2014-15 winter drought offers unique opportunity for Oregon and California hikers and backpackers reports fresh water advocate

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Record low snowpack makes high mountain trails accessible all winter for first time, hikers tell Bio-Logic Aqua® Research founder and radio show host Sharon Kleyne.

In a normal year for Oregon and California hiking enthusiasts, late May to mid-June are anxiously awaited. After a winter of waiting, cabin fever and boring low elevation treks, that’s when the winter snowpack in the mountain high country melts back enough to permit hikers and backers enthusiasts to access the high trails. The winter of 2014-2015, according to fresh water advocate and radio host Sharon Kleyne, was very different. For the first time ever many high trails remained accessible the entire winter.

Kleyne will discuss winter hiking, drought and snowpack on her Sharon Kleyne Hour™ Power of Water® radio show of April 6, 2015. For the live show and/or past show podcasts, go to http://www.SharonKleyneHour.com. Winter hiking information was provided to Kleyne by Art Bernstein, author of “Hiking Southern Oregon” (Falcon, 2014), who has appeared on the show many times. .

The globally syndicated Sharon Kleyne Hour™ Power of Water® radio show is heard weekly on VoiceAmerica and Apple iTunes. The sponsor is Bio-Logic Aqua® Research, a global research and technology center founded by Kleyne and specializing in fresh water, the atmosphere and dehydration. Nature’s Mist® is the Research Center’s signature hand held humidifying medical device for dry skin.

In January, 2015, according to Kleyne, a friend of Bernstein’s walked 5 miles from the Lover’s Camp Trailhead to the Marble Valley in California’s Marble Mountain Wilderness. In a normal January, there would be 5 feet of snow at the trailhead and 10 to 15 feet at Marble Valley and Marble Rim, one of California’s most scenic locations.

In 2015, there was no snow at the trailhead and less than a foot at Marble Valley. For the many area hikers, who always wondered what the area looked like in winter but were reluctant to hike for miles on snowshoes over completely buried trails, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In contract, says Kleyne, the winter of 1998-99 had the deepest snowpack on record. In 1999, high mountain trailheads didn’t open until early August. .

Winter of 2013-14, according to Kleyne, also had a record breaking low snowpack. For the first time ever, in that year, many California and Oregon ski areas in failed to open due to lack of snow. Snow finally arrived in late February.

There were several major precipitation events in 2014-15, Kleyne reports, but unusually warm weather kept snowlines high. Normally, in Southern Oregon, there is winter snowpack above 4,000 feet. In 2014-15, warm rains quickly melted any snow that accumulated. While most ski areas did eventually open in 2014-2015, mountain high country between 4,000 and 7,000 feet remained accessible.

At Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, according to Kleyne, although the spring snowpack was the lowest ever recorded, several feet of snow have accumulated above 6,500 feet, as of late March, and the Rim Drive remains snowed over and closed. The Crater Lake rim elevation is between 7,000 and 8,000 feet. California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park also has an unusually low but still impressive snowpack at higher elevations (the Lassen Summit Road crests at 8,800 feet).

Because of low snowpack, Kleyne notes, Crater Lake Rim Drive and Lassen Summit Road are expected to open very early this year. Lassen’s Butte Lake Road, which normally opens in early May, is already open. In most years, plowing doesn’t even begin until the first week in April and the Summit Road opens in late May or June.

Hikers are well aware, according to Kleyne, that insufficient snow in January, February and March can portend a dry summer with high forest fire danger, low stream flows, dried up springs and widespread water shortages. For the past few years, low winter precipitation has been somewhat offset by a late, cold and wet spring. Spring of 2015 has been fairly dry so far but with some substantial but warm rainfall events. Spring wildflowers are a month early.

Hiking enthusiasts are bracing for a summer with smoke in the air and no water in the creeks, says Kleyne. But it was nevertheless a rare and wonderful winter full of unprecedented adventure opportunities.

© 2015 Bio-Logic Aqua® Research. All rights reserved.

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