Trillium Lake: Winter Loop

By Alexander Gilbert


Snow illuminates the surroundings. The same overcast skies that grey the valley will stand over the previous night’s snow on the mountain, and through light reflection from snow, turn a light on.  Then you go—‘ugh’, ‘ah’, and cover your eyes with sunglasses to dim it all back down to valley standards. Who wants to squint, it’s tiring, and makes everyone look indignant.

The transmission of white light from snow does enliven a winter’s day. Snow being the dignitary of winter (that grey dormant bastard) surely brings winter to life. The star of the show.

Valley dwellers may find themselves in a winter missing its glow, and stuck on their own boring two feet. So fasten some cross country skis or snowshoes on those hooves and get to it. Preferably once you get to the mountain.

Trillium Lake is a straight shot off of highway 26, and every thing can be procured on this route such as renting skis or snowshoes but most importantly doughnuts and coffee. The town of Sandy has Otto’s Ski Shop for equipment and Joe’s Donut Shop for needs satisfaction. Oh, and that pesky six dollar sno-park parking permit which is a steal compared to Washington’s twenty dollar price tag.

Pulling into Trillium lake snow park just past Government Camp, parking, and opening the car door into a mass of crystalline water with a rush of cold air…vitalizing.

Suit up and show up.

Meander over to the trail head through the potential weekend blizzard of people, and prepare for the descent into Trillium Lake. The initial downgrade can feel like an Olympic ski jump to the inexperienced cross country skier. Slim skis that don’t turn to slow down like downhill skis, and yes, your heels are not clipped in either. So hesitatingly nudge up until the slope carries you away—while in your mind high speeds have been obtained, when to the onlooker you’re going maybe, 10mph.

Of course you could always trudge your way down on snow shoes. Pssh

On skis you can get into a gliding rhythm over the snow and cover distances quickly. A sort of adapted skip—systematized skipping, that once you get down is rather an addicting sport.

Snow shoes are an adventurous trek. Stomping around over snow with no worries of biffing it like on skis. Each will get you to Trillium Lake and back.

The ‘spot’ is on the dam that faces out over the frozen snow covered lake with Mt. Hood bullying the horizon. Hood with its fresh coat of antarctic paint compliments a winter’s day to its own venerable heights.  A wintertime hub for pictures, camaraderie, lunches, and panhandling Gray jays; all enveloped by evergreen forest.

Etch over the 4.5 mile Trillium Lake loop, through the timberland, across snowfields, and feel your heartbeat into the presence; wipe the bead of sweat on your brow, and love these outdoor sports. Why not, high five the snowman that some one made on the side of the trail. Then for the moderately in shape people this loop is the right distance, for the legs, when a longer trail would turn into a death march back to the car.

Being back at the car, Trillium Lake, is 60 miles from Portland, and not an insurmountable drive back home. It’s hard to gauge which way feels longer, there or back, but at 60 miles, and with 50 miles of rural life to observe, the drive can be enjoyable—minus any traffic. Show me the saint that can enjoy traffic.

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