Every year about this time I come down with a real case of sledding and snow ball envy.
Having grown up in Connecticut and attended university in Montreal, I remember a lot of good times in the snow.
Sledding. Ice skating on local ponds. Impromptu snowball fights in the neighborhood. Keg parties near Mt. Royal. Outdoor winter festivals in Quebec with whole rooms made of ice.
Portland, however, is usually too temperate to count on an anything more than a dusting of snow each year; some years we get a couple inches but just as often it seems like we are left with little more than a handful (which inevitably dissipates too quickly).
My husband and I have never been skiers, so the pull of Mt. Hood downhill skiing has no traction with us — but sledding and other winter frolicking is another matter entirely.
Sledding is my kind of outdoor winter activity.
You need no athletic skill.
You don’t need to invest in pricy equipment or lift tickets.
You can decide to do it spontaneously.
In Oregon, all you need to do is find the elevation that will hold the snow.
And the bonus of sledding is the customary sharing of warm treats alongside.
So yesterday morning, we headed up to Mt. Hood to one of our favorite places: Little John Sno-Park.
Located about an hour and a half from our house, Little John is an easy drive up the mountain.
We were happy to see that the roads were properly paved and salted.
It was snowing softly as we made our way there.
The drive up the mountain is so pretty.
Here’s why Little John Sno-Park rocks.
If you get there before one or so, there’s ample parking.
Hills of various inclines and heights await.
And there’s an indoor latrine for those in need.
Not only that, but there’s also a three sided hut with seating if you feel like getting out of the elements for a while.
Or you can do what one amazing guy did for his family — set up your own camp alongside the sledding.
I was curious about this encampment; I’d watched all the equipment and wood come out of the car. The dad set up the tent and stove while the son dug out a giant pit for a fire.
The guy was incredibly friendly when I chatted with him. He told me that it was his son’s 16th birthday that day and every New Year’s Eve he finds a different spot for his family to enjoy and celebrate outside.
This year’s pick was Little John.
What a wonderful tradition, and it was so endearing to see this bearded dude get excited about this year’s food choice (spicy chili and such) and how much he obviously loved his crew.
Do you think in most parts of the world you could do this kind of impromptu set up — without a permit or cost?
And could there be anywhere prettier on a sunny wintry day?
My family all sledded, taking turns with the various equipment we’d brought, and then stopping in the middle to warm up with Chai and hot chocolate.
And a little something sweet.
Man, I can’t wait to share this Salted Caramel Bar recipe with you soon.
I knew the ice would be hard on Bailey’s paws, but I’d come prepared — I’d brought an extra Thermos of warm water and an enamel bowl with me.
So after he got a plate of cheddar and a few Triscuits, I dunked his paws in the bowl of warm water. This immediately dissolved the ice and snow embedded in the pads of his feet and warming him up slightly so he’d want to keep going.
Yes, I do know that my dog is spoiled.
And I’m okay with that. And heaven knows, he’s not complaining about much.
(Every time we take him in the car with us I get a look like this).
Warmed and energized, we all hit the snow one more time.
A couple last trips down the mammoth hill.
If you haven’t done it in a while, you forget how much fun sledding can be.
There was the mandatory making of snow angels.
And you can’t leave without an impromptu snowball fight.
But let me tell you.
If you’re going to surprise attack someone after they’ve come to your aid,
you’d best be prepared to make a speedy exit.
Snow. Sledding. Chai. Salted Caramel Bars. Snow ball fights and chats with strangers cooking.
And a cozy, not-too long, sleepy ride home.
Happy New Year.