Category Archives: Backpacking

West Fork Wallowa River Trail – Ice Lake

Ice Lake

I knew heading into the Eagle Cap Wilderness from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead that I may not be able to access my desired objectives but the unknown is just as alluring. I got a late start after dropping my wife off at the Fishtrap Writers Conference ending up where the trail to Ice Lake splits from the West Fork Wallowa River Trail.

Bridge over Wallowa River

Brook is not sure about this

I bought a new REI lightweight day pack which I have found is a great way to take on those offshoot trails which typically include a lot of vertical. The climb to Ice Lake is a good steady 2500 foot vertical, so kind of nice for Brook and I not to be carrying our backpacks. This hike is primo, hillside meadows, roaring streams, waterfalls and great views. The reward is a majestic lake in a high mountain bowl.

Ice Lake Reflections

Ice Lake Reflections

The climb to Ice Lake is packed with photo opportunities, here is a sampling.

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Unfortunately about half way up the trail I realized that a blister was birthing on my left heel. No problem, I would stop and put a slab of moleskin on it. Oh crap, I did not transfer my first aid kit to my day pack. This is a moment when a backpacker knows that they have screwed up. I knew that I was gonna pay for my error with a bad exposed blister for the rest of my trip. Oh well, I would be able to deal with it for the rest of the trip thanks to moleskin, but the price would eventually have to be paid.

IMG_2200My campsite at the base of the Ice Lake trail was great, next to a stream with plenty of wood for a fire and nice benches to enjoy it from. Brook enjoyed keeping the chipmunk and squirrel population under control. Four cute fawns ran through the camp not realizing that they probably shouldn’t be doing that. Thankfully, Brook does not feel the need to chase the larger wildlife.

For the second half of the trip was I was hoping to get to the Lakes Basin, camp at Mirror Lake, even though I knew it would be iced over. I would then do another day hike to the many lakes in the area and then come out after 4 nights in the Wallowa’s.

Six Mile Meadow

Six Mile Meadow

Unfortunately the bridge is gone for the stream crossing at 6 Mile Meadow and the trees jammed together would not allow for Brook to safely cross. I talked with a USFS trail crew who confirmed the risk of that crossing and another that you would have to wade through at waist level. So we opted to head for Frazer Lake even though we knew it was also covered by snow.

Trail to Frazier Lake

Trail to Frazier Lake

The trail was not good. Half of it was really a stream and there were many downed trees to crawl over of under. We got to about a mile from Frazier Lake and decided to abort back to a great stream side camps site at the crossing to the 7 Mile Horse Camp.

Sweet Campsite

Sweet Campsite

This actually turned out to be perfect with another great fire right next to a wider babbling stream. Plus the USFS trail crew followed us and took care of all the downed trees, so our return trip was much easier. The hiking options had run out and my raw bloody heel under the moleskin was motivating me to return to Wallowa Lake a day early. The hike out was uneventful and the a little painful, but I had plenty of rewards especially knowing that access was going to be restricted by the heavy snowpack. Brook and I spent a few days in Joseph and Enterprise with a couple of visits to Terminal Gravity for food and IPAs.

Image Lake via Suiattle River Trail

Glacier Peak Pan

I finally made it to Image Lake and boy was it worth it. On my Spider Gap Loop trip in 2015 we tried to get to Image Lake but had to turn back. After climbing the last 1400 ft from Miner’s Ridge on this trip I would say we made the right decision to backoff back in 2015. But I needed to get to Image Lake partly for fulfillment and partly to push the body into backpacking shape since this was my last weekend in the North Cascades before retirement the following friday. The trip is 32 miles with 4800 vertical with most of the vertical, 3300 ft, from the river trail. I planned on 3 days but I was not sure how it would play out.

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The hike into the Canyon Creek campground was a possible first night destination, however, all campsites were taken thanks to a fairly large PCTA work crew. So I hit the PCT going North and saw that there would be a few campsites before the Image Lake Trail.

Shortly after Canyon Creek Brook and I were attacked by “Max” a combination Shepherd and Wolf. All I heard was “No Max” and around the bend comes Max in full charge. Brook got between my legs and held her ground but Max was only about attack. A serious fight broke out at my feet and I believe Brook realized she was not going to win. I heard a dog cry and then Brook took off running for her life with Max in pursuit. I think Brook chomped on some part of Max’s body which freed her for the get-away. Well Max’s owner chased after Max and I followed calling for Brook. Running with a full pack at my age is not what I should have been doing, but my dog was in trouble. After about a quarter mile Max was contained and I headed up the trail looking for Brook. I found her to be safe and injury free. Wow, I did not really say anything to Max’s owner because he knew how bad this was. He said that it was good that Max was tired. I was thinking it was good Brook is so fast. Overall, this was probably a good learning experience for Brook, to know that anything can happen and it is best to stay close to the Human you want to protect. Brook’s trail etiquette is almost perfect, but people don’t always understand how Aussies want to check them out.

Back to the trail with the temperatures rising to about 80 which was taking a toll on my body. CampsiteI would have loved to have been able to climb to Image Lake for the overnight view, but I was beat. Luckily there was a sweet campsite just before the trail to Image Lake. I decided to camp there and go to Image Lake the next day with my new lightweight day pack that I just bought at REI. This was the first time in a while that I have camped in a forest setting with lodgepole type trees with not a lot of distracting sound such as you would get from a rushing stream. SelfieInSunThe evening turned out to be wonderful listening to the wildlife and watching Brook try to stalk all of the local chipmunks. The sun setting between the trees was a whole different kind of beautiful sunset. I even took a selfie.

But I was tired and thanks to splurging by bringing my Therm-a-rest air mattress, I slept like a log. I did not use my fly which did offer some star gazing. Brook started out in the tent but she knew she needed to be outside to properly protect us. I did not try to influence her otherwise even though it was pitch black out.

Sunday morning and it is time to climb to Image Lake.

FirstGlimpseGlacier

First Glimpse of Glacier Peak

I knocked off about 2000 ft to Miner’s Ridge as the temperature was again pushing 80.

SecondGlimpseGlacier

Second Glimpse of Glacier Peak

The last 1300 ft nearly did me in, but I saved enough energy to properly explore not only Image Lake but the Miner’s Ridge Lookout Tower at 6210 ft. I was the only human up there and it was an amazingly beautiful day. This is why we backpack. The view of Glacier Peak is the highlight, the pan at the top gives you the full perspective.

SuiattleRiverDrainage

The Suiattle River Drainage was also breathtaking

There was only snow at the top and Brook was loving it. Here Brook wants to go after a marmot on the other side of the lake.

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The rest of the photos will speak for themselves.

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Descending back to my campsite nearly did me in, thank goodness it was downhill. But on this second night I was really beat, no appetite either, but a serious thirst that I needed to quench. I put the fly on earlier and decided to leave it which allowed me to just sleep on top of my bag all night. Brook woke me at 5:00 am and I felt good so we hit the trail by 6:30 am. The hike back was uneventful but I continued to realize that my body was benefitting from this extreme exercise. I am writing this post because I am too tired to do anything else. I am going to sleep good tonight. I think I am ready for retirement.

What Retirement Means to Me

I retire on June 30th, but the term “retire” doesn’t really fit. I’ve tried to label this end of my one year contract to serve as the Interim CIO at Western Washington University as my official retirement. But what is retirement? I think I’m OK with just transitioning into my next job which happens to be the more serious pursuit of or the return to nature. And backpacking is my enabler for doing that.

The common question of what will I be doing next is answered with “I’m going backpacking”, but few have any clue what that really means. And of course going backpacking could be equated to varying definitions. Many ask if that means I will backpack the PCT or the Appalachian Trails. So I try to explain that I just want to be more serious and deliberate about backpacking to wherever opportunities takes me. If the conversation progresses it typically ends with some dismay that I actually will be doing this alone with my dog. And I have to admit that I’m not sure how to explain why I want to do this. However, I just read a blog post by Cam Honan, author of “The Hiking Life” entitledA Natural Progression which is the best description I have ever read about why I am drawn to the wilderness. He breaks it down to “From Stanger to Guest to Family Member”. This paragraph from his post sums up why retirement will allow me to return to my “Family”.

From an intangible perspective, feelings of separation have disappeared, replaced instead by a sense of union with your surroundings. You have come home, and in so doing realised that your spirit never really left. Our connection with the natural world is innate, so while it may seem like Mother Nature is teaching, I’ve long suspected she is simply reminding. Providing the key so that we ourselves can unlock a part of us that has always been there. And I can’t think of too many gifts that are greater than that. 

I thank Cam for putting into to words what I feel. The opportunity to be a part of this wilderness family is as good as it gets. Tomorrow I will reclimb Goat Mountain to get my own gauge on the snowpack in the North Cascades. The Adventure Continues

 

Suiattle River Trail

April 15-16, 2017, camped at Canyon Creek.

Finally a fairly nice weekend in 2017 for a backpacking trip with my Australian Shepard, Brook. She is about 17 months old with some backpacking experience, however, this would be her first with the responsibility to carry her own pack. All of this is in preparation for more extended trips as soon as I retire again at the end of June. I decided to take on the Suiattle River Trail because of the relatively low elevation which I assumed would bode well for snow level. Turns out there was no snow all the way to PCT mile mark 2540. The trail was actually fairy dry and the stream crossings were all easy.MasterAndBrook

The 23 mile drive in on FR 26 turned out to be uneventful as well. There are enough potholes on the second half gravel portion to force you to keep your speed down, but overall the road was in good shape. Only a couple of cars at the trailhead and I only saw 10 people all weekend. River trails tend to be fairly level with occasional views of the river but rarely any scenic vistas. That would hold true for this Trail, however, the lush green vegetation with many beautiful stream crossings offers its own unique charm.

The real goal for this trip was to test Brook’s interest and ability to be my backpacking buddy. I put a full 32 oz Nalgene in each side of  her Ruffwear Palisades Pack. She was not thrilled by this requirement to carry her own pack, but she was committed to pleasing me. FirstTimeBackpackShe figured out what her cadence would be and soon she was in total work mode never straying more than a few feet from my heels. TrailBrookActually, I am very proud of how she handled this. You don’t train an Aussie as much as you provide opportunities for them to learn. She totally understands the purpose of the backpack now and I believe is honored to have the responsibility.

The hike into Canyon Creek was relatively easy, which I am extremely grateful for considering I am still just a (old) weekend warrior right now. Considering 7 miles in and then an extra 3 miles up the PCT and 7 miles out on Sunday, my slightly sore muscles are not bad at all. The stream crossings we both beautiful and relatively easy.

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The campsite was primo with an excellent fire pit, unfortunately, I did not plan for a fire and failed in trying to start one with only a bit of toilet paper and a few matches. Brook managed the campsite with great dedication and thankfully did not find anything with sweet dog aroma to roll in. Temps got down to about 35 but Brook did not get cold and I love my new REI Magma 10 sleeping bag. BrookTentBrook did enjoy snuggling next to me but was very well behaved inside the tent. It was a great weekend trip on a very beautiful wilderness trail. I am all the more motivated for retirement now.

Strong Finish

I have reached the fourth quarter of life and I am ready for a strong finish. Quarters are 20 years long and I am hopeful for a long overtime period. So far the game has progressed as I might have expected. The first quarter I grew up,

the second I explored what I wanted to do,

the third I paid my dues

Professional Greg

Professional Greg

and now on to the fourth I hope to realize my dreams.

It sounds pretty straight forward but along the way you are alerted to those who lose their way or don’t get to finish. It is now as I enter the fourth quarter that I find the greatest reward which is knowing what I want to do. Sounds simple, we work all these years so that you can retire to pursue our life’s passion. The problem though is that many forget to discover what that passion is and even then many don’t ever truly pursue it.

It could be that I have oversimplified the game plan, yes it is a long and hard and the coach is really important. I have been blessed with a great team with a loving wife of 40 years and 3 great children. Many think they know the outcome by the fourth quarter and just accept it, our tired bodies might agree but there is plenty of inspiration to draw from. Your team needs you, pushing a little harder brings incredible rewards, victory is in your grasp. So how will I finish the game.

At the end of the third quarter I quit my job and prepared for the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Fourth Quarter

A year of serious backpacking and career diversification has set me up for a strong finish. My body is aging but it still has a lot of great plays left in it. Again, what I cherish the most is that I know what I want to do. I want to score as many points as I can. I want more memories to draw from on my future sick-bed. For many this metaphor translates to chasing financial security. Sure, I have worried about that but I think all is well. I am not worried about money because I know that I can live within my means. No debt, enough retirement income, but the peace comes from the wisdom gained in realizing that your quality of life is not tied to materials.

In six months I will walk away from a fairly lucrative employment situation and as I contemplate extending those opportunities, I think about the value of rewards that await. The opportunity to experience the wilderness beauty of our shrinking earth is my ultimate reward. Dreams of exploring the Rockies, the Sierras. the Cascades, Canada and Alaska excite my soul. Maybe even Scandinavia, the Alps or the mountains of Peru will be attainable. You cannot earn that reward, you must live it. I am so looking forward to a Strong Finish.

First Ski Day

That's Me

That’s Me

The first ski day is always hard on the body. Generally you try to make it into the afternoon before the screaming pain in your thighs finally does you in. This is only amplified as you get older so I thought I would reflect on how my 62-year-old body with 2 artificial hips handled this awesome first day of skiing here at Mt. Baker Ski Area which is really on Mt. Shuksan. The most critical requirement for skiing at my age is believing that I can. Then I think it is critical to insure that you choose a day with optimal conditions. So when the snow began piling up on the North Cascades I started watching for that perfect ski day. Bang, Tuesday had no important meetings, it was supposed to be sunny and only 20 degrees on the mountain. The fact that there was not any wind was a pure bonus. So you commit and then float some suggestions to your friends that you plan on doing this. However, you have to balance skiing with someone who might hold you back with the advantage of someone who knows the mountain. I was totally prepared to ski it alone, but if you do that it is likely that your actual skiing experience will suffer. Luckily I scored a ski companion (one of my employees) who was also a local ski instructor which translated into the ultimate ski experience.

White Salmon Lodge

White Salmon Lodge

It is about an hour and half drive from Bellingham to the Mt. Baker Ski area and we arrived near opening which gained us an excellent parking spot and confirmation that skiing on a Tuesday was not going to be crowded. I have skied most of my life but I have never been a die-hard skier. Yes, I lived in Steamboat Springs for many years, but even then I only skied when conditions were perfect, maybe 5-6 times a year. That is partly because I devoted equal time to cross-country skiing. Skiing for me is not about a commitment to the craft but instead about the glorious experience of gliding on snow while observing some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Dealing with cold and fatigue is just part of the price for the chance to experience yet another epic day in God’s glorious kingdom.

Awesome View

Awesome View

How about that view, wow, you come off the lift and take this in before every run. This was so cool because I had a tour guide who could tell the names of all those mountains and help me understand where I have been hiking through my many outings up here at the Mt Baker Wilderness earlier this Fall.

Mt Herman

Mt Herman

I want to call attention to the photo on the right showing Mt Herman and the saddle over to Table Mountain, location of my first hikes in this area.  Now, back to the skiing. Conditions were perfect and I did feel comfortable cruising along on blue runs. I did try to hit some bumps and powder, but age does create limitations. I have mentioned that I have 2 artificial hips which are wonderful, however, the muscles around those hips have never been as strong probably due to being filleted open for the surgery. Combine weaker muscles with the reality that you do not want to crash and dislocate one of those hips and I wisely avoided straying to far from the safe cruising runs. Overall, I was very pleased with my body on this first day out. My transition to hiking and backpacking and raising a dog with incredible amount of energy has prepared me well for this ski day. I really felt great and was able to push myself almost to closing. The beer in the lodge at the end of the day was perfect as well.

Perfect Ski Conditions

Perfect Ski Conditions

Still Time for the Outdoors

Life got busy in the last few months and backpacking trips have paid the price. My commitment as the Interim CIO for Western Washington University is a priority but weekends were still options. However, I gladly give up weekends for visits from friends and family. Weather has deteriorated so spending a night in a rainy cloud isn’t justified. And then there is my now 11 month old puppy, Brook, who needs daily exercise which helps justify some nice day hikes.

Brook on Raptor Ridge

Brook on Raptor Ridge

But even Brook sabotaged a weekend backpacking trip when she came down with Kennel Cough. So this post is a compilation of life without backpacking over the last few months.

We hiked up to Raptor Ridge in the Chuckanut Mountain trail system. I would have loved to have seen the view on a clear day but the exercise was good although these more local urban trails tend to bring out people who are not so friendly to dogs. Unfortunately Brook needs to evaluate every human and if you don’t acknowledge her or at least smile she will confront, not attack, and this does cause a few unhappy people to express their disapproval.

Lake Padden Golf

Lake Padden Golf

Oh well, these are learning opportunities for Brook and she has made incredible progress breaking down her herding instincts to be a very friendly and charming dog.

I have been able to play some golf although sometimes in the rain. My weekly Tuesday evening tee time has moved from 5:30 to 4:30. And there are golf courses with good drainage around here so I expect I will get some golf in throughout the winter. I did take off a day from work to enjoy a beautiful sunny autumn day to hike to Lake Ann under the shadow of Mt Shuksan. This is a great hike 8 mile hike down then up. The lake is nice but the view below Mt Shuksan and the view of Mt. Baker in the distance is breathtaking.

Getting away for real hikes with vertical does keep my body in good spirits, however, daily exercise typically consists of walking Brook morning noon and evening,

Sunrise at Broadway Park

Sunrise at Broadway Park

typically up to our neighborhood Broadway Park where an occasional sunrise says good morning or plenty of dog friends help Brook burn off that puppy energy during the evening walk.

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan

I also got to attend a conference for the State of Washington IT professionals at Chelan, WA. I have never been to Lake Chelan and I discovered it is a beautiful as you could imagine. Unfortunately it is somewhat in the middle of nowhere, but that drive to nowhere is a major treat. I drove over via highway 20 skirting the North Cascades National Park and then over Rainy and Washington Pass. The drive over in a heavy rain was a bit precarious, however, I was rewarded with scenic vistas of what they refer to as the American Alps on my return trip.

I was all set to backpack to Yellow Aster Butte until Brook came down with Kennel Cough on a friday and I dealt with her coughing up a lot of phlegm all night long.

However, Brook recovered quickly and we headed off to do the 7 mile Yellow Aster Butte trail on Sunday after watching my Broncos win.

Yellow Aster Butte Trail

Yellow Aster Butte Trail

Unfortunately I did not hit the trail until 3 pm but I did get most of the trail in before having to turn around to get back to the car by dark.

Autumn Colors with Brook

Autumn Colors with Brook

Brook had no problem with the hike after a quick recovery from her cold. The trail is known for the autumn colors provided by various ground cover. Brook highlights it a bit with her pose. I also was able to get in another day hike up to Ptarmigan Ridge to take in more glorious views of Mt Shuksan. Late season blueberries were a bonus.

Mt Shuksan

Mt Shuksan

Ptarmigan Ridge

I had planned to backpack Ptarmigan Ridge about a month ago but my dog, Brook, chewed off my waist strap on my backpack the day before so we day hiked Chain Lakes and then Table Mtn.

Ptarmigan Ridge

Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

Well last weekend we did Ptarmigan Ridge and I am glad we waited. The weather was acceptable but not perfect which helps you appreciate it all the more. Plus the crowds were not out in force, maybe 4 other campsites in the Camp Kiser area.

Coleman Pinnacle

Coleman Pinnacle

The hike itself is pretty well documented, seems like every mile is a milestone where one can justify turning around, but I think going all the way to the Portals makes it truly the Ptarmigan Ridge hike. This hike is about being exposed and above the tree line, especially in the Camp Kiser area. Mt. Baker loves to hide behind the clouds but will show his face occasionally. I was surprised to see single mountain goats in two places and of course a large herd in the valley below.

View from Camp site

View from our Campsite

I camped on the NW side of Camp Kiser by an outcropping overlooking the valley, (48.81546, -121.76105).

The view of Mt Baker to the South and the Bar Stream Valley below with Skyline Divide on the other side was awesome.

Video of Brook and I taking in the View

SunsetBrook and I had a perfect evening taking in the view complete with a unique sunset. However, the night brought higher winds and colder temperatures which I think Brook began to question as to why were we there.

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The morning was cold but clear with a short glimpse of Mt. Baker. The hike back to Artist Point parking lot was just beautiful.

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Overall an extremely enjoyable trip with no bugs, good trail but winter’s chill did say hello by morning light.

The North Olympic Coast

I entered into the planning for this year’s backpacking trip with friends with some trepidation. Last Campsite ViewThey wanted to do a coastal trip and we have always talked about venturing into the Olympic peninsula so why not put together a 5 day trip along the coast. This area has been referred to as the “Wilderness Trail“. Of course in the last year I have had a fabulous experience on the West Coast Trail and a harrowing experience on the Lost Coast Trail, so I was not in need of another coastal trip.

Shi Shi Beach

Shi Shi Beach

Plus the planning and logistics tend to be my responsibility so I knew dealing with permitting through a National Park and coordinating transportation to this part of the northwest could be a real pain. But the rewards of coastal backpacking are worth the effort.

ShI Shi to Rialto Map

Shi Shi to Rialto Map

My other worry related to the unexpected difficulty in hiking on the coast. You will have extreme obstacles, you will navigate low tide passages and you will slip and fall. My greatest worry did relate to the slip and fall and thankfully we did not have a trip altering mishap, however, there may be some surgery required to repair some body damage.

Working with the Olympic National Park permitting process did have me concerned, but I was pleasantly surprised to connect with caring parks service employees who helped me put together a successful itinerary that started at the Makah Shi Shi trailhead with an exit at Rialto Beach. 33 miles in 5 days is not a backpacking challenge anywhere except along a rugged wilderness coastline. Getting past low tide required points did not prove to be a real problem although it does dictate your schedule. Climbing up and over inland passages via the help of ropes was fairly cool. Taking in the breathtaking views justifies everything.

ParticipantsNormally we like to travel to our trailhead the night before and have a serious meal with beverages, wake up to a hearty breakfast and then hit the trail. Of course that is because we would always do a backpacking loop. This trip was a point to point which requires dealing with a shuttle. My buddies borrowed bear canisters at the Quinault Forest Ranger Station which was sort of on the way to the Rialto Beach car drop. Parking at Rialto is all part of the Olympic National Park services, parking at Shi Shi requires a nightly fee paid to one of the local private parking options.

Rope Assist

Rope Assist

And then there is the 2 hour drive between the trailheads. So on Monday, August 1st, all worked out to get us on the trail in time to knock off about 4 miles and set up camp at the south end of Shi Shi beach.

One of the climbs

One of the climbs

This week brought us the lowest and highest tides of the season but unfortunately the low tide for Tuesday was at 6:06 and we needed to get past a number of difficult passages beginning with Point of the Arches. Based on the map and information from other trip reports I concluded that Tuesday was going to be our most difficult, and it was.

The combination of rocky low tide only passages, rope climbing to get to inland passages and dangerous boulder hopping, we all agreed that this stretch from Point of the Arches to North of the Ozette River was the most challenging.

Point of Arches

Leaving Point of Arches

Sand Point Beach

Sand Point Beach

Wednesday morning we were again forced to get on the trail early to wade across the Ozette River and pass a number of low tide points as we round Cape Alava.

Beach CampfireWednesday was a sunny day with more easy beach walking then boulder hopping which we utilized to recharge our tired bodies. Our campsite on the Sand Point beach allowed for a serious beach campfire to watch the sun fall into the ocean. We actually had cellular access at the point although very limited.

Cedar Creek Campsite

Cedar Creek Campsite

The next day took us past Yellow Banks and Norwegian Memorial to camp at Cedar Creek. Another beautiful day of hiking with plenty of amazing scenery, but plenty of difficult footing. It was also a day of fog rolling in out of nowhere and then burning off. The Cedar Creek campsite turned out to be very nice with the added uniqueness of a fully exposed Privy with an ocean view.

By now on our trip we had sustained some injuries, one in our party did injure his shoulder on a fall but nothing serious enough to hold us up. But I would like to emphasize that coastal hiking is not all perfect beaches. Here are some photos showing some of the hazards.

Halo SunsetThe final night’s campsite between Chilean Memorial and Hole-In-The-Wall was again awesome sleeping on the sandy beach. We never really had any great sunsets but we had plenty of sun silhouettes. Plus we typically had amazing tidepools (see slide show) to explore every night. The Sea Anemone in the rock was particularly unique.

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The final hike out took us past Hole-In-The-Wall and Split Rock.

Hole In The Wall

Greg and Bob ready to pass through the Hole in the Wall

Overall the trip was another Epic adventure for old guy backpackers. I wish that it was more remote, but it is good that day hikers do have access. If you want a great coastal backpacking experience the Olympic Coast is a great option, but the ultimate coastal trip would still be the West Coast Trail.

Bad Dog

Brook did some chewing

Brook chewed up my Deuter Waistband

A nine month old puppy does get bored and when your backpack is on the floor the waist belt buckle can appear like a puppy chew toy.  Dang, I didn’t expect to come home to this. So instead of backpacking last weekend we went on day hikes to the Mt. Baker Wilderness Artist’s Point area which is only 60 miles from home. Saturday we hiked the Chain Lakes Loop with mostly overcast and some fog, but actually good hiking conditions.

Ptarmigan Ridge

Ptarmigan Ridge

Sunday was the perfect clear sunny day so we went back to see what we missed and climbed Table Mountain for the ultimate experience. I found out on the way down that dogs were not allowed and I understand why, but Brook sure did enjoy breaking the law.

The original plan was to backpack through the Chain Lakes area to Ptarmigan Ridge but it was more snowed in then I would have expected, so I’m definitely looking forward to doing Ptarmigan Ridge in the future. The Chain Lakes loop was a nice 7 mile hike.

Iceberg Lake below Table Mountain

Iceberg Lake below Table Mountain

Iceberg Lake was full of ice cubes, plenty of snow for the pup to play on and enough visibility to make for the motivation to come back the next day.

Back the next day to beautiful clear sunny mountains and OMG it was gorgeous. Luckily I arrived at the Artist’s Point parking lot before the masses totally engulfed the lot.

Heading up Table Mountain

Heading up Table Mountain

I headed up Table Mountain (the fortress looking rock in photo above) without doing any research which would have told me that dogs were not allowed.

Showing off my Savageapps T-Shirt

Showing off my Savageapps T-Shirt

And that is probably a good rule seeing how the switchback path up the side of the mountain was only a couple of feet wide in many places.

As we climbed to the top the views just seemed to explode for us. Once you climb the table leg the rest of the mountain opens to an expansive table top mostly snow covered. Would have loved to have taken a seat for a relaxing break but the black-flies were waking up. Brook and I hiked all over it taking in the 360 views of the Mt Baker Wilderness. Here are some of those views.

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OK, now I need to deal with getting my backpack repaired, will probably use Rainy Pass out of Seattle. Next week I take on the Olympic Coast with friends from Shi Shi to Rialto Beach with my old backpack or maybe a new smaller sized pack.

FYI – I got the backpack repaired at Rainy Pass for $24. But I did go ahead and buy a new ACT Lite 50+10 Deuter Pack that I used on the Olympic Coast trip but wanted for a smaller weekend pack.

 

Scott Paul Loop under Mt. Baker

Brook and I took in our first North Cascades backpacking trip this last weekend from our new home in Bellingham, WA. I have received a lot of suggestions for my first outing but I ended up choosing a trip that looked like it would be below the snow line and give me a good challenge. The choice was the Scott Paul Trail and I am very pleased with the outcome. I also want to mention that the Forest Service facilities were impressive and the gravel road to the trailhead was actually pretty smooth. I’m definitely looking forward to a season of backpacking in the North Cascades.

Scott Paul TrailI took the advice of one of the trip reports to take on the loop counter-clockwise and I can confirm that is the way to take on the Scott Paul. The 2000 ft climb to 5200 ft is much easier on the western approach. The descent via the eastern side was a more effective route to navigate the more prominent mud patches. The first bridge was temporary aluminum ladder style that worked well for Brook and I.

Brook wanted to be Brave

Brook wanted to be Brave

However, the second wood plank suspension bridge was impossible for my 9 month old pup. This was a bit scary as I could not find an effective location for her to cross at the stream so I ended up carrying her. This was a bit of a risk with the swaying bridge which if it started swinging I could have lost Brook. We went very slow and she was extremely trusting, but I was definitely nervous.

First SnowWe were now encountering good patches of snow and Brook was in puppy heaven. Below is the video compilation of her excitement.

The weather had cooperated and it was time to find a campsite which turned out to be a bit of a challenge.

View South

Cascade range to the South

Above treeline on the slopes below Mt. Baker there were no level pieces of ground. Finally I spotted some patches below trail that might support a tent as well as offer the ultimate view of the Cascade range to the south. I would recommend this campsite option as it was the only place I found at Coordinates 48.72, -121.82. The campsite was fabulous with the ultimate bedroom window.

 

Brook was loving this but was also a bit intimidated by real wilderness. In fact she did not know what to make of the Marmots whistling.

Exhausted

Exhausted

After a quick nap,

Brook On Watch

Brook On Watch

she had to give in to her Aussie instinct to protect her master by sitting in front of the tent panning the terrain around in all directions. She was grateful that I let her sleep in the tent so she could retire from lookout duty. It was a great evening taking in the view and staying just warm enough for a good night sleep.

Mt. Baker above

Mt. Baker above

The hike down

Morning Fog

Mt. Baker’s presence was felt but we never got a great look at it. The morning brought beautiful fog and another difficult stream crossing where I ended up carrying Brook over. All in all it was an extremely successful introduction to the North Cascades.

The End

The End

Wild Rogue Loop

News Flash: “Wild Rogue Loop” selected as one of the Best New Trails in the US by Outside Magazine.

My backpacking companion had a few weeks off at the beginning of May and I’m still retired until June so we searched for a challenging early season backpacking trip. Greg-BobLooking for a loop with good temps, flowers and minimal bugs led us to find this refurbished Wild Rogue Loop in Southern Oregon. Last year the Siskiyou Mountain Club with help from grants rejuvenated the 25 mile Rogue River Loop which is a conglomeration of the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest’s Mule Creek Trail 1159, Panther Ridge Trail 1253, Clay Hill Trail 1160A, and the Rogue River Trail 1160. This was necessary because of the damage done by the 2005 Blossom Fire after allowing the forest to heal for 10 years. The combined trail is one of the best in Oregon. The evidence of fire is minimal, the terrain is challenging and the scenic rewards are stunning.

Once this loop was chosen for our Spring outing, gathering trail details was more challenging, but critical feedback on the trailheads, poison oak and ticks was helpful.

USFS-Pasture

USFS Livestock Pasture near Foster Bar

I decided to use the Foster Bar Rogue River Trailhead, which happens to be the West end of the 40 mile Rogue River Trail. This entry was down river a bit further than I expected but access and facilities were good and taking in more of the Rogue River was a plus. Overall I think we stretched our trip into about a 40 mile hike. We completed the trip in three and a half days but probably should have stretched that to 4+. We could have used more information on campsite options.

We set out toward the beginning of the loop heading up the Rogue River on Sunday May 1st. A beautiful day that pushed temps up into the 80s. The trail is cut out of the North bank or wall of the canyon presenting you with moderate difficulty and plenty of river vistas.

The waterfall at Flora Dell would be wonderful for a cool dip. FloraDellFallsObviously water is no issue, however, you rely on tributaries since direct access to the Rogue was generally not easy. On this beautiful Sunday we passed many backpackers, hikers and runners heading down river. However, we never encountered another human for the remainder of the trip. StreamClayHillI will confirm that poison oak is plentiful until you get above 2000 feet. And yes, I had to deal with a number of ticks, humans can handle this, but I would not take a dog.

We decided to take the shortcut at Brushy Bar over Devil’s Backbone, a decision we questioned after comparing the added vertical to the shorter distance. Camping along the Rogue is primarily geared for the boaters but the camping area at Blossom Creek was perfect for our first night. Complete with a Bear Box and access to the Rogue for some fishing, it was excellent.

We definitely pushed ourselves on this first day but all was good. The second day took us through Marial to the Tucker Flat Trailhead in order to head up the West Fork of Mule Creek. 

From our GPS PDF Map on Avenza it was obvious that water sources could be scarce as we climbed toward the top of the Mule Creek Trail.

HangingRockBelow

Hanging Rock from Below

It appeared that the site marked Camp Hope would be the most likely for water but there were 2 other streams just before there still flowing. The first is where we interrupted a black bear but he scurried off into the forest. Unfortunately the trail in this area does not offer great campsites so we pretty much camped on the trail. A thunderstorm accelerated our efforts to set up camp. Again we probably pushed ourselves a bit more then we would have liked on a warm day climbing 2500 ft.

The next day was focused on experiencing Hanging Rock, and it was all that I had hoped it would be.

HangingRock

Greg on Hanging Rock

I would rank it as one of the Top 10 scenic locations in Oregon.

HangingRockPan

Pan from Hanging Rock

HangingRockPhotoSite

Where Hanging Rock Photos are taken

After lunch on the Rock we had the Panther Ridge Trail to cover and then a decision about how far down the Clay Hill trail we could make before our energy gave out. The 4.25 mile 3000 foot descent back down to the Rogue to complete the loop is tough on old knees.

About half way down we found just enough flat ground to setup our tents just before the rains opened up for the evening. This was another tough day since we had to carry extra water knowing that there would be no more available before we needed to stop.

RogueRiverValley

Rogue River Valley from Clay Hill Trail

ClayHillTrail-2The fourth and final day presented essentially a downhill hike back to our car but it was another 9 miles with plenty of climbs for two old guys with tired bodies. Hiking the same segment on the Rogue River Trail was entirely different in the opposite direction. Overall this was a perfect time to do the loop.

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The wildflowers were plentiful, bugs were still sleepy and temperatures were moderate.

Raising a Backpacking Buddy

Puppy Brook is growing up and I took her on her first backpacking trip this week. She did great and I’ll share some of that in a bit. But any baby growing into adulthood is an incredible experience. Sure it is a lot of work but also a rewarding experience. Brook is our 3rd Australian Shepherd so it is interesting to compare but also helpful to know what the breed tends toward. An Aussie is primarily interested in serving her master which historically has meant herding their flocks of animals. So raising an Aussie does mean that you break them of that herding instinct especially with the neighborhood kids. Aussies will learn whatever you want them to, but their independence is also very important. Right now I am tempering Brook’s need to be the protector with the social requirement for her to be friendly. This is the critical artistry of parenting a pet.

BrookDuringThunder

Riding out a Thunderstorm

Our backpacking trip was a simple overnight on the Opal Creek Trail near the north fork of the Santiam River east of Salem, OR. This is an easy hike highlighted with typical Oregon majesty. Brook’s trail etiquette continued to be outstanding, but that is really built from her Aussie traits. I was really wondering about canine backpacking issues like staying on the trail, crossing narrow tree truck bridges and ignoring forest wildlife. And of course the critical test for how she would handle sleeping in the forest. An additional test of how she would handle a thunderstorm greeted us first as we barely got the tent setup before the storm hit. I was not real happy with how I had to rush the setup of the tTrailBrooksment, but it provided shelter in the nick of time. Brook immediately had to decide whether going into this tent was acceptable but quickly realized it was fairly cool hanging out with her master in such a confined space. This may have turned out to be the most valuable lesson most of us dog owners deal with. How does your dog deal with thunderstorms. Most of my previous dogs have gone berserk during a storm. However, during this storm Brook was so happy hanging out with me in the tent that she had no reason to fear the loud thunder. I may finally have a dog that can deal with thunderstorms. Awe yes, but then there will be the fireworks test someday soon.

The overall backpacking experience was perfect. Brook initially did not want to cross narrow log bridges. She was nervous about all bridges but if they had rails on both sides she could handle it. She does seem a bit reluctant to explore streams, I kept telling Brook that the best drink is from those babbling brooks. She did want to sleep in the tent but that worked out OK since she did not get overly dirty or wet. She would go out into the night for a drink and things but she did not waste much time staying away from the tent. In the morning she did get a bit spooked by all the birds serenading us, but that was quickly forgotten when she discovered how much fun it was to run up and down all the little trails around the campsite.

The major problem Brook is still dealing with is riding in a car. She does not prefer to do this, however, she does not have a choice in this matter. This trip was extremely valuable lesson for her, even with the throwing up in the car. She will be able to handle car travel, but I don’t think she will ever desire it.

April 30 I will be backpacking the Wild Rogue Loop in southern Oregon. Unfortunately Brook will not be accompanying me due to the presence of poison oak and ticks in the area.

Introducing our New Aussie, Brook

Brook

Brook

At the end of my Timberline to Cascade Locks backpacking segment I was crushed by the news that my beloved dog, Abby, had died unexpectedly. Abby was 12+ and not able to backpack with me any longer, but losing her at a time when I was experiencing a dream that she should have been sharing with me was tough. My wife and I knew we would find a new dog when we felt the time was right. Well this post is dedicated to introducing you to our new dog, Brook, another Australian Shepard who is destined to be my new backpacking buddy.

Brook came from Gearhart Aussies on the Oregon Coast about a month and we have survived puppy training.  Plenty of accidents have been cleaned up and not to much chewing damage has occurred.

Broncos Fan

Broncos Fan

There is a period of time with the new puppy where your lives are not yours. You have to cater to the needs of the puppy at the expense of your own desires. However, you know it is short-lived especially when dealing with the intelligence that comes with the Australian Shepard breed.

Brook is a Blue Merle Aussie with piecing blue eyes. Her color scheme is beautiful with perfect marking of the reddish fur. She has already shown her commitment to being a Broncos fan during last weekend’s AFC Championship. Now we will prepare for the Super Bowl.

We will also hit the trail soon to expose Brook to the discipline needed for backpacking. I like her disposition of displaying initial caution with strangers or unusual activity, however, she quickly evaluates the situation and reacts appropriately.

My wife works in a hospital and would like for Brook to possibly accompany her as a comfort dog for her patients. I think Brook will be perfect for this duty. But the primary job for Brook will be to provide companionship for us, function as a watchdog and allow us to love her unconditionally for the rest of her life. A Dog’s life is so tough.

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Here is a video recap of the Gales Creek Hike in Tillamook State Forest.

I Lost to the Lost Coast

LostCoastStart

Ready for the Lost Coast

I headed into my Lost Coast Trail backpacking trip confident that I would accomplish my goal to hike from Mattole Trailhead to Shelter Cove and return. I knew it was going to rain a couple of days, but the forecast called for 10 mph winds. I also knew I had some bad timing for when the low tides occurred during the first part of the week. But I did not dig deep enough into this data to be properly prepared for what was ahead.

The drive down to northern California through the Redwoods was great, my car loves roads like the Redwood Highway. I visited the BLM office in Arcata first thing Monday morning to get my waterproof map, so with that map also on my iPhone equipped to use GPS, I was well prepared for navigation.

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The low tide on Monday was not going to allow me to get past the first high tide hazard stretch so I had a leisurely hike past a herd of cattle to end up camping next to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse. It was a beautiful evening as I overlooked a beach full of seals.

HighTideProblem

First Stretch of Tide Challenged Coastline

Low tide on Tuesday was at 9:33 am at 3.2 feet, so I entered the beginning of this 4 mile stretch before 9:00 am. Based on most reports I had read this stretch was not going to be a problem even if you were a few hours on either side of low tide. Unfortunately, I did not consider the actual height of the low tide. The trek through this segment was tough even without navigating the dangerous rock points of which there are about 5 that are really challenging. Some you can climb up and over, but the rocks were really slippery probably due to the higher then normal waves preceding the approaching storm. So I worked my butt off hiking over the beds of football size boulders. As I neared the last few hazard spots it seemed like it was far more dangerous then it should have been.

DifficultPoint

A Challenging Point

Then the last point before Spanish Flat nearly did me in. It was a point where you had to go between a large rock as the waves were crashing, however, it was all under water. As I tried to see around the corner to determine what I was up against I caught a full face on wave that nearly pulled me into the ocean. At that point I couldn’t worry about waiting for the best wave timing so I jumped into waist deep water and made it around. I was soaked but relieved to have survived.

Spanish Flat

Spanish Flat

I stopped at Spanish Flat, put on dry clothes and checked the tide tables to discover that the low tides that I was experiencing were the highest low tides of the year. That explained things, but now I was concerned about the next day’s stretch of tide hazardous coast with another 3.2 foot low tide, not to mention my concern about coming back.

SpanishFlatCampsite

Spanish Flat Campsite

So I opted to camp at a nice beach fortress just below Spanish Ridge. The winds were gaining strength which was good for drying out but it was also a bit foreboding knowing that rain was on the way. Yep, the rain started at sundown and the wind just kept getting stronger.

SpanishRidge

Beginning of Spanish Ridge

I decided to stay put through Wednesday with plans to hike up the Spanish Ridge Trail over to the Cooksie Spur Trail on Thursday.

I was up before sunrise Thursday morning with my backpack ready to go, just needed to take down the tent. I was so happy that it had not been raining for a few hours and the tent was dry. Unfortunately all hell broke loose at sunrise. The rain and the wind hit what I would call typhoon force. My line holding my tent fly broke, my tent stakes were being uprooted, water was rushing in so I had to go. Taking down a tent in gale force winds is challenging but I captured everything, but somehow lost my reading glasses. Of course I was instantly soaked but my Marmot Gore-Tex jacket was taking care of me.

ClimbingSpanishRidge

Climb to Spanish Ridge Trail

I decided to go straight up the side of Spanish Ridge and intersect with the trail which worked out fine thanks to the map I had with GPS location on my iPhone. The wind was blowing from the south so it was mostly going to be at my back.

My goal was to climb the 2400 foot Spanish Ridge Trail and then take the Cooksie Spur Trail over to Cooksie Creek since I would need water. TroubleLocationWell half way up the climb (see blue dot on map) I was realizing that this wind was a real problem. As it whipped up the slopes it must have gained even more power, so much so that I was barely able to stand up. Then I really got hit, actually blown off my feet, and I was a 240 lb object. I was totally expose at this point, no trees or large rocks to shelter behind, so I laid face down next to a small rock that gave my head a little relief. I was pinned down about 45 minutes with the wind occasionally lifting me when it hit me between my body and backpack. Oh yes, and the rain was as hard as you could imagine. So here I am face down trying not to be blown off the mountain and I’m getting cold. The night before I had listened to a chapter in Lawton Grinter’s book “I Hike” about his experience with hypothermia, so I knew that the shivering, loss of feeling in my hands and feet and the desire to burrow  were typical of hypothermia. What was a bit fascinating from being in this predicament was getting a taste of what it may be like to face the real possibility of death so my conversation with God was with great urgency.

Of course the human spirit doesn’t just give up, I had to do something because my current situation was hopeless. I fought to stand which was really hard because my legs were not working as I would have liked. Something told me that I needed to climb out of this, however, I had no way of knowing what was ahead, but my GPS map at least assured me that I was on track. I walked with my back to the wind using my trekking poles as braces to counter the force and I made it to an area where a small cornice offered some relief from the heavy wind. At this point I knew I had to warm up so I pulled out a wool shirt to add a layer under my rain jacket. Buttoning that shirt with my cold fingers was far more challenging than I could have imagined. This seemed to give me new motivation to press on at all costs. And pressing on was brutal. There were a few sections where the wind was at my back so I used it to essentially fly up the mountain, however, coming to a stop was never pretty. Then my backpack cover blew loose but was still attached to my backpack creating a spinnaker type sail that dragged me for 20 feet. In between my attempts to move forward I spent more time on my face trying to regroup. Overall it took me about 3 hours to travel about a mile through the really bad section of the ridge.

BeginningCooksieTrail

Beginning of Cooksie Ridge

Of course I did finally make it to the top and when I got off the Spanish Ridge Trail and onto the much calmer Cooksie Spur Trail I was singing praise to God for allowing me to live. From the looks of the map I knew that the Cooksie Trail was also going to present an exposed ridgeline so I opted for the best tree sheltered spot to pitch my tent with the goal to get into my sleeping bag and warm up. That evening was not great but it was so much better than what I had just experienced. I was very content to make it through the night with just 13 ounces of water. I had dry clothes, mostly wool, so I did eventually warm up.

The forecast for Friday was sunshine which held true, so I set out with the need to get to Cooksie Creek for water. I also decided that I had had enough of the Lost Coast and I really wanted to hike back to my car with dreams of a good meal and warm bed. But the hike out Friday turned out to be a lot tougher than I expected. Thank God for my GPS map locator since finding the trail to the creek was rather confusing. For some reason I thought that the trail was going to follow the creek back to the coast, but as I kept examining my map I realized I must cross the creek and then climb 650 feet and another 2 miles just to get back to the coast.

SwollenCooksieCreekWell of course the creek was swollen from all the rain so crossing it created some anxiety. Unfortunately I lost my backpack rain cover as I was crawling over a log for part of the crossing. I was really bummed about the simple climb because my legs were dead tired, but the weather was great and the motivation to end this trip lifted my effort. This was a typical view as I returned to the coast.BackToTheCoastThe first beach segment on this final coastal leg required navigating a few difficult points but it was at the (high) low tide. Surprisingly I ran into a single woman just entering this difficult stretch and it was an hour after low tide. I warned her that she might want to reconsider trying to make it to Spanish Flat, and I’m not sure what she decided. The rest of the hike out was not dangerous but it was exhausting.

FinalStretch

Final Stretch with the sun going down

Walking on loose sand with tired legs was tough, but the motivation was strong and the sunset was beautiful.SunsetGoodbye

When I finally got to my car at sundown (long day) I was met with yet another disappointment. I noticed that my gas cover was ripped open and then I noticed that all of my windshield wiper blades had been stolen. This was just so rude. Luckily I intentionally had less than half a tank which probably meant they didn’t get any gas. However, if it had been raining that would have been one dangerous drive back to Ferndale. I did get to Ferndale and I had possibly the greatest NY Strip Steak ever and a much needed warm bed.

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