Backpacking three corners rock

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Saturday and Sunday, 29 & 30-June-2019

 

I honestly don’t even know how long it’s been since Sarah and I went backpacking… a year?  More?

We needed to get out of town, and get into the woods.

We packed up our bags, tossed them into the car, and headed toward Mt. Hood.  Our target was a nice and easy hike that we’d both done before, but never as a backpacking trip – Elk Meadows, on the East side of Mt. Hood.  A nice approach, and hopefully some wildflowers for Sarah to paint.

 

“But Ben, the title of this post says “Three Corners Rock”, not “Elk Meadows”!” you say.

“Well hold on, because this story is about to get icy!”

 

By “Icy” I mean, “we got hailed on like the sky was selling ice pellets”.  It was bad enough that we were wondering if we should seek cover to protect the car from getting dented… way above what we were comfortable backpacking in, to say the least.

We didn’t even get out of the car, I’m almost sorry to say.  But, discretion is the better part of valor, especially when trekking into the woods, and so we decided to pack it in for greener pastures… or at least, less violently raining pastures.

 

Our new goal – Three Corners Rock, the place Ollie and I had hiked the weekend before.  It’s not technically a backpacking trip, pre-say, but I had found a really pretty meadow near the top that I figured would make a good campsite.  And, since Sarah was looking for wildflowers and good views, I couldn’t think of a better place than the top of the rock pinnacle.

After stopping into Hood River to quickly check the weather, we headed onward, to the trailhead!

 

The hike itself was pretty simple – it’d been ages since we’d backpacked together, as I mentioned, so we walked pretty slowly.  Enjoying the forest, the light, and the fact that we were finally out of the city and in nature.  We still made good time, somehow, and found ourselves at the final trail junction right as the sun was about to set.

Instead of setting up camp first, we dropped our packs near the top and hustled up to the main rock to catch the sunset – and what a sunset it was!  Last weekend was foggy and cloudy and gross, but this weekend was amazing.  Perfectly clear, we had amazing views of all four major mountains nearby – Hood, Adams, Rainier and St. Helens, all in view from the top.

 

Once the sun had set and we’d started getting cold, we packed in our books and art supplies and headed back to our packs to set up camp.  Sarah set up the tent and sleeping bags, while I cooked us up some food.  Or, more accurately, I boiled water and watched the stove, making us our evening mountain house ration and our cup of cocoa.  It was amazing.

 

The next day dawned with the usual fervor – Mostly on Ollie’s part, wondering why we were still asleep when we could instead be running around and sniffing all the things.

We had a lovely breakfast, followed by one last trip up to the top of the rock to read and paint a bit more.

The trail home was quick and simple, as going downhill usually is.  Then a jaunt in the car, some stops for wildflower meadow frolicking, and back to town to wash up and get ready for the week ahead.

Volunteering with a summer camp and Teaching people to climb again!

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Friday, 28-June-2019

It’s been so long since I’ve taught someone to climb… I think the last time was sometime back before I came to Oregon, maybe?

I forgot how fun it can be!

I even learned that the age of the new climber doesn’t matter – previously, I’d mostly taught mid-20s people the ins and outs of climbing… Today, I taught kids age 4-10 how to climb!

Or… more accurately, I just made sure they put on harnesses safely, and then belayed them as they scampered up the walls like spider monkeys, and gave out more high-fives than I’d given out the entire rest of 2019.

Let’s go back to the beginning – Sarah’s working for a summer camp this year as their resident climbing coordinator, and I came to help belay on my Friday off.

It was a more complex process than I’d expected, but it’s good to know that working with young kids not only requires the usual belay checks, but also a full background screen. Trivia fact – not a murderer, still.

It’s my Friday off, but we’re still getting going early. A quick breakfast, then off to the Mazamas Mountaineering Center to set up for the kids. Harnesses get laid out, ropes uncoiled, and crash pads are put out below the routes.

It’s incredible how different the Mazamas gear room is from the NUHOC gear locker. They’re so much better funded, and so much more climbing-focused… They have two entire rooms dedicated to rope storage – two rooms, each one bigger than my entire gear locker!

With all the glorious gear laid out, we gave belay tests to the other volunteers, and braced ourselves for the swarm of campers… The schedule was oldest to youngest, not that it really mattered though.

I belayed, gave encouragement, and high fives. At one point some kids tried blindfolded climbing, and then we evacuated after an attempt to clean the blindfold set off a fire alarm.

Trivia fact: microwaving a wet hankie for 10min can start a fire.

Second trivia fact: kids love fire fighters. We had a good time.

Aside from the fire fighters showing up, the day was pretty chill. I particularly enjoyed climbing with the youngest kids though; we had extra volunteers, so I was able to climb up to the top and provide encouraging high fives to everyone who topped out!

Hiking out to Three Corners Rock

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Saturday, 22-June-2019

I don’t want to admit to exactly how long it’s been since I went on a hike.

So I won’t. I’ll just say that, on Saturday, I went on a hike!! After scouring the various books and websites at my disposal, I found a few options for places I could go.  The goal was a fairly short hike, not too much elevation gain, dog friendly, and most importantly… not one of the standard-issue PDX hikes.

 

I’ve done a lot of the hikes in the gorge, and they’re usually fairly populated… really, anything near Portland with good views seems to get overwhelmed by mid-morning.  Finding parking after 8:00 seems to be nearly impossible, but I didn’t quite feel up for getting going that early.  My target area was the Gifford Pinchot range, a national park Northeast of Portland, that I never really hear people talking about.  I figured that it’d be far enough out that I could escape the crowds and enjoy some quiet time with Ollie.

And man, it payed off.

I parked at 10:30 or so, after having to drive the wrong way on a major interstate after the highway was shut down… without any signage, of course.  Seriously – I was on a main highway, in fully-stopped traffic, for 15min.  Finally, people started giving up, and driving the wrong direction to take an on-ramp to get off the highway.  I tried waiting… but after having my car literally turned off for 15min MORE, I gave up and turned around.

To add insult to injury, when I got off the highway every on-ramp was clearly labeled as “highway closed, no entry”.  So they could label those, but couldn’t tell the folks stuck on the road that it was closed.

I still don’t know why they closed it, FYI.  But hey – that’s the fun of driving in the Northwest, right?

 

Anyways, I got to the trailhead around 10:30, and no one was there, and it was awesome.  So I hiked, and hiked, and hiked, and had a gloriously quiet and enjoyable time.  The forest was empty and mostly-still, Ollie was having fun bounding all over the place, and there was even the tiniest bit of fog to add that ethereal air to the whole thing.

I enjoyed a ton of foxglove (also known as dead-man’s bells, I learned, since they’re poisonous) blooms, and got some gorgeous light through the trees for the parts of the hike that didn’t have the beautiful fog clinging to the trees.

That’s even before the summit.  The views off the summit were… well, it was foggy.  Supposedly they were amazing, and I could have seen all four cascade volcanoes, but you know what?  Quiet and foggy was completely okay with me.  I was looking for quiet, and I absolutely found it.