
The Tilly Jane Ski trail #643 begins just off Cloud Cap Road at the base of Cooper Spur ski area. Saturday's snow provided plenty of fresh power and few tracks. The trail was easy to follow because of its width, but we did not observe any formal trail markers. After the first half mile, we encountered a group who had camped overnight just off the trail. They reported that the weather had been quite windy and snowy much of Saturday – thus the ample fresh powder.
Continuing on up the trail, we began to feel the elevation gain; we would eventually gain 1900 feet before reaching the Tilly Jane A-Frame. As we climbed higher, we came into the burn area from the Gnarl Ridge fire of 2008. Though the burn desolated the area and came within a few hundred feet of the Tilly Jane A-Frame, it provided great vistas and scenery. On the last half mile of our 2.5 mile trip to the A-frame, we had to do a bit of side-hilling on a slope that was approximately 20-25°. The recent snows slowed us a bit here, as any flat trail in the hill was completely covered.
When we reached the A-frame about two hours after starting our hike, there were a number of other groups who had spent the night there. Those staying at the A-frame were very nice and invited us in to warm up for a bit. We declined, and continued on up the mountain in hopes of finding the Cooper Spur Stone Shelter and possibly a view of Mt Hood. Without the benefit of formal trail markers or tracks on the Tilly Jane #600A trail to follow after leaving the Tilly Jane A-frame, we relied of Jason's GPS to find our way through the forest and up to timberline.
This ascent was steeper than the trail to Tilly Jane A-frame, gaining approximately 1100 feet over 1.2 miles. As we climbed above timberline, the wind picked up but the sun shone more brightly. The wind-swept ridge had little powder, allowing us to climb a little more easily. Though we could not see the face of Mount Hood on our way up, Cooper Spur stone shelter came into view. We crossed the Timberline Trail just below the shelter and continued on the Cooper Spur #600B trail to reach the shelter.
We reached the shelter in approximately 90 minutes. Cooper Spur Stone Shelter is one of five shelters built along the Timberline trail in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The Cooper Spur Shelter's stone and mortar walls withstand high winds and snow and ice buildup during the winter. When we arrived we found a large snow drift in front of the door. Jason dug out the door, but was soon greeted by about 5 feet of snow that had accumulated within the shelter. The fabric door covering and corrugated metal roof on the shelter do not completely seal out the snow on this frequently wind-swept NE face of Mt Hood.
After a quick lunch, we made a rapid descent toward treeline in order to escape the wind and snow that had suddenly picked up while we were at the shelter. Our hopes for a view of Mt Hood were squashed by the biting wind blown snow that relentlessly pelted us. The weather improved once we were back below treeline. We arrived back at the Tilly Jane A-Frame and stopped to warm up and have some snacks.
Tilly Jane A-Frame was built in the late 1930s by the CCC. The A-frame is designated as part of the Cloud Cap- Tilly Jane Historic District. It is operated and maintained by the Oregon Nordic Club under a permit from the Forest Service. There is also a cook shed adjacent to the A-frame which has been condemned by the Forest Service. The A-Frame is 24' x 48' with a wood stove, picnic tables, and benches. It has a sleeping loft on the second floor. After resting our feet and warming up by the fire, we donned our snow shoes again and set off for the SnoPark.
Our return trip was much quicker due to the steady descent and well-packed trail. We made it back in about an hour and encountered many snowshoers ascending the trail on our way out. The temperature remained in the mid 20's F all day with periodic snow showers. When we returned to the SnoPark, many cars had dug themselves out from their plowed-in spots. We had to dig a little snow from behind the truck, but were soon ready to return to Portland. We're hoping that this new wave of snow is not the last of the season.