Category Archives: Hiking

Stories about simple dayhikes that I’ve been on

Hiking the Top Spur trail to some amazing views of Hood

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Saturday, 18-July-2020

 

After climbing at French’s, we were tired.

 

But, Bri is a somehow near limitless font of energy when it comes to climbing and hiking, and insisted that we do a quick trek to see a viewpoint nearby.

Man, do you think I’d say no to an extra viewpoint, just because I’m tired? Heck no!

 

We put away the climbing gear, put the top down on the car, and drove.

The poor Mustang didn’t know what it was in for – if I thought the roads in Northern California were rough, this road showed me what the Mustang could really do. Ditches, rocks… heck, man, the Dawn worked its way around every single one.

 

(Ed Note: If you don’t remember, Ben’s Mustang is named the “Forward Unto Dawn”, since it came to him at a fairly major turning point in life, transitioning from a really rough time into a really great time)

 

We made it to the trailhead after much careful piloting, and were even able to find a parking spot right near the signpost – there were cars for nearly half a mile down the road in each direction, but thankfully it was late enough in the day that the lot was thinning out pretty impressively. We parked, refilled our water, and headed in.

The hike itself was pretty mellow, and the enjoyment was primarily from the conversation, and just being out in the woods. It was lovely, and I enjoyed every minute of being shown a new trail to explore. Bri led the way, and I was perfectly happy to just tag along and explore a new place.

 

When the view arrived, I wasn’t expecting it. It was absolutely one of those “la la la trail trail BOOM AMAZING VIEW” situations. Out of nowhere – full view of McNeil Point, and the summit block of Mt. Hood. It was glorious, and I absolutely understood the popularity of the trail in that single view.

It was a good hike, to say the least.

 

 

After the hike, I drove home and saw a funny sign at the gas station.

Then I made dinner.  I didn’t make a healthy dinner.  But it was a tasty dinner!

Backpacking out to Big Blue Lake with Mike

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Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  10, 11 & 12-July-2020

 

My Birthday weekend!

 

Friday

I… in all transparency, kind of forgot that fact right until the last minute. It’s a bit weird, since this is the first year that’s really happened as far as I can remember. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? COVID, life changes, moving to a new town, a new apartment? The world is spinning, especially quickly this year. What’s one more birthday in light of that?

Well, it’s my birthday, for one. And thankfully, I have excellent friends and family who didn’t let me forget it, even if I almost did myself 🙂

Mike and I met up in Yreka again, this time going a bit further inland than we’d gone last time. I’d hiked this trail before, but it was back in… ohh, 2015, I think? It was a long time ago, and I’d wanted to re-try the loop again.

So we met up, got some food, and drove in to the trailhead – a surprisingly long ride versus what I remembered, but the Mustang is a glorious champion, undaunted by the roughest roads or dustiest trails. Up we ground, throwing billowing clouds of dust behind us from the high California dirt.

It was beautiful. Seriously beautiful. Easily worth the drive.

We got to the trailhead later than we’d planned, but thankfully we weren’t particularly surprised or concerned – we had a fair number of possible plans in our head, and so we set up camp in the daylight, and got the chance to rest and relax by Taylor Lake – chatting and enjoying our dinner of Subway sandwiches. Maybe not the most standard backpacking meal, but you know what? There’s not much that beats a double sub – 6” meatball, 6” steak and cheese, with hot peppers across the board. After that, I was ready for the hike the next day.

Ohh! I saw a mushroom car on the drive down! It was cool. Check out the pictures.

 

Saturday

Saturday dawned beautifully. I seriously spent way too long taking pictures of the flowers by our tents, with the sun rising above them… I’m tempted to post every single picture, since they all came out so gloriously well.

It was a good morning.

We ate some breakfast, had some coffee, packed up our gear and headed out. No rush, no stress, but also no lazyness and a lot of positive energy. It was a good start to the day, and we were really good about keeping that energy going as we kept hiking along the ridgeline. We cruised onward really well, making our way to Hogan Lake a bit earlier than we’d expected.

After looking at the approach to Big Blue, we made the executive decision. Even though we’d made really good time, the approach was pretty clearly a heck of an ascent. We weren’t quite feeling up for carrying the full packs up that talus field, so we dropped our actual camping gear, cinched down the packs, and headed upward.

(Ed Note: “Talus” is a term for large rocks. Not quite boulders, but not gravel either. “Scree” is similar to the gravel used on roads, whereas “Talus” is more like 2′ diameter rocks… give or take)

It was not easy going.

At all.

We’d made good time earlier – averaging maybe 2mph. Not speedy, by any means, but for two guys just getting back into backpacking? Pretty good, thank you.

On the talus? We made maybe 0.5mph. Remember too – this is not a marked trail. After Hogan Lake, we were on our own. There were a few Cairns, yes, but they were far between, and often not quite where one would expect to find them.

It seriously took us nearly two hours to get up to Big Blue. And let me tell you, we were not energetic when we made that summit. We were pretty toasted – but thankfully we had a glorious Alpine Lake to greet us – cold water, open areas, a nice breeze… it was exactly what we needed.

We dropped packs, relaxed, and even made a quick lunch for ourselves. We didn’t rush, and just simply rested and enjoyed the views.

After a rousing rock-skipping challenge, we put on our brave faces and headed back down. Again, not super quick going… but we did make slightly better time than we did on the way up. Turns out – gravity does help.

We were debating heading all the way back to Taylor, but as we got closer to Hogan Lake, and it came time to bushwack the last quarter mile, that plan went by the wayside. That quarter mile was not quick, and finding the unmarked trail was harder than we’d expected. By the time we were back at our gear, we were ready for dinner and sleeping bags.

One quick fun story – we couldn’t actually find the trail back, and ended up having to slog through a pretty rough marsh to get to what we could see as the trail. After wishy-washing a while though, we finally had a revelation! We didn’t have to slog through the marsh. We’re humans. We have tools!

There was, fortuitously, a fallen tree right near where we were. Not too big, but just the right side to make an impromptu bridge. So we hefted the log, maneuvered it, and hucked it into the marsh where it was needed. Great success!

But okay, back at camp. It was good. We ate dinner, had gatorade, and… immediately hid in our tents because the mosquitoes were infinite, bloodthirsty, and cared not for the bug spray defense we attempted. We slept early, and slept well.

Another quick fun story!

Mike thought he saw something outside the tent, at one point, and asked me to come with him to brush his teeth. No shame at all – in the woods, taking extra risks to be brave isn’t smart. So I got up and joined him…

And saw something outside his tent.

I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t mention anything at first. Once I saw the eyes clearly burning in the treeline though, I called Mike over and pointed him in the right direction.

We froze for a bit, waiting for the eyes to move. They were clearly eyes, about two feet from the ground. Far enough away that we didn’t know if they were a cougar, a bear, or sometime as boring as a cow. We kept the headlamps aimed, Mike grabbed his bear spray, and I hefted my camping knife. It felt smaller than I remembered the knife feeling.

Then, the eyes moved. With a second set near them.

It was a herd of deer! Coming through the clearing we’d set camp in! We didn’t see a whole lot of them, maybe 6 or so, but once they got close enough we could clearly see them, and clearly see that they weren’t actually monsters coming to eat our intestines.

A big relief, that last bit.

Sunday

Sunday was a quick day, but absolutely no less amazing than Saturday had been.

We got up, made coffee and breakfast, and got what water we needed from the stream. Thankfully the mosquitoes didn’t come out this morning, or had gotten their fill of the deer the night before, and we weren’t bothered too badly as we packed up and hefted our bags onto our backs.

We made pretty good time on the way out – nothing much interesting to report from that section, aside from the usual glorious views. We chatted and enjoyed, taking breaks as we felt fit. We just kept to the theme – no hassle, no stress, just roll with the flow and keep the best pace that we could.

We took a break at Taylor to cool our feet, but before we knew it the trail had dropped us back at the parking lot, where our intrepid steeds awaited us. We packed up, rested a moment, and then headed into town to find ourselves the most interesting looking restaurant we could find.

A long staycation on July 4th – Hiking on Hood

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So my company was hit pretty hard by COVID-19, and instituted a 10% furlough program. Reduced pay, but balanced by various furlough days scattered throughout the year… primarily around holidays. July 4th was one of those, which meant that I had Thursday through Monday off from work – the 2nd through the 6th. Five full days for adventure!

My original plan was to drive out to City of Rocks in Idaho. I reserved a campsite maybe two weeks beforehand, and started planning out what to bring, and what route to take.

But… It’s a 10 hour drive, shortest route. 11, by the route I was thinking of taking. And that doesn’t include stops for gas, food, and the stretch breaks that I’d absolutely need on a trip that long. I kept trying to talk myself into it, but in the end I just talked myself out of the trip.

I canceled the reservations, and put together a new plan. A staycation, full of relaxation, organizing my new apartment, and re-aquainting myself with the Pacific Northwest…

 

 

Thursday, 02-July-2020

 

The adventure started on a Thursday.

The plan was something a bit non-standard; to hike up Mt. Hood during the day, to see how high up the glacier I could get. Sort of an endurance and altitude acclimatization test, if you will. My goal was to get at least as high as I’d gotten before, and ideally all the way up to the base of Hell’s Kitchen – the caldera of Hood itself.

I wasn’t particularly set on this goal, though. I knew it was pretty ambitious, and ascending in the middle of the day is absolutely not the ideal time. But it’s not dangerous, as long as you consider your surroundings and conditions, so I was looking forward to seeing how I’d do.

The drive out was lovely, but as I got onto the flanks of Hood, and neared Government Camp, I had a realization. I pulled over to confirm, and yes. I’d left my hiking boots at the apartment.

Well, okay. Part of ascending up a glacier is having crampons. I had them, but they were worthless without boots to attach them to. Technically I could probably hook them onto my running shoes… but they’re not waterproof, and that’s a singularly horrible idea.

 

Fine, Hood it out. What else’s around?

A lot, obviously. It’s Mt. Hood, man! I’ve got a whole forest ahead of me! I can go anywhere!

So I went to Tom, Dick, and Harry. It’s a peak that Sarah and I had done before, above the beautiful Mirror Lake – another hike that I’d done pretty regularly recently. Decision reached, I found the parking lot and headed in.

 

It’s July 4th weekend, sort of, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when the trailhead was nearly completely full of cars. I mean, it’s a Thursday… But COVID has everyone home, I guess? Meh, who knows? It’s all good. I parked as far away from people as I could, and headed into the woods.

There were a lot of people, but it’s thankfully not too hard to stay away from folks on trails like this – I admit that I hopped off the side of the trail more times than I’d have preferred, which definitely added some time to the hike, but you know what? It’s worth it.

The hike itself was exactly as I’d remembered it – beautiful, fairly calm, and great views. It was pretty toasty, definitely, but I felt really good. I think it’s all the time wearing a mask at work – seriously, I’ve noticed a definite boost in my hiking endurance, even more than when I was regularly running. It might help that I’ve been biking, and have access to a gym, but… I still think it’s too soon for those to have kicked in any appreciable amount.

You heard it here first, kids. Wearing a mask gives you better endurance. Woo!

 

Anyways, I hiked, it was beautiful, and then I summitted. It’s one of those surprise summits, where you don’t quite realize that you’re already there until you look over and – BOOM – Mt. Hood is standing proud directly in front of you.

It was excellent – Relaxed, had a snack, and even played with / got mobbed by some chipmunks. The “got mobbed by” is quite accurate, actually, since they tried to loot my backpack by starting to climb into the pockets… while it was less than a foot away from me. I feel bad admitting it, but I ended up having to fully kick them away, when yelling, tossing pebbles, and then smacking them with my hands didn’t work. They’re persistent little buggers.

The hike down was quick and painless – I stopped at Mirror Lake to admire the view and take a quick rest, but mostly I just trucked onward down the mountain, and back to the car. In total, I think I did ~1,800ft elevation, and maybe 8 miles. Not bad, especially as the start to an adventure weekend!