Friday morning I drove out I-90 to exit 42 to climb up McClellan Butte. The butte is south of I-90 across from Diry Harry's Peak (though the exit for the butte is 4 miles farther). It was fairly cloudly in the early morning but the forecast indicated that would all burn off. When I got to the trailhead there was one other car there. This was a pretty good indication of the number of people I'd see. It appeared as if there had been some logging done pretty recently from the trailhead parking lot. At the sign-in box someone indicated that bears were about.
The trail is fairly uneventful and unscenic at lower elevations. I quickly found myself alone in a pretty dark forest, however, due to the proximity to I-90, I can't say that it was all that quiet. Before too long I emerged from that forest onto what appeared to be an old unused logging road that was not on my trailmap. There was a sign pointing to the right for the McClellan Butte trail or forward back into the forest towards the John Wayne Pioneer trail. My trail map indicated to follow the trail up to JWP. but I opted to go right along the road and follow the signs. The logging road is obviously not used because it was covered by blowdowns and eventually sort of just thinned and dissappeared from a road into a regular foot path. It emerged from the forest at one point near some power lines and re-entered the forest around Alice Creek. At the creek the water was rushing pretty fast from the snow melt above. I headed up hill a short distance and intersected the JWP trail.
Crossing the JWP trail it was another short easy hike up to an obviously well used logging road. If I had followed my trail map I would have gone 1.5 miles by that point and climbed just 500 feet or so. As I went a different way I was unsure of the total distance. From this intersection the trail (marked trail 1015) started to climb sharply. It would be up about 2900 feet in 3.1 miles to the top. The trail was in decent shape but it was covered by lots of blown down trees (some huge) that I had to climb over or around.
As I climbed further the owner of the other car from the trailhead was coming down and he warned me of deep snow ahead (he hadn't gone far). I thanked him and continued up. About 1 to 1.5 miles from the logging road intersection I encountered the deep snow myself. The trail was completely covered. I attempted to climb up the hill where I thought the trail was for about 20 minutes. Unfortuntely it was sunny by this point and warming up rapidly. The snow was getting soft fast and I was getting nervous. My two fears were avalanche (no idea if this fear is rational at this point in the season) and losing my own tracks to melting snow. I decided to bag it and head back down. It turns out my second fear was pretty reasonable because it didn't take me long to lose my tracks going down. I ended up making a new path back down through the snow (a combination of hiking and glissading) until I intersected the visible trail. Because I spent most of the day in the forest I got very few pictures. I would say I got just one decent photo (skip to the last photo in the series below) down on I-90 as it curves past Bandera Mountain (possibly my favorite hike, also with snow on top).
By the time I got back to the trailhead I'd spent maybe 3 hours 45 minutes on the trail hiking maybe 5 miles total and climbing maybe 1500 feet up. Pretty dissappointing to be honest. I'll have to go back in a month or so when the snow will hopefully be melted. The only other notes are that (1) my car was the only one in the parking lot when I got back and I spent nearly the entire morning alone and (2) I had seen big animal tracks in the mud near the lower logging road but when I got home and looked them up on the web I found that they were neither black bear nor cougar. I caught one final picture of the hill (in the back) from the road back to the interstate.