Location of Hike: Fanton and Old Baldy Trails
Trail Number: 505 and 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1900 feet
We tried to do this same trip in 2016, but the snow was much deeper and we had to turn around about 3/4 mile from the top so that we had enough time to get back before it got dark. Since the snow was much deeper it was a lot rougher going too. Having to break trail thru the deep snow was very tiring. For this trip, the plan was to drive up 4614 as far as we could, since the Fanton trail mostly follows it for a few miles. Then we would park and head up the trail to the old Lookout spot.
We decided to stop near the 167 spur – about a mile farther than we were able to get to in 2016 – I was hoping that would be enough to get us to the top:
We parked, and then headed up the road looking for where the trail crosses the spur road. At this point in the day, it was all untouched snow – this is the Fanton trail continuing south from the 167 spur:
We took off to the north, heading up towards the Old Baldy trail. The snow was probably 4-6″ deep here, but we really didn’t need snowshoes while we were in the woods. At this point, we really only needed them in open areas where the snow was deeper.
Not too far down the trail, Kirk saw this cool shadow of a cross, I thought I’d take a picture:
Very quickly we arrived at the landing just off the 4614 road – the last point where you can hit the Fanton trail from 4614. After seeing what we saw, we probably could have driven up this far with little effort – but we were confident we had enough time to make it to the top. The landing was beautiful in the morning light – with all the fresh snow:
Kirk took this picture of Ollie being a goof in the snow:
After enjoying the view from that landing for a bit we headed back to the trail and continued up. It didn’t take too long to get up to the junction with the Old Baldy trail. The sign that used to mark the junction is gone – not sure if it is laying on the ground or what – you can see where it used to be though:
Anyway, we continued up towards the lookout, with the snow continuing to get deeper. It wasn’t long before we got to the road up to the lookout and finally popped out on top. It is hard to know where the lookout was – the snow had to be a couple feet deep at least. We stopped here and pulled out our stoves and made some hot beverages and ate some lunch. We tried to get a good view of Mt Jefferson, but it seemed to be hiding in the clouds. We did get a great shot of Mt Hood:
While Kirk and I were eating, Thor and Ollie were playing around:
After we ate lunch, we explored the peak a bit. Kirk found these cool designs in the snow:
And you could see part of Squaw Meadows to the east (it wraps around the back of the ridge to the south – this was just the north end of it):
After exploring the peak a bit we went down to where the old garage used to be but we couldn’t quite figure out where the foundation was – I think there was too much snow. We started our descent back down. I think the dogs were glad we were headed down – they were both having some issues with their feet and ice getting between their pads on their feet. As we got down farther and the snow wasn’t as deep, the problem seemed to go away. I could tell Thor was getting tired – between the foot thing and just being tired, he stopped a bunch of times on the way down.
We made good time on the way down – nothing much of note happened until we got almost back to the 167 spur – maybe 100 yards or so from the spur road, there were tracks on the trail – we weren’t sure if it was a jeep or what – but it was a 4 wheeled vehicle for sure. As we got back to the spur road, you could see they just drove up the spur road and then headed up the trail. I think there was a large enough log that they turned around.
Once we got back to the truck, we saw lots of new tracks – there was snowmobile tracks – not exactly sure where they went – and new tracks farther up 4614. As we were getting ready to leave, a side by side came up 4614 and went down the spur – I think that is the vehicle we saw tracks for – I hope they weren’t going to try and head farther up the trail…
We headed out and got stuck behind a caravan of 3 trucks – not sure if they were together or not, but the lead truck just stopped and talked to someone for like 5 minutes – we couldn’t really go around them due to the snow on the road, so we had to wait. This part of the forest seems to get very busy in the wintertime…. There were LOTS of people up here now with families.
An absolutely beautiful bluebird day in the snow – a perfect way to start 2019.
Post Hike note: While doing this hike I had a bit of a runny nose. I thought I was just getting a cold, but after I got back home, it really hit me. I got hit with a pretty severe flu bug. That is why this posting is so late – I was so tired I didn’t even look at my computer for like 3 days. Had I known what was coming, I definitely would not have gone on this hike, however I’m very glad I went. These are the kinds of hikes that are special. You don’t get too many beautiful winter days like this with undisturbed snow.
Location of Hike: Fanton Trail to Squaw Mountain
Trail Number: 505, 502
Weather during Hike: Overcast with a few sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:30 AM End Time: 12:45 PM
Hike Distance: 3.5 miles
The plan was to head up the 4614 road as far as possible (the Fanton trail pretty much follows the road – more or less), and then head up the trail to its junction with Old Baldy and then up to Squaw Mountain. When we did this trip on New Years Day in 2016, we ran out of time and energy to get to Squaw Mountain – but we started quite a ways back down 4614. I was hoping to get to the point we did, and possibly a bit farther. I was able to get to the easternmost point of the road, where an old spur road heads to an old landing. When we got to the trailhead, I was surprised to see two other cars parked there:
We got ready and shortly headed out. I saw boot prints and dog prints, so knew one of the cars had headed up the trail and had a dog, so I made sure Thor was leashed.
There was not much snow at the start of the trail:
Shortly, not too far up the trail, we met the lone hiker with his dog. I Asked how far he got up the trail and he said not very far – maybe 1/4 mile or so. It wasn’t loo long before we passed their turnaround point and the trail ahead was clear of any new tracks – we were breaking new trail in the snow! As we were hiking, I saw lots of other tracks in the snow. Some were clearly deer, but there were a bunch of these tracks, which were hard to see detail since they were partially melted, but they were LARGE. I’m thinking this had to be a bear print:
The farther we headed up the trail, the deeper the snow got, but it was still pretty easy to walk – no major postholing. By the time we got to the Old Baldy Trail jct, the snow was getting rather deep:
Looks much different than it did back in January 2016:
At this point, Thor decided he needed to “frap” a bit – it went on for quite some time (wow- you can really hear me breathing hard!) – he must have gone back and for 10 or 15 times at least:
Shortly after this point, I ended up putting on my showshoes since the snow was getting too deep to easily walk in. It kept getting deeper and deeper. It was really deep in the open areas approaching Squaw Mountain:
As we were headed up, Thor was having lots of fun playing in the snow (it was up to his chest! – But he didn’t seem to mind):
We soon made it up to the old road, and found that someone had recently walked up the road to the old lookout:
We finally got up to the top where it was almost sunny (almost), but a bit windy.
The view to Mt Hood from Squaw Mountain (Mt Hood was hiding):
We spent a little bit of time up on top looking around, but it was pretty cold in the wind, so we headed back down to the old garage foundation where it is a bit sheltered. We ate some lunch there and drank some water. Thor was having a great time running around in the snow, but even out of the wind, it was getting a bit cool for both of us, so we headed back down the hill. As we headed down, the sun was kind of coming in and out and at one point, there was this really cool Sunbreak thru the trees – although this photo doesn’t begin to capture it. It was really pretty:
We continued down the trail and at some point I removed my snowshoes since the snow wasn’t very deep and it was easier to walk in boots. Thor typically stayed near me, but at one point, I thought he had gotten the scent of something and ran uphill (a LONG ways uphill). I saw a black rear end running up the hill in the snow. I assumed it was Thor and I started walking uphill, calling him. I was getting VERY upset since he wasn’t coming – I had visions of him disappearing. I kept calling, and walking up the steep hillside, and pretty soon, I see him coming up the hill from below. I think what I saw was the rear end of a bear running away from me! After that, I kept his leash on so he stayed closer to me. It was kind of scary and cool all at the same time.
We quickly made it back to the old spur road, and we ended up walking out to the old landing. You can’t drive out there anymore, as the small bridge over Fanton Creek has failed (that is the creek running under that snow):
We enjoyed the views from the landing for a bit and then headed back to the truck and then home.
It was a very short day (I was really surprised how quickly we were able to do this trip), but it was a beautiful winter trip.
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.