Quick, what situation do you think is responsible for more people getting lost in the Gorge than any other? (and the same probably holds true for many other parts of the world as well.)
Picture this scenario. It’s early April, you’ve felt stuck indoors after a long soggy Northwest winter, there’s a weekend forecast of clear sky, and you’re busting to get outside. You head out to the Gorge to try a tough trail that goes up approximately 3,000 feet to the plateaus of the Oregon side. You've hiked the trail a few years ago, but you don't quite remember where it goes.
No problem for the first 2,000 feet or so. The trail is obvious, and you’re feeling strong. But, as you continue to climb, snow patches appear, start getting thicker, and then your trail completely disappears under the snow.
Here’s your answer. Continuing on a trail that becomes covered with snow is the number one way people get lost in the Gorge.
If the trail you're on becomes snow-covered, it’s a great time to take a break and reassess your objective for the day.
How familiar are you with the rest of the trail?
Are you doing an up and back hike on the same route, or a loop that comes down a different way? (On an out and back, at least you can maybe retrace your footsteps.)
Do you have a solid GPS track on your phone GPS app or GPS receiver that you can follow, even if the trail becomes snow-covered?
The takeaway: When going on a hike where you anticipate snow at higher elevations, always be sure of your route, use a GPS track if you have it, and definitely consider turning around if the trail you were relying on is no longer visible.
(This tip was shared with me a while back from a Search and Rescue team member from Hood River. Now, I’m not sure if this is statistically accurate or not, as it only comes from this one source, but it is still a good cautionary tale.)