Tag Archives: Backpacking

Backpacking out to Green Lakes!

Standard

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.

———–

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.

Camping at Veda Lake 02 & 03 September, 2018

Standard
Camping at Veda Lake 02 & 03 September, 2018

Sunday, 02-Sept-2018 through Monday, 03-Sept-2018

 

It’s labor day weekend, and we’re not planning on laboring particularly hard.  In fact, our goal is to basically labor not at all.  The car’s going to do the bulk of the laboring.
Specifically, we’re going backpacking!  Sarah’s first post-surgery backpacking trip!  Woo!
It’s a trial run, though, not a full-on trip.  More of a “see how our legs feel, and make sure all the gear still works” kind of trip, instead of a “let’s work ourselves and be exhausted by the end of it” sort of trip.
With that in mind, Sarah was careful about which hike to pick… and found what was absolutely the perfect destination for us: a place called Veda Lake.  It’s a small lake South of Mt. Hood, about a mile away from the trailhead.  The challenge, though, is getting to the trailhead itself – it’s 30min down an extremely rough road – rough enough that the trip reports all warned us that we’d need a tough vehicle and even tougher nerves to make it up.
Sunday
Thankfully, we’re tough cookies, and the Subaru is just as tough a car as we are cookies.  We made it up without any trouble, and found a beautifully empty parking lot waiting for us.  There were cars there, true, but not nearly as many as we’d seen on the drive in – and since it was labor day that was a rather major blessing for us.
The hike in?  It went quickly and easily.
I mean, come on.  It was barely over a mile – we’re out of shape, but thankfully not that far out of shape.  I’ve been working out a fair bit, and Sarah’s been doing a ton of PT, so the hike was pretty clean for us.  The only challenges arose from my backpack – this was the first time I’d taken it out for a real backpacking trip, and it’s definitely a bit different than the one I’ve gotten used to.  I… hesitate to admit to the sheer number of curses I uttered as I was packing it and trying to get it comfortable, but that’s how it goes with a new pack, right?
We walked in, past a few groups walking out, and even passing one going in!  Don’t let that fool you though, the only reason we were able to pass them was because they were a huge team – three humans, four dogs, and one kayak.  Not one of the light ones either… one of those heavy wal-mart kayaks.  They… they were making some life decisions that day.
Anyways, we ended up being thankful for that Kayak, because it slowed the other team down long enough for Sarah, Ollie and I to get one of the best campsites on the lake.  It wasn’t right on the water, but it had a nice fallen tree to eat dinner by, and enough room for us to set up the tent on perfectly level ground beautifully devoid of any roots or rocks.  It was lovely, and we had camp set up quickly enough that we were able to spend some time exploring the lake and playing around in the water before dinner.
One strange thing we found?  Spears.  As in, wooden sticks that had been sharpened, and stabbed into a dead tree in our campsite.  Not in a creepy way, though.  I know that description sounds “children of the forest hunting for your face-meat”, but it was more “some young kids sharpened sticks and threw them at a tree because it’s fun” sort of thing.  So clearly Sarah and I had a spear-throwing competition in the middle of the woods.  I can’t remember who won, but I can promise that Sarah and I both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Dinner?  Simple stuff this time – just mountain house freeze-dried meals and some whiskey and tea.  It was a practice run, remember, so we wanted to go light and simple.  No back country cooking cuisine this time, I’m afraid.  But hey – that’s fine.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely!  Just being outside, watching the sun set and then watching the stars come out… it was beautiful, and an amazing chance to enjoy spending time with each other.
Evening
Random challenge that I didn’t expect to run into?  Getting Ollie to come to bed.  When we camp, Ollie usually runs right into the tent… but for some reason she was on full sentry-duty this time, insistent on guarding the campsite all evening.  She was good, and came when we called her, but she wasn’t super happy about it.  She’d even made a little nest for herself under one of the trees nearby, so that she could overlook the camp and keep watch… cute!
Monday
Monday dawned bright and early – it was perfect, and we were even able to wake up quietly and pleasantly, since Ollie was nicely tired from the day before and wasn’t quite into full spaz mode just yet.  Getting to bed early definitely helped too; we were up and mobile early, having breakfast and enjoying seeing the sun rising over the mountains around us.
Quick side note?  Starbucks instant lattes are delicious… when they’re fresh.  Turns out, they do go bad.  Not like “make you sick” bad, but… definitely less than optimal.
We played around in the lake a little bit, but honestly… it was cold, yo.  Veda Lake is in a depression, with pretty steep hills all around it, so we didn’t get any direct sunlight until we had already packed up and were heading out, sometime around 9:30 or 10:00.
We’d planned on staying most of the day; swimming and catching crawfish and enjoying the solitude of the lake, but that didn’t quite work… so instead we aimed to head back into town early and enjoy the chance to rest, relax, and make a fancy dinner.
Packing went well, hiking went well… the walk out was honestly really pleasant.  The sun had already risen, so it was that perfect kind of weather where it’s warm, but not hot quite yet.  Cool enough that we enjoyed the walking, but not so cold that we wanted to put jackets on.
Ollie, of course, loved the whole event – sprinting forward and backwards, jumping over logs, and sending out the kind of happy energy that makes you wish that you could just run screaming through the woods for hours at a time.  You know, like I did when I was younger and somehow even less sane than I currently am?  Yeah, just like that.
It was a good trip.
**Last side note: Ollie doesn’t like sitting up front at first.  She’s always cranky about coming up, instead of just hanging out in the back seat.  But the problem is that she gets bored in the back seat, and barks at everything that looks interesting as we drive.  Once we drag her into the front seat, she remembers how fun it is to stick your head out the window!**

Winter Camping on Mt. St. Helens

Standard

Thursday and Friday, 07 & 08-Dec, 2017

 

It’s been a while since I’ve gone backpacking.

Busy work, not knowing much about trails in the Northwest, and a broken leg kind of contributed to that… but still.  No excuses.

 

It’s also been a while since I’ve attempted a summit out here… see the previously mentioned reasons.

 

It’s been way too long.  Sarah agreed.  Ollie agreed.  I think.  She might have just been hungry.  Either way, the three of us all agreed, packed up our gear, and took a drive out to Mount Saint Helens.

We had been talking about hiking up St. Helens for a while at this point, but never had the chance to do it; Not only is the mountain very committing (12 miles, with 5700+ ft of elevation gain), but we also have to contend with snow conditions, since the main route is prone to avalanche in some conditions.

 

 

 

 

We prepped the day before, packing and coordinating tons of gear between Sarah, Ollie and myself.  And by that, I mean that Sarah took a significant portion of the gear, while I stayed light and easy.  I mean, I didn’t slouch too much… mine was ~30 lbs, while hers was ~37 lbs, but still.  Those seven pounds don’t seem like a lot until your a few hours into it, and your legs don’t want to move.

 

We actually got into it on Thursday, driving up into Washington and getting our permits – not only a sno-park permit, but also the tree cutting permit!  Did I mention that?  We had an ancillary goal to this hike; we’d learned that you can legally harvest Christmas trees nearby, so after the hike planned on tracking down our own lovely tree!

The process was a bit more complex, of course.  So three stops and an internet search later, we gave up and just bought the permit online before driving into the national park.

 

Walking in was glorious.

Like I mentioned, it had been a while since we’d gone backpacking.  Just the simple act of walking uphill, carrying a pack, over the snow, with the looming mountain above us, was enough to send us into giggles.  We had a blast – stopping every so often to rest and enjoy the view, watching Ollie blast in and out of the tree line, and just enjoying the crisp air and warm sun.

And it was warm – almost unseasonably so, actually.  Sarah called it “summer conditions”, and it did worry us a little.  The warmer it gets, the softer the snow becomes… which might not seem like the worst thing.  But it means more slipping, and more effort to get the same amount of elevation.  At our elevation it wasn’t a major concern, but for our ascent the next day… well, we made sure to keep an eye on conditions.

We finally broke out of the tree line in the early afternoon, a fair bit ahead of the schedule we’d set for ourselves.  Which meant that we had even more time to set camp than expected… which meant that Sarah had time to construct what was undoubtedly the most impressive campsite I’ve ever seen.  A huge platform was excavated from the snow, leveled out and tamped down, with a windbreaker wall built up around the edges.  This thing even had steps leading into the tent.  Seriously, you don’t even know.

And I helped!  By boiling water.  And staying out of the way.  Turns out, snow skills are valuable when camping on snow.  Who knew?

Well, Sarah knew.  I learned quickly, after seeing how excellent the tent site became.

What we didn’t know, was quite how quickly fuel burns up at that elevation and temperature.  Sure, it was warm… but that’s when you’re walking with a pack.  The stove wasn’t walking… and was half-buried in the snow for stability.  Which led to a quite fast burn rate… which led to an empty canister.

We’d run out of fuel – dinner was made, thankfully, though we hadn’t had enough fuel to really boil as much water as we’d planned.  We ate and discussed, coming to two conclusions:

One, that we wished we had hot cocoa.

Two, that we probably had enough water to summit, but it’d be close.

Our plan was simple – start hiking early in the morning, and check in with our water supplies every two hours.  If we ran too low, we’d immediately turn around, ensuring that we had enough water for a well-hydrated return hike.  Not the ideal conditions, but that’s part of adventure, right?  Adapting, and making intelligent and informed decisions.

Our decision and plan made, we headed to bed.  At 5:40 in the afternoon.  It was dark and we were tired.  And we’d be starting in early in the morning…

 

In the morning, we really regretted running out of fuel.  Instant coffee is made to be reconstituted in hot water.  Not cold water.  When you pour it into cold water, you get a gross caffeine paste that wakes you up… half from the caffeine, and half from just how vile it tastes.  We both learned this the hard way, gulping down what we could before packing up and heading onward, breakfast bars in our hands and crampons on our feet.

Note: Sunrise over mountains is ridiculously, incredibly, unbelievably beautiful.  Just FYI.

We’re feeling good, having gotten moving a little bit before dawn, sometime around 5:30 or so.  It’s not until around 10:00 when we’re resting before the final push that our water situation started to get a bit grim, and we had to have the hard decision about whether to push onward or turn around.

In all honesty, we were’t super close to the summit – it was still maybe an hour to go ahead of us.  And that hour or two would have been rough, thanks to the warm weather and significant elevation gain.  In the end, it was a pretty quick conversation before we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and headed back the way we came.

Descending was much quicker than ascending, thankfully, and a lot less draining on the water supplies.  I even did a bit of glissading (Editors note: That’s when you slide down the mountain on your butt.  Don’t worry, Ben had snow pants on) for the first time since my injury, which was super fun!  Ollie didn’t think so at first, though, and kept trying to catch me and stop me from falling… cute, but also scary since her way of stopping someone is to chomp on their jacket while bracing herself.  After that it was pretty flat anyways though, so we all walked the rest of the way back to camp without incident, continuing to massively enjoy the views as the sun finished illuminating the range around us.

 

 

Once we hit camp, we quickly packed up and headed out.

Wait, that sounds wrong.

Ohh right!  What I meant to say was, we bonked out and took a nap.  My mistake, those two things are so similar, amirite?

After our luxurious nap we pack up again (with Sarah again taking the lions share of the gear.  Thank you!) and start out on the rest of the hike.  It wasn’t short, I’ll admit to that… it seemed to drag on forever, even with the cool views and cool air, but thankfully the path was pretty clear and simple, so the snow didn’t slow us down too much.  It did get a little icy near the end, but nothing necessitating putting the crampons back on, thankfully.

The most excitement of the walk out, aside from dreaming of the snacks we’d left in the car for ourselves, was watching Ollie zip around.  She’d been pretty tuckered out for most of the hike down, but once we got back into treeline she perked right up, and started blasting around like normal.  Which was a bit annoying, since she lost a puppy-boot at one point.  Which, of course, caused us to stop for 20min while we searched her tracks to find the lost shoe.  Bluh.

 

Back at the car, we rested and recharged.  We’d stashed some brisket sandwiches and water for ourselves, and so were well fed and happy after a short break – ready to head off and find our tree!

Funny story though… the forest is pretty big.  I mean, we had a specific zone that we were supposed to harvest from… but that doesn’t narrow it down too much, when that zone is a few hundred acres.  Thankfully, we’d been given a bit of a tip from a ranger we’d run into, and had a pretty good idea that we’d find something good on a specific stretch of backwoods highway.

A stretch that just so happened to pass a really nice overlook of Mt. St. Helens, by the way… an overlook that we drove past just at sunset.  So clearly we stopped for a romantic sunset picnic of more snacks.

After our quick stop, it wasn’t much of a drive to the secret tree spot that we’d learned about.  We weren’t sure we’d recognize it when we got there…. but ohh man were we wrong.  We made a turn, and suddenly a massive forest of Christmas trees opened up in front of us, with giant pine trees towering at least 150ft above them.  It looked like ants walking around the feet of giants… all of which would make glorious trees for our livingroom!

It took a bit of doing, but we finally found the perfect one.  We wanted a tree that spoke to both of us – not something we were okay with, but something that we both knew was right.  Silly, but hush I don’t care we wanted it.  After following a few promising leads, we found it.

Literally.  You have no idea – this tree was actually honestly in a moonbeam.  We turned around a small copse of trees, and saw this single tree in a literal moonbeam, just waiting for us.  We both gasped, looked at each other, and hefted our tools.

Before long, the tree was in the box on the roof, and we were driving home.  We ordered two pizzas on the way, picking them up as we drove.

We then each ate an entire pizza.

Because we’re adults, and can do what we want.

Especially after hiking up and down a mountain, and finding a perfect Christmas tree.