Tag Archives: Exploring

A return to Duffy Lake!


Sunday, 05-June-2022

My hike started with a good deed.

I know, right? Hella good way to start some time in the woods, yeah? Build up that karma, and get a little bit of a workout at the same time? Sign me up!

You see, dear reader, there was a tree blocking the road to the trailhead. Well… sort of blocking the road. The road was a loop, so… you could just go around, I guess. But who wants to go around? Not me! I’m an American, and I drive where I want!

I parked, I saw the tree, I pulled out my trusty hatchet from my trusty emergency stash in the trunk, and I used my trusty hands to trustily hack the tree apart. Great initial success!

After using the word “trusty” way too many times, I was on my way into the woods.

This seems to be a theme, in my blog, that I mention how it’s not really viable to write a blog about hiking. That it’s just walking, and that I can’t quite describe the feeling of being in the woods in a technological format. Maybe I should just write one post summarizing what it’s like to hike, and then link it to hiking posts?

I dono, we’ll see how I feel.

On this hike, I felt good. I felt strong, I felt calm(ish), and I enjoyed the weather. We were on the cusp between winter and summer, with quite a bit of snow on the ground but with warm breezes and long days shining bright light through the canopy.

I love hiking in the Pacific Northwest – the moss on the trees, and the hanging vegetation it’s not quite as verdant as West Virginia, but it’s just a different type of alive. It’s beautiful.

I hiked, traversing from dirt to mud to snow and back again quite a few times. As I gained elevation though, the snow began winning out in the land-grab, and soon enough I was in a world of melting out snow. Bridges were non-existent, and the trail was on the verge of vanishing in the snow. Trail markers seemed to be absent, and frankly I couldn’t quite remember if they’d even been there the last time I was at Duffy…

I turned around, once the trail was fully lost at a river crossing.

If it was critical, I’m sure I could have found a safe crossing… there were quite a few options, though none had an obvious boot path leading through them. Some seemed more sketchy than others, but there were a few that could probably have supported my weight…

It wasn’t worth the risk, by any stretch of the imagination.

I still remember crashing through the snow on the trail to Elk Meadows, and I had no desire to recreate that “adventure” again, regardless of how sure I was of my safety. Duffy is pretty, sure, but remember the rule of the backcountry – “The mountains don’t care about you”.

I turned around, and headed home.

Through the rain and the sun, I drove back – happy in my hike, and absolutely content in how far I’d made it.

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.

My return to Mt. Hood, and a picnic below Elk Meadows!


Sunday, 08-May-2022

Don’t worry, this all happened after my Mother’s Day celebration!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good reason to pull out all the stops and have a fancy picnic. I mean… yes. I know that I’m worth it, and that I deserve having awesome picnic, but… you know, it just seems off to do it for myself. Picnics need to be shared for them to be really worth it.

I had been chatting with Ash for a while, and we finally found a time that worked for both of us to meet up for a nice hike in the woods. And since it would be right around lunch time… I offered to pack us a lunch. Let me tell you – when I offer to pack a lunch, I offer to pack a lunch.

What did we have in store?

Well. Sit yourself down and let me brag:
– Fresh baguette, picked up earlier that day
– Brie cheese
– Apples, two variety of sweet & crispy
– Prosciutto
– Aged & smoked Gruyere
– A bottle of wine, with glasses and a corkscrew (we didn’t end up having any of this… but I get credit for schlepping it on a hike)
– A bar of dark chocolate
– A thermos of hot cocoa… a home-made mix of light and dark chocolate, melted into steamed milk

Yyuppp. I threw down.

The rest of the adventure? I mean, it was a hike, yeah? I got to the trailhead early, took some time to read my book, and then we headed in. We went in the Elk Meadows trail (Which was completely lost in the snow… so we ended up tracking on GPS as best we could), and stopped for lunch at the Newton Creek trail junction.

We ate, we chatted, and we headed back. Grabbed a secondary meal at the Timberline Lodge, and then I headed back into Portland.

A good day out in the woods!