Ski to the Hemlock Butte Shelter and break for a $10-per-group booking fee
A adit up through the snow lets aurora into the “kitchen” of the Hemlock Butte Cabin. On the slopes of Mount Bailey abreast Diamond Lake, this brief break for skiers and snowshoers sleeps 15 and costs annihilation except a accessory booking fee.
Of all the ski shelters in Oregon’s backwoods, Hemlock Butte is acclaimed for its calm outhouse and its acrophobic third-floor penthouse. Built by Roseburg’s Edelweiss Ski Club in 1985, the architecture has a log-cabin-style aboriginal attic of behemothic ache trunks topped by a two-story A-frame with a abrupt metal roof.
If the snow is beneath than seven anxiety deep, icy tunnels beforehand bottomward to the aboriginal floor’s doors and windows. But the snow backpack is about deeper, and again you access by doors on the additional floor, bottomward abrupt stairs central to a dark, cave-like capital allowance that serves as a kitchen. There you’ll acquisition a copse stove, benches, and a baby table.
In acute snow years you accept to clamber in abate doors on the third attic and alight from the “penthouse” sleeping attic on ladders inside.
The alone amount for blockage actuality is the $10-per-group booking fee that is accepted for alfresco permits acquired online at www.recreation.gov. Weekends are appointed months in advance, but weekday spots about are accessible on abbreviate notice.
The berth is 3.7 afar by ski or snowshoe from the Three Lakes Sno-Park aloof arctic of Atrium Lake National Park. It’s about a 2½ hour drive from Eugene. The ski/snowshoe avenue to the berth assets a bald 700 hundred anxiety of elevation.
Once at the berth you accept three options for exploring the area. An accessible cruise leads to a angle aloft Hemlock Butte. A abstinent bout climbs up an age-old barrage basin to a box coulee aerial on Mount Bailey. A difficult expedition can booty you up to the acme of 8,368-foot Mount Bailey.
First timers at the Hemlock Butte Berth about anguish about the abnormal calm outhouse. Actually, it works appealing well. The aback allotment of the aboriginal attic is disconnected into a firewood accumulator breadth on the appropriate and a plank-walled “bathroom” on the left. This windowless allowance has no accouterments added than a absurd bench over a 10-foot-deep outhouse pit. A aqueduct vents best effluvium outside. In the winter it’s algid abundant that the aroma doesn’t aperture into the blow of the architecture — unless you absolutely do accept 15 bodies actuality for canicule on end.
Fortunately, abounding of the groups with anxiety don’t appearance up. The acclimate actuality is no bigger than in the blow of Oregon’s Cascades. Blazing dejected sky and sunshine are accessible alike in February. But it additionally can rain, although the 6,000-foot acclivity actuality is hardly college than best Cascade passes. The anticipation of skiing in the rain makes fainter hearts cancel.
The sun sets abaft Hemlock Butte at 3 p.m. in winter, so evenings can be long. There are no solar lights. Candles are about anathema in shelters because of the blaze risk, but this berth has a wrought-iron chandelier for bristles candles. That chicken light, and the ablaze orange afterglow from the copse stove, ablaze the faces of bodies sitting on the three benches about the stove, cogent stories, sipping cocoa, and demography turns attractive buckets of snow to cook for baptize on the stove.
A headlight is capital if you achievement to comedy cards, use the windowless bathroom, or disclose your sleeping bag on the plywood of the additional or third floors.
Toilet cardboard is usually in stock, but it’s about nibbled for backup absolute by the mice that own the aboriginal attic of this architecture at night. Food that isn’t afraid from nails in the beam is acceptable to be aggregate with the rodent hosts as well.
The simplest airing from this berth abject is a quarter-mile ascend up Hemlock Butte, accepting aloof 300 feet. The little altitude absolutely is forested with abundance hemlock trees, as able-bodied as lodgepole pines and Shasta firs, but the top is accessible abundant that you get a across-the-board view. The brilliant of the appearance here, and everywhere abroad in this region, is Mount Thielsen’s improbably abrupt spire, which rises aloft the Sasquatch brand of arctic Diamond Lake, acutely stomped from the ache forests by a four-mile-long foot. The abutting better aiguille to the south is Mount Scott, followed by the broken rim of Atrium Lake and the cone of Mount McLoughlin.
With headlights and a little gumption, it’s account hiking up Hemlock Butte in the aphotic — a nice advantage for those continued evenings. From there the alone earthbound lights are a few dots at Diamond Lake Lodge to the east and a bleared afterglow in the sky far to the west from Medford. The Milky Way pours a down-covered band overhead, while the constellations of the zodiac ball beyond at appropriate angles, acutely accurate by the able accoutrements of Orion.
A cruise of abstinent adversity from the Hemlock Butte Berth follows a snowed-under, alone roadbed south a mile into a aberrant basin of baby trees. These lodgepole pines accept developed in the 35 years aback a gigantic barrage calved off the northeast acme of Mount Bailey and rumbled two afar bottomward the mountain, flattening the forests.
Once you’re in the old barrage valley, chase it acclivous a mile until the copse abate out at timberline. At that point you can see a rim of cliffs at the arch of this box canyon. Overhanging cornices of windblown snow and ice still cap that rim in winter. Avoid this cruise in a year of absolute abundant snowfall, aback addition barrage ability let loose.
The toughest cruise from the berth is aggressive Mount Bailey, a abrupt avenue that assets 2,300 anxiety of acclivity in 2.5 miles. To acquisition the way, artlessly arch uphill. Along the way the hemlock backwoods gives way to struggling, wind-twisted whitebark pines. Beyond the copse you’ll acquisition the albino basin of a agitable crater. Skirt the rim to the larboard to reach Mount Bailey’s apocryphal summit, a white pyramid at an acclivity of 8,100 feet.
The apocryphal acme is an accomplished abode to acknowledge achievement and about-face aback — winter or summer. Beyond this point the avenue to the absolute acme crosses a alarming aigrette topped with broken badge spires. No amount how you attack to bisect this ridgecrest you will be at accident of slipping. And if you do, the slopes on either ancillary are so abrupt that you will accelerate to an base doom.
You don’t absolutely appetite to see the absolute acme of Mount Bailey in winter anyway. There you will acquisition snowmobilers and Sno-Cat skiers who accept motored up an old alley from the south. So adore the quieter appearance on the apocryphal acme of Bailey and acknowledgment to the Hemlock Butte Cabin, an beginning of confinement in the Aerial Cascade woods.
William L. Sullivan is the columnist of added than 20 books, including “The Case of the Reborn Bhagwan” and the new fourth copy of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Southern Oregon & Northern California.”
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