Category Archives: Backpacking

Stories of Backpacking trips, or something in that general area

Backpacking to Peggy’s Pond, and summitting Mt. Daniel, 17-19-Aug-2019

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Saturday, Sunday and Monday – 17, 18, and 19-Aug-2019

Summiting Mt. Daniel in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington!

Vital Statistics:

Duration: 3 days, 2 nights

Distance: 17.59 miles, as the GPS records

Elevation: 5,800 ft total

Elevation, Saturday: 2,000 ft

Elevation, Sunday: 3,800 ft

Elevation, Monday: -2,000 ft

Campsite: Peggy’s Pond

Backpack weight: ~38lbs

Four years ago, roughly, Sarah and I started dating.

It was on a weekend adventure, sitting in a room in Hood River, and we discussed what we each wanted from our relationship, what we wanted in general, and whether we wanted to pursue those things together. We’ve had a lot of adventures since then, but that day was the start of it all, and the 15th of August is enshrined in both our calendars forever more because of it.

Our last adventure was a simple and easy hike on Mt. Hood… but for a 4-year anniversary (which is, notably, the longest relationship either of us have been in) we needed something bigger. The last post talked about epic adventures not always being necessary, but in this case an epic trip was definitely called for.

We needed a summit.

We needed beauty, crystal clear water, crisp air, and stunning views.

We needed Mt. Daniel, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, in central Washington State.

So we drove.

Just us, incidentally – While Ollie is an amazing hiking dog, the path out to Mt. Daniel is fairly steep, and extremely rocky… not good terrain for a pup, no matter how rough and tumble she is. Tumbling isn’t allowed on steep terrain. So off to camp she went, for a chance to work on her socialization and playing well with other dogs.

Saturday

As mentioned, we drove.

We drove with bellies full of delicious breakfast sandwiches, and a huge thermos of coffee keeping us going. We took shifts on the way out, even – I drove for a while as Sarah napped, then I napped while she drove. It worked perfectly – the drive went quickly, and we arrived at the trailhead refreshed and ready to head in.

Quick note – holy crap the trailhead was packed. We’re talking overflow parking for nearly a mile down the road. Thankfully, our drive from Portland is a lot longer than the Seattle crowd’s drive, so by the time we arrived a few folks must have left already, and we found a parking spot right near the trailhead. Win!

The hike in was pretty clean, if rather impressively long and tiring. We hiked, we rested, we snacked, and we hiked some more. We hydrated a bit, and trudged onward and upward. The interesting thing about the trail up to Mt. Daniel is that the views sneak up on you. They’re always there, barely vqisible through the trees, but they don’t come through slowly – instead, you just turn a corner and get a face full of Cathedral Rock, bracketed by a beautiful meadow and views of the rest of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness range.

Magestic is the best way to put it.

The amazing views heralded the most technical section of the trek into Peggy’s Pond – traversing around Cathedral Rock itself. It wasn’t far, or too tough, but it was a noticable change from the wide switchbacks of the forest. Here we scrambled, following rocky passes around and up until we finally topped out into the basin between Mt Daniel and Cathedral.

I could say that we quickly set up camp and then zipped off to scout the route up… but that wouldn’t be true. That wasn’t the goal of this hike! Instead, we set camp and relaxed; cooked a few backpacking meals for dinner, read a bit, and were in bed before 9:00.

Sunday

We got up early… But not so early that we were the first people heading up the trail. Sarah actually got up to peek out of the tent at the sunrise, but pretty quickly crawled back into her sleeping bag for a few extra bits of sleep.

Breakfast was quick and beautiful; a mountain house and some oatmeal, along with some nice coffee packets we brought along. All by the shore of the pond, watching the sun burst over the peaks around us.

Fed and caffeinated, we struck out onto the trail.

It went up.

A lot.

Sometimes there were switchbacks, but sometimes it was scrambling.

Always though, there were views. Amazing, magestic, sweeping, soaring, and awe inspiring views.

The trail up the slopes of Mt. Daniel basically follows a huge ridgeline, climbing up the Southern face from the Eastern side. The trail actually mounts the ridgeline pretty early on, though Sarah and I missed the well hidden trailhead and ended up doing a bit of exploratory scrambling to catch the ridge trail itself. That’s pretty good though, since we’re both rock climbers and are quite comfortable on semi-exposed rock… for me, at least, I’m honestly more comfortable there than the alternative option of going up a scree or talus field, so I was quite happy to do some clambering on rock.

The trail went on for, roughly, an eternity. There’s not much to say about it, honestly, aside from the fact that it went up and that we took a few breaks to drink water and eat some excellent apple / brie / prosciutto sandwiches. We kept going until we got to the top, is the real report.

The fun part of the path were the views, unsurprisingly. Unlike the day before, we had amazing views for almost the entire route up the mountain – we switched which side of the ridgeline we were looking out over a few times, but the views were amazing and somehow kept getting better as we moved upward. It was actually a bit of a problem, since we ended up hiking a bit slower than planned due to how often we were stopping to take pictures… or even just to gawk at the amazing vistas opened below us.

The summit itself was pretty low-key. We topped out, relaxed a bit, napped for 5 or 10min in the sun, and then headed back down. The only real excitement was when another team that was heading to a further peak took a small fall off one of the ridgelines – they were okay, thankfully, but it was definitely scary to see them desperately clawing their way back up to the ridge. We don’t really know what happened, but from what we could tell two of their team members got off-trail, and found themselves partway down the steep ridge slope below the trail… and then slipped enough that they triggered a small rockfall and slid a hundred yards or so down the slope.

Doubly-scary was that fact that it wasn’t just the two people who fell, but that their dog was with them and followed them down! Thankfully all the mountaineers in question, both human and canine, were merely scraped up a bit. No one needed a rescue, and everyone was able to walk out that same day under their own power.

Our descent was, thankfully, uneventful. It was definitely long, and definitely tiring, and I absolutely didn’t enjoy it… but it’s a descent. That’s kind of par for the course, you know? The descent isn’t the fun part – dreaming about dinner is the fun part! And dinner was worth dreaming about… delicious beef stroganof, hot cocoa, and relaxing by the pond were in order. And for me, I even took the chance to swim for a bit! The water of Peggy’s Pond was frigid, but amazingly fresh and enjoyable, definitely helpful in washing off the sweat, bug spray, and sunscreen of the day.

Dinner was, similar to the night before, mountain-house freeze-dried dinner with some lunch leftovers added in for flavor. Not the most exciting… but hey, after a full day of hiking and scrambling and summitting? They were pretty amazing, thankyouverymuch.

Bed came soon after, though I did enjoy the chance to read a bit of my comic book in the sunset while Sarah sketched a bit. It was a good evening.

Monday

You’d think that after two days of going to bed super early we’d wake up early.

Remember, though, that we’d just summitted a huge mountain. We were tired, man… we slept in again.

I mean, okay. We didn’t actually sleep in that late, in comparison to how late we usually sleep when we’re in Portland. We were up and moving by 8:00, if I remember right, and on the trail pretty soon after. We still did a lot of photography and sightseeing, but the trail was mostly downhill on the way home, and so we made pretty good time while taking pretty infrequent breaks.

We did see a pair of jets flying through the mountains at one point… maybe F-18s, though I honestly couldn’t tell you what they were, since they flew by so fast. It was really neat to see, but also a little disconcerting that they were flying so low, and so close to the various peaks.

There’s honestly not much to say about the hike out. It happened, we were tired, and we drank a lot of water? It’s the hike out – you don’t really want it to be eventful, you just want it to be safe, and quick. Which it was, though it did feel pretty long at the time…

Anyways, after the hike came the drive home – two parts stick out in the story.

First – the food in Roslyn. Sarah’s been to Roslyn before, when she was working on the pilot for Man in the High Castle, and so she took some time to show me around town… “town” being quite small, so the tour was basically us walking the 5 minutes from where we parked to the diner that she remembered being the best in town. It was amazing – a perfect burger with excellent pulled pork (I was hungry leave me alone) and the absolute best parmasean truffle fries you could ever imagine.

Second – the adventure home. It’s been a while since I’ve had to use my AAA membership, but thankfully I still have the number saved in my phone from all the times that they had to come and save me during drives home from the Loj, back in New Hampshire. It came in handy again, when the car lost power in central Washington on Monday evening during our drive home. Thankfully the nearest tow truck was not only a local expert, who was able to pinpoint where we were on the highway after a few quick questions, but he was also less than 20min away.

The drive home wasn’t quite what we’d expected when we left the Alpine Lakes wilderness – It wasn’t as quick as we’d aimed for, but it was a heck of a lot tastier than we could have hoped for. And hey – not only did we get home well-fed, but we still made it back to the house in time to get some good rest before work the next day.

Not a bad anniversary weekend. Not bad at all.

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.

Backpacking out to Green Lakes!

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Saturday and Sunday, 22 & 23-Sept-2018

 

BACKPACKING!

 

We went backpacking again!

 

I’m really excited about how much we’ve been camping recently – we’re taking our gear out, we’re getting mud on our boots, and we’re getting stronger and stronger each time.

 

This weekend was our annual backpacking trip to the Green Lakes Wilderness, nestled in the basin between South Sister and Broken Top. It wasn’t planned to be an annual trip the first time we went on it… but that was one of the fun things that we realized as we were walking in on Saturday – we’ve backpacked into this area every year for the last three years, every time with a different level of success.

The first year? Pouring rain, hiked out the next day in soaked gear.

Second year? Summitted Broken Top.

 

This year? Had a beautiful day, perfect weather, and amazing skies.

I mean, seriously… We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was cool, crisp, clear and beautiful. It was that perfect temperature where you can walk with a pack for hours, but barely sweat at all. It did mean we had to put on jackets when we stopped for rests and snacks… But hey. Small price to pay, right?

We drove out on Saturday. We could have driven out Friday night… But hey. We worked all week. We deserve an evening to relax, right? Right. So we took one, packed at our own pace, and had a good dinner to prepare ourselves for the adventure to come.

Saturday morning, we tossed the gear in the Mustang and drove out, southbound toward Sisters. It’s a long drive though, so we clearly needed snacks, which meant Starbucks. Side note: sausage egg and cheese sandwiches are MIA all over Oregon. Dono why, but we had the chicken sausage and bacon ones instead, which were amazing and so much better. Especially when paired with Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Because I’m a college girl who loves her some fall spice. Other side note: we nearly got eaten by the lady behind us in line. No joke. She kept walking closer and closer behind us while we’re all in line, finally ending within a foot of Sarah before asking, “are you in line?”. Ma’am. No. We’ve just been standing here, walking forward as people are served, for no reason. Ugh.

Anyways it was tasty and then we drove and parked and started hiking ohh my god why did I write so much about Starbucks?

The hike started well – a pretty packed parking place, but we were presently plodding, packs perched politely upon our backs. There were a fair number of people on the trail, even at the beginning, but that was honestly to be expected – it’s a super popular place, so we weren’t surprised by the crowds.

The people thinned out as we moseyed onward, and we really started to enjoy the solitude of each other’s company… And the crashing of Ollie running through the underbrush, of course. In all honesty, we did really well on the trail to Green Lakes! We walked quickly, talked the whole way, and had a really great time.

We did run into some… Adventure… once we got to Green Lakes itself though.

See, green lakes is popular. And we’d seen a lot of folks hiking in with packs. And, for one reason or another, the first route that we took through the campground was the single combination of paths that took us past exactly zero campgrounds. And then, when we realized that, we retraced our steps instead of continuing on toward the camp site 50 yards away. And then, once we retraced, we walked the long way around toward the far end of the campground.

No idea why we did that. Don’t know who chose those routes. No idea. All I do know was that our 4mile day turned into an 8mile day, and that I got cranky enough for Sarah to literally tell me to “shut up, stop complaining, and eat a Snickers”.

It helped. It helped so much.

And then, at the far end of the Wilderness Area, at the edge of the world, we found the ideal campsite.

I can’t even begin to describe how happy we were when we saw the site marker, and realized that it was open for us. This place was covered by huge trees, had a nice little log to sit on and make dinner, and overlooked the meadow that drained into the lake nearby. There was a small steam gurgling nearby, and the trail was far off to the side. Like I said – ideal.

After we put down our bags and set up the tent, we kept walking a bit, curious as to what was down the path. We went a ways down, and ended up meeting a pair of backpackers who were also looking for a spot… they’d checked almost all the other ones, and were on their way out of the wilderness area planning on looking for a back-country spot outside of the camping restriction zone.

Being the good samaritans we are, we offered to share our site, and ended up having camping buddies for the evening!

They were friends from San Francisco and New York City, if I remember correctly, exploring Oregon for the week. They were fine – we honestly didn’t really chat that much; we had dinner together, but then sort of went back to our own sections of the campsite to relax for the evening.

Our evening activities? Stargazing, and celebrating the equinox! Summer had passed, and Fall was in; we burned some sage, talked about how far we’d come so far this year, and slept in the beautifully crisp night.

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The next morning we got up slowly – our campmates were up and gone by the time we started packing up, heading to summit South Sister, I believe.

We didn’t have remotely such lofty goals. Instead, we relaxed. We made some breakfast and a lot of coffee, and enjoyed the quiet as the day warmed up. I had brought a book, but it honestly took me a while to get into the swing of it… instead I just dozed and wandered a little, while Sarah explored the marsh by our campsite looking for an ideal place to paint.

Once she found it, I joined her and we lazed in the sun, her painting and me reading. It was a very good day.

But unfortunately home was calling. Not loudly, mind you, but it was calling. After a while we packed up camp, and started the hike back out.

Thankfully, hiking out always seems to go quicker than hiking in, and there honestly isn’t really much to report from the walk back. It was lovely, slightly quicker thanks to us going direct instead of circuitously, but extremely lovely. Good weather, happy excited Ollie running next to us, clear skies… Yes. It was absolutely a good day.