Category Archives: Hiking
Starting 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. We 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.
We got to the lake in late afternoon and just missed getting the primo campsite on a grassy beach next to an inlet stream. However, we took the campsite at the south end of the lake and immediately caught our Brook Trout dinner. Our 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.
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.
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.
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′.
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. One last night on our primo campsite just enjoying the beauty of this place.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday 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.
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.
Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter
My subsidized summer as a missionary was coming to an end and I needed a job. I fully intended to spend the upcoming year living and working on the Northside of Denver until I could qualify for in state tuition to go to the University of Colorado in Boulder. Awe, but the Adventure Continued elsewhere. I answered an ad in the Denver Post to be a Maintenance Man at Rabbit Ears Lodge located between Kremling and Steamboat Springs on the Eastside of Rabbit Ears Pass. My justification for considering myself a maintenance man came from mentoring from my fixit and make do father. This job wasn’t paying much so I figured I had a shot. Plus, this was a ‘Way Cool’ opportunity to live and work in one of the most beautiful lodges in the Rockies.
So I got the job, most likely because I could talk the talk and I had a brain. Basically they gave me room and board plus a small allowance. What the heck, that was all I needed, the Adventure Continued. Rabbit Ears Lodge was currently owned by a successful Realtor in Denver. The Lodge had been a Phillips 66 Executive Retreat, but I heard they had trouble justifying its tax write-off as laws changed and they sold it in 1972. So this Realtor from Denver got it cheap and thought he might turn it into a destination resort in the Rockies. And it probably could have happened if real money had been thrown at it. Instead I got to add a unique 4 months to my Adventure.
I was able to get out of my apartment lease and I packed all my belongings into my VW Bug and drove to Rabbit Ears. I had no idea how this was going to play out but I was game for the adventure.
The road to the property is accessed by a gravel road off of US Hwy 40 to the south just before you start your climb over Rabbit Ears pass. The 640 acre property surrounded the 110 acre Lake Agnes, which I was told was one of the deepest lakes in Colorado. Once I arrived and connected with the lodge Director, I was introduced to the small cast of employees who were responsible for running this rather exclusive mountain resort. We were all in our 20s trying to figure out where life was leading us.
The Cast of Characters
Ted was probably the oldest, maybe 25, and had been there the longest, which meant all summer. He was the cook and helped out in the office. He had the best room in the employee bunk house and sort of dictated the rules. Anna, a waitress/housekeeper, was a strange tiny girl who wanted to present herself as “Hippie Mysterious”. Her clothing leaned toward seductive, but she did not have the body to back it up. Leslie, a waitress/housekeeper, was mysterious in a different way, as in, why was she there. A fairly good looking girl whose story I would come to learn later. And then there was Steve, basically a handyman who helped with all of the recreational activities, fishing, horseback riding, and wilderness excursions. Steve was basically “full of shit” touting himself as being an Indian because he had the looks to back that up. And I was the maintenance man, mostly I fixed toilets, and filled in to help the guests have a good experience.
This place was paradise for us 20 somethings who all had a touch of adventurous spirit. We did have guests but not so many that it infringed upon our free time. Steve and I were not only thrown together for various tasks, but we did seem to develop some chemistry. Steve was from the wrong side of the tracks, but he could bullshit his way into any social scenario. He knew that he could not pull anything over on me which laid a foundation of honesty that I believe he greatly cherished. Steve was wild and crazy and I helped him manage some boundaries. We had a fabulous time maintaining and promoting all of the great recreational activities offered by the lodge.
Autumn was approaching and the guest reservations were dwindling. The lodge was hoping to see a spike in reservations connected with guests wanting access to skiing in Steamboat Springs. I don’t think we really cared, we just wanted this dream to continue. However, life did change for a long weekend when the owner from Denver brought his family to the lodge. We had all gotten pretty comfortable with the minimal work by day and heavy partying at night. We had to cleanup our acts and suck up to this pompous owner. He had a son maybe 10 years old who he essentially wanted us to babysit by providing him with our various wilderness adventures. However, I believe he realized that he should not entrust this child with Steve so I was pressed into duty. It was all cool, his son had a great time and I gained the owners trust. Basically I had to vouch for how this motley crew that was running his lodge were totally capable of handling the influx of guests that he was hopeful for.
Running the lodge did require that we accomplish various service and maintenance tasks. I remember fixing a lot of leaky faucets, broken toilets and splitting a lot of firewood. I learned about septic systems and fireplaces. And I learned a bit about horses since we had 5 or 6 that we would gladly schedule for guests, although I don’t remember any taking us up on that opportunity. Steve and I felt an obligation to exercise the horses, always coming up with reasons why we needed to ride to the far reaches of the property. However, I can’t say that I ever got comfortable riding. One day Steve and I were on horseback paused at the end of a really lush green valley. Steve must had dared me to race or pretend it was a calvary charge which set us off on a full gallop down the valley. I can’t believe I hung on because I only remember pure panic. Overall, how cool was it to live in the mountains at a beautiful lodge with your own horses and some of the best fishing in the Rockies.
Autumn at Rabbit Ears is amazingly beautiful when the aspens paint the hillsides with their flickering yellow leaves. Snow was starting to make appearances and guests were few in number. Steve was obsessed with seducing little Anna, but she was showing no interest so he was hoping a get-away to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs near Steamboat Springs would open that door of opportunity. These hot springs were a bit of a secret known only to the locals and we were more then overdue in taking advantage of them. Steve, Anna, Leslie and I headed off on this adventure thanks again to my VW. The video below shows the Springs today as a unique commercial spa operation still in the middle of the wilderness.
When we went there in 1976 it was a very unique Hippie Love-In type experience that was free to those who knew how to get there. The pools were laid out in terraces of hot to cool water with a fair amount of rock layout that provided a magically comfortable experience. It seemed like we stayed all night floating around naked under a light blanket of falling snow. I don’t think Steve had a breakthrough with Anna, but I had a good time with Leslie. In the coming days I would find out that Leslie wanted a more serious relationship. If that had a chance I needed to know more about who she was. Turns out she had lost a lot of weight and was now trying to figure out who this new skinny Leslie was. Unfortunately she was still carrying a lot of psychological baggage so I kept my distance from any involvement, plus I had learned that she and Ted had been an item which created some community tension. Leslie moved on shortly thereafter.
We were given 2 weeks notice that the Lodge was going to close for winter, so we used that time to plan our next adventures but we also tried to cram in as much of this beautiful experience as we could. The main lodge was a massive rock and wood structure that wrapped around the shoreline on Lake Agnes. The lower level was mostly open space designed for indoor recreation.
When we knew our time was nearing its end we spent a lot of time playing ping pong on a table setup in front of a fireplace that was a long as the table. Ted was the ping pong wizard, but I did end up his equal. The weather was probably terrible so we ended up playing ping pong day and night. It is amazing how good you can become during such an intense athletic effort. Of course I did draw from my youthful talent that took me to sixth grade Lafayette, IN, runner-up ping pong champion. It was a good way to phase down the Rabbit Ears experience and say our goodbyes. Steve and I ventured into Steamboat Springs where I found a job as “Maintenance Man” at the Holiday Inn. The Adventure Continued and Steamboat Springs would play a significant role.
Next Post: Steamboat Springs Ski Bum
Needing a job and a place to live, I landed just up the road in Steamboat Springs with the another maintenance man job at the Holiday Inn. I never really got to be a ski bum though, it did not snow in the Colorado Mountains during the 76/77 winter.
I suppose that I can consider myself a writer or at least a blogger and with that comes occasional encounters that motivate you to write an opinion or post. On my recent flight from London to Dallas (10 hours) I sat next to a young woman whom appeared to be exhausted but a few hours into the flight she wanted to talk. She was from Santa Rosa, CA, returning from a trip to Portugal with her Yoga Class. The experience was supposed to be for renewal and relaxation, however, it sounded like personalities got in the way. I was able to relate to her through my experiences in California. And she was inspired by the story of my sister who bailed out of her life in Los Angeles and returned to our hometown of Lafayette, IN. I told her that it was my sense that Californians have a lot of anxiety and she agreed. She wants out of that world, but how does that translate for her.
Back home in McMinnville, OR, I needed to visit my favorite watering hole, The Bitter Monk, where I could select a pint of IPA on draft for about $5 which would have cost me $15 in Norway. So I sit down with this man and woman who appeared to be somewhat connected to the hiking community. When I asked, they replied that they were adventurers, which was a good segue for me. Mike was a real adventurer or wonderer and it appeared that he had lived a tough life. Erin was a different kind of adventurer, one who combined mind, body and spirit. She owns a nearby Yoga Studio. Over my next 2 IPA’s I learned about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and about Forest Bathing. All of this seemed like ways of defining what I already knew as one who feels at home in the wilderness. I was impressed that Erin was passionate enough to help others learn of the health benefits that nature provides.
And the kicker that caused me to write this post was an article I just read from the Dihedral “Adventure Heals the Soul“. The post promoted the Blog Adventure Heals the Soul and a new video that the author, Natalie Rhea, produced:
The video deals with aspects of mental health and how nature healed her soul. A quote from Natalie resonated with what I have found as well, “There is no competition in nature, nature is a disruptor of inequality”. Again I am impressed that people like Natalie are communicating the value that nature has provided.
This sense of healing or health obtained from nature was a significant take-away I had from my adventure in Norway. Nature was at the forefront of Norwegian lives and they seemed to be reaping the benefits of that healthy life. How could you not be healthy living a village like this.Village of Å
We came out from the Munkebu trek in the morning, got some supplies, and headed toward what would be our last trek on the Lofoten Islands, Andstabben. The trail looked great although we were warned that it had a few difficult sections.
We were also warned that the trail was difficult to find. And since we did not download a GPX file and were just relying on following a line on a map, we never did find the route to Andstabben.
However, we did have fun trying and our campsite over Lake Ågvatnet was pretty nice. The trailhead is the large tourist parking lot in the village of Å. We took the high trail to the south of the Lake trying to assume where it must cut up the mountain but we failed. We followed a potential trail up to a rock wall but somehow we just couldn’t find it. We also talked to another serious hiker who did not find it either. So we found the only flat area about the Lake and setup our campsite. The clouds were engulfing the Andstabben summit so we probably would not have completed the trek even if we had found the trail.
The morning brought a beautiful sunrise complete with a mirror lake.
The hike out took us past the Stock Fish wooden racks near the village of Å.
Finishing up our adventure in Å was appropriate for the ultimate Lofoten fishing village experience.
Coming out from Selfjord in the morning allowed us to resupply and start our trek to Munkebu, (Munkan), which offered one of the most spectacular 360 views of the islands. This trek was not part of the Great Crossing but it probably should be. This is a great hike with some of the most spectacular views of the Lofoten Islands. Our plan was to hike in far enough to setup for summiting Munkebu the following day with day packs and then return to our campsite for the second night. This worked out really well so that we could thoroughly enjoy the all that Munkebu offered.
The crowded trailhead is out of Sørvågen where the area offers nice lakeside park options for picnics. The beginning of the trail features a beautiful cascading waterfall. You have to climb some rock faces with the help of chains and then you pass by Lake Stuvdalsvatnet before you come to a rocky promontory.
We decided to camp just past where the trail veers to the right and begins its climb to Djupfjordheia at 510 m. We got an early start the next day so we were ahead of the other day hikers.
You then drop into a saddle area where there is a beautiful chalet that is used by the local hiking club.
The final climb to the summit begins right behind the chalet. This final climb up to 2513′ or 766 m is fairly straight up but the rewarding views are to die for.
We were the first to the summit but were joined by probably 20 hikers before we left.
We did take the high alternate route on our way down to rejoin the trail at Djupfjordheia on the way down.
The Great Crossing recommends Selfjord Bay over to a ferry boat on Kjerkfjorden but we opted for a two day trek over to Horseid Beach with a night at the beach and one on the saddle near the pass. We did some scouting of the area and determined that the more popular Kvalvika Beach was a bit too popular so we opted for the more remote Horseid Beach which after comparing with others determined that we made the right choice. This multi-day trek over to Horseid was a highlight of the entire trip.
The climb up to the pass took us around the bay and past Fageravatnet lake.
The trail had about everything with plenty of wet bogs to navigate. The route over the pass between Kråkhammar and Markan was just gorgeous.
We planned to camp on the saddle just before the pass on our return.
The hike from the pass to Horseid was a bit wet but then you reach the sands of the extended beach.
Plenty of campsites but we chose one right above the ocean rocks since the weather did not appear to be a risk.
The location was awesome and I even got a glimpse of the midnight sun when I woke myself up around midnight.
The next morning I spent a couple of hours just wandering along the rocks near the ocean taking in the magical beauty of this special place.
Here is a video that I try to capture the moment with.
We hung around for awhile the next day before we had to climb back up to the pass.
When we got to the saddle we could see that we had clear skies while the other side of the mountain toward Selfjord Bay was engulfed in a cloud.
The cloud was gone for our hike out the next morning but we still had plenty of wet and challenging trail to deal with.
Now on to Sørvågen where we headed up to the Munkebu Summit trail.
Jakob needed more time to rest his foot so I set out to complete the Great Crossing segments 4-5 which is Vikjorda connecting with Lake Store Krenggårsvatnet and on to Leknes. This was a 2 day trek which I was giving myself 3 days before meeting Jakob in Leknes. The trail starts our at Rebecca’s Cafe on highway 815 which unfortunately does not appear to be in operation any longer. The early kilometers presented a gentle climb around a lake before you are presented with the task to reach the ridge above, however, there is no trail so you choose your own route.
This was not difficult which is probably why no trail has evolved, however, a GPX route was important.
Once up on the ridge you rediscover a trail and work your way toward the peak of Dalstuva which is 534 m. I was prepared to crossover, however the peak was in a cloud so I opted to setup camp before the ascent. There were not many flat spots to setup a tent but the ground cover was a lush mossy bed which made for a really comfortable bed. All was good, the weather was not great but no rain.
I could hear the sheep bells in the distance but the next morning about 15 of them were perched on a ridge nearby wondering what the heck I was doing on their mountain.
The morning brought clearing of the cloud over Dalstuva so I headed up the peak. I was close to the top at about 10:00 am when the clouds came back and I found myself in a bit of a whiteout.
The trail was narrow and rather dangerous so I really could not proceed without visibility especially with an even steeper descent. So here I am about 50 m from the summit and I am stuck waiting for the cloud to clear. And it never did, so after a few hours of hoping and hopping up and down to stay warm I decided to be smart and just turn around.
This meant I would have to hitch hike to somewhere but it was better to be safe then sorry.
After doing Matmora Jakob realized that something was wrong with his foot/heel. There should not have been a problem, his boots were fine and he did not remember a misstep. But he needed to figure out what was wrong so we got a cabin at the Sandsletta campground. Jakob decided to go into Svolvær the next day and I would take on the Haugen to Svolvær segment which is basically a crossing of the the island of Austvågøya. I took Jakob’s Garmin which could provide me a GPX route, so I felt confident that I could handle this segment. The actual trailhead is located down a dirt road past some farm houses, but I was having trouble with the Garmin. Finally a farmer across his field figured out that I was lost and waved me over to the other side of his farm. He said just walk through his farm. Actually he had a border collie who was extremely friendly so it was a nice mistake having to cross through this farm.
Once I got on the trail I was feeling good. A lot of the initial climb required navigating through wet bogs and plenty of mud. You hate to get your dry boots wet but once you do it doesn’t matter if they get wetter. Once I got to the first lake, I got a bit confused as to which side of the lake I was suppose to take. Actually the Garmin was giving me a lot of trouble and we later figured out that it really did have issues. So I did head up the wrong side only to finally determine that I was not on the correct trail so I think I wasted a few km and probably 70 meters. I think it was the Norwegian Mobile App “OUTTT” that finally showed me where I was at and suppose to be.
I think this is when I started to question just what I had gotten myself into. I always backpack alone so there was no reason to be concerned except I was starting to realize that I did not have all of my typical data support plus I was on some island out in the North Atlantic. As I approached the second lake, know as Ice Lake, it was apparent why. This area had the most snow that I would experience the entire trip. Helpfully a day hiker had come from the other direction so I was able to track his footprints.
Nothing tough about getting through the snow, but the descent into Svolvær was not so easy.
I had just taken this selfie before the final descent. The trail was just OK going down and I was probably going a bit to fast when my left foot did not hit trail and I went into a double roll down the mountain. The small birch trees cushioned my fall.
Whoa, I was surprised that nothing was hurt other than the backs of my hands were all gashed up and bleeding profusely and I snapped a trekking pole in half. I was a bit shaken trying to figure out how to deal with all of the blood when a couple of Norwegian hikers happened by. Nina & Erik helped me bandage my hands and allowed me to finish the descent with them.
Our first segment or day corresponded to the Great Crossing’s first day which was to cross over Matmora Mountain from Delp to Sandsletta. We did have to add a few km due to hiking to the Delp Trailhead from Laukvika but the trail was well marked and my Lofoten Adventure had begun. I quickly realized that the trail tended toward difficult since it essentially went straight up, no concept of switchbacks in Norway. Soon we were greeted by the local free range sheep who had deposited many poop landmines along the trail.
The trail started out in a steep climb up to about 400 m where the first summit flattened out with fantastic views to the South, West and North.
A large cairn marked this first plateau where we signed the log book. The trail then stretched out over ridges and shoulders before the final accent to Matmora.
At the summit we got our first 360 view out over Austvågøya Island. Overall the weather was excellent but we did need to pull out our backpack covers for a short rain storm.
The trail down was steep but dependable and the lower areas were drier then we expected.
The hike to Sandsletta was not bad at all.