Location of Hike: Fanton Trail
Trail Number: 505
Weather during Hike: Sunny, cold and windy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah, Daniel, Emily
Start Time: 11:20 AM End Time: 4:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.6 miles
Most of the “regular” (higher elevation) trails would be out, since they would be under snow. After much discussion, we decided to try and hike the Fanton trail. We weren’t sure if we could get all the way to the lower trailhead, but we thought the road got plowed to within a couple of miles of the trailhead, so worst case, we could drive to that point and then hike in. Well, it was quite a bit different than we had planned…..The road was clear up to the snowplow turnaround, so we kept going – it went up a hill that was VERY icy, so we put on chains and kept going for a bit. Kirk’s van was having a bit of trouble with the packed snow, so we parked it and piled everyone into the bed of my truck and headed up. What was amazing was how many people were up there – this road gets a LOT of traffic in the winter.
We easily made it to the 4614/4613 junction and I’m sure could have made it to the lower trailhead, but we decided to head up the 4614 road a bit farther to see how far we could go – maybe we could make it all the way up to Squaw Mountain? That would be kind of a neat day! We continued up the road, which got increasingly deep with snow. We finally found an old decommissioned side spur – the trail went right next to it. It was about 2 miles from the junction with 4613. That seemed like the perfect place to park and start our hike. We bundled up, put on our snowshoes and headed out.
Amazingly, the trail was pretty easy to follow, even with the 2-4′ of snow on the ground. We lost it in a couple of places, but for the most part, it was obvious where it went.
We headed east on the trail, and shortly came to the first Landing:
The view looking south from the first landing – it was a winter wonderland!
And here is a photo of most of our intrepid crew (Sarah was adjusting her snowshoes):
We enjoyed the view from the landing and then continued east on the trail. Here is a picture of our broken trail in this clearcut below the landing:
We continued down the trail, alternating people to take the lead – since breaking trail in this snow – even with snowshoes is REALLY hard work. A little while down the trail, we came across this broken snag that is going to fall fall really soon – it was cracking, creaking and groaning when the wind blew:
I thought it might come down by the time we returned, but it must be stuck up high pretty good, as it was still there on the return trip.
We continued down the trail until we got to the next trail access – on an old gated spur off of 4614. There was a nice sunny spot that didn’t seem too windy, so this is where we had lunch:
The only vehicle that had been up 4614 that far was a snowmobile – I’m glad we stopped where we did. We definitely could not have made it this far on the road.
After lunch, we continued east to the junction with the Old Baldy trail. The snow continued to get deeper and more powdery:
I was expecting to see a trail junction with the Old Baldy trail, however we just kept paralleling the ridge. At some point, I realized we must have joined the Old Baldy trail. On the way back down, we found the Trail junction:
It was not apparent due to the snow and the fact it was a Y junction, not a T junction.
It was about at this point we realized we would not have enough time to get up to Squaw/Tumala Mountain. It was getting late, and we wanted to get down off the hill, out of the snow before dark. So, we headed uphill to find a viewpoint so we could see Mt Hood and the mountains north of us. We finally found a few spots where you could glimpse views of the mountains – it was BEAUTIFUL (although rather chilly with the wind).
View of Mt Hood from above Old Baldy Trail:
View of Mt Adams from a slightly different viewpoint above Old Baldy Trail:
After enjoying the views for a bit, we headed back down the the trail to start the trek back to the truck. It was almost 2:30 so we needed to make good time back to the truck – it had taken us 3 hours to get here. We were hoping the trip back would be considerably faster since it was mostly downhill, and the trail had already been broken, so it should be faster and easier.
A couple of interesting points on the way back. There was this REALLY deep canyon of snow on the trail – probably close to 4′ deep – I’m thinking that water came down thru here to melt the snow – there was a small little creek/spring crossing the trail:
And a bit farther down the trail, there was this beautiful un-named creek that was partially frozen:
We did make really good time on the way back down, and got to the truck a little after 4:00, but it was already starting to get dark. We quickly took off our snowshoes and piled back into the truck for the trip back down. We had a little bit of excitement on the way back down – we met 3 trucks on the road – it wasn’t really wide enough for 2 rigs to pass each other, and one of them got stuck – the other 2 backed down and he had a winch, so would be able to get himself out easily. We wound our way back down the hill slowly.
Once we got down out of the really deep snow, we started encountering LOTS of vehicles – this area must be party central at night. Trucks, SUVs, ATVs were all up there around fire pits, and more were coming up. We must have met at least 20 vehicles on the way down.
Once out of the snow and ice, we stopped to take off our chains and then headed back down the hill and out to Estacada for a well deserved post hike dinner at Fearless.
Truly a “bluebird” day in the mountains – traversing lots of untouched snow with beautiful views.