Category Archives: Hiking

Whatcom Lake Park to Stewart Mountain

Lake Whatcom Park near Bellingham, WA, must be somewhat of a secret since I just discovered it after 11 months of seeking out every good dog friendly hiking trail in the Bellingham area. All good though, the park is primarily known for its really nice and easy Hertz Trail along the lake. What I needed and the basis for this trip report is the trail that leads to Mt Stewart essentially parallel to the Wickersham Truck Road that begins at the end of P2 parking area. The road would continue but it is gated and the trail leads off from the NW corner of the parking area. You can also just hike the road but that is in high demand by the mountain bikers.

The trail winds through various densities of forest occasionally crossing the road. At the first road crossing you need to follow the road up about 100 ft to an opening on the left where you will pick up the trail again. The second road crossing is more obvious that the trail continues on the other side. That is not the case for the second half of the trip.

BrookMoss

@Aussiebrook was very pleased with this trail

After a couple of road crossings you hit an extended stretch of trail that takes you to a smaller road spur. This section of trail is really nice offering significant flower cover. Turn right for the scenic overlook and left to find the trail again after a few 100 feet.WhatcomLake

The overlook is essentially at the end of the offshoot spur road. You have a excellent view of both ends of Lake Whatcom as well as Bellingham and the North Puget Sound. This site appears that it has been used for some overnights.

ViewPan

Panoramic View of Lake Whatcom

I was going to give up assuming that this was the end of the trail, however, I did find the next section that reconnected with the road. At that point you need to climb on the road up to the next turn where you can pick up the trail again.

ViewUpperTrailThis last section of trail offers occasional views of the lake but again you come out on the road. HighRoadFrom here on I did not find any further trail options, the land contour did not lend itself to more trail connects, however the road was more like a trail. You then merge with the power lines which is a bit concerning because of the loud static crackling from the high voltage electricity transmission taking place. Oh well, I guess we got a charge out of it. Here you have a combination of some clear cut and major power line right of way up and over Mt Stewart. PowerLines

The view is more impressive for distance, however, I rate the lower lake overlook as the prize view. The real value of this trail for me was the great exercise with approximately 2500 ft vertical. Also very little traffic on the trail since access to the lower lake trail is what dominates the available parking. This is exactly the training I need to prepare for my next career as a full time backpacker. Plus @AussieBrook loved it.

Boulder River Trail

TBoulder River Wildernesshe first nice weekend day we have had in awhile here in Bellingham motivated Brook and I to find a low elevation hike since we have a significant amount of snow above about 2500 ft. So look for river trails, right. Well I found a great blog, Must Hike Must Eat, that provides an excellent regional organization of trail reports.

Beginning Check In

Beginning Check In

This allowed me to find some low elevation hikes near enough off of the Mountain Loop Highway and I chose the Boulder River Trail. In researching this trail a bit I did not find a lot of trip reports, so overall my expectations were not real high, but I did like that I was going to get in at least 8 miles and a bit of elevation gain for a good workout. What I discovered was a fairly impressive trail especially for this time of year.

Impressive Waterfall

Impressive Waterfall

From I-5 take Hwy 530 (exit 208). Exit right toward Arlington. Stay on 530 through Arlington and in 23.6 miles, turn right onto French Creek Rd, just after MP 41. The 4 mile road to the trailhead did have some serious potholes. Parking at the trailhead, end of road, was limited to maybe 15 cars.

The trail is in excellent condition and appears to be heavily used for about the first mile taking you to the first major waterfall. Water was flowing at full volume due to the recent storms. At about this point snow packed trail conditions existed wherever there was an opening in the forest canopy. The trail is a bit technical in that you are navigating numerous streams both across the trail and on the trail. Plus you are getting some vertical change to exercise those winter legs. Brook loved it all as you can see in her trail video.

You have a few opportunities to get to the river bank but mostly you are high above the river on the east side. No real visa views but the trail is beautiful especially during this February hike. The moss covered trees, steep dropoffs and plethora of streams makes for an excellent hike.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I used this hike to get some much needed exercise and by the end I think both Brook and I were feeling it. All in all the Boulder River Trail is a great hike especially during those short cold days of winter.

The End

The End

Of Men and Mountains

I came across a reference to William O Douglas’s book “Of Men and Mountains” in the “Hi Alpine” blog. The reference related to how William Douglas was at peace on his sick-bed thanks to the memories he had of his extensive exploration of the mountains around his hometown of Yakima, WA. I’m not much of a reader and don’t think I have ever read a book published outside of my lifetime, but this book published in 1950, turned out to be far more relevant to me today than I would have ever imagined.

I thought the book was going to be autobiographical with significant focus on William O Douglas as a Supreme Court Justice, but no, it was really just about his adventures in the wilderness. I immediately found myself fascinated by the challenges of a young man losing his father at an early age growing up in Yakima, WA, in the early 1900’s. I was able to gleam from the few professional references that William Douglas was a true man of integrity and must have been a tremendous Justice, but again the book was about his beloved Pacific Northwest Wilderness.

There were a few references to his wilderness adventures in New England and I loved his recollection of his trip to New York to attend Columbia Law School. He only had a few dollars so he hitched rides on trains across the country. Otherwise his story centered around Yakima in the Cascades and Wallowas. I have backpacked enough in this area to know of his references, but to share in them from a few generations prior was unique. What gear did an early backpacker use: a Nelson, Norwegian or Horseshoe packs. What did they eat: beans, bread, berries and fish. How did they stay dry: sometimes a tent but mostly they relied on the natural coverage of trees or caves. How did they stay warm: many times they didn’t but wool was their main resource. Horses for riding and packing were a part of their experiences. Interactions with Indians, trappers and herders were intriguing. But what I loved most were the recollections of his early backpacking experiences where his youthful enthusian would call into question the wisdom of some of his adventures. I get that, I think back to some of the stupid things I have done in the wilderness and I am thankful to be alive. In fact, I have always shared the kinship of my early adventures with my friend John back in NW Colorado in the 1980’s. We used to joke that we were the last of the true Mountain Men. ofmenandmountainsbook

Not long after I started reading the book I shared my interest in it with John. I knew he would relate to it as I have, especially the fishing secrets throughout the book. Yes, for us this book is an easy reading escape back to our own wilderness adventures. And when a first edition copy of the book was delivered to my home, it could have only come from my wilderness brother, John. True friendship is as valuable as anything we have and William Douglas shared many of his friendships in this book. I hope you all have friendships built upon wilderness adventures.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

A Night in Paradise Park

It had been 3 weeks since I last escaped to the wilderness so I just had to take advantage of the two day good weather forecast.

Timberline Ready for Winter

Timberline Ready for Winter

I initially tried to select another outing in the Tillamook State Forest since my last trip to Elk Mountain had been so rewarding, but something drew me to higher elevation. What about Mt. Hood, even if it may have gotten some fresh snow. Perfect, I had wanted to check out Paradise Park ever since my PCT segment that took me past the trail loop back in July. From Timberline Lodge it is about 5 miles to where I would want to camp. The Timberline webcams showed melting snow. The forecast called for a clear but cold night so let’s do it.

Cold Start

Cold Start

I packed my warmer bag and my perma-rest air mattress along with adequate warm cloths which turned out to provide sufficient comfort as the temperature may have hit a cold of 30 degrees. After a lunch buffet and IPA at Timberline I was off.

The typical day hike distance to the Zig Zag Canyon overlook and below offered a before and after shot showing just how much the weather changed from the trek in and next day return.

The trail takes you down to the bottom of the canyon and then you get to climb back up, but it went very well with a fresh body.

Autumn Color

Autumn Color

I was a little slower on the return trip as I was feeling some tired muscles. Hiking in late October does not provide the lush foliage but it was just as interesting seeing the mountain prepare for its winter blanket. I arrived at Paradise Park around 4:30 pm.

Setting Up Camp

Setting Up Camp

I scouted the terrain quickly selecting a campsite with a view and accepting the consequences of a cold wind. The October evening was playing out way to fast. I had to enjoy the view but I also needed to setup camp.

Deer Family Visitors

Deer Family Visitors

Then a family of deer, 4 doe and a young buck strolled by. They stood near looking at me as if to say, “what are you doing here”.

Back to the view, which was highlighted by the clouds opening to a valley exploding with sun rays. I had no idea what lay behind me as Mt. Hood was engulfed in a cloud. However, the hopes for a glorious sunset were high, but the temperature was dropping rapidly. The sunset did turn out to be unique but it was not photogenic due to the light sky above. The cold drove me into the tent where it seemed like I might be in for an uncomfortable evening.

It turned out to be just fine after I closed my air vents and put on a second pair of socks. It seemed like it was coldest at about 10 pm and then the wind shifted from the east. I wanted to enjoy the almost super moon rising over Mt. Hood but it was just too cold.

Mt Hood in Moonlight

Mt Hood in Moonlight

When I got up around 3 am it was awesome, a bit warmer and the moonlight exposing a clear Mt. Hood was gorgeous.

Good Morning

Good Morning

Morning brought a reluctance to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag even though the sunrise potential with a clear Mt. Hood was high. I quickly took it in and then slept in until 8ish. The sun was quickly providing welcome warmth allowing for a pleasant coffee and hot chocolate wakeup.

Joys of JetBoil

Joys of JetBoil

I hung around most of the morning enjoying the view from Paradise.

The hike back offered numerous views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson which I cherished via my many stops for rest.

Mt Hood's Glory

Mt Hood’s Glory

The impulse backpacking escape turned out to be perfect.

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Return to Timberline Lodge

Return to Timberline Lodge

I am so grateful to be able to take advantage of God’s gift to us.