Archive for February 1st, 2023


February 1, 2023

I pulled up my ski pole, and the basket was gone. Just like the other one 10 minutes ago. I was flailing in deep snow in a pile of Ceanothus brush, pretty in summer, a royal pain right now, thinking I would find the trail, but in snow, a lot of gaps look like trails. Eventually, we gave up and backtracked to a road that led to the other end of the loop where we had tried to go. Two of us went in, found some blue diamonds on trees, and kept going. We got to within 100 yards of where we had been, before realizing we needed to rejoin the rest of the group, and we hightailed it—as much as anybody can hightail it on snowshoes— back to the vehicles. The leader was not happy with us. Not a great decision of mine to explore, but I knew more about the trail.

Nickerson Loop

A month later, same Sno-Park, same leader, different trail, same thing happened. The markers disappeared, and after a sufficient amount of floundering, this time in a stream bed as well, we gave up. I muttered, “This is crazy. There are no loops where they should be, and somebody needs to fix this.”N

I knew (1) that fixing wouldn’t happen soon, if ever, unless (2) I was that somebody.

After snowmelt, I went back to Nickerson Loop, the first trail, followed the road to where it ended in a the trail through the woods. There were many logs down that needed to be removed and a few diamonds needed to be put on trees in order to mark the trail better. 

I reached the meadow and after an hour or so realized the trail was never in the meadow but rather at the edge of the woods along the meadow. I found a few beat up plastic blue diamonds on trees and started to see where the trail went. Then I saw nothing. After another half hour, during which my GPS recorded a bunch of slashes like a drunk person’s using an Etch a Sketch, I decided to bushwhack to the Forest Service road where the trail came out. That in itself was a lesson in how one gets lost.

I knew the road was about 3/8 of a mile through the woods, and I thought I was going in a straight line. But there are trees, downed logs, gullies, and brush to dodge, and I made changes to my route and more changes. It took me a while to get to the road, and when I did I realized I had veered 45 degrees to my right from the track I had projected. I had no idea I was that far off, and I consider myself to have fairly good trail sense, except this wasn’t a trail. This is why people get lost. We go in a straight line, then in another straight line angled to the first, then in another angled to the second….

I walked up the road to where the trail began and worked my way back to the meadow from the opposite side, and after a couple of hours had the trail marked. 

Four months later, in autumn, I worked with the Salamander Trail Crew out of Salem to help log it out, remove the downed logs, put up a few more diamonds, cut out some brush, and the next winter, I was clearing a few logs when I saw a group coming the other way on snowshoes. I asked them if they had had trouble navigating.

“No. Everything was great.” 


The second trail, Prairie View Trail, was more problematic. I started to mark it the following autumn by going to the far end of the loop, off a Forest Service road, where there was a trailhead marker and followed the diamonds to…..nowhere. In the meantime, my feet got tangled in blackberry bushes, and I face planted on the ground. This was going to be more of a problem. I went out to the road, made a different track, and had a rough idea of where the trail markers could be placed.

That winter, I went out with the diamonds, nails, and hammer from the other end of the loop, the Sno-Park parking end, found where the second meadow portion left a road, put up several diamonds and got two-thirds of the loop done before I ran out of diamonds and had to use orange ribbon to mark. I didn’t bother to go to the old trailhead.  I had marked the trail with ribbon or diamonds, and more importantly, I now had it on my Gaia map on my GPS.  I never got back there later in the winter, mostly because I was nursing some ailments from too much vigorous snowshoeing into other places.

This winter, I began by going out from the Sno-Park, realized the snow was too heavy to complete the whole trail by myself, and came back out a week later, with diamonds, when the snow was a little easier to walk on, cleared brush, and came to the second meadow part. I was pleased with how well the diamonds guided, and I added several more in place of the ribbon, some of which was still present, going to the road. The diamonds have to be placed for both directions, and it should be possible to see the next one from the prior one.  Hiking with a hammer, diamonds, nails, all in a canvas bag, at the same time snowshoeing, requires some skill. The effort was not without a misplaced glove, falling into a snowdrift, but I reached the road, and the trail cleared. 

This winter, I will lead a Club snowshoe over the trail.  There aren’t views of any prairie, but there are some nice wooded and meadow areas, and it is a flat snowshoe for the most part, good for beginners and novices.

I’ve finally got both trails, both loops, marked in the Sno-Park. They 4.3 and 6.4 miles respectively, give or take. Maybe next year I will try to snowshoe both in a single day. Not sure why, but it’s the kind of thing I would think about doing.

Nearly 11 miles qualifies, however, as a “vigorous snowshoe,” which has produced physical consequences in older people.  

Like me.

Prairie View marker at the beginning. It is slightly angled to the left to show that the trail is to the left of the tree.