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


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


When in Rome…

I’ve REALLY decided to embrace this whole ski thing again. Way back when I was in High School, I had a few friends who liked to ski that introduced me to the mountains on a couple of pieces of wood. The skis that were passed along tom me were about 6’6″ long and weighed quite a few pounds. Olin Mark I’s.  We would all pile into a vehicle after school and drive the 20 minutes to Mt Wachusett arriving by 3:30. It was a mere $10.00 to ski from 4PM-10PM daily. So, we did. The mountain was small with just a few lifts. We would ski down as fast as we could and get right back on the summit lift. After graduating from High School, I had only skied a couple more times before stopping. There was no rhyme or reason to my stopping, I just did. The last time I was on skis I was probably 27 years old.

So, here I am at 40, still in great shape from personal training, yoga, eating well, hiking and backpacking, rediscovering my ski legs. I have to say, it’s been a very short few weeks, but so much fun.  I am working with a bunch of people who also love to be on the slopes, so getting out there is easy and supported. The clothing that I have now is so much less bulky but so much more warm, which also makes it easier to embrace the chilly days.

Along with my season ski pass to Mt Hood Meadows, I’ve also booked three separate ski mini-getaways. I am overdue to visit my family in New England, so I decided that an end of January visit with a flight on Southwest (bags fly free), is just what I needed.  I actually got a round trip ticket for UNDER $200.00. I can’t even believe that, but I embrace it with a big ‘ole thank you to the travel goddess.

I also booked a quick get-away to Whitefish, MT. I will be heading out there next week. Montana is a BIG checkbox on my shortening list of states that I have yet to visit (Montana, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska). I am going on a solo ski adventure to Whitefish Mountain. I will be taking the overnight train on Amtrak which picks me up 2 miles from my house and drops me off in downtown Whitefish. There is a free shuttle bus in Whitefish that takes folk from the town to the mountain, so I will ski all day upon arrival the next morning. I found a $40 hostel with great ratings for one night (Whitefish Hostel). I will get up early the next morning, take the free bus back to the mountain to ski again for the day, then the free bus back to town to get on the overnight train to Portland. Whole trip – $225.00!  Yes Please!

Finally, it’s my good buddy’s big 40 this year, and he wanted an adventure. So he invited a bunch of folk up to go to Whistler in BC. Everyone I mention this to gets excited for me. I’m really looking forward to this in March. I may also go down to check out Mt Bachelor this season as well. Hey, when in Rome!

All in all – it’s going to be a great ski adventure year. I am looking forward to the many places of discovery yet to come and the many folk along the way that I know will make it amazing.

Do not spend time waiting for the world to catch up to your adventures. Instead, go on adventures and meet the world along the way!



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.


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


PCT Hike – Day 16

PCT Crater to Hood

Crater Lake to Mt Hood

Today is the Equinox! I am about to begin my last long day trek. It will put me in Timberline range on Mt Hood. All my gadgets batteries are dead and my pen is almost out of ink!  So, no pictures today except for the mental ones I get to take, unless I can find a sunny spot to get my phone a little charge.

It has been a never ending UP heading towards Mt Hood. My feet aren’t as unhappy as they have been when I go down, but I’m definitely working hard on the climb. I’m hoping for a water and camping spot soon. According to my maps, there should be one not far from here. I actually think I can hear the trickle of a stream not far away. Off I go.

Just as predicted, WATER and a wonderful last night camp spot in the middle of the woods on the side of Mt. Hood. I am just three miles away from Timberline Lodge where I will be going in the morning.

Crater to Hood

Crater Lake to Mt Hood

This has been quite the adventure. I was hoping for silence. I got some, but I got a lot of internal arguments as well. Still a lot of processing going on and I can see how making a longer trip would be more conducive to silence. I still am glad I did this alone.

I am dirty. I really hope I can shower at Timberline tomorrow. That would be the sweetest thing ever.

I made my last trail dinner – Lentil Soup and Trail Bread. The asshole birds showed up and were diving at my bread trying to take it away. I went maniacal on them waving my trekking poles at their darting attempts while yelling obscenities at their existence. I’m sure the scene was epic from an outsider’s perspective. They didn’t stay around long (thankfully), so I was able to eat without them swarming around my head.

The creek in the gully is gushing and the sun is setting. I have been out of “communication” for two days (since Warm Springs). I hope I can charge my phone at Timberline. Mom isn’t one to worry or panic, but it would be nice to check in. I am grateful I was able to send out the “battery dying” notice to Mom and Tim, otherwise I might have had a search and rescue team tracking me down.

I am very grateful I have been able to experience this adventure. It has been amazing and difficult. Not a boot happy experience, that’s for sure. My feet dictated most of my internal conversations for the past 5 days. Conversations which were needed I guess.

I am looking forward to the winter. Time to change things up a bit. I will have a lot more free time than I did last year and I am hoping to grow my client base during the slow work and winter hiking months. I am also looking forward to seeing my cats (meow).

I keep randomly catching myself doing things and wondering if it is “okay” to do, like hanging my handkerchief by my tent door. Is it okay to put here? We are so conditioned to making sure that what we are doing does not effect anyone else in a negative way. It’s kind of annoying. I mean really, who the hell is going to say “no” out here? My other me? Am I waiting for my own self-approval to know that it’s okay to do things? Well, go do things. You’re approved.

Oh! I found a surprise piece of dark chocolate at the bottom of the bear vault – SCORE!

Thank you Didi for the amazing kale chips, the cookie and the full flask of 14 yr old scotch – what a divinity!

Theme songs from the trek (the songs I found in my head on endless repeat), and I have no idea why: Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark (okay, I had just seen this before I left, so that’s probably why), Thriller – Michael Jackson, Malaguena from the Madison Scouts 1989 (5 beats for the 2 steps and three trek pole hits), and She Bangs – Ricky Martin (not sure why this one came up, but thinking it may be because he says “Gemini” in it).

I went from falling asleep while I wait to go to sleep, to wide awake while I should be sound asleep. The stars are out and it’s quite silent in here.

I have a light UP day tomorrow morning. The final approach to my destination.

Peace & Happy Trekking,



PCT Hike – Day 14

PCT Day 14Morning Journal Entry:
It feels longer than 13 days on trail. I’ve become quite accustomed to trail living. There are a lot of noises in the woods this morning, in the water and on the land around the water. The abundance of animal life here is thick. I can hear coyotes calling each other not far away.

Mt Hood

The small amount of drizzle that happened yesterday has pretty much cleared out. There is no destination in today’s hike, it’s just a “one foot in front of the other” day until I stop. With my cranky feet, I imagine I will be hiking nice and slow. Mt Hood gets closer by the step.

Evening Journal Entry:

I am very grateful for those who have walked this path before me. Every time I see one of the PCT Trail signs I smile and tap it with my trekking pole. A sign of hello and thanks for the consistency, the comfort and feeling of home.

Pack & Crest16 mile day today. Right in the average of this trip. I am camping at Warm Springs, though quite truthfully, there is nothing warm about the water in the creek. Brrrr!  It is a beautiful spring with a foot bridge. I have met up with two guys from Portland (Kevin & Seth) who are hiking around Timothy Lake. They are camping on the other side of the creek from me. I shared fire with them this evening and gave them my Dark Chocolate Cheesecake as I had just had one two nights before in Jefferson Park.

Warm SpringsI filtered water, washed my socks and soaked my feet in the icy river while I made a conversation with the guys. They started backpacking and trekking together a handful of years ago. They’ve known each other since they were kids. It’s pretty cool.

Warm Springs River

I will be in Portland in just a few more days. I am ready to be home. Not only am I excited to start checking off my check-lists, but my feet and boots are in a constant argument now and I’ve been contemplating hiking in my flip-flops. I’m actually hiking with my right pinky toe up on top of the piggy that didn’t have roast beef just so the first four toes can fit into my boot from side to side. It is not the most pleasant experience, but it sure beats the beating my toes get from trying to cram them in. I had purchased these boots a size too big to begin with, and have hiked in them for over a year. My feet have swollen so much that now they feel two sizes too small. Saturday I will have a 14 mile day, Sunday 17 and Monday 5. The good news (and there is always good news) is that I believe most of the next three days will be an elevation gain heading towards Mt Hood. My feet will be much happier as they will not be going down so much. I can do this.


I had ratatouille for dinner. It was quite yummy. I ate a lot today: Mango, trail mix, fruit leather, granola bars, pumpkin seeds, diner and breakfast. I’m quite hungry, I don’t think my body has the fat reserves to pull from anymore so now I have to eat to feed it. The food was all good though, and the more I eat, the lighter my pack gets. The lighter my pack gets, the happier my feet will be. Lessons learned. It’s all good stuff.

mm 2058-2074, 16 miles

Happy Trekking,


Camp Spot Warm Springs