Snowshoes and history on Mount Bachelor

Forest Service begins season of free tours

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

U. S. Forest Service volunteers began the season’s free Mount Bachelor snowshoe tours this weekend, taking six visitors through ice-covered snow Sunday.

Three Forest Service volunteers led the hikers on a crunchy one-mile hike to a vantage point looking toward Broken Top and South Sister. The continuous crash of falling ice hitting snow underlined the guides’ warning to avoid standing too close to trees, which were shedding what remained of an ice storm earlier in the weekend. Despite the conditions and the occasional tumble, everyone made it back to the base unscathed with an enhanced appreciation of the region’s flora, fauna, geology and public lands law.

“Giving the tours never gets old; every group’s so different,” said volunteer Ginny Elliott, 61, a self-described “recovering teacher” who taught middle school science. “To be able to talk about and experience the wilderness regularly is really such a great opportunity. I used to teach six sessions of the same class every day, so doing this every Sunday is easy.”

After discussing the difference between the Hemlock pines on the mountain and the ponderosa pines down in Bend, as well as the scurrying of voles and mice down between the snow and ground — an area called the subnivean zone — the guides placed the day’s hike in political context.

“It’s really special to be doing this work now, as it will soon be the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act,” said volunteer Bill Wallace, 71, referencing the 1964 federal law signed by President Lyndon Johnson that now protects more than 100 million acres of land.

Standing before a vista of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, Wallace even dug into the law’s prehistory, telling the story of Judge John Waldo, Wallace’s “personal Oregon hero, someone who should be right up there with John Muir.”

Waldo was an Oregon Supreme Court chief justice and fanatic explorer of the Cascades, one of the first to champion the preservation of the wilderness surrounding the mountains. Though he died in 1907 at the age of 62, Wallace’s hero has a permanent place in the region’s geography — Waldo Lake, dwarfed only by Crater Lake in Oregon, was named for him.

“Getting to that viewpoint was incredible,” said Rachel Erickson, 27, who was in town from Grants Pass.

“With the conditions so bad, we decided to give snowshoeing a try instead of paying for a lift ticket,” said Sten Erickson, 29, Rachel’s husband. “It doesn’t hurt that the trip was free.”

The tours will be offered at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. every Saturday, Sunday and school holiday, except Christmas and New Year’s Day. Snowshoes are provided by the Forest Service. The tours leave from the Forest Service station at Mt. Bachelor’s West Village area and last approximately 90 minutes.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

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