“We’re not ready to jump into winter yet, apparently," said Chris Sabo, U.S. Forest Service trails specialist. “With the recent little bit of warming and the melting of the snow from last week, things are still in a fall pattern."
There is a touch of winter up in the high country — a few inches of snow above 5,000 feet and up to a foot or so above 6,000 feet, said Sabo. “We’ve got some skiers out touring around Dutchman, but it’s not really in gear yet," with low-snow hazards still in abundance, he said.
Most high-elevation areas, including Dutchman Flat, are still closed to snowmobiles.
Seasonal road closures in effect include McKenzie Pass Highway, Cascade Lakes Highway from Mount Bachelor to Deschutes Bridge, and the Newberry Crater area. There is still some access to Lava Lands and the Deschutes River Trail at Black Rock trailhead, located just south of Lava Lands, said Sabo.
Forest Road 60 in the Crescent Lake area will close either with substantial snow or on Dec. 1.
Also on Dec. 1, many other roads that become winter trails will be closing. That includes most of the side roads around the Virginia Meissner, Wanoga, Swampy and Dutchman sno-parks, said Sabo. The Forest Road 16 to Three Creek Lake will be closing when there is substantial snow.
Tumalo Falls was “a hopping spot this last weekend," but the road (which is quite potholed and not scheduled for grading until next year) will be closing within the next month, said Sabo. “From a biker perspective, it’s snowed out," he said, but hikers with appropriate footwear can still enjoy the trails despite the 3-4 inches of snow.
Summer access to wilderness trails for hiking is nearly over: many wilderness areas — especially along the Cascade Lakes Highway — are “either snow challenged or blocked by snow," said Sabo.
Good fall hiking and biking can still be found on lower-elevation trails. The Deschutes River Trail and Phil’s Trail up to about 5,000 feet are good choices, said Sabo.
Wherever the destination, it is important to plan ahead for emergencies, including becoming lost or injured, said Sabo — the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. “This time of year whenever you go out, don’t take your outing lightly, pack for it ... We can’t stress enough the importance of not relying on your cellphone but going prepared with adequate emergency supplies and equipment," he said. Electronics are only as good as the battery, which can drain more quickly than expected, and cellphone reception is frequently absent in the wilderness. Take a map as well as the rest of the essentials.
The Pole Creek Fire closure will be in effect through the winter, though a trail may be opened for skiers and snowshoers at some point, said Sabo. Most trails are too hazardous for use, as fire-damaged trees are expected to keep falling throughout the winter.
The winter transition is expected over the next weeks and local nordic ski clubs have been stocking warming shelters with wood. More winter preparation will be going on for the next few weeks.
— Lydia Hoffman, The Bulletin