Here are some of our past trips from this year
Benson Plateau, Cascade Locks, OR May 4th & 5th
After one too many tacos and cold beers on friday night celebrating Tres de Mayo, we loaded up our packs and headed out of town for our first backpacking trip of the season. We arrived at the trailhead at Herman Creek Campground at about 10:30 that morning. The skies were clear, the sun was out and the weather was an unbelievable 85 degrees, un-heard of for May in Oregon.
We started up the trail with plans to camp at big cedar swamp 8 miles in. When we got to the first trail junction we took a wrong turn and started the ascent of Benson Plateau not realizing what we had done. A few miles later we met the PCT, now we realized we had made a mistake. We pulled out our map and realized what had happened. Instead of back tracking we decided to press on to the top of the plateau, cross over the top of it and then would make a turn down to big cedar swamp via Whatum Lake.
The climb was warm to say the least Karluk, Freefall and myself had little water as we had expected to be along a creek all day. When we finally reached the top of the plateau, we were rewarded with great views. As we looked north from the top we could see MT Adams, Mt ST Helens, and Mt Rainier. All three snow-covered peaks watched over us like the sentinels of the cascades that they are.
We pressed ahead and finally came to teak kettle springs, all three of us went straight to water for a drink. I found a deeper pool below the springs and soaked Karluk’s new Swamp Cooler Jacket by Ruffwear. It was going to be the first test of the jackets ability to keep Karluk cool during the heat wave we were hiking in. Freefall and I enjoyed some tacos and Karluk snacked on some cut up meat treats. We filled our bottles, strapped on our packs and pressed on.
About a mile later we started to hit snow, we were now at about 3800’ and the snow had anywhere from 6”-12” of hard packed snow on the trail, we slipped and slid along holding a decent pace of close to 3.5 miles an hour. At trail mile 10 we hit the junction with Eagle Creek, we debated going down there to avoid too much snow on the plateau but since we had hours of day light left we deiced to have a long day and stick with the route. The next 6.5 miles would be tough and all of us would have to dig deep into ourselves to make it to camp that evening.
We continued down the PCT, the snow was not bad and hardly noticeable for the next 2 miles or so, we crossed a gap on the plateau and were rewarded with a great view of MT Hood. The wind was blowing about 25-35 mph on the plateau making things sporty when we were exposed. The trail now was on the NE side of the plateau, after reentering the woods, we hit the snow, lots of it. We continued along the PCT following blazes on the trees. The snow was now 4’-6’ deep and luckily firm enough that we only sank a few inches. Our pace slowed to around 2.5 miles an hour as we kept on the PCT. After a few miles were met the trail junction for Chinidere Mountain and Whatum Lake, it was now our time to descend. We started down the Whatum Lake cut off. We were now on snow covered slops of 45-60 degrees, and it was all we could do to keep on track. The trail was not marked but luckily between the three of us we were able to stay on trail most of the time. A few times we had to rely on the GPS though to get us back on track. We missed the first of the series of switchbacks and had to back track to them. We were now crossing a 65 degree slope and had to side hill across the switchback somewhere below us. It was tough to hold our footing, Karluk as faithful as ever stayed on my heel and followed me gingerly across the snow. We finally got of the steep slope and onto the meandering trail that would take us home.
We walked by Mud Lake it was frozen over and just starting to melt. The snow here was rotten and we wound up punching through a few times and post holeing up to our knees. Finally at about 2800’ we met back with terra firma. The trail here was soft and fluffy thanks to a thick layer of duff, and the fact that this early in the season the ground hasn’t been compacted by foot traffic. We wandered now through the big cedar swamp and the oldest cedar trees in the Columbia River gorge. We crossed the creek a few times and finally came to our campsite. The site was flat, there was an old growth cedar tree laying along it that made a great place to set up things to dry out like my shoes, socks, etc...
I looked at the GPS and we had gone 16.6 miles, not bad considering how late we got started. I set out my Gossamer Gear Ploycro Ground Sheet, laid out our pads and bags, and cooked dinner. After Karluk ate his first 2 cups of food and rested a few minutes, he rooted into his pack and came out with his ball in his mouth. It was now play time. Freefall and I took turns throwing the ball into the woods and waiting for Karluk to come bounding back at us with it. He decide that jumping over the big cedar log was fun and even if the ball went the opposite direction he often started his chase with a jump over the log. After an hour or so of ball, Karluk had a second meal of another cup of food, some treats, and then we all settled in for the night. I laid on the ground waiting to see the stars, however after the long day of hiking, I saw three starts come out and then fell fast to sleep.
I awoke at 11 pm to Great Horn Owls hooting away around us. The were so loud that they would wake me 4 times that night. The sky was a brilliant show of stars and laying out underneath them made me feel right at home. Karluk was starting to shiver so I put his quinzee jacket on him and threw my down jacket over him for good measure. We snuggled up to one another and fell back to sleep, awaiting the return of daylight
We woke at twilight and laid on the ground listening to the birds begin their morning songs. The weather was cool but pleasant. I fed Karluk his remaining food, and boiled some water. After a strong cup of Vietnamese coffee, I started digging into my carrot cake oatmeal by One Pan Wonders. Dicentra is a good friend of ours and the president of ALDHA-West, she has two books on backpacking food and gave me some meals this past winter to test on trail. This was a great meal, and a new twist on oatmeal. The carrots were crunchy, the raisins were chewy and the taste delicious. After we wrapped up breakfast it was a quick pack up of the gear then 15 minutes of ball play with Karluk to warm him up for the 8 mile hike out.
We started down the gentle trail, enjoying the early morning sights and sounds of walking through an ancient old growth forest. A real highlight was the Great Horned owl we saw. It came off a limb and flew gracefully through the forest in front of us. We watched it land and then a few minutes later take off and disappear into the woods. The trail meandered along gently, we were moving at a brisk 3.6 miles an hour. We stopped twice along the way to snap pictures of two amazing waterfalls. The air smelled like spring and the gurgling water all about was a treat after the previous days dry stretches.
As we came to the last two miles of the trip we started to encounter lots of people. We must of been stopped 10 times by folks inquiring about Karluk’s Palisade Pack, what he was carrying, how far he goes with me etc... It’s always fun to share my knowledge with others and help them understand responsible dog ownership when on trail.
The final highlight for me was a new sign posted at the trail head. The sign clearly stated that dog waste needed to be buried like humans waste at least 200’ aways from water. This is so crucial for the environment and also for myself and other trail users with dogs. By being responsible and practicing Leave No Trace techniques, such as proper dog waste handling, and minimum impact on wildlife along with other users, we can all help ensure future access for dogs in the back country.
Overall it was great trip, we got back to the car at 10am, and headed home to Portland, OR. The recent warm weather was a highlight, and this was a great first trip to knock the rust off so to speak, and set us on our way for training for the Tahoe Rim Trail this fall.
Coyote Wall, Bingen, WA
What a great day we had today hiking around Coyote Wall in Bingen, WA. The weather was a typical spring day; sun, rain, clouds, wind, more sun, more rain, etc... The wind was really howling today and the grass looked like water as the wind kept blowing about.
We hiked up to the Oak forest and then proceeded to cut across the top, the poison oak was crazy today! The oak forest and remaining miles found us walking through a trail lined with this evil plant, at times it was above our heads and others it was a young sprig inviting you to take a seat. Needless to say Karluk had a bath today when we got home to get the oils off him, and I scrubbed with brown soap to do the same.
A great spring day, where we enjoyed the wildflowers and a hike with friends.
Forest Park, Portland, OR
Forest park is a 3,000 acre forest here in the city of Portland, OR. With an extensive trail network and the 30.7 mile Wildwood Trail, a National Scenic Trail, this is our go to training ground during the weekday work grind. With a trailhead less then 10 minutes from my home, we try to get out on a 10-15 mile training hike 2 times per week during the spring, summer and fall.
Our most recent trip was 13 miles in just about 3 hours of hiking, a pretty quick pace for being so early in the season. Karluk carried his Ruffwear Approach Pack with roughly 1 gallon of water, a first aid kit for him, some poo bags for packing out his waste, and a few snacks.
We enjoyed walking through the forest and getting to see all the trillium flowers in full bloom, a sure sign that spring is finally here.
We incorporated a long uphill climb to help us build the muscles needed for our upcoming trips this spring and summer
Mt Hood Alpine Touring
Mt Hood rises 11,235' above sea level and is one of the Cascade Mountain's most beautiful volcanic peaks. The mountain is a quick hour to hour and half drive from our home in Portland, OR. We often spend our winter months playing on Mt Hood either snow shoeing or skiing.
In Feb. we had some early spring like conditions on the Mountain, we seized the opportunity to get out for a few nice "blue bird" days of alpine touring. Alpine Touring is a technique that incorporates climbing skins on your skis and a releasable heel binding so you can ski uphill. We started out from the famous Timberline Lodge and skiied to over 9,000' above sea level (a 3,000'+ ascent). On the way up, the snow was firm, to prevent snow from balling up on Karluk's pads I applied petroleum jelly prior to start.
On the way up Karluk had to do his business, given that the snow here lingers well into the summer, and when it melts, the high alpine area lacks microbes to help decompose his waste, we packed it out just like you would a humans. Please remember when traveling in the snow that this is the proper LNT techinque for dealing with your dog's waste.
After reaching our high point Karluk enjoyed a quick game of fetch on the mountain, before we ate a snack and prepared for our descent. We skiied down in about 30 minutes, I made sure to move faster than Karluk could and stopped along the way for him to catch up. This served two purposes; 1. it prevented him from crashing into me and potentially causing an injury and 2. it prevented any potential cuts to him from my sharp metal ski edges.