Category Archives: Pacific Northwest

Stevens Pass to Stehekin

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

First Night’s Campsite

Lake Valhalla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was a tough day, the body was dead but I think the gorgeous scenery carried me over Grassy Point knowing that it was then down to the Suiattle River with one more huge climb to go. I opted to camp next to Vista Creek and take on the Suiattle River crossing and climb the next day. Turned out to be a great campsite where I had my first fire.

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

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

Suiattle Pass

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

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

Almost to High Bridge

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

High Bridge

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

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

Goodbye Stehekin

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

Timberline Trail 2020

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

ZigZagCanyon

Zig Zag Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

RamonaFalls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tahkenitch Dunes Loop

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

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

Looking North at a Beautiful Stretch of Oregon Coast

Looking North at a Beautiful Stretch of Oregon Coast

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

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

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Brook had a great time playing with sticks.

And we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

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Brook really enjoyed running on the sunset beach.

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

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

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

My Dog is Complicated

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

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

WetBrook

Hiking out in a snow/rain storm 6/19

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

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Morning at Eden

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

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

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

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

HoodWide

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

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

Timberline TR Attempt June 2019

TimberlineTr2019PP - 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramona Falls Loop from Top Spur TH

I have passed by Ramona Falls many times since it is on the PCT and it is an easy day hike from the Ramona Falls Trailhead. But this trip was from the Top Spur Trailhead which offers a great loop option with Trail #600 the high route and the PCT #2000 low route. My motivation for this trip was primarily to checkout the Muddy Fork and Sandy river crossings in preparation for an upcoming Timberline Trail Trek. From this snippet of reconnaissance I do feel that the Timberline Trail should be fine.  I also was OK with probably being able to enjoy Ramona Falls all by myself which did happen. Unfortunately I took a chance on the weather for this Thursday-Friday trek which called for scattered showers and possibility of snow on Friday. Well the showers started out scattered but ended up continuous, and yes on the hike out it did snow. Not fun but it is all part of the deal for a backpacker.

The hike over to Ramona Falls was rather nice even though Mt Hood was mostly hidden in a cloud.

The view from Bald Mountain was unique as usual and crossing the Muddy Fork was a bit of a challenge. I found a safe rock jump about 30 yards up from the normal trail crossing.

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Overall this Trail 600 over to Ramona Falls is a great trail. The Trillium and many other flowers are coming out and the Rhododendron’s are starting to bloom as you near the falls.

And of course Ramona Falls was bursting with flow and beauty.

I camped over by the abandoned ranger cabin which provides a nice view of the Sandy Canyon.

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I did hike over to the Sandy and determined that it is crossable, however, it may entail wading across by a couple of logs that will help to stabilize you.

Overall this portion of the Sandy looked fairly normal and ready for Timberline Trail crossings. The trip was going great until the showers started to show up. So I basically was forced to stay in the tent after about 7:00 pm. And it rained most of the night and turned into a steady rain by morning. Bummer for Brook who does not like to sleep in the tent, so she got soaked and did not complain a bit even though she must have been freezing. But in her strange Aussie way she probably cherished the opportunity to protect her master. If I was her, I would have slept near one of the large trees that were offering cover, but she slept next to the tent.

Breaking camp in the rain is messy, but it is what it is. You pack everything up which is mostly wet making your pack a lot heavier than it should be. Then hiking out is just as messy, you are wet and cold but in a weird way I kind of like it. I reflect back on my Lost Coast Trek and realize how much worse it could be. The snow falling on the hike out was a bit ridiculous.

Cape Lookout

I have hiked the Cape Lookout Trail many times so I suppose it is time to actually do a trip report.

Cape Lookout Trailhead

I was in Neskowin and had a free day to hike and I am so glad I opted for a return to one of my favorite hikes, Cape Lookout. You may notice the Cougar warning at the trailhead. Yes Cougars have become a problem along the Oregon coast but I would not be overly concerned about a cougar encounter on this trail. However, this does tend to spook tourists not familiar with Oregon hiking.

 

Here is the trip report as I recorded it with Natural Atlas.

 

This is a very popular coastal hike that epitomizes the beautiful Oregon Coast. The sign says this is a 4.7 round trip but it is really a 5.2 mile out and back with enough vertical to make the hike back a bit challenging. The other trail issue can be a muddy root slippery trail that will get your pretty shoes dirty and requires attention not to slip and fall.

One of your first great views South of Sand Beach and Cape Kiwanda

Otherwise the trail condition is as good as it gets on the coast. A beautiful thoroughfare with breath taking views up and down the Oregon Coast.

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Early on in the hike if you as you are walking along the south side you may spot a plaque on the north side of the trail that serves as a memorial to the crew of a WWII plane that crashed into the side of Cape Lookout.

The trail does have a few spots that will challenge those afraid of heights and you definitely want to keep you dogs on a leash so they don’t chase a chipmunk over a cliff. I completed this hike on May 30, 2019 but I below are a few photos from previous hikes to show what you might see.

After the hike the Pelican Pub is a great way to finish the day.

BayOcean Spit

I finally backpacked the Bayocean Spit that is known as “the town that fell into the sea“. After researching the history of Bayocean I was amazed that I camped in solitude on ground that once hosted a significant resort community in the early 1900s.BeachGrassBayocean is a small stretch of land that forms one wall of Tillamook Bay which I have neglected for many years as a backpacking option. The Bayocean trailhead offers a large parking lot which mostly accommodates day hikers. What I found was one of the most beautiful coastal backpacking option available on the Central Coast. TrailSign

The name defines the the route either on the bay side or the ocean side. I started out on the ocean side mostly by accident but had no issues with the ease on walking on the wet sand. As CampsiteMapI checked the map I realized that trails were coming off the bayside trail and I was not sure if these trails connected to the ocean or ended up on the various hilltops. However, I did find that the trails connected and were very well marked. I decided to hike to the furthest trail cutover and look for a good campsite. Hiking in the bayside tide was low but beautiful. LowBayWhat I found at my destination was an awesome sand dune beach with many great campsite options. This was ridiculously nice. The weather was perfect and I was the only person here on a little slice of land surrounded by many coastal communities.

TentBrookI setup camp and Brook and I settled in for a beautiful evening waiting for a possible sunset. Brook had plenty of fun chasing sticks and digging in the sand.BrookDune

This video captures some of the experience showing Cape Mears in the distance.

Sunset was not going to be great due to the distant offshore cloud bank, but it was still pretty amazing.Campsite

Temperature got down to 45 making for a great night for sleep. Brook slept out in the grass and looked wet and sandy in the morning. FreshWaterWe took our time hiking out. I checked out the other trails knowing that I will definitely backpack this spit again. I even found some fresh water which would probably only be available in Spring or Fall. Each time I ventured back out to the beach I had to snap more beach photos.

Beach

The tide was up on my hike out which made for beautiful bay side photos.

Scotch Broom dominates the fauna of the start of the spit but it probably provides good soil stability and it is rather attractive.BirdOnScotchBroom

The overall loop is 7 plus miles long and for not having much vertical I still got a really good workout.

Great PNW Multi-day Backpacking Loops

I have been putting together an annual multi-day backpacking loop trek for my friends for the last 8 years. The goal was to find a 4 or 5 day trek of moderate difficulty based on a loop to simplify travel logistics.NAInteractive Map The first trek was through the Sisters Wilderness in 2011 and during each trek we would ask other backpackers what they thought was another great loop option. This advice truly led us to discover and confirm the finest multi-day backpacking loop treks in the Pacific Northwest. Since I have answered this question for other backpackers through the years I decided to create post to highlight these loop treks. The order presented is based on the order in which I discovered these treks. Please feel free to share your similar favorite loops.

 

Three Sisters Wilderness

Husband Peak coming down Separation Creek

Husband Peak coming down Separation Creek

There is a 50 mile loop that encircles the 3 Sister Peaks, however, I selected an approximate 35 mile route that starts from the Lava Lake Trailhead and cuts through between the Middle and South Sister peaks. This was my first multi-day trek for which I named the post “No Pain No Gain“, reflective of efforts and rewards of backpacking. The route adhered to the 4 to 5 day goal while adding the challenge of being up close to the Sisters. I would recommend the clockwise route with attention paid to water availability on the first day. Camp Lake through to the Chambers Lakes typically presents the challenge of climbing through snow but you need to experience the view from up there. You have to time this trek to allow for the snow crossing while also taking in a maximum floral display without too many bugs. The east section which is the PCT takes you through lush forests into lava fields. Passing through the restricted Obsidian area is not a problem, however, you want to time your climb over Opie Dilldock pass during the cool part of the day. The Mattieu Lakes near the start and finish offer good rest options. You could also consider doing this loop from the Pole Creek Trailhead.

Eagle Cap Wilderness

Glacier Lake

Glacier Lake Below Eagle Cap

The Eagle Cap Wilderness was enticing, however, piecing together a loop was not as obvious. I settled on using the Two Pan Trailhead to enter via the Minam Lake Trail and returning via the East Fork Lostine Trail while taking in all of the options provided by the Lakes Basin area. This loop requires crossing the 8548′ Carper pass to settle around Mirror or Moccasin Lakes. Here you have the option of expanding the loop up and over Glacier pass through Horseshoe Lake to Douglas Lake. Or you could just base from the basin area and do a few day hikes to fill your trek. Either way you must experience Glacier Lake. The lakes here are deep and can provide some good fishing. You come out completing the loop via the East Fork Lostine Trail with a shrinking awesome view of Eagle Cap.

Goat Rocks Wilderness

Valley below Goat Lake

Valley below Goat Lake

Goat Rocks should end up on everyones list, however, with that popularity come the weekend crowds. The loop option is fairly defined with a starting point at the Berry Patch or Snowgrass Flats Trailheads. It could be treated as a 2 day loop, which is why you include spur hikes north & south on the PCT. Whether you go up Snowgrass or Goat Ridge Trails you will be doing the bulk of the climb and you typically will deal with the worst of the mosquitos and black flies. I like the Snowgrass Trail to the Bypass Trail over to the PCT. Once on the PCT portion of Goat Rocks you have access to Cispus Pass south or Old Snowy north which is worthy of a few nights. Then head over to the Lilly Basin Trail which takes you to the Goat Lake area. The lake is generally iced over, however, the campsite options around there provide an awesome view of the valley and Mt Adams. You may want to hike up to Hawkeye Point and you should be treated to herds of mountain goats above Goat Lake. Your hike out via the Goat Ridge Trail is essentially downhill.

Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop

SpiderGapBuckCreek02

Spider Gap Snow Field

The Glacier Peak Wilderness provides a classic 36 mile backpacking loop that takes you up a glacier to Spider Gap past the Lyman Lakes then over Cloudy and Suiattle Pass by Fortress Mountain and over to Buck Creek Pass and Liberty Cap. This trek is probably the most true loop and it may be the most challenging especially getting up to Spider Gap. You start at the Phelps Creek Trailhead and head up the Phelps Creek Trail as far as you can in preparation for the climb up the Spider Gap Glacier. Camping near the Lyman Lakes sets you up for the next climb to Cloudy Pass and then around to Suiattle Pass where you get your first glimpse of Glacier Peak. If time and energy allow you should consider including a visit to Image Lake along Miners Ridge. As you work your way around to Buck Creek Pass, Glacier Peak is positioned prominently to the west. Find a campsite with a view of Glacier and take a hike over to Liberty Cap. The final hike out is relatively easy from there.

Timberline Trail Around Mt Hood

Brook & I in front of Hood

Mt Hood

This is a great loop trail around Mt. Hood with views many other mountains. I have decided to do this loop every year because it is so perfect and it provides me with a gauge for my overall health.  TT 2017  TT 2018 The TT is approximately 40 miles with a number of potentially challenging stream crossings. The elevation low point is near Ramona Falls at about 3300′ with a high point on the east side at 7350′. There are many choices for a starting point with the most common being at Timberline Lodge. Clockwise is the more common route from the lodge on the PCT which takes you by the Zig Zag Canyon where you should consider detouring up to Paradise Park for an evening. Crossing the Sandy river may be the most challenging before you take in Ramona Falls. The PCT offers you a couple of options, I like the one up toward Yocum Ridge over to Bald Mountain before you head up the Timberline Trail toward McNeil Point. On the north side you cross through some old burns but the beauty is everywhere. Once past the Cloud Cap TH you climb to above tree-line typically crossing many snow fields. Copper Spur is a side trip option and then you work your way down to Gnarl Ridge. All of this area is arid and treeless. Cross Newton creek, pass some waterfalls and head through Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area. The final push is to cross the White River and then climb back up to Timberline Lodge. This final climb can be challenging due to the sandy trail and exposure.

I hope these backpacking loops help you find that perfect trek. I will also throw in another option which is partially a loop, The Wild Rouge Loop diverges from the primary Rouge River Trail up to Hanging Rock.

Neahkahnie Mountain

img_3756I have lived near the coast of Oregon for 14 years and have never visited the Neahkahnie Mountain which is a part of the Oswald West State Park. img_3755I took the hike from the North with the trailhead starting at a parking lot pullout on Highway 101 just North of Manzanita. The trail begins on the east side of the highway and is pretty much an uphill trail. The first section of open meadow of switchbacks offers great views of the coastal cliffs at Cape Falcon. Overall the trail is of moderate difficulty, however, you are constantly navigating slippery roots.

img_3754Once you leave the initial meadow you enter into the a beautiful coastal forest.

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Once into the forest you enjoy a magical rainforest.

Once you approach the Neahkahnie View area it can be confusing about which path actually leads to the top. The easiest route actually wraps around the back side where you still need to climb a fairly steep rock face. Once at the top the view South is fabulous.

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