Category Archives: Backpacking

Stories of Backpacking trips, or something in that general area

One does not simply walk into Mordor… 17&18-Sept-2021, walking through Mordor

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Friday and Saturday, 17-Sept-2021 and 18-Sept-2021


“One does not simply walk into Mordor”, Boromir said to the council.

“The Lord of Gondor speaks truly”, said Ben, “But one can walk through it, if one is quick and keeps their wits about them”

“Ohh.”, Boromir responded.



I’m not saying that’s 100% how it happened… but that’s probably exactly how it happened.

How what happened? Ohh, how Laurel and I walked through Mordor, of course!



We’d spent the week checking the weather and debating different hikes to try. Originally we’d planned on spending three days hiking into Green Lakes, in the Sisters Wilderness, before we’d realized that permits stopped being required the next month, and not that month. Then, we looked at a few hikes in Washington… but they had rain all weekend long.

The weather out in the Pacific Northwest is fickle though, so we kept our wits about us and kept checking the forecast, ’till we finally found a spot with available permits and a clear-ish weather window: the Western edge of the Sisters Wilderness, across the ridgeline from our original goal!


We cut the trip down to two days, thanks to the rain, but aside from that we kept the plan similar – meet up early on Friday (I’d have pancakes ready and waiting, of course), and then hike into camp before sundown on Friday. Then enjoy the sound of rain on the tent Saturday morning, before hiking out as the rain started in earnest.



The plan went as… well, as planned. Chocolate Chip pancakes with Bacon, some coffee, and a relatively normal 3hr drive brought us to the trailhead. Good conversations were had both in the car and on the path, though the trail did put a bit of a damper on conversation as we got into the burnt area of the wilderness.

Did I mention that part? The online trail description mentioned that there were a few miles in the middle that had been part of a wildfire, but… as can be expected, the trail description didn’t quite convey just how burnt this was. We’re not talking “lightly singed” trees, here. We’re talking scorched earth, blackened deadwood. The forest had been regrowing over the past two years, of course, but it was still noticeably dusty and devastated… a fact which added quite a bit of solemnity to the hike.

We persevered, though.



Walking through the burn was a good meditation aid, but I’ll freely admit that I was quite thankful to get through and back to living forests. Both Laurel and I had a rough time of it; burning through our water much more quickly than expected, between us and making sure Biscuit had enough to drink… the sun was warm, and the trail was dusty, and the views seemed to sap our energy as we continued through…



Until, finally, we came through Mordor to the other side… our destination, Husband Lake



It’s interesting – I’ve hiked in the Sisters Wilderness many times before, but I’d never heard of a mountain called “The Husband” before. It’s nestled to the West of the main Three Sisters, in a parallel valley to the Green Lakes valley. There’s a series of small lakes, and the PCT even goes through the valley a little ways to the East.

It’s beautiful, barely travelled, and… I don’t quite get why it’s not as popular. As you can see, dear reader, we may have gotten some stellar views as we unpacked, set up camp, and the sun dipped down toward the horizon.


Laurel, being the MVP that she is, had insisted on carrying my inflatable kayak. We’re heading to a lake, so clearly we needed to be able to paddle it, right? Right.

I’ve used the kayak quite a few times before, but this was my first time using it on a proper backpacking trip… and let me tell you, it was absolutely amazing. Quietly sitting on the lake as the sun sent light scattering through the clouds and smoke? Gorgeous.

Laurel set up the tent while I paddled, then she paddled off while I filtered the water and started prepping dinner… it was gloriously chill, and an amazing post-hike start to the evening.

The only one unhappy with the situation was Biscuit, I’m sorry to report. He was definitely not a fan of the humans splashing into the distance where he couldn’t check on them, and so stayed as close to the kayak as he could on the shore… after swimming for a while, of course. But it was cold, and he’s a svelt pup, so we quickly dried him off and bundled the poor dear up while we cooked dinner, drank wine, and chatted on into the night…



The next morning dawned exactly as we’d expected – to the pittering sound of rain on the tent.


There’s something gloriously relaxing about waking up on a cool morning in the rain. It wasn’t quite cold, thanks to having three people in the tent… well, two people and one dog… and the sound of the rain was just inconsistent enough that it was both soothing and interesting at the same time.

I lay, drifting in and out of sleep, for quite a while… It was lovely, and absolutely what I’d been hoping for when we talked about going backpacking. But, after a little bit, I started to feel restless… and found myself outside, braving the rain to do a bit of exploring and to make a bite of breakfast.


We’d packed coffee, instant eggs, cheese, and some tortillas… nothing too fancy, mind, but enough that it was lovely and fun, and just enough work to assemble that we had something to do in the warm dryness of the tent. I’d been tempted to just push through the rain, but Laurel insisted on waiting for a bit… I wasn’t convinced that the rain would hold off, but hanging out in the tent was fun, and she’d put up with me pushing us onward the day before… so turnabout is fair play, and we spent an hour or two just relaxing and chatting in the warm dry spot in the storm.



She was right, it turned out. The rain slowed, then stopped completely.


We headed out into the world, packed up, and got ourselves underway back toward the truck. The hike out was long, and definitely wet, but also beautiful. It was easier to chat, since the trail wasn’t quite so dusty, and the fine mist helped keep us cool… cool enough that we didn’t really want to slow down much, as we made our way down the trail.

It was lovely – a major shift in climate from the day before, but an excellent ending to an excellent hike.

Specific details:

Trail map: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/oregon/foley-ridge-trail
Foley Ridge trailhead permit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recreation/recarea/?recid=4435&actid=104

Distance (Expected) = 14.6 miles, plus 1mile to the lake
Distance (measured on FitBit) = 22+ miles

Elevation (expected) = 2,368 ft
Elevation (measured on Fitbit) = 2,520 ft

A triumphant return to Elk Meadows!

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Friday and Saturday, 06 & 07-August, 2021


Seriously. Elk Meadows, man.

So good.

You don’t even know. Anytime I need to escape the city, but don’t quite have the energy to do some big backpacking trip?

Elk.
Meadows.


That’s what I did, the first weekend of August. If that part wasn’t obvious. Woke up, had a relaxing day, and then tossed my gear in the car to cruise up the highway and over to Mt. Hood.

The drive was exactly like it always is – traffic and chaos until I finally leave the city behind… then a few towns, one specific intersection where someone always tries to cut into traffic by screaming and ramming the person in front of them, and then some clear highway until I can start seeing the mountain.

The clouds stayed around for most of the drive out, but I wasn’t particularly worried – I’ve done this drive often enough to know that the clouds like the morning… one of the really cool things about Mt. Hood is that it’s tall enough to actually slice through a lot of the clouds coming in from the coast – which means that the Eastern aspect is usually cloud-free, or just has some interesting cloud formations left over by the evening.

You know… the aspect with Elk Meadows on it?

Yup. Keeps coming back, doesn’t it?




Anyways. It was great. A few cool things happened, too!

But before I dive into those… Enjoy a video of a literally babbling brook that I ran across!



I saved a teenager’s life! Or… well, he said that I “literally saved his life”, but I was a teenage boy, and I’m pretty sure he’s still learning what literally means. Or maybe not – what happened was that, as I was hiking in, I passed a group. Then, about 2min later, I saw a brand-new iPhone sitting on the side of the trail by a nice sitting log… The story was pretty clear, in my mind, so I quickly dropped my pack and started jogging back up the trail to try and catch up with the group I’d just passed.

My hunch was right, once I caught up with them – and I earned the aforementioned accolade of life-saving.

However, one downside was that I got overtaken by another group of backpackers… I was worried that it’d mean that I’d lose out on my favorite campsite, but… lo and behold, when I got there the site was still happy and open for me to flop down and stretch out. Yay, Karma!



The other cool thing was that I met the second Kirby of my life! Strange thing, I know, but… you know, it was just interesting enough that I feel like it’s worth noting. I’d never met anyone named Kirby before, so… kinda neat.

After setting up camp, there was still quite a bit of daylight left. I headed out for a bit of a pre-dinner walk, and ran into the team that had passed me on the trail while I was returning the phone. I told them the story, we laughed, chatted, and I played fetch with their dog for a few minutes. Nothing major, just… nice, you know?



Ohh! And a third thing happened! I’d lent my tent to my friend Laurel a week or five previously, and this was the first time I’d taken it out since getting it back from her. She hid a tiny hand in it. Hah!



Anyways. The rest of the trip went absolutely beautifully. Relaxed, chill, and pleasant.

I like this meadow.

LATE EDIT:

I just remembered! On the drive home, I got to meet a thru-hiker! Or… mostly thru? He was an older gentleman, coming up from the Oregon / California border with his pet chihuahua, looking for a ride over to Government Camp.

Yes, you read that right. A tiny one-pound dog, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

It was amazing.


Added 04-Sept-2021

Backpacking the Twin Lakes of Mount Hood

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Friday and Saturday, 16 & 17-Apr-2021


This was an interesting adventure.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to go backpacking… not quite sure why, but this weekend just felt right, you know? It felt like it was time for me to get back into the wild, and to really enjoy the snow while it was still around.

Originally I’d planned on backpacking out to Mirror Lake – I’ve hiked that trail quite a few times, and I’ve always been intrigued by the small campsite right above the lake… It’s on the main trail, but off to the side just enough to be almost secluded… and nicely tamped out into a pretty solid little campsite.

But walking into work on Monday, I found a fortune cookie script on the ground. It said “Take the path less traveled, and you will be rewarded”. It’s not often that I’m given a sign from above, but… Well, the night before I’d read that Mirror Lake is one of the most popular trails in Oregon. And a fortune telling me not to take the path well traveled kind of gives a clear message, doesn’t it?

My plans pivotted.

A few coworkers had told me about Twin Lakes – I’d never heard of it before, but it was supposedly quite a nice hike. And looking into it a bit further, it also wasn’t particularly well traveled in the winter… which seemed like a rather fortuitous circumstance, considering the previously-mentioned fortune…



I changed my plans, packed my bags, and stuffed things into the car on Friday morning. Soon enough I was cruising down the highway, out of the budding spring and into the cool snowy fortress of winter…

Almost immediately after starting into the trail – after being quite happy with the near complete lack of other cars in the parking lot – I found my first good sign – a very pretty little yellow rock. Painted, and left by the trailhead.

Pretty quickly, I found my second good sign – someone had dropped a little spinner; a little plastic toy that you twirled, and it would make interesting shapes while sparkling in the sun.


The rest of the hike to the campsite went beautifully – I walked, I enjoyed the sun, and I appreciated the bright light filtering through the trees. The snow was surprisingly dirty, but not too bad to walk on… definitely just one more sign that spring has fully sprung, and that summer is just around the corner.

I’m really glad that I was able to get out and enjoy the snow again before the weather steams it all away – even with the light snow levels and strews leaves it’s gorgeous. And the smell of the snow was still beautifully in the air, following me around on the cool breezes that ruffled my shirt every once in a while.