We had a plan. Leave Hood River at 7pm.  Arrive to trailhead at 11pm. Start hiking at 7am. Back to the car by 2pm. Back in Hood River before dark. Lots of smiles and corn and happy memories to show for our efforts.

Jacking up Subi trying to get a rock underneath the tire for traction… didn’t work. PC Meaghann Gaffney

Instead, there was a fire. Meaghann and team got it out, but it meant that we were driving out of Hood River at 8:30. We did indeed reach the trailhead 4 hours later. Well, almost. There was the snowpile. There was a snowpile and a Subaru driver who overestimated her clearance* and the power of her snow tires. Two intrepid adventurers spent over an hour digging and jacking and rocking, to no avail. That’s how I ended up on the phone with Beau at AAA at 1:30 in the morning. After initially telling me that AAA didn’t cover Forest Service roads, Beau found a local towing operation that was willing to come for us. When I told Beau I loved him, he didn’t even chuckle. Beau was probably sleepy. I get it, it was the middle of the night.

4am tug of freedom. Thanks Phil.

So Meaghann and I chucked our ski gear onto a tarp and set up our sleeping gear in my Subi. At least she was stuck nice and level. Right as I dozed off, I got a call from Phil, saying he and his rig would be there in 90 minutes. I squeezed another nap in before Phil called again, to verify our position beyond a piece of heavy machinery. (The road was fully cleared the very next day. The irony, it stings.) Minutes later, right around 4am, lights flooded our sleeping bag nest. Phil the angel and his flatbed of freedom had arrived.

A delirious Cori gave Phil a hug (Phil was more affectionate than Beau), while an even more delirious Meaghann nobly fought for consciousness as we threw gear into my car to retreat to a drier portion of the road. By 4:30 we were nestled in our bags again, as the first hint of morning hit the horizon, and our aspirations for a summit were whisked away by a desperate need for sleep.

It was too bright to sleep much past 9, so I got up and made coffee. A leisurely roadside breakfast led to a leisurely departure, and a leisurely alternative ski plan for the day. Ski Plan 1: Hoodoo Butte. Hoodoo is a ski area. Hoodoo ski area takes approximately 26 minutes to skin to the top of, including the hike to the summit. It was pretty up there, and let us gaze upon our erstwhile objective.

Mt Washington. Damn that’s a good looking descent.

The descent from Hoodoo was thoroughly decent corn. Unfortunately, the descent totaled less than 1000 feet, my definition for a ski day to “count.” So instead of going back (like reasonable compulsive skiers), we decided to start driving back toward home and hit another area along the way. Ski Plan 2 was the north side of Black Butte. Ski plan 2 was covered in grass. Despite Black Butte’s elevation, its location on the east side of the crest left even its north side devoid of snow. Oops.

Views from the top of Hoodoo, including Black Butte in the distance. The north side is as dry as the south side appears.

So we drove on, arguably to the most looked-forward to alternative objective for the day – Grocery Outlet! The dirtbag’s food dream store. We’ve all got backup plans to cling to…

ALL the snacks in hand, we sallied northward once more, only to get swept up in the mass of humanity heading back to Portland after the holiday weekend. Fortunately, most of them headed west on 26, while we got to jog east on 35.  I had one more objective: 150+ feet so that I could count today as a ski day. That brought us to Ski Plan 3: Hood Meadows. We pulled up and donned our ski boots, not even bothering to change out of short shorts and t-shirts.

Steezy AF.

Up a cat track we skinned, past untold  bits of garbage melting out of the still impressive snowpack. The breeze was cool and refreshing, much like the La Croix Meaghann had brought with.

Then came the thunder and the mutual, “well, I guess it’s time to go down now.” The storm was gorgeous from afar.

Weather is neat.

The skiing was… skiing. Enough to count my day (153!). I finished the drive back to Hood River, eyelids forced open like a startled hamster. Meaghann helped me stay awake by playing Bob Gibson’s entire album of ski songs. [Go down this Youtube black hole. Start here or here. Listen to all the Bob Gibson ski songs.]

We made it. Meaghann went home. I mustered enough energy to scatter my wet gear on the floor to dry, before dragging myself through a shower and into bed for 14 glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep.

It was a good day. Not one we’d planned, but one with challenges to be overcome, where everything turned out okay. Massive thanks to Meaghann for her wonderful positive attitude, and for her suggestion to a digging-fixated Cori to call AAA in the first place. Also, thanks to my mom for gifting me with AAA every year since I started driving. It was an indispensable service during these 22 hours of misadventure.

*Note: if anyone knows how to put Outback suspension on a Legacy, I want that. I’ll also take recommendations on portable winches.


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