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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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Happy Trekking!

Denny & SamIMG_0658 IMG_0627

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

Bondage with Strangers – WFA Day 2

Today was exceptional. It was the 2nd day of a two day course of Wilderness First Aid. We got to tie each other up! I learned how to dress a wound, immobilize joints and bones and more. We covered hypothermia, heat stroke, broken bones, head injuries, altitude sickness and more.

It was a hands-on kind of day. We started the day off with a scenario, nothing like jumping in to remember your ABC’s and 123’s from the day before. After our scenario we began the journey through mild medical care for injuries. Learning how to dress wounds and stabilize broken parts. Again, I hope I never have to use any of this information in the real life, but I’m quite grateful that I now have been introduced to it.

I do plan on taking the next course which is Wilderness First Responder (WFR). It is a 10 day intensive which deepens the practices and understandings of the WFA. As my next decade is manifesting around being an outdoors adventurer, I find that knowing this kind of information will be quite handy.

Be well safe travels.

Denny

Rolling Around in the Dirt with Strangers – WFA

wfa_crossI had an amazing time this weekend. I spent my entire day Saturday rolling around in the dirt with strangers! I took a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and REI. It is a two day course geared towards providing some education to folk who spend time outside and may encounter hazards, or perhaps folk who lead small expeditions, trip leaders, scout leaders, camp counselors and any type of outdoor explorers! It is a hands-on experience helping you to prepare for the unexpected. It was right up my alley.

Saturday was spent learning the ABC’s and 123’s.  They taught us a protocol using numbers and letters which makes it easier to remember what it is that you’re supposed to be looking for and doing when you enter a scene that may need some first aid.  Here are the basics:

1 – I’m #1 – I come first, if I put myself in danger, then who will help me?
2 – What happened to YOU? – Assess the scene before entering, look for a mode of injury – how did it happen?
3 – I must protect me – Safety first kids. Wear gloves, protect yourself.
4 – Are there any more? – Is this the only victim, or are there more that need help, assess the priority.
5 – Are they dead or alive? – Though I hope to never use this, I can see the relevance.

Airway – check the airway to make sure it is clear.
Breathing – check to make sure the patient is breathing.
Circulation – check for pulse and do a blood sweep.
Decide – does the patient’s spine need to be mobilized? If so, decide to keep it mobilized or move on.
Expose – expose all injuries.

NOLS

We learned how to do a full body exam and what to look for. We learned how to roll a patient over on the ground if their spine needs to be mobilized. It was exciting and scary. They set up different scenarios for us to approach and examine. The instructors were quite amazing. I highly recommend a course in Wilderness First Aid if you do any backcountry traveling.

I learned quite a bit, and though I feel more confident this evening than I did this morning, I also feel more hesitant. It has been eye opening.  I hope I get a badge I can sew to my outfit!

Safe Trekking.

Denny

 

PCT Hike – Day 17 – The Last Day

PCT Day 16Up and at em! It is just dawn and though I didn’t get much shut eye, I feel rested, and excited to get a move on. Camp is basically packed and I only need to squeeze into my boots for just a few more miles.

Approaching Mt. Hood is fascinating. You walk along a ridge line, one of the arms of Mt. Hood and through the trees you can see the beautiful treeless peak of Mt. Hood. In and out of the trees you go as you climb up and up towards the Timberline.

Mt Hood

As you get closer to the mountain you begin to see Timberline Lodge and the ski areas. You can also depict the hiking trails that go through the timberline area. There was one very scary moment climbing up the side of the mountain where erosion had the path just a few feet away from a major drop off down to White River.

Jefferson

The sun was just coming upon the horizon line as I passed through the timberline into the upper part of Mt Hood. I turned around and as I did a great hawk flew over greeting the sunrise in a morning screech. I followed her flight South and my eyes fell upon Mt Jefferson. Okay, I may have cried a couple of quick sobby sobs, but it was kind of intense and amazing to know that I hiked all the way from Crater Lake.

Timberline Lodge

I arrived at Timberline Lodge around 7:45 in the morning, and made my way around to the front of the lodge so I could walk through the front doors. Timberline lodge is a beautiful hand crafted mountain lodge. It is a sight to behold in both it’s craftsmanship and it’s presence. I entered the lodge with a smile on my face and made my way over to the concierge desk. I was greeted warmly by a young man and woman.

I let them know I had just come off of the PCT and that I would be picked up this afternoon by a friend here at the lodge as this was my destination. I asked if they had a spare charger to charge my phone, and she did, so she took my phone and plugged it in the next room. I could hear the satisfactory BUZZ all the way at the desk. I asked if they still did their lunch buffet, which they did, however their breakfast buffet had just started and was going until 10:00! YES! The next thing I asked for was if it was possible to take a shower. The outdoor shower by the ski area was still open, though the water would be cold. That was better than nothing. Though, in the kindness of a stranger, I was offered one of the hot showers in the lodge. I was so grateful.

I got into the beautifully old tiled bathroom and stripped off my clothes. WHEW – I stank! I hadn’t been in a clean enclosed space in weeks and the amount of stink on me was incredible. I began washing my clothing in the sink so that I would have something clean to put on after I showered. After my clothes and flip flops were washed, I un-bandaged my feet and got into the shower. Hot, steamy, running water. YES PLEASE. It was delightful. I scrubbed and washed and scrubbed some more. It was so rewarding. I dried off with a clean fluffy towel and smiled at the stranger that was in the mirror. WOW – I am skinny! My waistline is quite small. My legs look great and thick. My abs are all sorts of ripple without any fat and my arms are tone from lifting that heavy bag and using the trekking poles.

With a clean fresh body and clean’ish clothing, I repacked my pack and headed to the restaurant. A full breakfast buffet! YUMMY! Eggs, Eggs with cheese, toast, potatoes, pancakes, french toast, waffles, fruit, pastries and delicious coffee. I ate everything. It was so delicious.

I retrieved my phone from the wonderful hosts and sent a note to Mom and Tim letting them know I was at the lodge. Tim was at work and said he would leave early to come and get me. I hung out in the lodge for only a couple of hours. I ran into the brothers who were on their second day of relaxing as they had arrived the day before. They were heading into the lunch buffet.

I feel great, alive, accomplished. My body feels strong and my feet did not get destroyed today. I have two purple toenails, one is light plum, the other is dark. Not sure if I will lose them (I did lose one, and the other seems not far away).

I feel elated, but perhaps it’s all of the coffee. I could use a big fat nap. I am scruffy. This is the most beard I’ve ever had. I will manscape a bit tomorrow to see what it looks like. It is far past the itchy stage of growth, so I could do whatever I wanted with it.

It is a little chilly here. The elevation and the change of season. It is quite nice really.

I am grateful that I got to share my adventures with you. I look forward to sharing other adventures and reviewing gear as I go along.

Happy Trekking!

Denny – aka Gemini

Clean Denny