Category Archives: Backpacking

Stories of Backpacking trips, or something in that general area

A rainy evening on a Glacier


Friday and Saturday, 13-May-2022 and 14-May-2022

I love the sound of rain on a tent. It’s calm, quiet, and is the absolutely perfect backdrop to just letting my mind wander.

This last weekend, I had a little bit more time to let that mind wander than usual, thanks to a series of… unique… events with my trip. But lets not get ahead of ourselves – instead of starting in the deep middle, let’s start in the middle-middle.

The scene:
It’s pouring rain. It’s cold, low 40s, but I’m still sweating from the exertion.
My legs are tired, they’re kinda cramping, and I have a slight headache.
I’m not particularly happy, I’m frustrated, and more than a little cranky that everything seems to be so difficult.

I stop to take a break, going to lean onto my hiking poles… and they slip off the packed snow, onto the fluffier snow to the side of the trail.

I faceplant as they collapse underneath me, down into the 5ft deep snowpack. If I may brag, I’m pretty sure the string of curses that I muttered into the snow was as unique as it was curdling.

But as I levered myself up, from under the weight of my full winter pack, I reminded myself that I’m still happy to be outside. This is still better than having a broken leg, or being at work… and regardless of how frustrating it can be, I’m still feeling, which is kind of the whole point of life in the first place.

To quote a song I’ve been listening to, “This life is a ride, not a fight”.

So I rode. One step in front of the other, forward into the rain.

The day had started frustratingly, when a doctors office cancelled my appointment when I was a few minutes late… after they’d made me wait 30min the last time I was there.

Then, the rain. The weather had predicted snow, but… well, rain is precipitation too, right? Just… worse. In pretty much every way for backpacking.

The hike, as mentioned, wasn’t particularly fun… but was still at least outside and in the woods, you know?

Then, when I finished setting up my tent (and after realizing that most of my gear was wet…) I made the really fun discovery – I’d brought the wrong campstove. See, I have a few stoves for various purposes… I’d brought the fuel for my whisperlight, which is a bottle of white gas, and had accidentally brought my canister-fuel stove to go with it.

The two do not work together.

I stood back and took stock.
I had snacks – I never eat all my snacks, so I knew that they were effectively extra calories.
I had wet gear – but I’d planned on that possibility, and had more than enough contingencies to keep myself more than warm enough.
I had a tent set up – Shelter is important, in every situation.
It was 7:30 – Sunset was in an hour.

I nestled into my sleeping bag, and started snacking.

That night, I let my mind wander. I had the whole evening ahead of me, I was snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag, and I had a good book to read. I had snacks, a wine-skin, and I had the beautiful melody of rain on a tent.

It was a bright evening, with a nearly full moon illuminating my tent through the rain, so I didn’t even bother with a headlamp… the little bit of light from my kindle was more than enough to read by.

But I mostly just thought, letting my mind wander. It was exactly what I needed.

The next morning dawned bright and… wait no, it was misty and raining still.

But you know what? That’s fine. I’d gotten the evening that I needed – no distractions, no electronics (kindle’s don’t count), and no beeping buzzing alarming desperate-for-attention cell phones or video games. Just the patter of rain, the silver moonlight, and a warm Ben.

I had my breakfast snacks, armored myself in my still-wet rain gear, and packed up my gear. Took a little walk around to warm up, and then headed back down the glacier to my car, and the promise of a hot meal…

No offence to protein bars and brownie bites, but… I was looking forward to a hot meal and a cup of coffee.

P.S. – For those adventurers, or just curious kittens, who may wonder how I manage to stay warm with wet backpacking gear, in high 30s temperatures…
– Synthetic sleeping bag. It’s a big heavier than down, and bulkier, but it stays warm when wet.
– Emergency bivy sack. It’s basically just a heat-reflective blanket, but put it around the sleeping bag and it limits any more water getting in, and adds quite a bit of warmth.
– A dry set of synthetic clothes. First thing I did when getting into the tent – change out of damp / sweaty clothes and into warm dry ones.
– Chemical warmers. I never used these in New England… but I bought a whole box of them for a trip to Scotland, and never used them… so I’ve started packing them in. And ohh man are they lovely.

And, for anyone curious what sort of graffiti we get in the woods of the Pacific Northwest… or what the general opinion of the police in Oregon is, here’s a beautifully simple opinion piece, penned by a traveler of the same area I was in.

2021 – A retrospective


2021. The whole thing.

I started this post out by just creating a list of all the adventures that I went on in 2021. But… I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t particularly interesting – While it was informative, it was pretty dry, and the list didn’t really capture the feeling of the year.

Instead, I think I’ll just post my favorite pictures, along with a quick summary of the sort of the major adventures of the year:

  • The winter brought lots of backpacking and snow hiking – It’s still strange to me how much I’ve grown to know Oregon in the last year and a half… or, more accurately, how little of Oregon I really met in the preceding four years.
  • I visited friends in Sacramento in the spring; had amazing catch-up time, and saw some stunning views of Lake Tahoe
  • In the late spring, I visited one of the most photographed lakes in the Pacific North West – Colchuck Lake! I even summitted Asgard’s Pass with a friend… though the blood-price for that trip was steep. I injured my knee again, which put me out of hiking condition for nearly two months afterward.
  • The summer saw the death of my Grandmother, a blow to the entire family that we’ll never truly move on from. I was brought unexpectedly face-to-face with just how much of my personality came from her. Her passing brought an unexpected gift, though, in the form of nearly two weeks visiting family and friends back in New England.
  • The early fall brought my first dedicated rock climbing trip in quite some time – along with summitting what is probably the most iconic climbing route I’ve ever done. Devil’s Tower, in the bag!
  • The late fall brought friendship and comradery in amounts I haven’t seen in years. A backpacking trip with friends, and a huge event in my friend group – My friend Dillon’s bachelor party, and my role as best man in his wedding!
  • The winter is still coming in to Oregon, but the end of 2021 brought the return of beautifully snowy conditions up on Mt. Hood, and a reminder of just how glorious the Oregon Coast really can be…

**As always, if anyone would like a copy of any of these photos, please let me know. I have many of them already printed, but can always re-print anything that anyone would like.

Backpacking to Green Lakes – Visiting the Sisters!


Friday and Saturday, 22-Oct-2021 and 23-Oct-2021

Friday, 22-Oct-2021

It all started with an epic odyssey in search of coffee and breakfast.

I swear, that wasn’t the plan.

The plan was simple – get going early, pick up coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and stuff some coffee packets into my backpack before getting to the trailhead before 11.

But as we all know, simple isn’t always viable, and sometimes the world wants me to take an epic odyssey all over Bend, searching for a Starbucks that’s actually freaking open.

Yeah, so everyone’s heard of the whole “labor shortage” thing, right? And, I hope, the counter stories about workers applying to dozens of “desperately needed” jobs, only to get a single half-hearted interview?

Well, without passing judgement on which new story is lying, I can say that the Starbucks in Bend are annoying me, and that they’re understaffed… to say the least.

I stopped at four Starbucks before I finally found on that was open… and even then, they didn’t have what I was looking for “due to supply shortages”

Seriously. I didn’t make it to the trailhead ’till almost 1:00!

But you know what?

That’s fine. It’s all fine – I’m not in a rush; the trail to Green Lakes is only 5 or 7 miles each way (I think it’s officially 4.55miles to the lakes area, with a few more spent trying to find a campsite), and I still had quite a bit of daylight left. My bag was packed, I was ready to go, and the trail was waiting for me.

Adequately caffeinated, I started into the woods.

It’s… interesting. Green Lakes was one of those hikes that Sarah and I did regularly when we were still a semi-happy young couple. But I couldn’t tell you the last time I’d been out there… and frankly, I don’t know why we stopped going. It had been a tradition, for a little while, but… as with everything it seemed to have withered and died on the vine.

Going in by myself was interesting, with that context in mind. I enjoyed the familiar views, and appreciated seeing them with new eyes. I took photos, I reflected, and I continued walking until it was time to stop.

In the evening, I set up camp before heading out to explore the large Moraine flowing to the South of South Sister – It’s a very interesting geological feature, full of neat pumice stones and obsidian chunks. I watched the sunset, and appreciated the quiet and solitude of the wilderness.

Dinner was had, my book was read, and sleep came easily.

Saturday, 23-Oct-2021

Saturday dawned bright and cold – my absolute favorite was for a dawn to break.

Instead of cooking breakfast at camp, I was feeling exploratory… so I bundled up the breakfast bits and headed out toward Green Lake itself, aiming to cook up some oatmeal and jerky. With, of course, my hard-earned coffee!

Of interesting note – I got to watch various Instagrammers doing their product-placement photoshoots while I cooked and ate… One lady and her dog posed with beef jerky sticks, while another did handstands in exceptionally well-fitted yoga pants, while her fried photographed the hand lotion balanced on her feet… before saying that they should have brought their sponsored trash bags too.

It was interesting. I’m not hugely against it, mind you, but it’s definitely interesting.

After enjoying a lovely slow breakfast, I re-packed the gear, and took a walk. I’d been to Green Lakes, as I mentioned, but I hadn’t even gone past the Northern border of the camping area… There was no rush to the day, and my legs were feeling good, so I set my sights on a far-off ridgeline, and started walking.

The trail was beautiful, and I’m absolutely thankful that I took the time to explore – Green Lakes has excellent views, but the views of Broken Top from the ridgeline were unique, and the light was just,.. *muah*

After returning to camp, I could have packed up… but again, I wasn’t really in any rush for the day. I wanted to get back to the car before sunset, but… it’s all downhill, man. And I don’t walk too slowly anymore, so I felt confident enough tat I took it easy.

I stretched out in the sun, opened my book, and spent some time trying to understand the book that I’d brought with me… no easy task, since it’s a full-on psychotherapy dialogue, rooted in lessons earned during the authors time in concentration camps during the Holocaust. But worthwhile things take effort, and I feel positive about what I learned in that sun-dappled spot, in the middle of Oregon, surrounded by the peace and quiet of the mountains.

The hike out went even better than I could have hoped. I arrived back at the car with nearly an hour of sunlight left… which gave me easily enough time to quietly pack the car, take a few extra photos… and more importantly, even granted me the chance to revisit a favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in Bend (El Rodeo) that I hadn’t been to since the last time I’d hiked in the area.

A great trip, and a much appreciated chance to overwrite some negative memories with more positive ones… while also doing some significant introspection on that exact subject.