MEACHAM — Winter is finally here and it is time for some fun in the snow. On a good snow year, one of the most beautiful places to play is the Meacham Divide Nordic Area.
Meacham Divide is one of the larger groomed Nordic areas in Oregon with 18 miles of groomed trails, according to the Blue Mountain Nordic Club
It is just 36 miles east of Pendleton and 1.7 miles north off of Interstate 84 on Summit Road, at Exit 243. Though the road is plowed, it is not of first priority importance and it might be one of the last roads cleared after a snow event and is best if tackled with a vehicle built for winter driving. It is in a Sno-Park area, so make sure to bring traction devices and a parking permit.
Park at the Emily Sno-Park and locate the beginning of the track on the west side of the parking area.
To the right of the path is a collection box. The Blue Mountain Nordic Club is the lovely group of volunteers, based in La Grande, that maintains and grooms this gem. They request each user donate a minimum $7 per escapade to cover the costs involved in keeping the Nordic Area open and groomed.
Leave the parking area on Loppet and enjoy an easy rolling half-mile start to the bottom of Moose Huff Hill.
This section is wonderful for introducing new adventurers to low angle snow sports, and dogs are welcome. If snowshoeing is the mode of the day, please stay to one side of the grooming off of the set twin ski track. This allows the track to last longer and other users the joy of smooth skate and classic skiing. Remember as you are gearing up, different snow conditions provide more resistance and work to cover the same amount of distance. Do not give yourself a hard time if your goal is 10 miles, but you have to stop after one due to the extra work the snow has provided for you.
Moose Huff Hill is the steepest climb of the day, reaching over a 5% grade and the end of the groom open to dogs. Continue on Loppet to the highest point of the route at 4,280 feet before gliding to the lowest point, with an incredible view, Loppet Point.
Loppet Point, also called Rock Spring, looks at least 1,000 feet down into Meacham Creek and the Union Pacific Railroad.
Though the train is easy to hear as it chugs along and whistles at the passing animals, it is difficult to spot due to the numerous little canyons and pure expanse.
Continue the amazing spectacle by swinging around Quarry Loop and, if you are lucky, gaze east to see the Owsley Hogback.
Finish out Quarry Loop and return to Loppet, keeping an eye out for Tillicum Loop as you work your way back along Red Saddle, huffing and puffing to return to the high point. Turn off onto Tillicum Loop, an almost 2-mile open loop that includes yet more incredible landscapes. Enjoy the view down Tillicum Creek and into the distant Meacham Creek drainage, this time to the north, as the path undulates at the perfect pitch to keep a comfortable momentum going on Nordic skis.
Ponder the naming of Tillicum Creek, the Chinook word loosely translated to “friend,” and the idea that the Chinook practiced head flattening that would leave the forehead a status symbol for all to see.
Tie back into Loppet and look for Butcher Loop.
Butcher Loop is fewer than 2 miles of an open loop that visits Butcher Point. The plunge to Butcher Point will wake up all but the most staunch Nordic skier, but the panorama is worth it. Butcher Point allows a final and glorious panorama that looks west and down into Butcher Creek and beyond. Continue back onto Loppet and the waiting Emily Sno-Park.
Along the way, there are still a handful of other loops, such as Kansas, Pendleton Plunge and Roller Coaster, if your legs are still fresh and more wandering is called for.
This area is run on the dedication and funds of volunteers. It is also at an elevation that is prone to significant snow gain and loss.
These two factors make it important to check conditions before making it the destination of the day. The Blue Mountain Nordic Club posts recent updates and grooming schedules on its Facebook page as well as its website, https://onc.org/bmnc/. The Oregon Department of Transportation has two weather webcams on I-84 at Meacham, in the area that can easily be seen on its TripCheck website. Through these, the traveler can learn if there is enough snow for the area to be open and if the freeway is currently allowing for travel.
As with most experiences worth the time and effort, no one will be there to save you and it might be best to travel with a buddy. Make sure to wear or carry multiple layers of clothing, extra food and water, materials to make a fire and some way to communicate with the outside world. Tell a responsible individual where you are heading and when you should be back, making sure to check in upon returning.
Follow the Blue Mountain Nordic Club’s brief list of rules to preserve the track for others and pick up your dog poop. If by chance you feel that the area needs more love and maintenance than it is receiving, the club is always looking for more capital and volunteers and can be reached through the routes previously listed.