Category Archives: @AussieBrook

Opal Creek

Beginning Opal Creek TrailOpal Creek is my easy get-away overnighter located about 45 miles east of Salem. Unfortunately the last 8 miles is by far the worst pot hole infested forest road I have ever encountered. Opal Creek is a very popular 6.5 mile partial loop that takes you by a couple of nice waterfalls and access to a truly opal colored pool on Opal Creek. Early on the trail you are greeted to some impressive bridge work to allow you to navigate around a mountain.

Then you pass by an old copper mine that is blocked off. The trail is actually a road until you transition into a loop by crossing over the creek to the south side, the north side takes you to a limited access community of Jawbone Flats. Just before the split you encounter old machinery that used to be  the remains of the Merten Saw Mill, circa 1940s. Right after the mill equipment look for a path south down to the creek, this will take you to Sawmill Falls.

Opal Creek Brook Waterfall

Sawmill Falls on Opal Creek

Once you cross over Opal Creek on a really nice bridge you find yourself on a true forest trail.

And we are talking a lush Oregon mossy green trail. TrailAboveCreekThis is a beautiful stretch somewhat above the Opal Creek that takes you to various campsite options. I have camped up here 4 times and I think every time I chose a site closer to the opal pool, however, this time I decided to try the campsite that requires a short steep decent to get to it, but the location on the creek is superior. CampsiteI do think this is the best campsite. It is April 8th, a beautiful day of sun and 70 degrees temp.

I totally enjoyed the late afternoon just sitting by the stream watching how the sun would paint various painting on the tall trees as it set.

Brook also enjoyed herself searching for the perfect stick and wading in the stream.

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About a half mile further up the trail you come to the opal pool and cascading waterfalls by the bridge that takes you over to Jawbone Flats.

GregBrookBack at camp Brook and I soaked up some more nature. Brook got caught by a sunbeam. Sunbeam BrookThe evening was cold but humidity was low which kept everything fairly dry. Brook’s first backpacking trip 4 years ago was on this trail and it is the only time she has ever come into the tent. I wish she would sleep in the tent “but no”, as an Australian Shepherd she must stay on guard and protect her human. In recent trips though she tends to sleep next to the tent trying to lay against me. Sometimes this works out and sometimes she nearly collapses the tent. The trek out the next day was just as beautiful.Opal Creek from Bridge

Exercise so the Adventure Can Continue

I do love to take off on a strenuous backpacking or hiking trip most anytime of the year with most treks concentrated during the warmer months. However, as a 65 year old man with 2 artificial hips, a suspect back weighing in over 200 pounds, I have to be careful not to overdue it. That means staying in relatively good shape year round which is only getting more difficult as the years pile on.

Hiking on the Chegwyn Farm

Hiking on the Farm

This translates into a push for daily exercise which is primarily accomplished thanks to my dog, Brook’s, need for exercise. We are fortunate to live on the outskirts of town next to a farm that provides ample routes for interesting dog walks. Brook and I probably average 4 miles a day of flatland hiking but that is not enough to keep me ready for the hike we went on yesterday. 

Every week, typically on a decent weather day, I motivate myself to take on a hike that includes a vertical climb.

Trappist Abbey Hike

Trappist Abbey Hike

Many times that may be a 5 mile loop up and around the Trappist Abbey which gives us a 1000 foot vertical. Yesterday, 12/26/2019, we took on Elk Mountain in the Tillamook State Forest which is only a 3 mile round trip but the 2000′ vertical over such a short route is punishing. One of those hikes where you do have to stop many times to let your heart slow down. A hike where an old guy does think about turning around before the summit, but that cannot happen. Of course the reward of making the vista summit is worth it, but the true reward comes from your sore legs that confirm that your body can still perform.

ElkMtnSummitYesterday was a beautiful cold sunny Oregon day in the coastal range which was ideal for the Elk Mountain climb. The trail was in excellent condition partly due to the frozen ground.

The views are better in the winter when vegetation is at a minimum. Overall, Elk Mountain is a great hike that will challenge any physically fit hiker. So I feel good that I only have some sore legs which tell me that I am still able to participate in my passion.

(See previous backpacking Elk Mountain Post – Mountain Top Experience)

What is the correct prescription of exercise for an old guy like me. I have had 65 years to learn what my body can handle. I have paid the price for being out of shape and then over exerting myself which might typically lead to back problems. I was young enough to recover and learned to be more cautious but I was able to cheat on staying in shape. Those days are over, My greatest fear is that I will injure my back causing me to become out of shape which I know will severely impact my ability to pursue my passion. Thank God, I have avoided these back injuries for many years but only because I know that I must keep my overall body strong. A back is protected by all of your muscles working in harmony. Routine exercise is a requirement for living my dream so the Adventure Can Continue.

My Dog is Complicated

My dog Brook, @AussieBrook, and I just returned from a perfect backpacking overnighter to Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain. The weather was perfect thanks to a temperature inversion that kept the Portland area under a blanket of fog. This was important because I really needed to give Brook a positive backpacking experience since our early summer outings had soured her on the whole backpacking thing. You see, Brook, an Australian Shepard, is complicated. She is a typical Aussie in that she wants to herd, protect and keep me aware of everything.

She is 4 years old and has been backpacking with me for 3 seasons. The problem relates to how Brook will totally sacrifice her own comfort to ensure that I am protected. This translates to her only sleeping outside and typically finding a strategic vantage point from which to keep watch through the night.

WetBrook

Hiking out in a snow/rain storm 6/19

Frankly, I would rather she slept in the tent to help keep me warm, but I do appreciate her concern. However, as I mentioned, Brook is complicated. I have never had a dog that I needed to negotiate with. This year those negotiations centered around her deciding that she did not want to backpack with me. This objection relates first to the fact that she hates to ride in a car, I think this relates to her not having control of her environment. However, the real objection arose from our early season treks where she was the victim of some really bad weather. The photo above is from an overnighter to Ramona Falls in early June to investigate the Sandy River crossing in preparation for an upcoming Timberline Trail Trek with friends.

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Morning at Eden

On that Timberline Trek Brook showed her disinterest in the overall trip but cooperated just fine until the weather deteriorated. After we got hit with a snow storm, Brook disappeared by positioning herself back up the trail letting us know that she was done. In this negotiation with her we agreed to end the trek. Back home when I was preparing to go on my Lofoten Norway adventure it was obvious that Brook wanted nothing to do with it. This was OK at the time because Brook was not invited to Norway or the later Colorado Trail treks, so essentially Brook got her wish and had the summer off from backpacking. Since returning home I have been looking for an opportunity to take Brook on a positive outing. I even purchased her a new winter jacket to help get her through those cold nights.

Well our recent overnighter to TDH mountain was all that I had asked for and better. From my perspective the view from TDH of Mt Hood and the many other mountains to the north is a backpackers treat. BrookJacketClear skies is a must but getting comfortable temperatures in November was more then I could have hoped for. We made it to our campsite around 4 pm and setup camp in preparation for darkness to hit early. As the sun went down it got really cold, probably got to 38 but the breeze was out of the west and it felt good. Brook ended up laying next to the tent close enough to be laying next to my legs. Again, I would have loved to have had her in the tent, but at least she was staying close. The first time I got up I could tell the temperature was rising, it felt great and I could tell that Brook was also happy with it. She hung out next to the tent until about 1 am which was a real positive. Overall she seemed very happy at sunrise and showed her appreciation with many kisses.BrookKiss

The morning was spectacular with an awesome view of Mt Hood. Brook had a wonderful time terrorizing the local squirrel population as I enjoyed a leisurely morning taking in the view.HoodGood

I think Brook may be mellowing a bit in her objections to backpacking, but I will make sure that our next outing, probably next Spring will be a pleasant one for her.

HoodWide

However, I leave this trek with a concern. I do not think I have ever seen so little snow cover on Mt Hood.

These views of the south side of the mountain are from 110519 and 110818. The problem is not a lack of snowfall but more rapid melt-off due to higher temperatures.

Timberline TR Attempt June 2019

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The goal was to complete Timberline Trail loop for the 3rd year in a row, but Snow and Weather dictated a different outcome. Scheduling this year required that I attempt the Timberline Trail on June 17th. Yes, a bit early but I knew there would be rewards of clear skies and few people. TimberlineTr2019PP - 2However, I did not think the snow depth on the Northeast side would create such a problem. Combine that with a snow storm that emerged from the gorge when we would have been crossing the high point and we had to adjust to a Top Spur extraction. Overall it was an Epic Adventure because I have never seen the views so clear and brilliant, rhododendrons blooming and nobody on the trail.

This is my annual trek to evaluate how old my body feels and I am very pleased with the results. My main concern for completing the loop was the severity of the river crossing, but they were totally acceptable.

I can’t believe I didn’t worry more about the snow pack on the north side. It wasn’t that you could hike over the snow, it was how it created severe inclines over what was the trail and then it engulfed the trail. We made it to the Wy’East area clockwise from Timberline Lodge before we determined that we had to abort. Of course we had already met 3 backpackers who had turned around. I do think we could have made it if it wasn’t for the weather. All week the forecast just kept getting worse with the prediction of snow. And the forecast turned out to be more than accurate which made for a tough night at Eden Park and the hike out to Top Spur.

Knowing that the best weather was at the beginning I decided to do my traditional clockwise route from the lodge and boy am I glad we did. Paradise Park was amazingly beauty and it looked like we may have been one of the first to spend the night up there.

We almost got a great sunset but the sun hitting Hood at the different intensities is just as good. Unfortunately we did have fairly high winds at our Split Rock campsite and then we got a couple of hours of rain starting at sun up.

The weather cleared to give us a perfect hike down to the Sandy with the most amazingly clear views of the Sandy River headwaters up to Mt Hood.

The river crossing was challenging but we did not have to get very wet.

Of course Ramona Falls was gloriousTimberlineTr2019Post - 3 and the hike up to Top Spur junction was hard since we took the lower Muddy Fork route where one from our party exiting to the Ramona Falls TH. As I mentioned the flowers we exceptional.

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The second night we camped at Bald Mountain with a perfect night for sleep. Climbing up toward McNeil we were treated to a beautiful view of Hood, but fog and clouds were forming.

This is when the snow pack got higher than I expected. Not a real problem until about Eden Park where it became more treacherous and difficult to find the trail.

The rest of the way over to Wy’East only got more difficult, but it was still beautiful because the storm was forming to the north and Hood was backed by blue skies. Wy’East was the decision point because you have cell reception there and we had to coordinate for someone to extract us. We decided on Top Spur for the following day hoping that maybe we could get to McNeil Point.

But no, the weather started to deteriorate and we were happy to camp at Eden Park. The snow started to fall at 2 am and it was a cold wet mess for the rest of the trip out. This trek did provide some inspiration for my post about how complicated my dog Brook is: My Dog is Complicated

I Am a Backpacker

I recently updated my Linkedin Profile which I have not visited for a few years. I added that I had joined the Board of Directors for an Augmented Reality Art Marketplace company. That triggered many responses from my contacts with congratulatory comments. This seemed a bit odd but that is how Linkedin works. It was rather fun trying to figure out who really initiated the comment vs which ones were automatically generated. PCT 6-23-15021However, this got me thinking about how I might edit my occupational information to target a more representative audience for what I really do. I had listed that I am retired with many interests and activities. But what should really stand out is that I am a backpacker, a Serious Backpacker. And that realization prompted me to write this post.

I have been a backpacker for a long time but I have only ventured fully into the pursuit of backpacking for the last 4 years.  What I mean by that is I have found that it’s something I enjoy so much that I want to do it like it’s my full-time job. 

I went back and read the post I wrote before my first backpacking trek. It was titled Backpacking Tomorrow – Yes, and reading it brought back all of the excitement and anticipation that I felt on that day. I was starting a new job and I was not sure how it would turn out. I was also unsure about whether I could really commit to this job or would it continue to be a hobby. That was June of 2015 and I was 61, considered a bit young for retirement, so I was noncommittal about this career change. That first year of backpacking is documented in my book, A New Path.

In 2016 I did return to my previous career, committing to a year as an interim CIO in higher education which proved to be pivotal in my decision to officially retire in 2017. I wrote a post then expressing a more definite commitment to follow a career as a backpacker. In that post, What Retirement Means to Me, I had better formulated what a backpacking career might really mean. I referred to a post by Cam Honan, author of “The Hiking Life” entitled “A Natural Progression which is the best description I have ever read about why I am drawn to the wilderness. This is about the time that I transitioned my blog away from technology in higher education to become The Adventure Continues. And I formalized my life Philosophy in a post, Strong Finish, where I equate life to a basketball game.

Retirement became official for me 2 years ago and I was totally at peace with the decision to transition to a new career as a backpacker. Now this decision definitely puzzled various friends and family, but they kept quiet and let me give it a whirl. Sure I could have worked a few more years which would have given us additional financial security, but I knew it was time to move on. Backpacking would require excellent health and fitness which I knew I still had, but I also have some health liabilities. Both of my hips are made of Chrome-Cobalt and I have a history of back problems which motivates and requires me to stay physically fit. It was this concern about health that has been a recent issue and another stimulus to reflect with this post. Improper lifting combined with skiing resulted in a sore lower back which I do believe will be OK, but I take these scares very seriously.

I do enjoy watching the many strong young backpackers out on the trail. I was once one of them and I often wonder what if I hadn’t been lured into a professional career. Of course the desire for a family does influence those decisions, but I have no regrets. My professional career in technology which allowed me to be a part of the computer revolution has been a great adventure. Which is why “The Adventure Continues”.

Over the last couple of years when people ask what I do, I reply that I am retired and I do a lot of backpacking, and I typically get a look that solicits more information. I give them a few more details about backpacking but soon offer up that I am also helping Habitat for Humanity ReStore’s with online sales, or mention my involvement with some technology startups. On the ski bus last week a lady told me that her husband was a golfer and I gave her that questioning look and she reiterated that he is a golfer, that is what he does. Maybe that is when I realized that I am a backpacker, that is what I do, I am a Serious Backpacker, or my occupation is Backpacker. And I cherish every moment I have left in this career.

My simple definition for a Backpacker is “anyone capable and willing to carry what is needed to survive in the wilderness”. So what defines a Serious Backpacker? Experience is obviously a key so I suppose the many backpacking treks documented in my blog validate my experience. But it is really about the mental, physical and financial priority one places on backpacking throughout the year. Backpacking is seasonal at least for scheduling major treks, but as a serious backpacker I am always planning and doing research to amass significant resources in support of my profession. I’m always watching YouTube backpacking videos partly for entertainment but mostly for research to determine if a specific trek is worthy of my wish list. I have many affiliations with regional backpacking forums and I have cultivated numerous relationships with other serious backpackers. So yes, I am a backpacker.

This upcoming backpacking season is more representative of this commitment. I have been formulating a backpacking business plan made up of opportunities that I want accomplish. It is a wish list for my career which includes some items from my life’s bucket list. I have been eliminating the easier items and adding more aggressive ones. This is about expanding my comfort zone to take on treks that push me physically and mentally. I have realized that business expansion may require teaming up with other Serious Backpackers who could help facilitate and enhance the adventure. But I have also confirmed that finding other capable backpackers in my age group is a bit of a challenge.

GrandCanyonIn 2 weeks I will be backpacking for 5 days in the Grand Canyon from the Boucher Trail to Phantom Ranch and out by way of Bright Angel. And I am doing it with, Judd, a recent backpacking acquaintance who I met on the Timberline Trail last year. I will do the Timberline Trail again in June and will make this trek an annual occurrence as a way to gauge my backpacking health. I will be checking off a trek that has been on my bucket list for a long time, the Lofoten Islands of Norway.

This story is more complicated which I will expand upon when I complete that trip report, but I plan on doing it with a Serious Backpacker from Switzerland who I have met online. That trek will be during the first 2 weeks of July. Then I figure that I will be in good enough shape to complete the season by doing the entire Colorado Trail with Brook of course.

Saddle Mountain

img_3877Another gem of a trail on the Oregon coast is Saddle Mountain. Located east of Seaside off Hwy 26, this is a must do hike if you are in shape for a 5 mile hike with about 1650′ of climb. It is a great trail, but it will kick your butt. I offered encouragement to many as I descended. Saddle Mountain is the highest point in this area of the Coast Range with sweeping 360-degree view from a 3,283-foot summit highlighting the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River, and inland toward the Cascade Range. On this day I could even see the Olympic Peaks.

The trailhead is located at the camping area which appears to offer some really nice campsites. The trail’s first tenth of mile is paved but the climb is constant until you get to the false summit. You start getting views to the south and then west. And the beauty increases as you climb. The trail is well maintained with extensive effort to prevent the natural erosion problems. Much of the trail is covered with link fencing.

Near the bottom and toward the top there are house sized boulders that offer unique appearances from sculpture or vegetation covering.

You eventually leave the protection of the forest and if wind is happening you do get hit with it. Brook seemed to like it.

You come to the first peak or false summit which offers a imposing view of the final climb. Brook says let’s go.img_3810

The final climb is no more difficult than much of the lower section, but your anticipation and exhaustion get your heart really pumping. I did appreciate the occasional hand rails especially at the top.img_3806

Looking southwest from the saddle you see the timber harvest and the basalt walls that weave around the mountain.img_3827

Once on the top Brook agreed to pose for a photo but she enjoyed her own exploration much more.

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In the above photo notice the Columbia River to the north. As you can see it was a beautiful day and the wind was not that bad with the 50 degree temperature, in January. In the distance behind Brook to the east you can see from right to left Mt Adams, St Helens, Goat Rocks and Rainier. Of course Mt Hood was out there as well.img_3842

We hung out for a while enjoying the fabulous view. img_3882On the descent we came to the early turnoff to Humbug Point about a quarter mile from the trailhead. Today the trail up to Humbug Point was the most vegetated with ferns and moss. The final climb is very steep but rock steps and a cable rail help.

The real value of Humbug Point is the view back to Saddle Mountain.

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The Adventure Continues

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