I spent Thanksgiving in Sunriver with family. There were patches of snow in Sunriver and the roads were clear. On Friday after Thanksgiving, I needed to get some exercise after stuffing myself the previous day. I got an early start and headed up to the Tumalo trailhead across the highway from the Bachelor ski area.
I suspected there would be lots of snowmobile traffic in the mountains on this long weekend, so I got to the trailhead early to beat the traffic. So far my plan worked. There was plenty of parking at 7:30AM in the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park.
There wasn’t much snow surrounding the Sno-Park, maybe 18 inches of hard consolidated snow at the most. It had snowed or sleeted during the previous night and the parking area was a little slushy. A gentle drizzling rain and 34 degrees added to the winter scene. The forecast was for it to start snowing with accumulations of about 12 inches by the next morning.
I wanted to test out my big double plastic boots and gaiters for the first time this season, so I tied them on and headed over to the trailhead. The trailhead is plainly marked, but the trail is a procession of footprints up the hill. I followed the footprints on consolidated snow for a couple hundred feet and then the snow started getting softer and I was sinking in about 4-5 inches with every step.
I continued up following snow shoe prints in the general direction of the summit of Tumalo. I have no idea whether I was following the trail or not, but my GPS kept me heading in the right direction.
After climbing about 600 feet in elevation, the snow shoe prints disappeared and I was on my own. The terrain was easy to navigate with lots of routes up through the sparse tree cover. I continued up, sinking further into the snow with each step. I was sinking 6-8 inches most of the time, occasionally up to the knee and then once in a while taking the deep plunge all the way up to the crotch. I kept climbing out of these holes and making slow progress up towards the summit. It was colder now and I put on my pile hat and neck gaiter for warmth.
It was snowing on me and the wind was blowing too. Eventually, I could make out the summit and I struggled up the soft snow. It took me 1 ¾ hours to get to the summit and it was 26 degrees with a 20 MPH wind. There was no view. I know on a clear day all the Central Oregon Cascades would have been laid out in front of me, but today the visibility was only about 100 yards.
I didn’t stay long before heading back to the car. It only took me 45 minutes to get back to the trailhead. Things had changed at the trailhead parking lot. It was filled with trucks pulling trailers filled with snowmobiles. I felt good as I drove back to Sunriver after tagging the summit of mighty Tumalo Mountain. Conditions were not good, but I got a good workout and could now justify eating the turkey leftovers waiting me in Sunriver.