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Nov-23-2009 21:10printcomments

Outdoorsmen Hail Onset of Oregon's Winter Season

A pair of snowshoes is one inexpensive and healthy way to get out in the wilderness.
Photos by Gerrit Roelof

(DETROIT, Ore.) - Winter in the Willamette Valley...the wonderful never-ending cold rain. To most people, there is just nothing optimistic about this meteorological happening. But to the outdoorsman, this opens up a whole world of adventure.

Rain in the valley means snow in the mountains. That snow line is often not as far away as you think. By January or February, you can often find the white stuff well below Detroit.

Transportation becomes a little more challenging. Snow tires are a start, and chains are always a good backup. 4WD makes life a little easier. But what about stepping outside and experiencing this snow up close and personal?

An inexpensive and healthy way to get out in the wilderness is with a pair of snowshoes. I found a pair online for around $60, and a pair of ski poles aren’t much more. This past week, I decided to get out in the early winter and find me some snow!

With the recent storm over the weekend, I knew it wouldn’t be tough to find the white stuff. I climbed up out of Detroit and began seeing snow on the forest roads at about 2,500’ elevation. By 3,000’ the snow was deep enough to make progress difficult, so I soon decided to get out and walk.

Snowshoeing takes a certain amount of coordination and balance. Think of strapping over-sized tennis racquets to your feet, and then walking through molasses. It’s not really that bad, but you do have to pay attention.

As I trudged up the hill, I found evidence that I wasn’t alone. The deer had been out in force after the storm, wandering around looking for a meal under the snow. As soon as I turned off the main forest road, and onto an old skid road, the scenery changed immediately.

The trees, bowed over with their heavy white coats, drooped down over the road bed that was now barely a trail. Rabbit tracks appeared everywhere. Big ones, where I could easily pick out the individual pads on their feet.

As I rounded the corner and came out into a clearing, I stumbled across another find. A huge set of elk tracks.

The hooves were easily twice the size of my skipole baskets.

I followed him up to the edge of a broad overlook. There I found where he had bedded down for the night. His fresh tracks leading off down through the trees made me wonder where he was headed today.

What a great reward for exploring a skid road that I had passed so many times before during the year. When marking this new-found trail and viewpoint on my GPS,

I named it “The Bull’s Bedroom”. I am sworn to secrecy on the location of course, but will tell you that it’s somewhere up on Cooper’s Ridge.

On the way back down I stopped at another favorite spot. This time I froze when I looked down at the snow.

There on the ground were a set of cougar tracks. Probably a day or two old, but still enough to make me instantly aware of my surroundings and who’s backyard I was really in here.

Hopefully he won’t mind my occasional visits in the future.

When time allows, Gerrit and his family make the break to the Detroit Lake area and other parts of Oregon where hunting and fishing are the order of the day. Gerrit has a way with words that is drawn from both education and life experience. While Gerrit has a full time career in law enforcement and firefighting before that, he has also taken the time to polish his natural skills at delivering written and visual information. He used to have an outdoor column in the South Salem Post. He has also written regular articles for Oregon Fishing & Hunting News and Gerrit's experience in life is both awe-inspiring and honorable. Gerrit is likable, uniquely qualified, energetic and down to earth. He helps fill the void when it comes to articles about all of the amazing things Oregon has to offer those who have a connection with nature; be it through hiking, fishing, photography, hunting, or so many other outdoor activities here.

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