Category Archives: Adventure

Alice Lake Sawtooth Mountains

The Sawtooth Mountains grabbed my attention in recent years and based on typical snowpack conditions it looked like a great trek for late June. However, I needed to move my visit up to the middle of June, but the heat wave we were in looked like it would remedy any snow problems. What I did not properly take into account was that I drove over to Idaho from 300′ elevation and my hike up to Alice Lake would take me from about 7000′ up to 8600′ and I was sucking air. I had planned to do the Alice, Toxaway Lake Loop but I had received reports that the pass between the lakes was a post holing snow challenge, plus I also got feedback that the mosquitoes were thick over at Toxaway Lake. So after the oxygen deficit difficulty I experienced climbing to Alice Lake and knowing that the pass was another 1000′, I decided why not just stay another night at my fabulous campsite on Alice Lake. I knew that I could day hike over to Twin Lakes and just relax in this beautiful area. Plus feedback also suggests that Alice Lake is the most beautiful so why leave? It is difficult for a backpacker to be practical when your plans call for a longer trek, but hanging out for two days in this beautiful place turned out to be another great Adventure.

The trail up to Alice Lake is well maintained but this early season climb required fording a number of stream crossings. It does appear that the stream crossings will provide rock hop bridges when the water recedes about 8 inches. This young family from nearby Stanley was using this trip as a Christmas Present for their 3 boys.

This is about where I was really starting to think about the nap I would need. Alice Lake has a lower lake that leads you to believe you have arrived, it is all good.

Lower Alice Lake

Once at Alice Lake you realize the awesome beauty of this area.

When I arrived at Alice Lake all I wanted was to find a flat spot in the shade where I could take a long afternoon nap. That is exactly what I did but when I roused again around 6 pm I wandered around to find the perfect campsite. I was rather surprised that it had not been taken. Word was out that Alice Lake was easily accessible so I had plenty of company at the lake.

Alice Lake was perfect. Total sun, warm but not hot, no bugs and an awesome night ski to view the Milky Way.

Wind Dance on Alice Lake

The next day I felt better but it was obvious that a climb over to Toxaway Lake would have been tough, so I settled into total relaxation mode with plans for a day hike over and around Twin lakes.

I also explored the stream connection between Twin and Alice Lakes.

Just as beautiful approaching Alice Lake on the return from Twin Lakes.

Now I had most of the afternoon left to continue my serious chillaxing. Thankfully I had plenty of downloaded podcasts (Various IU Hoosier Basketball and Backpacker podcasts along with “The Dirtbag Diaries” and, “National Geo Overheard”) that I could catch up on.

Chillaxing

Just a beautiful day with another awesome evening.

Evening on Alice Lake

I felt so much better after a couple of days at altitude. I thought about more exploration, but heading for home was motivated a bit by the sporting events (US Open) that needed to be watched. Packing up was so nice because everything was dry The hike out from Alice offered the morning view of the lake.

Hiking back to Pettit Lake seemed long but it was all down hill. This was a Thursday and so many hikers and backpackers were headed up to Alice. There was a group a healthy young hikers who happened to all work at Redfish Lodge. It brought back memories of my youth knowing how cool it was to take advantage of local recreation opportunities during that summer job.

Back at the Tin Cup Trailhead and the Pettit Lake Campground I needed to say goodbye to Jane, the wonderful campground host. She plans on taking care of this campground for many years to come, plus she is looking forward to also backpacking up to the many nearby lakes.

I drove back to Oregon by way of Stanley and roads that took me north of Boise. A few things struck me such as the frenzy of tourists wanting to start their weekend. Also very little cellular access, maybe Biden’s infrastructure bill will help with that.

I hope to return to the Sawtooth Mountains better prepared for a more complete exploration. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the US.

Supernatural Results and a Perfect Ski Day

First Time on Oculus
First Time on Oculus

This post is a reflection on the value realized from my Oculus Supernatural exercise program for the enhancement of my outdoor recreation passions. My earlier post about Supernatural on the Oculus was about the motivation it provided to improve the strength and flexibility of my core and upper body. At that time I was definitely wondering how those benefits would affect my adventures. My backpacking trek on the Lost Coast Trail showed some of that progress, but it was a fantastic day of skiing on Mt Hood that confirmed the value.

Lost Coast Trail

On my Lost Coast Trail Trek I definitely noticed how my upper body and shoulders carried my backpack with less of those annoying pains that tend to surface on the first big outing of the season. I still got just as tired from the hiking but my body felt better throughout. I suppose this encouraged me to further embrace Supernatural finding that I matched up well with the Moderate workouts. Throughout my SN journey I have also been interested in the affect it might have on my golf game. Can’t say that my handicap has improved but I have definitely added 5% distance for all of my clubs.

The stage was set to test for my 66 year old body. Staying at Timberline Lodge set the stage for a full day of skiing.

The conditions were perfect with a 175’ base, clear skies, no wind and very few people. I hit the slopes at opening and quickly realized how perfect this day could be.

Covid restrictions greatly reduced the number of skiers so basically I skied directly onto each lift and had to ride by myself due to the restriction.

First Run

Well this also translated into having the runs to myself. The first few runs brought out the typical questions of whether this old body could still shred the slopes.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt and I guess the endorphins were kicking in from the pleasure I was experiencing. 

After a couple of hours a snow storm moved in pelting me with large snow pellets that caused some concern but it was producing a fresh carpet of teflon type snow. The timing of this snowfall was perfect for a short lunch break complete with plenty of liquid courage. I was back out just after noon to find more like 2 to 3 inches of fresh teflon.

Magical Ride on the Magic Mile Lift

I went to the top of the Magic Mile where the snowfall was lighter and proceeded to ski from the top of the Magic Mile to the bottom of the Jeff Flood lift. Timberline Trail Map

This approximate 2300’ vertical plunge was absolutely perfect with no people and about 3 inches of fresh teflon powder. I did this route a number of times in total ecstasy realizing that my body, specifically my core and thighs were holding up well. This is the time during your first ski day when your thighs really start talking to you. I felt them for sure, but I also felt like I could ski for the rest of the day. Or maybe I should say I felt like I had to ski the rest of the day. The conditions were just getting better because the temperature was still in the high 20’s and the clear skies had returned. 

Mt Hood’s Glory

I was in ski heaven, it “Hurt so Good” as the day was winding down. I really needed to call it a day when the clouds came back to create that final run in a cloud back down to the Lodge.

As I wound down back at the lodge with a great coffee cocktail I could tell that my body was just tired but not really in pain. However, after a huge ribeye steak for dinner I was sawing logs by 8 pm. The next day my wife and I experimented with snowshoeing to complete the perfect Timberline Adventure.

So yes, I was pleased with how the body performed and I was attributing some of that to my Supernatural exercise, but it was 2 days latter when I fully understood the value from the exercise. I had committed to play golf not thinking about how my body typically feels a couple of days after the first ski day. Normally, I am barely able to walk let alone consider playing golf. But I felt good and had a great round of golf. And that is when I had conclusive proof that my commitment to the Supernatural workouts had changed my body to improve my life. 

I do feel great and I can’t wait to press on to more Adventures. However, I have not realized success in securing a permit for the John Muir Trail yet. My last rejection was for Entry Date: 08/28/2021. I will keep trying through September 10 start but if no luck I am not sure what I will do for a major end of season trek, but there are always options. 

Lost Coast Trail 2021

The Lost Coast Trail has become my early season getaway, but the year since Conquering the Lost Coast Trail in 2020 fueled a highly anticipated return. Permits for the LCT have become more coveted so you select your permit far in advance and hope for the best. This year’s permit was for February 18-22 and the weather appeared to be acceptable, however, rain was in the equation. We decided to do a Yoyo down and back from Mattole to avoid the brutal shuttle road over to Shelter Cove. I had my normal concerns about my now 66 year old body, but I also was highly interested in how my new exercise routine, Supernatural on Oculus, might enhance my backpacking experience.

This year Bryce and I welcomed Jeff, an experienced Wilderness Recreation Professional, to join us and the 2021 Trekking season was launched complete with Rainier Jubilee Beer. I do believe Jeff thanked me for the invite more than 100 times throughout the trek. We arrived at Mattole Trailhead at dusk on the 17th and found a spot to camp on the beach. Thursday was known to have rain in the forecast so we were grateful for every hour we got before it hit.

Low tide would occur around the middle of the day making for great flexibility, but the weather would dictate our progress. The Elephant Seals were strewn across the Punta Gorda Lighthouse stretch but they rarely emerged from their slumber. I’ll use the video below to document the Seals.

We were not making great time once we got on the trail, I think we knew that the weather was not going to cooperate to allow us to venture past the first tidal zone, so we enjoyed a leisurely stroll. It started raining around 2 pm and the wind out of the SW appeared to be an issue so we were looking for a campsite with a wind break. We ended up choosing the green knoll just as you enter into the overland section past Sea Lion Gulch.

First Night’s Campsite as it was starting to rain

We were able to get camp setup as the rain became more significant. By 4pm the rain had forced us into our tents for the remainder of the day and night. We had a significant amount of rain and the accompanying wind made it difficult to keep the moisture at bay. This is when you wish you had downloaded more media options to your phone to fill your time. But the rain began to retreat the following morning allowing us to pack up our wet gear and proceed south.

We were highly encouraged by the sight of blue skies but were were in for a weather mixed day which would include difficult stream crossing thanks to the overnight rain. (Stream Crossing Video later in the Post)

The weather bounced between a windy rain in our face to beautiful sunny breakouts. We were now hiking on the overland trail but needed to return to the beach at about the 5.5 mile mark. This turned out to be a bit precarious due to the recent rain. You have about a 20 foot drop down a steep eroding gully. Bryce ended up in surf slide down complete with a spill at the end, but no injury.

We were optimistic coming out of the tidal zone with beautiful sunbreaks but the weather report warned of another storm.

We wanted to venture past Spanish Flat, maybe down to Big Flat, but the rain and the wind were returning so we concluded that the wind breaks at Spanish Flat would be the better choice. We set up camp and had enough time to hike down to Kinsey Creek.

This was a much better evening since we weren’t forced into our tents until the sun went down, but then we were in for another night of heavier winds with rain. The next morning better weather complete with rainbows offered great motivation for our return north.

The hike back past the tidal zone was just as interesting as the hike in. Rain, wind and sun made for an eventful day. Streams were flowing as high as ever which made for some exciting crossings. (Documented in video below)

We decided we were going to camp somewhere near Mattole this night in preparation to head out from the LCT on Sunday morning.

After getting through the tidal zone the search for an acceptable campsite began. The problem with the stretch around the Punta Gorda Lighthouse is the presence of sea lions and free range cattle. We also were bucking a head wind which we were really hoping to get some shelter from.

Once past the initial tidal zone we were competing with cattle for the only decent campsites. We ended up clearing cow patties so we could camp.

Our final night on the LCT was beautiful and dry. We hiked out the next morning with plans for some frisbee golf, brewpub nourishment and to search for a campground for the the evening.

The Lost Coast Trail Rugged Beauty

My third Lost Coast Trail Trek was all that I could have hoped for. Bryce has become a trusted companion and the addition of Jeff was a benefit to all. My old body held up great and I can validate that my Oculus Supernatural exercise paid great dividends for my core and upper body. My knees were a bit sore but what the heck, first hike in 2021 was awesome.

Driving out from Mattole through Petrolia and over to Ferndale was as scenic as ever, complete with spotting the pickup in the tree.

We went on to play a round of Disc Golf in the Redwoods at Humboldt State University. Had an amazing dinner at the Mad River Brewery and got a great campsite at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. However, we should have checked the road conditions, because getting back to Oregon from this location turned out to be quite an adventure with Hwy 101 closed just to the north and then CA 96 closed near Happy Camp. So we ended up having to take CA 299 over to Redding, CA to then drive north via Hwy 5.

Previous Lost Coast Treks:

December of 2015 where I nearly did not survive: I Lost to the Lost Coast

February of 2020 when I returned to conquer the Lost Coast: Conquered the Lost Coast

Oil Shale – Union Oil

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

Scientific Frontiers was in the process of closing when I found a note left on our door from my Hewlett-Packard rep mentioning that Union Oil was looking for a computer person for their Parachute Creek Oil Shale operation. This was such a turning point, I was now a computer person, maybe it was time to pursue this technology career. So I got the job, not because of experience but because of potential, or maybe because of flexibility. Few believed that this Oil Shale operation would be around much longer since the area was just coming off “Black Sunday” when Exxon shut down their Colony Oil Shale operation causing an economic disaster for the Western Colorado region. For me it was just another adventure.

Union Oil Shale Site 1981

Headquarters were in Grand Junction, CO, and the Oil Shale Operation was up the Colorado River on I70 at Parachute, CO. Exxon was in the process of building a city across from Parachute for 50,000 people that was now mostly a ghost town. Some 5000 inhabitants of the area had left so finding a place to live was no problem. We ended up renting a house in Clifton between Palisade and Grand Junction. My job site was in Parachute which required a 40 min drive along a really beautiful section of the Colorado River via Interstate 70. Union Oil’s computer operations were primarily based on IBM mainframes. We had a IBM mini computer on sight but we primarily relied on our 3270 vintage terminals to connect to corporate mainframes. I didn’t have any real experience with this platform but I quickly learned how the game was played. They had just installed their Foxboro process control computers to run the various components of the oil shale process. The Foxboro computer was mini computer with a real time control BASIC language reacting to live feedback from temperature, pressure and flow sensors. They sent me to Foxborough, MA, for a couple of weeks to learn how to program the Foxboro Computer. I then created the alarms that would dictate the parameters for which the operators must stay within. I was in technology heaven programming computers in the Parachute Creek canyon.

Grand Junction Valley from Colorado Monument
Grand Junction Valley from Colorado Monument

This was a time of growing up, buy a house, start a family, all of which is part of the Adventure. Grand Junction was adapting to the Oil Shale boom bust roller coaster, but at the core of this western entrance to the Rockies was still agriculture and outdoor recreation. I am so glad we were able to take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy western Colorado. From the desert to the mountains, there was plenty of Adventure to Continue. The Grand Mesa offered great backcountry skiing with some of the best powder skiing I ever experienced at Powderhorn.

We bought a house almost next to the Colorado River in Palisade from an older couple who taught Connie how to can fruit. Yes Fruit, this area was all about fruit orchards. Palisade was located at the entry to the Colorado River Canyon on the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Mt Garfield towered above us in Palisade. It was an awesome experience except for the pain we had to endure from two miscarriages as we tried to start a family.

Pressure was mounting on Union Oil to produce oil from the shale. Our country could not risk a dependance on the middle east so our oil shale operation existed to guarantee fuel for national defense. But would our process work? It was a very ambitious effort to mine shale, heat it in a retort to extract the oil and then move it from the side of the mountain 5 miles down the valley to the upgrade facility before it cooled to paraffin. In the annals of american engineering ingenuity, this was fascinating. I was right in the middle of it on the side of that mountain ready to make adjustments to the Foxboro programming. It didn’t work. It made sense to petroleum engineers, but they should have listened to the mine engineers. The abrasiveness of shale totally defeated the metal screw technology. Once the shale oil is extracted the spent shale expands to be even more abrasive like volcanic pumice. This spent shale was dumped over the side of the mountain after which we discovered that the rain water runoff was extremely carcinogenic and it was flowing to the Colorado River. I spent my remaining time with Union Oil helping to monitor this hazardous runoff that we were trying to capture with many holding ponds all the way down the canyon.

The next adventure would take us back to Steamboat Springs to work for ACZ, Inc.


Next Post:

Adventure via Oculus

My mind has moved into 2021 as I start to plan my next adventures. But my body had been struggling with 2020 pandemic workout options.

First Time on Oculus
First Time on Oculus

That is until I discovered the Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality Headset. My son-in-law introduced me to it and I knew immediately that I needed to have this technology. The opportunity to immerse yourself is another place such as a good backpacking trek totally justified the purchase. Then I explored some exercise oriented apps and decided to buy a 1 year subscription to SuperNatural.

So this is my short post about how the Oculus 2 Headset has allowed my Adventures to Continue. The YouTube VR Library is growing with some really great 360 videos. Plus there is Oculus TV which gives you many options to travel around the world. But then I explored the exercise option and realized that this VR thing could be the answer to the exercise motivation needed to keep my old body ready for the live adventures. I have never participated in any organized exercise program. I don’t do yoga and I have never joined a health club for exercise. But this SuperNatural App made exercise enjoyable and I have selected a few coaches who I like and my body is truly starting to experience the rewards. The concept of hitting black and white balls coming at you with virtual bats along with squatting under triangle barriers also coming at you is good. I decided to write a post after ending a session where I worked out on the surface of the moon as well as at my favorite backpacking location of Tom, Dick & Henry Mountain. The technique of placing you in a beautiful setting hitting balls and squeezing under virtual tunnels gives your body a complete workout. You can work up a sweat with a good 15 minute session and you definitely have to push yourself to finish the longer sessions. Here is the SuperNatural Promo Video:

Exercise via Your Oculus VR Headset

This Virtual Reality tech is not entirely new to me. As a CIO in Higher Education I have watched the progression of the VR Technology. In the early days a team of many developers would spend months to develop an immersive experience on the high priced Oculus headset of the day. But now VR’s time has arrived and Facebook’s purchase of Oculus is a part of it. The Headset is relatively affordable now because the money is going to be made off the apps. This is just the next Playstation or XBox. BTW – my right arm is a bit sore from playing so much Table Tennis on the Eleven app.

Update 6 weeks later – still very positive. I have been meeting my goal of working out 4 times a week and I am seeing amazing improvements with strength and flexibility. I don’t worry to much about points, I realize that just doing the workout is a victory. The thing that bugs me the most is when I hit a ball with the wrong colored bat. I think the mental exercise aspect of the workout is as important as the physical. I think the combination of exercising and then getting in the Hot Tub is great for the body. I have always had low back concerns and now I feel so much more confident. I can’t wait to hit the ski slopes or the backpacking trail to enjoy what this old body can do.

Update 12 weeks – still going strong. This article from CNN captures my experience accurately. Tomorrow I head out for a 4 or 5 day trek on the Lost Coast Trail which will be my first opportunity to gauge my fitness progress from Supernatural with the demands of backpacking. Overall my Supernatural journey has been all that I could have imaged from an exercise program, but most of all it provided the motivation to “Just Do It”. I have progressed steadily to harder sessions but have also realized that I need to pace myself. My streak of 11 weeks meeting my goal will end this week.

Stevens Pass to Stehekin

I had completed my warm up treks and was ready for a new Adventure. I had not done Stevens Pass north on the PCT, but I had done Suiattle River access to Rainy Pass, so that first portion of the PCT Section K was at the top of my list. It is a long stretch of 107 miles and lots of vertical, oh well, no problem other then carrying enough food. I planned for 10ish days knowing that I don’t have an appetite on the trail which would allow me to stretch my provisions if needed. Weather was going to be excellent except that it was warmer than usual. My travel logistics were easy starting with spending a night in Chelan Lake State Park, leaving my car at Lady of the Lake long term parking, catching the free metro link bus to Wenatchee and then taking a Trailways bus to Stevens Pass. I was on the PCT going north by 3:00 pm on July 27th. However, this trek seemed more daunting then usual. I had not been solo for a number of treks and the distance was 30% longer then I had even taken on. My mind was telling me how nice it would be to be sitting on my deck drinking a beer and my legs were already telling me they were tired. This is always the challenge, to force yourself to just do it and after a few days you know it was the right call, because getting out there is what it is all about. Unfortunately key comfort factors were not in my favor. Temperatures were flirting with 80 degrees and the bugs must have just hatched. The positive was that water was not an issue and the wild flowers were good. So I was “On the Trail Again”.

First Night’s Campsite

Lake Valhalla

My goal for the first night was Lake Valhalla which push me a bit. I chose a campsite in a meadow where I discovered just how aggressive the mosquitoes and flies were going to be. But I was generally so tired at my campsites that I was content with escaping the bugs and getting to sleep. My goal for the second day would be Grizzly Peak thinking that the bugs would be better up high. This was only about 9 miles and not that much vertical, but it was hot.

My campsite plans for Grizzly Pass were fine except that the bugs were worse up high, so I did not hang out side much to enjoy the view.

The third day took me past Pear Lake which appears to be very popular due to alternative trail access options. I decided not to climb to Lake Sally Ann and opted for a night at Pass Creek which turned out to be much better with respect to the bugs. The goal for the next day was Indian Pass.

I was told about a great campsite by taking a trail from the Indian Pass sign. Yep, it was primo complete with a toilet, campsites in a thicket of trees next to a large meadow. However, the bugs were the worst yet. That night was kinda weird because a herd of deer bedded down around my tent. The next day would be about Red Pass.

Campsite plans were to deal with the ford of White Chuck Creek and camp on the north side. This ford complete with a buckled bridge and getting your feet wet was rather refreshing with a nice campsite reward.

The next climb would be Fire Creek Pass but I was wearing down so I opted to camp somewhere around Fire Creek. This section was a low milage day for enjoyment, bugs were not bad and the views were awesome. My body was wearing down since I had burned all of my easy fat and I needed to start eating more.

Fire Creek Pass was another beautiful event with plenty of snow, probably the most difficult of the trek.

On the way down I got the word that Milk Creek was an overgrown mess and that I could get water on either side. So my plan was to cross Milk Creek get water and find a campsite somewhere up the other side. The problem though was that for a mile before Milk Creek the overgrowth was so bad it was essentially bushwacking and the same was true on the north side. It was getting late in the afternoon, it was hot and the bugs were horrible as I tried to fight my way up from Milk Creek.

I was really getting tired so I was beginning to consider camping on the trail if I had to. It did not look good for finding flat ground for a campsite, but then I see a sign that says “Toilet”. Thank you God, I really needed to stop, there was no toilet but there were a couple of campsites. Now I needed to recover for the climb over Grassy Point the next day.

This was a tough day, the body was dead but I think the gorgeous scenery carried me over Grassy Point knowing that it was then down to the Suiattle River with one more huge climb to go. It was around this part of the trek where I decided that I needed to finally put in a Hot Tub at our house. Thoughts of how I would install this tub provided a needed distraction for many days. I opted to camp next to Vista Creek and take on the Suiattle River crossing and climb the next day. Turned out to be a great campsite where I had my first fire.

At the major bridge over the Suiattle River I took a long break to recharge my body and iPhone. I had about a 3500′ climb ahead of me so I just wanted to knock off as many miles as I could before camping.

I ended up at the Skyline camping area where there was a large Forest Service work crew just setting up.

Suiattle Pass

Now the climb up and at least a little over Suiattle Pass. I was dragging but I made it to a nice campsite just over the pass complete with the most bugs of the trip.

It was Thursday August 6th and I had about 18 miles to go but it was mostly all downhill. I wanted to get close enough to High Bridge that I could catch the shuttle at noon on Friday. The hike down did have some more small climbs and the weather was changing to a light rain, plus I was running into more overgrown trail so I felt that camping at Swamp Creek 8 miles out from High Bridge would be fine. Plus I was soaked from the waist down due to the moisture off the overgrowth.

Almost to High Bridge

It was a nice last night on the trail even though it did rain off and on all night. But it was dry when I packed up for my final 8 “easy” miles to go. Not so easy as in some more up and downs with plenty of overgrown trail. The sight of High Bridge was so welcomed.

High Bridge

The normal Stehekin shuttle is not running this year, however, the Stehekin Valley Ranch is providing the service which gives you a hour layover at lunchtime to at the Ranch, just right for fueling up on a burger. I then stopped at the Stehekin Pastry Company where I had the best piece of Cherry Pie I think I have ever had.

I then set up camp in the National Park Lakeview Campground and proceeded to down a few brews from the store before it closed at 4:00 pm. The next morning I went back to the Bakery for breakfast and had a nice 2 mile walk back to get ready for my ferry ride back to Chelan.

Goodbye Stehekin

Overall a great trip, but it was also the most difficult trek I have ever completed and now 4 days later I am just starting to feel recovered.

Timberline Trail 2020

StartSignI still believe that the 41 mile Timberline Trail around Mt Hood is the finest backpacking loop in America. It just has it all with adventure galore which is why it was the theme of a Podcast I did. This was my 4th year to take on the Timberline, which I use as my age/health meter, and I am pleased with how my old body held up this year. Bryce again joined me for this year’s trek, we failed on our attempt last year in mid June due to snow and weather.

ZigZagCanyon

Zig Zag Canyon

This year there was about as much snow but the trail was more navigable. Last year the beautiful portion was the first 2 days which served as a good memory for the wet weather that dominated the first 2 days this year.

Each year I think about going counter clockwise around Hood but each year my analysis of conditions steers me clockwise. Paradise Park is a great first night goal to warm up your hiking legs and prepare you for the grueling descent down to Ramona Falls and then back up the ridgeline to mid-mountain. This year’s trek started out with beautiful weather for the view from Paradise Park.

I had already decided that I wanted to checkout the most western campsite at Paradise Park located next to some tree cover. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision since a heavy wet fog moved in just as we had finished setting up camp. PPCampsiteThe trees gave us some relief from the wet fog but by morning it didn’t really matter, everything was damp and we were set for hiking in a mist.

On the trail you quickly adapt to being cold and wet which actually serves as a great motivator for knocking off miles. The emerging Rhododendrons on the lower trail help as well.

Your first concern is making it across the Sandy river, this year we got advice to go up stream where there were a couple of small logs providing a dry crossing. By now it was essentially raining so passing through an empty Ramona Falls was not as inspiring, but Ramona Falls is still one of the most beautiful places on earth.

RamonaFalls

Now begins the most challenging part of the trek, climbing about 2400′ over 8 miles taking the upper route but cutting over before Bald Mountain.

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I had hoped to go all the way to McNeil Point but the rain and low cloud cover nixed that option. We opted to camp at Glisan Creek because we saw a couple of spots that were relatively dry under the trees. Bryce was totally inspired to start a fire relying on his Air Force survival trainer expertise, I was impressed. As for me, I really got chilled after setting up my tent and needed to get in my sleeping bag to warm up. It was still raining and seemed to be getting colder. An hour later I emerged to Bryce’s fire ready for dinner. We went to sleep that night hoping for the rain to stop.

We awoke to blue skies with great anticipation to be warmed by the sun. The goal for the day was to get past Cloud Cap, maybe even go up to Cooper Spur, however, this next section was going to be physically challenging for our tired bodies.

We hiked over a lot of snow but unlike last year there had been plenty of people before us to set the trail.

Some of the stream crossings presented you with a decision to trust using the snow bridge, but no real danger.

This day was crystal clear giving us some of the best photos I have of the north side of Mt Hood.

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The challenge for the day was crossing Eliot Creek and it was not about the creek crossing but instead about getting down to the creek. The water was running high probably from the previous day’s rain and the sunny day so it was not obvious where we would cross. There is a huge tree that provides an excellent bridge down from the trail entrance, however, you do not see that crossing option at first.

This is the canyon where the trail had to be rerouted in 2017 due to a slide. The 20 feet or so of drop off to the creek is a mixture of loose dirt, rocks and boulders. Getting from the trail entrance to the log bridge crossing was flat out dangerous. You could not trust any rock to step on and when a large rock started to slide you had be be extremely careful not to get dragged along with it. I don’t remember this descent to the stream ever being so loose, maybe it is just an early season issue. But somebody could get killed here, so I think it is time for some sort of a reinforced trail down to the stream. Now the climb up to Cloud Cap and all was good. As we climbed east from Cloud Cap our weary bodies enticed us to camp near the head of Tilly Jane Creek in a really nice sandy area.

We were able to dry everything out and enjoy a wonderful evening underneath Mt Hood.

Morning broke with more beautiful weather motivating us for our climb above treeline over high point which is one of my favorite areas.

MorningCapOnHoodThe weather was all over the place with sun and fog but it was a great temperature for the climb.

And then you descend down Gnarl Ridge to Newton Creek which presents a unique landscape of a really harsh existence for vegetation.

The Newton Creek campsites are excellent and within an easy distance to hike the following day, however, I thought that I remembered a spot near the upcoming waterfalls.

Unfortunately just after we left Newton Creek it started to rain and I was not finding those campsites so we ended up camping between Gemini and Voyager ski runs in Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area. The campsite worked out just fine and set us up for a relatively easy final day hike back to Timberline Lodge.

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I do love hiking through Mt Hood Meadows Ski envisioning how I will ski down those runs next winter.

WhiteRiverCrossing the White River was more difficult then I remember, but it was a beautiful day.

The 1000′ climb up to the parking lot always seems tough but the motivation of your reward, Halibutthis year Halibut Fish & Chips, at the Barlow Trail Roadhouse, puts a hop in your step.

This years Timberline Trail Trek may have been the best yet. The still early season, unpredictable weather with pretty good awakening of flowers and no bugs made for a great Continuing Adventure.

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

StrawberryMtnWildernessStarting June 22, Bryce and I spent 5 days backpacking in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. It was one of those perfect weeks for weather, crowds, bugs, but a bit early for flowers. The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is an island in the high plains of Eastern Oregon surrounding Strawberry Mountain which climbs to over 9000 feet. SMWSignWe accessed the wilderness via Prairie City with great meals in and out at 1188 in John Day. From the Strawberry Lake Campground we planned on spending the first night at Strawberry Lake which is only 1.2 mile in. If this area was anywhere but in the middle of nowhere it would be overwhelmed by hikers and campers. But it is 3.5 hours from Bend or Boise and 6 hours from Portland. The lake itself is pristine and there is fairly good fishing.

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Strawberry Lake

We got to the lake in late afternoon and just missed getting the primo campsite on a grassy beach next to an inlet stream. BryceFishingBrookHowever, we took the campsite at the south end of the lake and immediately caught our Brook Trout dinner. BrookTroutOur plan was to do the loop starting with Slide Lake, however, Brook, decided that she did not want to carry her backpack and just took off to avoid her duty. Well, if you have followed Brook’s backpacking over the last few years you know that we have had some similar issues. Brook is complicated and this trip was her test for the 2020 season, and she failed. Of course she was not lost but she wasted half of our day as we had to look for her. The outcome was to spend another night at Strawberry Lake and do a day hike up to Strawberry Falls and Little Strawberry Lake.

Bryce decided to haul his float tube up to Strawberry Lake since it was not that far and it did turn out to be a nice recreational option. Bryce had some success fishing from it, but we also just used it to cool off in the lake.

Strawberry Falls and Little Strawberry Lake are must see. About a 1.5 mile hike further with some climb which set into to motion a gradual daily routine to get in better shape and acclimate to the altitude.

Hike to Strawberry Falls & Little Strawberry Lake

Strawberry Lake is at about 6200 feet but we would eventually top out at over 9000 at the end of the week by taking daily hikes.

The purpose of this wilderness get-a-way was to explore the Strawberry Mountain area but also to get in shape for the 2020 backpacking season. What I quickly realized was that it was about acclimating to elevation since I live at 300 feet. Each day I could feel my body adapt to an extra 1000 feet. I am so glad I did this since it should set me up well for the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood in another week.

Night 2 at Strawberry Lake

Night 2 at Strawberry Lake

We ended up camping at a different spot on Strawberry lake on our second night. It was on the east side of the lake with a much nicer view of the lake and stars. Our plan was to backpack to Slide Lake or further and still keep the loop option open to us by circling back to Strawberry Lake. However, I still had my eye on that great grassy beach campsite on the SW side of the lake. We decided that if that site opened up before we left for Slide Lake we would go take it over and then just day hike to Slide Lake. That is exactly what happened which set us up for camping the rest of the week at Strawberry Lake and just doing day hikes. This is not my normal strategy but in the case for this wilderness I now feel that it was the most attractive option.

Hike to Slide Lake

The hike to Slide Lake pushed most of the 1000′ vertical at the beginning and it was probably the steepest climbing we did all week, so the heart was pumping but it hurt so good.

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Slide Lake

Slide Lake is beautiful with a hike that provides views to the East with a view point of Prairie City providing a cell signal. From this point on the trail flattens out with occasional small snow fields.

Strawberry Lake Grassy Campsite

Strawberry Lake Grassy Campsite

You can hike around the lake which offered us some nice fishing holes. Hiking back to our primo campsite on Strawberry Lake made for a very complete day.

We were feeling really good about our exercise progress so we went to sleep that 3rd night hoping to hike to the summit of Strawberry Mountain on our last full day.

The hike from Strawberry Lake to the summit of Strawberry Mountain would require about 9 miles and a 2800 vertical climb. We got to pass by the falls again and then up into the meadows below the ridge-line over to the final summit ascent. The problem was getting to the ridge-line which was guarded by an imposing wall of snow. It probably would have been wise to have our ice axes but our drive to get to the summit gave us the motivation to take it on. We were careful and the snow was more firm in our ascent which helped a lot. Coming back down would present some new options.

Once on the ridge-line you traverse over to the north side at about 8700′ and your pumping heart is telling you that you may have come far enough, but you do need to finish the climb to the summit at 9038′.

Strawberry Mountain Summit

Strawberry Mountain Summit

After communicating with our families thanks to cell service on top we began our return to Strawberry Lake knowing that it would be so much easier going down, however, we still had the snow ridge to contend with. Bryce decided to glissade down it.

The glissade did look like fun but I opted for the conventional descent. The hike back to Strawberry Lake was an awesome end to a great week of hiking in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. LastNightCampOne last night on our primo campsite just enjoying the beauty of this place.

Snow Mountain Ranch

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

SnowMountainRanchSignI again fell back on my maintenance man experience and landed a job at the Snow Mountain Ranch located between Winter Park and Granby Colorado. I’m not really sure why this option played out, might have had something to do with the foreboding reality that I was probably ready to take on a real career so I needed to make this last random fling worthy. Snow Mountain Ranch, SMR, is a beautiful piece of mountain property under the flag of the YMCA of the Rockies. In August of 1978, summer was winding down and SMR was hoping to improve winter usage by catering to skiers. They gave us a trailer to live in which was a bit rough but all in all this was turning into another great adventure. Connie worked some in the office and I set out to work on the many maintenance projects throughout the property.

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Old Barns with view of Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests

Snow Mountain Ranch was the step child to the YMCA camp in Estes Park, but it had some great features, just not as much traffic. They had dorm type lodging geared to youth camps and church retreats. They had cabins available to rent or supplement other large group retreats. They had various outdoor recreation options along with a very nice gymnasium which also doubled as a roller skating rink. I totally appreciated the beauty here, but I did struggle with the lack of connectivity. I think there was only one phone and no TV which presented a problem for following my Denver Broncos.

We were truly embracing the moment realizing how unique this opportunity was while putting off that career commitment pressure. SMRCabinsHowever, my resume was being circulated. So for now I fixed more toilets, beds and roofs and Connie took care of office duties. One strong memory that I hold on to reflects back to when I was repairing a roof on a beautiful Autumn day looking out at the west side of the front range mountains thinking that life couldn’t get any better. Steve visited once and we totally scored on catching large trout in a nearby beaver pond. I also created one of the first frisbee golf courses by mapping a course around the ranch sometimes even cutting down a tree and painting the stump red to act as the target pin. Some evenings we would go over to the gym and roller skate or shoot hoops. Our dog, Rusty, was also really enjoying this life, although this is where he learned about, skunks, porcupines and not to jump off a moving truck to chase a deer.

Life was fairly easy but we did have important projects going on. The director of maintenance for the ranch was a man that I quickly came to admire. He was probably in his late 30s with far more expertise than would be needed to be working at a YMCA site like this. What I learned was that he had sacrificed his promising career in engineering to live at Snow Mountain Ranch because he had a special needs child who benefitted from what life at the ranch offered. I was the young buck who was a bit green with respect to some of our jobs, but he let me learn. I totally loved learning how to run a backhoe digging trenches for water lines.

We were also building a few cabins so there was basic construction work going on, however, I wasn’t typically included in those jobs. They got to a point when they needed to pour the foundation for a couple of cabins but they were not able to acquire any cement in the area. However, we could purchase bags of portland cement in Ft Collins, but that would require us to drive over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park to pick it up. I was expendable and so they asked me to drive our heavy truck over the mountains to pickup the cement. This seemed like a good adventure until it wasn’t. It was the end of the day when I was driving back over Trail Ridge and the weather was starting to deteriorate. trailridgeroad_banner_688x250I knew that the truck had a spare gas tank but when I needed to switch I realized that I did not know how to do this. I was approaching the summit from the east when I ran out of gas, I guess I was hoping it switched automatically. Oh Shit, it was dark and I’m out of gas on a narrow mountain pass with a very large truck full of cement. Another truck finally came along, but the driver also could not determine how to switch over to the spare gas tank. So he offered me the option of following him (coasting) down to Estes Park. I was supposed to stay right on his tail incase my brakes failed. We crept down the mountain with my heart pumping rapidly. Well we made it down to Estes Park where the Estes YMCA Camp came to rescue me. I was educated about the spare tank and refueled but it was late. The folks at YMCA Estes recommended that I wait till morning but I knew I needed to get back partly because Shadow Mountain needed the cement but also because Connie and I were scheduled to go somewhere the next day.

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Elevation Profile of Trail Ridge Road

So I headed back out over Trail Ridge with snow flakes coming down, no driver side window and fearful thoughts about how I would descend the other side down into Grand Lake. I then realized why they have runaway truck ramps and there weren’t going to be any for me. I was totally petrified driving about 5 miles an hour down the mountain and arrived back at Snow Mountain Ranch around about about 4 am.

We had adopted Winter Park as our connection to civilization but it was a bit of a drive. I remember getting a speeding ticket while driving there in hopes of watching a Broncos game at a bar. The officer didn’t buy my excuse for how I did not notice how fast I was driving because of how beautiful it was out and how much I was anticipating watching the Broncos. Autumn was turning cold so we were making plans for coping with winter at the Ranch. Connie really stepped out of her comfort zone and landed a job to work as a ski lift operator at Winter Park. I think she had gone through orientation when we found out that I landed a job as a Chemist for Colorado Ute in Craig, CO. They were in the process of running one 400 MW coal fired power plant while building more. The Adventured Continued.


Next Post: Colorado-Ute Chemist

I got a job as a chemist for Colorado-Ute’s Power Plants in Craig, CO. This was the beginning of my various professional careers but this was also out on the frontier a bit.

Tahkenitch Dunes Loop

It is March and a stretch of good weather was upon us so where could we get-away for a short backpacking trip. Oh yes, I remembered checking in with the Forest Service Office in Reedsport a few years back asking about backpacking in that area. They mentioned the Tahkenitch Dunes area but not with my dog between March 15th and September 15th. Well this meant that I needed to do this trail now, so on March 9th Brook and I set out for this new coastal backpacking overnighter. The weather was perfect and we were due for a full moon. It was a great trip. The overall loop is about 6 miles. The inland portion of the loop does take you through a really nice Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fur forest to a high point of about 400 ft. After 2.5 miles you cross a bridge at the north end of Three Mile Lake.

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From the bridge it is about a quarter mile to the beach across the actual dunes.

Looking North at a Beautiful Stretch of Oregon Coast

Looking North at a Beautiful Stretch of Oregon Coast

Once on the beach it appeared we were alone, however, it was evident that vehicles could use the beach typically for fishing access. We hiked north looking for a good campsite. After setting up camp we prepared for some serious chillaxing. However, we were soon visited by a fairly unique recreational vehicle.

I have to admit both Brook and I were wondering who these folks were with a beach outfitted rig complete with a couple of Trump Flags. Brook and I did have a nice visit with these 2 fisherman who had caught some ocean perch. I stayed clear of any political discussions. As evening approached the cool breeze from the north was getting nippy, but the sunshine made it all good. Brook and I spent the rest of the evening enjoying our beach.

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Brook had a great time playing with sticks.

And we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

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Brook really enjoyed running on the sunset beach.

The full moon made for a great dimly lighted evening. I hung out in the tent until the sun rose to help dry everything out.

The second half of the loop took us up the beach until we cut back over to the actual Tahkenitch Dunes Trail.

We crossed the intersection for the Tahkenitch Creek Trail which looks like it would offer an even longer loop option. Overall this was an awesome overnight trip.

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