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

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Winter Wonderland

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I began a little adventure yesterday afternoon from Union Station in Portland. This is a beautiful station that looks like it was hand crafted back in the day when people took time to build things. I boarded a train to Montana and set out to check off one of the 5 states I’ve yet to visit. This is so far the longest train trip I’ve taken in the USA. The seats are wide and somewhat comfy with plenty of leg room. Though I started the journey at 4:45, it was quickly dark and there wasn’t much to see out the windows. I wrote in my journal, played some solitaire and listened to some music. Eventually I became tired and napped. There isn’t really much for sleeping on a train, but napping comes in quite handy.

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In the middle of the night, we passed through Spokane, WA. This was my first time there and as we were passing through I realized it was a lot bigger than I had imagined. Another nap and a few hours later we had entered Montana. I think I slept through Idaho. It was almost 6:45 and it was still pitch black dark out. As we came upon the South side of Whitefish Lake, I could make out the distant mountains shining above the lower cloud line. I also noticed that everywhere I looked was snow. My first reaction was, ugh, snow, then I thought, “I’m a snow bunny, yes bitches, yes!”

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We arrived at Whitefish train station about 10 minutes early. The paparazzi was there and taking my picture as I came off the train. Apparently, they had been told I would be arriving. As I was waiting for my skis and bag to be unloaded, I went into the cute town train terminal to find a celebration taking place. Empire Builder, the people train company, has been renting this line for years with service from Seattle to Chicago. For the past few months, they have been overlooked in priority by BNSF for the cargo carriers. That left the people carrier with delays of up to 3-4 hours consistently. That doesn’t bode so well for business, no?! The celebration today was with a spokesman from both BNSF and Empire Builder in a unity of train travel. The train I was on, was the first one that was on time in months. BNSF has finally given Empire a go for consistency. Isn’t that swell? Hey, I got a pin!

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After my bags were unloaded, I walked a few short blocks to Whitefish Hostel. No one was awake yet, so I went one more block up to get some breakfast at Loula’s. YUMMY indeed! I enjoyed a yuppi scramble – loads of fresh steamed vegetables cooked with some scrambled eggs, toast, coffee and breakfast potatoes. Once I was stuffed, I walked back to the hostel and was allowed early check-in. I dropped off my bags, changed into my ski gear and clunked my way back the few blocks to pick up the free Snow Bus which had a stop right next to the train station. The Snow Bus is embraced by and endorsed by the town of Whitefish to carry people and their gear, for free, to the mountain for a day of skiing. How very cool is that!

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Getting to the mountain I entered Base Lodge and found no line for the passes. The friendly girl behind the counter rattled off a couple of trail names by my request as ones I might consider finding throughout the day. Pass received, gear in hand, out I went to the back of the lodge. But where do I go?

I asked another cute girl if she knew the mountain at all. She said, yes, so I said, can you tell me where I need to go? Easy enough, up this little lift to another lift then the options are endless. I found my way up to the Summit Lodge after one short and one seemingly long chair lift. Okay ski legs, don’t fail me now!

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I took the advice of my fellow lift rider to go off the backside of the mountain towards Chair 7. This area houses a lot of blue squares and a few black diamonds. I had been getting pretty comfortable skiing on blues back in Meadows, so I thought, “why not!” My legs were a little shaky, as were my nerves, as I descended down the first traverse. I found my way onto Goat Haunt, a blue, and got down to the Big Creek Express (chair 7) without incident. (Ski bunny bitches).

I went up again, then took a long slow gentle ride down Russ’s Street which took me back to the Village (where I needed to do number one and warm up my hands which were not happily warm at all). Hey, I’ve got no agenda, no schedule, just time to explore. I found myself a cuppa coffee and sat by the fireplace to warm up a bit.

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After feeling revived, up I went again and found my way all over the mountain. You can ski all sides of this mountain, there are chairs and trails everywhere. This place is huge!

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I had lunch at the Summit House. A greasy grilled cheese, curly fries and hot cocoa. After lunch I skied more becoming very familiar with the backside of the mountain. I did run a few trails down the front side of the mountain, warmed up again, and eventually got myself an end of the day beer at Summit House. My last run I ventured over to Hellroaring Basin at the advice of the cute girl who was scanning my ticket. I met a lot of cute girls today!

I have to say, out of all the places I skied on the slopes today, the last run was the most fun. It was a winding pathway through the trees with lots of possibilities of going into the trees, but I stayed on the blue trail called Hell Fire. This brought me to the chair 8 which ran up purgatory back to some windy parts leading to the village and base lodge.

I did find this along the way. Say what?

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I took the free shuttle back to town, trekked back to my space at the hostel, took a quick shower and headed out to eat. I ended up at Casey’s and got a baked ziti and a dark beer. The guy next to me at the bar was talking to his friend about hunting wolves. I cried a little on the inside. The food was just alright, nothing to see here, move along. Once I got back to my bed, I was exhausted from lack of sleep on the train and a full day on the slopes, I decided it was nap time. After nap, I decided it was dessert time, so I walked to the end of the street and found Ciao Mambo. Yes, Yes, Yes! I got the cheesecake and a cuppa decaf. I think I will come here for dinner tomorrow night before I get back on the train.

Let It Snow!

-Denny

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Sahale Glacier Trek

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Tim and I went up to the North Cascades to meet up with my longtime buddy Michael. We packed in the North Cascade Mountain Range, specifically in the area of Sahale Glacier, Pelton Basin and Doubtful Lake.

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This is a trek that Michael and I did last year. It is sensational. The elevation gain is from 3500 ft to 7800 feet. You are literally camped out on the side of a glacier that drops down through a scree field to Doubtful Lake. The jagged snow peaked mountains that surround you are astounding to look at. You can climb the glacier, but it is a technical climb. We opted to look at it’s amazing beauty instead.

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You need a wilderness pass in order to camp at any of the sites. They can be found at the Marblemount Ranger Station and are issued on a first come first serve basis, though you can request them in person 3 days prior to your stay. These hikes can also be done as day hikes. There were plenty of day hikers on the trail on Saturday morning, but the week leading up to it was nice and quiet.

This is our route for 3 days of hiking.

Trail Head: Cascade Pass Trailhead – 3640 ft
Cascade Pass – 5384 ft – 3.7 miles
Pelton Basin – 4800 ft – .5 miles
Cascade Pass – 5384 ft – .5 miles
Sahale Glacier – 7600 ft – 2.2 miles
Doubtful Lake – 5385 ft – .5 miles from Sahale Arm (1.5 miles)
Sahale Glacier – 7600 ft – 1.5 miles
Cascade Pass 5384 ft – 2.2 miles
Trailhead – 3640 ft – 3.7 miles

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It was wonderful, invigorating and absolutely breathtaking.  The wind at Sahale Camp was incredible overnight. The camp sites are like fortresses inside of man made rock walls. Though they were high, they didn’t block the intensity of the wind pounding down on the tents.

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We saw goats, deer, marmots, mice, ptarmigans, hawks and bumped into many people who were sighting bears. We did not see any bear however. The wildflowers were still blooming as well.

Happy Hiking

Denny10300769_10152259466563038_5694924392428503257_n

Aside

PCT Oregon – Possible Mileage Chart

The planning is in full gear and I’m plotting out my course thanks to the very helpful books of the Pacific Crest Trail by Jeffrey P Schaffer and Andy Selters, along with the Pacific Crest Trail Data Book by the Wilderness Press. It is astounding the information they have compiled (and I’m a complete data geek – yes please.)  The draft below is just that, a draft. One of my best yoga teachers said, “Plan for the best class, then throw the plan away and teach.”  I’ve been practicing, studying, training and plotting. I’ve got everything that I need and I am feeling excited.

PCT Hike Mileage

Happy Trekking!

 

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The Big 40 PCT-Oregon Trek

pct_mapSo, it was my 40th birthday this year, and for it, I decided I wanted some nature and solitude. So, I’m going on a 20 day Trek on the Oregon portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (The trail runs from the US/Mexico Border into Canada).  I am planning to be on trail in the first 3 weeks of September. I’ve got my gear ready, there is absolutely nothing else I think I need. Okay, yes, I want things, but need, nope!

I am going to be doing my meal prep-work in the next couple of weeks.  I have a definitive push to have a lot of oatmeal and trail bread. I know by the end of the trek I will probably have a great vacation from both, but they are certainly going to be my staples. I can doctor both of them up so at least they will be flavored differently as I go along.  I have to say, I love dried fruit while hiking, I hope it doesn’t push my Vata too far out of balance, otherwise you may find me eating grass along the trailside. Mooo!

The trek I am plotting is from Crater Lake National Park to Mt Hood National Forest, Specifically Timberline Lodge at Mt Hood. I have never been to Crater Lake, and though I’ve only been living in Oregon for 3 years, I am long overdue for this visit.  It is the country’s deepest freshwater lake that was formed when a mega-volcano blew it’s top and left a crater. The water is apparently so clear that it is of the deepest blue reflecting back the sky.  I can’t even stand myself I’m so excited.  Tim is going to bring me down and we are planning on taking the boat ride to Wizard Island (Yes, I totally did not make that up). Believe me, I will be taking pictures of this whole trip. (Anyone want to send me a GoPro?)

From Crater Lake to Mt Hood, it’s a solid 250 miles of undulating forests, mountains, creeks, rivers and nature. The thought of it is both daunting and OMG I can’t wait to get in there!  I love a dualistic Universe. I love that I’m both incredibly excited for the experience and completely and calmly anxious about it at the same time. It’s a delicious place to be in the world and it feels yummy.

I’m hoping I can average a daily trek anywhere from 14-16 miles each day.  I’m also imagining there will be a day or two in the 10 or 19 miles/day existence.  It’ll all be divinely beautiful and challenging I’m sure, as I’d want any amazing experience to have both.  I do love an adventure! I also imagine that I will be doing yoga both mornings and evenings. The Moon will also be phasing into FULL during my first week on trail. I will be bathed in the moonlight. It will also be tapering into the New Moon during my last few days.

I will be putting together my CACHE drop(s) in the next day or two.  USPS doesn’t deliver to the CACHE drop locations, otherwise I’d tell you to send me a postcard.  In the CACHE goes the next portion’s meals, socks, shirt and batteries.

I have been working on my pack list. Think minimal, Think minimal. It’s so hard, because you can always think of a reason why you could possibly need something, but there are so many treks I’ve gone on when there was plenty of stuff I brought wasn’t even touched. I think I’m pretty close though. (Anyone have a Quarter Dome 1 they’re not using?)

I’ve been doing a LOT of training hikes. I actually feel extremely long distance hike ready.  I’m compiling a list of where I’ve hiked this year and hoping to get a mileage and elevation chart done. It would be fun to see where I’ve gone.

Next week, River Rafting and possibly the South Sister Climb!

Happy Trekking!

Denny

Denny atop Mt St Helens

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on the PCT Oregon:  http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/geography/oregon/

 

Mt St Helens – the Climb

Just over a week ago, a group of 7 of us climbed to the top of Mt St Helens. It was a wonderfully challenging hike full of amazing landscape diversity.  We began at the Camper’s Bivouac where we camped beneath the starlit skies the night before. We managed to get up and get on trail in a reasonable time. The first couple of miles of the hike are inside the canopy of big fir trees.  The soft pine needle padded trail wound it’s way up gently to the first transition zone.

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As we left the canopy of the trees, we begin to walk in to a boulder field. With a quickened breath and a steeper step, we began to slowly climb up one of the boulder fields. There was a lot of stopping and breath taking, and eating. We had the sun over to our right and as we made our way into the boulders, Mt Adams began to shine.

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The posts were our guidance system, as often times we couldn’t see past the next set of boulders. Boulders turned into bigger boulders, which turned into even bigger ones piled on top of each other. The climb became steeper and it felt as though we became smaller. The enormity of what we were climbing upon began to sink in as the ledge of the summit was a steep pitch directly up. We were standing on the side of a volcano that had an enormous eruption that occurred in my lifetime. Very cool!

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The end of the boulder field brought us to a dust hill. It was a steady and steep UP with a very slippery pebble, pomace and dust field.  The top of the mountain was jaw-dropping. We could actually see down into the crater to the newly formed dome, all the way to the other side where I hiked just a few weeks back from Johnston Ridge Observatory.

I took my 40 liter backpack on this hike, mostly to use as a training hike for carrying weight on my shoulders in challenging situations. I thought I did quite well, and I was comfortable.  I could have probably put more weight in it and still been fine.

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You do need a permit to climb Mt St Helens. They give out 100/day and you can get them for your day at the beginning of the season, which I highly recommend as attempting to get them on the day of your hike might be impossible.  They are issued first come, first serve. So pick your date, get your permit, and train, train, train!

Happy Hiking!

Denny

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5 Day Trek Prep

Tomorrow morning I take a group of 3 on a five day Yoga and Backpacking adventure. The planning has been a ton of fun, and I’m excited for what the trek will be.

I’ve been dehydrating food for a couple of months and have an extensive meal plan including: unstuffed peppers, lentil soup, chili and ratatouille for dinner. Each dinner will have a trail bread we bake along with a dessert (yes please). Blueberry cobbler, pineapple upside down cake and apple crisp. Breakfasts will be a combo of breakfast burritos and oatmeal, and most lunches will be high protein wraps that are quinoa, rice, couscous and vegetables.

The gear list has grown to accommodate the three of us and we are about to pack our packs. I may have purchased a hammock for our lounging moments that aren’t filled with trekking or downward dogs.

Pictures and details to follow!