ADventures!

So, I may have been on a few adventures since June. The High Sierras were brilliant. I’ve also explored around Mt St Helens, Jefferson Park, The Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon Coast, Montana and so much more.

One of the things that’s kept me from blogging is that in July I asked someone to do an exploratory backpacking overnight in the Mt St Helens wilderness and this guy said he’d join me.

Say hello to Andrew.

IMG_1600Mt. St Helens was a beauty. I was lucky enough to climb to the summit the day before. It is a fairly steady climb with amazing climate zones. You begin at Monitor Ridge trailhead located at the Camper’s Bivouac. (You’ll need a climbing permit if you want to go above the treeline).

The first part of the hike is in the beautiful evergreen forest. You get your legs warmed up and make a fairly comfortable walk up to the boulder field. There is a pit toilet at the loowit trail crossing. Everyone is grateful for it.

Once you come out of the forest, you begin to make your way up boulders. Here your body starts to work a bit harder and you might be hungry for a snack. This hike had us under the clouds on a mild day. The coolness of the atmosphere was a delight on the heated body.

Half way up the boulder field, we broke the cloudline. All of the mountain peaks around were sitting up on top of the clouds which covered the horizon line in all directions. It was a beauty.

IMG_1578

As the elevation increases, the boulders get smaller and turn into talus and scree. Then the last part of the climb is straight up in pomace. I call it the Cuss Zone.  Three steps, three slides back…and you’re tired.

IMG_1587.jpg

The wind was really blowing at the top so I didn’t stay very long before I headed back down. The views at the top however are absolutely breathtaking. You have amazing vistas of Mt Rainier, Adams, Hood and Jefferson. Plus a landscape that is unmatchable. St Helens is still quite active. There are vents steaming and the cap dome is constantly growing as well.  There are lakes as blue as the sky in the picture above a all beside a landscape that was once demolished in a massive explosion, but is now a delicately beautiful eco-system nurturing its way back to life.

IMG_1589.jpg

Andrew met me at the Bivouac the evening after the climb. We camped there before we headed to the trailhead in the morning to hike out to Butte Camp Dome on the SW side of Mt St Helens.

IMG_1619

At this particular time of the year, there were a ton of wild fires. The closest one to us was Mt Adams and there was lingering smoke in the air from the mass of fire in the PNW all together.

IMG_1655Our hike in was quiet and fun. Andrew and I got to know each other a bit better on the trail and he packed a bottle of bubbly, so we also instantly became friends.

We set up camp at Camp Butte Camp and then day hike up to the Loowit Trail and headed west towards the blast zone. The landscape was sensational to hike through. It was very dry, but you could see the remnants of wildflowers. It was also drastic with winding paths to giant crevices and boulders. We had a snack at the last big crevice before we turned around. It overlooked sheep canyon and the crescent ridge.

Back at camp we ate and had some bubbly. Andrew even climbed a tree. Then as most hikers do, off to bed after the sunsets.

IMG_1607At around 4:20 in the morning, I awoke hearing a strange noise. It was coming from the direction of the butte summit and it was loud. It sounded like very high wind.

I opened the tent zipper and shined my light out. It was snowing. Ash. The winds had changed and the ash from Mt Adams fires were dropping down all around us. I said, “We have to leave. Right now!”

I wasn’t sure if were in any eminent danger, or what, but my gut said, Move, Now! So we did. We packed up relatively quickly and had our packs and headlamps on as we headed down the trail to the car.

We got safely back to Portland and for the next 2 days the entire city was covered in ash clouds. The smoke from the fires had gathered in the gorge and came through to Portland.

More adventures to come!

Denny

IMG_1586

Advertisements

Me and Three of my buds!

I leave on an Epic Adventure at 5:30am. Me and Three of my buds are heading into the High Sierras and will be hiking along the Southern Sierra High Route. It is a route that will take us from Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney. The majority of this hike is above 11k feet with three different 14k peaks. Wooooooey! I am all packed and ready to go. Now it’s just sit and wait and wonder if I’ve forgotten to pack anything. Just kiddin, my pack is ready!

We are expecting to take around 7 days to trek the just over 100 miles route. The majority of the trek, from what I know, will be in the alpine/granite area. Not a lot of trees where we are going. This past week the area was pelted with Thunderstorms and a little bit of fresh snow. We are all bringing micro-spikes. The folk at the wilderness office said that crampons at this point are needed above 13k feet. The weather has shifted and we are expecting mostly sunny days ranging from the mid 20’s to the upper 60’s. I definitely favor the latter, but if we have clear skies at night, I will be spending copious amounts of time shivering underneath the canopy of stars. Yes Please!

I’m sure I am “over”packed with my food, but out of all the things, it is always my biggest concern. I eat a lot, and when you are climbing that many miles for that many days, you get hungry. We are packing for the entire 7 day trek without food stops, so all of our packs will start heavy with food. I already know which food items weigh the most, so I’ll be eating those as quickly as possible.

I made fruit leather for my first time – it’s quite delicious. I pureed 4 green pears (didn’t peel them, just cut them up and took out the seeds), a fresh lemon (squeezed and zested), and fresh lemon-thyme leaves. Everything goes into the blender to a frothy puree and then on to the parchment paper to dry out. I dehydrated for two full days in the dehydrator. It’s absolutely delicious. Sweet and zesty.

I also made my trek mix. Well, I purchased the ingredients and mixed them, but still. Raw almonds, roasted and salted peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips! I can’t even stand myself right now. Get in my belly. I will be eating a cup-a-day. This is one of my favorite trail foods. Nuts & Berries & Chocolate. Mmmmmmm

Between the 4 of us, we will have 3 iphone cameras, a digital SLR, and a GoPro. I’m super stoked for the video we are going to take. I love going on these adventures, and I really love to share them too. There are some amazing spaces in this world. I’m going to give it a go with time-lapse night photography. I’m REALLY hoping for some clear sky nights to catch glimpses of the milky way above the tree line. <sigh>

I’ll blog and post route pictures when I get back.

Never give up! Always Adventure!

-Denny
“Happy Birthday to Me”

Hammock Nap

Connecting the Dots

I secretly have a crush on one of the areas of the Cascades. It is a space between Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson called the Bull of the Woods. I repeatedly find myself and my backpacking traipsing through the lush forest, hopping over creeks and enjoying the endless display of natural beauty.

IMG_0638Last week, I took a friend into the woods with me. We left after work Tuesday evening (10:00 PM) and got to a base camp in the Bull of the Woods around 1:00. We set up tent and tucked into our sleeping gear for a night’s sleep. At around 3:00am, we realized it had started to snow. It was a light accumulation which was a pleasure to wake up to.

IMG_0705We woke up later than we had anticipated, ate a delicious breakfast of a fried egg in a tortilla wrap, had some hot coffee and packed up the tent into our packs. It took about another 20 minutes to get to the Pansy Basin trailhead.

IMG_0633From Pansy Basin Trail, we climbed up trail # 551 to #549 to #550. We stopped at the boarded up Lookout Tower. There were a lot of clouds so the view was less than stellar. We then hiked down trail #554 to #553 and camped at Big Slide Lake. As it was mid-week, there were no other humans around. We spent the afternoon eating lots of food and playing cards.

IMG_0672The following day, the sun came out and we were blessed with some blue skies! We climbed back up to the tower for some spectacular views. The panoramic picture shows the mountains from Mt Rainier in WA all the way down to the Three Sisters in central/south Oregon. (Click on the photo, then enlarge it. You’ll have a great picture of the cascade mountain range)

IMG_0639From the tower, we headed down towards Welcome Lakes and the Mother Lode on trail #558, then caught trail #551 back to Pansy Basin. We camped at the lake. It was beautiful and quiet. We had guests show up later in the evening with their extremely friendly and adventurous dogs. They camped at one of the spots closer to the trailhead.

Pansy Lake

Pansy Lake

IMG_0701

The following morning, we packed up early and headed back to the trailhead, then back to the city to go to work.

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

This trek connected a lot of the other trails I had already been through, thus completing most of the trails section I’ve already trekked in the Bull of the Woods. Two more trails to go and I will have completed the whole area.

I love wilderness escapes!IMG_0699

Happy Trekking!

Denny & SamIMG_0658 IMG_0627

Into the Woods!

DennyI decided that with two days off in a row, I needed to go play in the woods. I loaded up my smaller backpack with my overnight gear and some new items to test out for the season. Into the woods!

I took along a few of my favorite things: Hubba NX tent, Igneo sleeping bag, REI Flexlite Chair, ENO Hammock and Strap, ExPed sleeping pad and a backcountry tarp. I also took my knife, headlamp, journal and pen. I took a couple of new items for testing and my sense of adventure!

Camp 2I chose the area around Elk Creek. It is a beautiful hike in the middle of nowhere along a rushing creek. There are creek crossings and more. I posted about this once last year. The hike is more advanced than beginner. It isn’t long, but there are many creek crossings that require some balance and stability. Hiking poles would come in handy, and a willingness to get your feet wet should you slip off a rock and end up splashing through one of the many creeks. I did see one hiker on trail who was out for a day hike. An older gentleman who has been hiking for many years who said it is his goal to get out and hike every day. I want to be him!

Camp ClothesI brought along some new clothing to see how I would fair. I did quite well. I took my zip-away hiking pant/shorts. The zippers up the sides of the Saharas make the legs easy to get on and off and no boot removal is needed! I wore a smartwool t-shirt and underwear, merino wool socks and sported a pair of Solomon trail runners. They were light, easy to get on and off, but absolutely horrible on any wet rock or log. They were like slip-n-slide shoes. They also did not provide any ankle support or protection from hitting my foot on the side of fallen branches. Back to my trail hikers I go.

Dam!I ended up camping along the edge of the creek. A beautiful spot not too far from the creek crossing. There are amazing camp spots all through this area. The creek turned here and headed in a different direction. The area of the turn had a dam and a small island. A perfect eco-habitat for some woodland water creatures. I saw some ducks and plenty of other birds. I did not notice any fish in the creek or land mammals roaming about.

The Hubba NX tent is a single person tent. I picked it up last year at the end of the season. The design is sensational. Symmetrical dome shaped tent with a teardrop door. Sitting inside is like sitting in a little temple! The ruby red base is soothing to the eye, the tent can be set up quickly with it’s one pole system. No need to figure out which end goes to which end because either end will do. The system allows for a quick set-up, meaning you can drop the foot print and set up the fly on top, then get inside and set up the tent. Perfect for the rainy days we get here in the PNW. The rainfly also has a one-of-a-kind gutter that is over the door! Nice job MSR!

WindboilerI wanted to test out their new Windboiler. I have friends who have had Jetboils, and honestly I was never a fan. Plastic and fire just do not go together. The windboiler is an all in one cook system, similar to the others out there. This one however rocks. It has a fully enclosed wind prevention system that keeps the flame burning hot. I boiled my water in under a minute. UNDER a minute. The amount of fuel savings is spectacular. The mechanics of this machine also make it quite easy to use. The materials cool down quickly and because the flame head is large and the system vortexes the heat up, the thing heats up in no time. I’d use this again any time I’m taking dehydrated food on my treks.

Bear HangI didn’t bring my bear vault this time, but opted to hang my food. It is suggested that you hang the food at least 15 feet off the ground and about 4 feet from the tree. Tie one end of the rope to your bag, sling the other end up and over a branch, then hoist it up. Once it’s up, tie the other end off to the tree. If you’ve ever had your food taken by a woodland creature, you’ll know that it isn’t a pleasant experience. You have to leave where you are, cut the trip short and/or find a way to replenish. Though the bear vault is general bulky and heavy, it does keep your food safe. On my super short trips, I will hang food instead.

When in NatureThere was absolutely no one else in the area that evening. It was super quiet and a new moon, so at night it was exceptionally dark. The weather was the warmest we’ve had to date this season – over 70 degrees. Yes please! I also have one rule – when in nature, be natural (at least once/day). I generally can’t stand clothing, unless it’s keeping me warm. I needed to work on my overall tan anyway. It had been a long winter and my body hadn’t seen the light of sun in ages. Don’t be jealous. June 21st is the Unofficial Naked Hiking Day, so plan accordingly!Hammock

I usually do not carry my hammock AND my tent, but as I was only heading into the woods for one day, I figured the extra weight I am not carrying in food, I can easily carry the hammock. I love that I did. I took a nap in the sun for a while and listened to the creek float by.

Camp ChairThe warm clothes I packed in my bag were my puffy Patagonia, smartwool 250 leggings, smartwool zip long sleeve top, my 15 year old wool hat and a pair of beat up gloves. They all came in quite handy after the sun started to set. I tend to get cold easily and having things that can keep me warm are vital to my wellbeing (aka, my happiness). As the evening temperature moved in, I put on my nighttime layers of clothing. The smartwool felt immediately warm and soft which I really appreciate. They are also great at keeping moisture off the body which helps to keep you warm. I wrote in my journal for a long while, made myself an evening snack and went for a walk around the creek.

Naptime came early. I say naptime because it is often that I do not “sleep” when I’m out in nature. I actively rest and take naps between resting. I’m totally okay with this. I did have one moment where I was in my tent and there was a large animal pressing its nose up against my tent walls. I thought it was a deer or moose type animal. I kept trying to tell it to go away, to scare it by saying things like, “SHOO”, but every time I did, nothing came out. I realized that I was actually dreaming and woke myself up. I was in the same place I was dreaming, but there was no animal.

ParadiseThere is something so serene and peaceful to me about the simplicity of a backpacking setup. I consider what I took on this trip “Luxury” packing. A hammock and a chair! It isn’t often that you are willing to carry extra weight. I could spend days out in the wilderness. I did notice that I was up early and “ready” to pack and move. It wasn’t that I wanted to get home, but that as a backpacker, there’s always the next place to get to. I enjoyed my morning breakfast of oatmeal, packed up most of camp and my backpack.

Hammock Nap

I lounged a while longer in my hammock and wrote a bit more in my journal. I wrote a long dedication to my buddy Tyler (my cat) who I lost a week ago. I think he was the reason I was out there anyway. I needed to say goodbye in a place that held a lot of magic and support, that wouldn’t give me opinion or enable me, but just allow me to be exactly where I was. Thanks Nature!

The trek back to my truck (Hank) was quite and brisk. I didn’t pass any hikers at all. I also made it through all the stream crossings with dry feet.

Happiest Trekking!

DennySpying Ducks

Climb On!

Happy instructors, nervous studentLast Thursday I went Rock Climbing. It was the first time I’ve ever done it. I signed up for a beginner’s class with REI. I picked up one of my co-workers at the train station and we drove out to the REI Outdoor School Gear Shed where we met the two REI Outdoor School Instructors (Aaron and Patrick). There was a small group of us going and most of us had never climbed before.

I was a little apprehensive at first, but as I have gotten to know REI and its instructors, I felt confident I would be well supported. I do not know about you, but I do NOT favor heights. I prefer to keep my feet on the trekking trails.

It was a First Class day from beginning to end. We rode in the REI Van to Sub Stewart State Park, OR. It felt part like a field trip and part like an outdoor expedition! It also gave us time to get to know some of the other people going.

Upon arrival to the park, we had an overview of the day. P&A went over the itinerary for the day: Learn the basics, then practice them. Sounds good to me.

GearWe geared up first. Okay, I may be a bit of a gear junky. I have backpacking gear galore and now ski gear. I usually steer clear of the climbing gear as most of it just looks like Alien Space Ship parts! (ASSp!) First we tried on harnesses (yes please). I mean really, how could anyone say no? Climbers, I’m starting to understand a bit more. Okay, then we got shoes and a doohicky, which is a technical term for a belay device. It was recommended that the shoes be tight, though given it was our first time, they suggested that we go for comfort. I chose comfort. Those things are TIGHT! I was a full size bigger and I was still as snug as a bug in a rug.

Knotty!We learned how to tie an 8 knot. Then we learned how to tie that knot into our harness. My knots were exceptional. Knots are important. Safety First! But wow, when they are tied right, they are pure beauty.

Practice firstWe learned belaying skills. How to belay, and on belay (I will forever get those reversed), climb on, TENSION and lowering. As I have no problem telling anyone else what to do, especially when my safety is a concern, I am A-OK with commands.

We did lots of repetitions and worked with different people. Then we hiked up to the spot where we would be climbing for the day. Broughton Bluff.

whoa - that's a long way upPatrick had already gone up and set up space for three sets of climbers. It was very exciting, mixed with a little apprehension. We had some more instruction followed by a demonstration. P climbed 10 feet, A belayed and we followed along with the commands. They were great at communication, approach and demonstration.

Then it was our turn. They pointed out the three ropes and gave us an order of difficulty (easiest to most difficult). I was the first person to speak up, “I’m climbing the difficult one”. I mean really, why hesitate. The choice is so much easier when you do not wait.

Checking the goods with ParkerI found someone who wanted to belay for me (Spiderman – okay his name was Parker, but honestly, he clung to the wall like spiderman, and, Parker!) After we checked each other’s gear out, I approached the wall. I was thinking that this moment needed some sort of ritual. I internalized a few “How’s ya father’s?” and commanded my belayer to On Belay!

Patrick Demonstrates good formEvery inch felt like 10 feet. One pull off the ground and it seemed to feel so far away. “I’m doing this,” I thought and took a big breath and went. We were told to go up about 10 feet, practice Tension, let go and be lowered. It’s a good thing they had us do this at 10 feet. If I had been any higher, they would have had to have come rescue me.

The amount of will power it was taking to “let go” of the only thing I knew was keeping me from falling to a broken existence into a realm of “trust” that it would work out was amazing. There were so many, “What If’s?”

Three, Two, One, right? The first lurch made me yelp a little, but then it was just plain fun. Once I got to the ground, I was given a challenge by my instructor to make it up to that ledge by the end of the day. I decided I was going to try for it right then. Why not?

I did well, but I didn’t get to the top. Wow, it is HARD work! The way you cling for dear life to the rock, every muscle in your body tightens up. HOLD ON! That’s all you can think about. Little ledges you can barely fit a half of a toe onto (and by the way, now I know why tighter shoes are better, someone bring me a shoehorn!). The shoes I chose, though tight yet comfortable, would have served me better if I had chosen tighter and smaller. I can see how tighter fitting shoes would create more friction and less sliding.

it's awfully high up hereWhen you’re clinging for your life you get tired! I was up higher than before, and the ledge was just above my head but also out of my reach. The rock I was holding onto was smooth on just about every edge which was making it hard to grip. Everything I touched felt smooth and slippery. I put my foot into a crack so I could step myself up and I felt it push down and get wedged in. F#@K! Instant internal panic! What if I slip? What if I fall back with my foot wedged there? What if I can’t get it out?

I let my belayer and my instructor know what had happened (communication is key), and attempted not to sound panicked. I’m sure I was convincing. With instruction that I was hardly paying attention to (thanks panic), I struggled my way free. TENSION!!! (Yeah, no problem calling that command out at that point) It notifies the belayer to create as much tension in the rope as possible to help hold your body weight. The word in this case carried many meanings.

I was instantly relieved and fatigued. The adrenaline rush was over. I asked to be lowered down. I got a lot higher than I had thought and my instructor gave me some pointers on how to remove a foot wedge. Then I belayed for Spidy. Belay On!

group of studentsThe rest of the day was great. Each of us climbed and belayed in different spots. Eventually, I DID get to the top of that ledge.

Climb On!

Denny

Ready to Climb

belaying  tension!

GORGEous day!

IMG_5336Today I went with Tim and hike two peaks in the Columbia Gorge. The day was spectacular. A warm early spring has reached the NorthWest, and though we are pining for snow on our mountains, it makes for great hiking weather.

Indian Point can be found off of exit 44 on Route 84 heading East from Portland. You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass to park. This is a great day hike and training hike for putting in miles and elevation, plus it offers some spectacular views of the gorge on clear days.

The trail starts at the Herman Creek trailhead and there are a couple of ways you can get to the side trail to Indian Point. We took the Gordon Creek Trail which was a steady climb UP to the small turnoff to Indian Point. The small trail to the point offers a great view of the point, and a warning that if you have any fear of heights at all, then this is about as far as you will go.

IMG_5340We worked our way out step by step on the the increasingly loose talus pile that fell off in what seemed to be every direction possible. There was one indian pit where we hunkered down and ate our lunch, which is ironic as these were the places they would send the coming of age to fast themselves into hallucination. (Hey, that’s the story I heard and I’m sticking to it).

IMG_5343There is a small point at the end of the of the trail which I wouldn’t climb for the price of anything. .  Tim was nervous enough looking at it, I’m sure it was eminent death.

IMG_5350We made our way out by hiking out down the Nick Eaton Ridge Trail. It was a lovely switchbacking descent back to the base of the gorge where the parking lot was. We took a short drive to Mitchell Point where Tim needed to redeem a himself of a picture he attempted to take last Thursday but failed.

IMG_5354This is exit 58 off of 84 East. A few short turns here and there will get you there. This hike is quite short, just about 2 miles round trip, but it is a very steady UP, over 1000 ft elevation gain in a mile. Again, the views of the gorge offered here are quite lovely, and as long as heights don’t keep you frozen, you can sit up top and enjoy the spectacular Columbia River Gorge.

IMG_5362

Happy Trails!

Denny

 

Three Days in the Wild

FallsAfter the snowpocolypsemageddon cancelled my flight to Boston last week and my winter ski trip to visit my family was cast away like an unwanted snowflake (oh how we long for unwanted snowflakes here in the NW), I decided to salvage what I had of my vacation time and do something adventurous. I did a call-out to my friends to see who might be around with a few extra days on their hand, and low and behold one of my buddies (Mark O) is on sabbatical! Yes Please! We got together to pack up our gear and planned a three day trek through the Eagle Creek wilderness in Oregon.

Eagle Gorge

After some last minute purchases (dehydrated food, snacks, pack cover for the rain and some boots for my friend), we head out to the trail head on Saturday morning. Eagle Creek trailhead is at exit 41 off of highway 84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. It is a popular day hiking spot because of the amazing amount of waterfalls including two spectacular ones: Punchbowl Falls and Tunnel Falls.

Tunnel Mark

Once we passed Tunnel Falls and the 7.5 mile mark, the rest of the day hikers disappeared and the two of us wandered deeper into the wild.  Up we went on a winding trail headed towards Wahtum Lake. There must have been some sort of storm that had recently passed as there was quite a bit of debris on the trail and I spent a lot of time “volunteering”.

SignsOne thing I was reminded of is following your gut. There are many ways the Universe tells you to STOP and pay attention. Often times on trail, it is in the form of a water break, tying of a shoe, stretch, clearing a path or taking in a view. Whenever I am at one of these stopping spots, I take a look around. Without a doubt, there is always something there for me to pay attention to, and it usually a trail junction. I can’t tell you how many junctions I would miss on a consistent basis if I were dug into the trail like a tick and ignoring the tell-tale signs from the big U to STOP!

U-Turn

(Mark about to make the hairpin turn – careful!)

 

 

 

Frozen LakeAs we ascended slowly into Wahtum Lake, we also came into a micro-climate. Everywhere within 100 yards of the lake was engulfed in a frozen fog. I’m not sure if any of you have seen frozen fog, but it’s a frozen mist that blows around like fog. It’s kind of astonishing. The campsites all along the lake were little skating rinks, and the lake was to be unseen due to the fog. We made our way around to the back side of the lake hoping that the higher elevation there would block the wind and would be warmer. This proved to be true, except there weren’t any places to pitch a tent. As we were starting to lose day light, we decided to backtrack to the first camp spot we found.

Cold Boys
At this point, the misty frozen fog was turning into a drizzly freezing rain and any attempt we made to get a fire going was thwarted. We decided to eat our dinner and crawl into our sleeping bags. It wasn’t even 7:00 pm yet.

 

Frozen WahtumThe morning arrived after a tossing and turning night and we climbed out of the frozen rain-fly into a winter wonderland. Everything was frosted. It was so pretty, silent and cold. The fog had disappeared and the precipitation in general was only slightly rainy. The glassy smooth frozen lake was being coated with a fresh bit of water which reflected the frosted evergreen trees that surrounded the lake. Breathtaking indeed.

After a warm breakfast of oatmeal and protein bar, we packed up camp and started climbing out the back side of the lake headed towards Benson Plateau along the PCT. It was a rain day. My 3.5 year old Columbia waterproof rain jacket had a PSI limit which had been reached. My bag pressing into the tops of my shoulders was a gateway for the rain to come in. I put on my emergency poncho ($0.83) and let it do the job of wicking away any of the rain I would soon be encountering.

Boys Fort

 

Look a Fort!

 

 

 

 

 

Benson PlateauWe reached Benson Plateau mid-day and filtered our water for the evening. The camp is in the middle of a plateau that hosts tall trees and plenty of bear grass. We had a warm lunch, walked around some of the other plateau trails, and then a bit more food for an early dinner. After we ate, we decided again to get out of the sopping wet and into dry clothing. My smartwool thermals felt warm and cozy as I got into my waterproof sleeping bag. It was only 5:30, but it was wet and dark outside. We didn’t have any cards to play with so we ended up looking at the map for a bit and I wrote in my journal before closing my eyes.

Benson CampWet. By the morning, everything was wet. The tent fly leaked through and the water came through both the footprint and the floor of the tent. We had a small puddle at the foot of the tent by morning. My gloves were soaked, as was my jacket. My boots (Asolo) did wonderfully well however. I managed to keep one pair of socks mostly dry, so those went on triumphantly.

Columbia Gorge Cascade LockWe ate a quick breakfast, had some coffee and began the steep trek down Ruckels Creek Trail towards the Eagle Creek trail-head. We were in the rain for the majority of the first half, then we finally broke underneath the cloud layer. Amazingly, under the cloud layer, there wasn’t any rain, it was warmer and in some spots we even saw the sun. A half-million switchbacks later we got to the road. We passed some Native American Vision Pits along the way that were all mossed over. They were quite pretty.

Ruckel CreekIt was a wonderful weekend, regardless of the wet. It is always great to get out away from the societal numbness life and into the depth of nature. Movement, challenge, beauty and grace.

Happy Trekking!

-Denny

Cold Denny