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.

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Happy Trails!

Denny

 

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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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Backpack!

Backpacks are an amazing invention. They are bags that nestle nicely on your shoulders and hips that can hold everything you need in them to survive for long periods of time outdoors.  You’ll find every type of bag you can imagine. Canvas, leather, hemp, synthetic, nylon and more. Bags made to carry books, computers, food, wine, and all your backpacking gear! So, where do we begin when we are looking for that perfect bag? Ask yourself this question – What will I be doing with it mostly?

I have three backpacks that I use consistently. One is my daily commuting backpack that has reflective material on the back, can hold a water bladder if needed and has just enough room to fit my lunch, a change of clothes and my fancy phone. I use this on my bike rides.  I also use this pack for most of my day hiking as it has a chest strap that keeps the pack snug to my body while I am moving and the material on this pack is more water resistant than my other light pack.

DSC_0697The 2nd backpack I have is my hippy sack. This puppy has been around since 2003. It is my favorite bag, made of canvas, has travelled the world with me and screams comfort and love. It is, unfortunately, on its last strappy existence. This bag has been patched and re-sewn and all sorts of creative “put-back-together” type of extended life I could give it. Maybe one day I’ll find it’s match. (I may have just found it yesterday!)

My 3rd backpack is my backpacking pack – and believe it or not, I do have 3 of them. I keep them around because two of them are completely adjustable, which means that if I don’t want to go trekking alone, I can easily fit my pack to a buddy or two to come along with me.

One I inherited from a friend’s father. It is an old school external frame Camp Trails pack that weighs more than most of my other gear combined. Yes, it’s totally awesome. Huge, which means I can stuff it full, which also means when I do it’s as heavy as can be. I use this pack when I’m going packing with someone who doesn’t have equipment. It is my backup pack.

I backpack with a 40 liter High Sierra Hawk pack. I love the size. I cannot overstuff it at all which means I’ve been getting my pack weight down more and more each year. It is big enough to take on a 4 day trek and small enough that it isn’t cumbersome and overwhelming. It is also relatively light weight at 5 lbs 3 oz. There are definitely “lighter” packs in the world, but this one fits me like a bug, snug in a rug. I hardly even notice that it’s on my back when I’m trekking along. I think that’s one of the most rewarding parts about a good pack – is that it has to fit well.

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Lastly – my distance pack is a Deuter Act-Lite 75+10. It weighs in at an astounding 4 lb 6 oz.  I can pack a third of my house into this vessel which works great and horribly at the same exact time as the tendency for any of us is to overpack. One of my friends who is pack weight conscious actually cuts the tabs off of extra things and the handle off his toothbrush to save weight. I haven’t gone that crazy, yet, but I can see how all those little bits and pieces can add up really quick.

So, let’s come back to the subject at hand – where do you start? Well, in this case, size matters. You cannot get a pack for an extended backpacking trip that cannot hold all of your gear, and you do not need a 70 liter backpack for a day hike (unless you’re training for long distance and you load that puppy up). Are you going for an overnight and only need to carry your tent and sleeping pad with minimal food?  Are you going for 3-4 days and sharing gear? Are you going for a solo trek for longer than a week and have to carry all of your gear? Know what you want to do with it immediately, and what you plan on doing with it down the road.

Regardless of the liters your pack can hold, you need to make sure the pack fits. Guys, honestly, you’re not all a large frame. I know you would like to think yourself big and burly because it attempts to tell the mind that you’re more manly if you are, but the majority of menfolk fit into a small or medium framed pack. The majority of women fit an extra small or a small. It is not too uncommon for a smaller guy or girl to fit nicely into a youth sized pack! Go see a pack fitting expert at a local outdoor equipment store and get fit properly. An unfit pack means a messy hike. The pack will shift around your body causing aches and pains that are not only uncomfortable, but unnecessary.

The waist belt should lay cleanly across the hip bones when it is on and there should be extra room on the cinching strap after you’ve pulled it tight. The chest straps are usually adjustable and women’s shoulder straps are curved to match their curvaceous bodies.  Shoulder straps should be snug around the top of the chest all the way around the top of the shoulders and down the back. The entire pack should be resting on the back. If you have space between the tops of your shoulders and the bottoms of your straps, then your pack is too big. Too big means extra chafing, and not from a pleasure point of view!

This also means that the “really cool pack” that you see with all the bells and whistles that you think are totally rad, may actually be the worst fitting pack for you regardless of how you size it. Some brands just do not fit some types of bodies. So when you are out there searching around, be flexible like you hope you can be after hiking for 15 miles.

Happy Trekking!

Water Pack

 

 

Leave No Trace

I cringe, and sometimes cuss, when I am walking on a trail and I know the person behind me is avoiding the mud puddles in order to keep their shiny new boots dry and clean. What they do not understand is that with every step off the path they are crushing an entire eco-system. The narrow foot paths that lead through the marshes become a wide trough every time we step aside onto the delicate eco-system that surrounds the path. Our weight, the tread of our boots our hiking poles and more dig into this system of topsoil which houses an enormous amount of plants and wildlife that keep other areas from eroding. Our single step, though we may think isn’t too remarkable, can destroy the delicate bonds between the plant life and the ground on which it is holding. Because of this, erosion begins and the ground beneath the surrounding areas also begin to melt away from the plants holding it intact. Leave No Trace provides a framework for outdoor recreation decision making, which is summarized in the following Seven Principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Poorly prepared people, when presented with unexpected situations, often resort to high-impact solutions that degrade the outdoors or put themselves at risk. Proper planning leads to less impact.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Damage to land occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond repair. The resulting barren area leads to unusable trails, campsites and soil erosion.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Though most trash and litter in the backcountry is not significant in terms of the long term ecological health of an area, it does rank high as a problem in the minds of many backcountry visitors. Trash and litter are primarily social impacts which can greatly detract from the naturalness of an area. Further, backcountry users create body waste and waste water which requires proper disposal according to Leave No Trace.
  4. Leave What You Find: Leave No Trace directs people to minimize site alterations, such as digging tent trenches, hammering nails into trees, permanently clearing an area of rocks or twigs, and removing items.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impact: Because the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of fires, Leave No Trace teaches to seek alternatives to fires or use low-impact fires.
  6. Respect Wildlife: Minimizing impact on wildlife and ecosystems.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Following hiking etiquette and maintaining quiet allows visitors to go through the wilderness with minimal impact on other users.

One of the things I love most about trekking is the solitude and peace and quiet. That love of mine is not shared by all. There are many folk that travel in packs or pairs and for some reason they have talking competitions. Apparently each person’s opinion is the one that matters most, and in order to be heard they each start talking louder and louder. Dear human, “Shhhhhhh!” I get that some folk are out there for just exercise and perhaps they are so out of touch with nature that even being IN nature is still foreign, but talking that much does nothing for building your endurance and lung capacity. Slow and deep breaths please.

See that pretty lady slipper growing there? Yes, see it, but please leave it there. It is not there for you to covet and take home. It is there to live its existence peacefully without interruption. Do you need an explanation to what happens when humans are plucked out of their own environments and forced to be someone else’s creation?

If I see you throwing anything on the ground that wasn’t a twig that you just picked up, I will follow you to your car and lecture you the entire way on what littering does and how much of a lack of a respect you must have for yourself that you are projecting onto others. And believe me, I can keep up. I’m sorry, but this land is not your land, and this land is not my land. It belongs to the redwood forests and the New York highlands. We are just custodial travelers along its pathways. Just sayin.

Leave no Trace

Urban Hiking

Downtown Portland OR

Downtown Portland OR

Urban hiking is a great way to keep in shape on days that you just can’t get to a trailhead. I like trekking around cities on days when I find myself with enough time and resource available to get out and do something. To me there is no better way to see a city, get to know its details and discover all of its hidden secrets. Plus, it gets my feet moving, my legs can stay in shape for those lengthy trail hikes and I get to wear sneakers!

On an urban hike, like a mountain hike, it is good to have a start point (just like a trailhead).  You might take a city map and declare a start, or perhaps if it is your own city then your start point is your front door. As I trek along on an urban hike, I notice the manmade mountains (skyscrapers/barns, etc) and man’s attempts at reproducing natural effects (gardens, architecture).  Sometimes I bring my camera along for pictures, other times I wander aimlessly keeping my feet trekking along the concrete pathways.

Where will your urban hike take you?  Perhaps you can base your hike around eateries. How many ice cream places can you trek to in one day. Maybe you like your coffee flavored beverages and want to do a Hike du Cafe.  Perhaps your furry legged friend wants to join and you take him to as many dog parks as possible.  The options are endless and an Urban hike doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or use a lot of resources.

Don’t forget to pack your water and trail mix!

It doesn’t matter what you do, because as it was said, wherever you go, there you are!

Denny Boston

 

Dog Mountain Hike – Woof!

DOG MOUNTAIN – COLUMBIA GORGE Moderate to Difficult 1500 ft – 2900 ft elevation gain 3 – 7 mile loop Passes required: Either NW Forest Pass or you can pay at the trail-head $5.00/day Directions: From Stevenson, WA: Travel east on Washington State Route 14 for 10 miles. Trailhead parking is available between mileposts 53 and 54 by the Dog Mountain Trailhead sign. From Portland, OR: Travel west on Interstate 84 to Cascade Locks exit #44.  Follow the off ramp under the interstate and take the first right to the Bridge of the Gods across the Columbia River. At the stop sign, turn right (east) on Washington State Route 14 and travel 12 miles. Between mileposts 53 and 54, there is a large sign for the Dog Mountain Trailhead. Park in the pullout on the left. There are some hikes that leave you breathless with a gasping WOW, and Dog Mountain does not fall short!  The climb up to the summit is substantial. It’s a calf-building, quad-ripping, ass-buster, and though we went on a Tuesday morning, I can see how this trail would be packed on a weekend. Best time to go: End of May for full bloom wildflowers!Image You start off right at the edge of the spectacular Columbia Gorge and begin a trek UP into the dense evergreen doug-fir forest and the beautiful trilliums. Climbing through the smells are divine with pine and the birds are full of song.Image You will have a check-point to take one of two paths to the Summit. We opted for the “More  Difficult” path which is where we got our leg and cardio workout. Image Climb, climb, climb you go and after leaving the density of the forest you come to the mountain top meadows At the end of May this is a spectacular array of wildflowers, busting with the bright yellow of balsam root and sprinkled with red Indian paint brush, chocolate lilies, wild strawberries and purple lupins. The first glimpse takes your breath away as the edge of the mountain top overlooks the Columbia River Gorge and Oregon! Image Photographer’s Dream – Bring your camera – you’ll kick yourself if you don’t! Image We had a great time – I’m sure you will too! Bring a lunch so you can picnic at the top. Layers of clothing, sturdy hiking boots, lots of water and a genuine smile are all good things to take along with you. You might consider some trekking poles for the descent as it can be a bit of a knee buster! Image Be sure to stop at the East Wind Drive-In in Skamania on your way out – it’s on the Oregon side of just under the Bridge of the Gods.  The iced-cream is two feet tall! Also – Skamania is Sasquatch nation – so be prepared to site big-foot! DSC_0170 Happy Hiking! Denny, Tim & Jeff Image