Archive for the 'Backpacking' Category

Gila Wilderness Backpacking part 2

We day hiked up the valley further the second day. We found that the stream-restarted about a half mile up, so we totally could have continued backpacking. Oh well.
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They aren’t kidding around when they build cairns on this trail. Good thing too, the trail was washed out a few places, but the cairns remained.
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For all the geologists out there, we thought this was a pretty cool rock formation.
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On the way back to camp, we saw: A BEAR! We came over a little ridge, and it was down in the valley. It took one look at us and took off running. That’s how I like my bears. Running away from me. It paused at this tree to look at us for long enough for us to grab the camera before it took off up the ridge. There’s nothing there for scale, but that is a pretty huge Ponderosa it’s standing in front of – I could probably have put my arms around half the diameter.
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Day 3 we bushwacked to the top of the ridge above our camp for a view of the surrounding area. It was sorta hot and everything had been recently burnt on the top, so I don’t have any beautiful pictures. Mostly we wanted to get back down and stick our feet in the stream.

Day 4 we hiked out and found a beaver dam on the way out. Somehow we’d missed it on the way in – the trail washed away at some point in the past few years because there was a big fire upstream, so it was a bit hit and miss.
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It wasn’t the backpacking trip we were planning – it was way less epic. But we still had a good time, and we didn’t have to pack up camp every day, which I greatly appreciated. Plus we saw a BEAR. Awesome!


Gila backpacking trip

When I left off, our brilliant backpacking plan had been ruined by lack of water. Happily, the previous valley we had gone through DID have a stream that was running, and there was a trail up it. It was even on the bottom of the maps we’d printed out for our planned route, so we had some idea of what to expect.

Traditional embarkation photo. Note the stream in the background!
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The Aldo Leopold Wilderness! Aldo Leopold was the guy who advocated making the Gila Wilderness, which was the first wilderness ever designated in the US. Incidentally, I think the name Aldo should be brought back. Also Leopold.
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I don’t know how well you can see this. This is a bear print. They were plentiful, as were fresh-looking bear droppings. We were glad we bought and brought bear cans.
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A SNAAAAAKE! I think it might have been dead. It was not very energetic.
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We hiked a ways up – maybe 3 miles, then the stream disappeared. So we camped. The place where we camped was pretty cool though, there was this cave thing where we set up the kitchen.
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We know how to eat while backpacking. Just not how to pack light.
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The final day

On the last day of our hike we got up and immediately had a headland to scramble over. It really was just up and over, it was very short. But… very steep on one side!

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Look! Starfish! I feel like I saw or read somewhere that they’re an invasive species… But I think they look cool anyhow.
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After a shortish beach hike we had another impassable headland to go over. While pausing at the bottom for a short rest and to check out some potential tide pools, some guys hiked past us out around the headland. They looked like they were hiking with a purpose, so we figured they were going to check out the further tide pools or something. I don’t remember this headland being overly strenuous, but the ladder on the north side was missing some rungs. I think this was our final ladder!
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I don’t have a good overview picture of this, but there was a huge landslide which had crossed the last beach, and it was an interesting scramble over it. We later found out from a ranger that it happened in the spring, and it had been an even more interesting scramble earlier in the year before there was an established path. We barely made it under this fallen log with our packs on.
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During our lunch break we saw a coast guard helicopter and boat come by, clearly interested in something around the last impassable headland. Ken posited that it was those hikers who went by us which was later confirmed. They’d tried to hike around the headland and when the tide came in and they got stuck they jumped in with their packs and swam. Somehow that decision worked out for them and they, along with their ranger escort, passed us on the way out. Anyway, that was the drama of the trip. Carry a map and tide table when you hike. There are signs proclaiming that everywhere, but apparently some people don’t read? Also, if I felt my life was threatened enough to jump into the ocean I think I’d leave my pack behind.

Anyway, shortly after lunch we came to the final hike up and out to the car. It was somewhat steep, but the trail was wide and well used with no ladders. After our experiences it seemed like a six lane highway.

The end.

I feel like I should write some summary words, but I’m not sure how to summarize such a wonderful experience. It was fantastic. I was so impressed with how well everybody did, so thankful for the great weather we had, and awestruck by the incredible beauty. I hope I have as much energy as my Dad in 29 years. He hiked all the tricky portions of the trail three times, once with his pack, and then twice to go back and get Mom’s pack.

Let’s end with a cute picture of my parents, since it’s thanks to them that I got exposed to the great outdoors, and backpacking in particular, at an impressionable age.

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A little ways down the beach from where we camped we had to go up and over another headland. I don’t recall this one’s ascent being quite as intense as Hoh Head, but we were tired from the previous day. It took us a long time to get over the 1.5 mile headland.

Look at this tree. It’s like it’s eating the other tree. Scary. I KNEW trees were evil. That’s why we live in a desert.
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We had to ford Goodman creek halfway across the headland.
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We got our toes dried up (and patched up, for those of us who tore off toenails in the process of crossing the creek) and stuffed back into our boots, then walked down the trail a short distance – must have been less than a quarter of a mile, and found another stream to ford. Look, a waterfall!
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At this point we were all admiring the waterfall, then someone noticed that the stream was starting to flow the opposite way! Turns out it was high tide, and it was coming all the way up the creek.
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We scurried across when the water ebbed back out. Apparently fording creeks is my sister’s favorite!
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Now that we’d gone down to sea level (apparently) to cross the creeks, we had to climb back up out of the valley. On the way up we found this gigantic cedar tree. Unbelievable!
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Look, we finally reached the edge of the headland! This one was only 1.5 miles, but it went SLOWLY what with all the creek crossing and tree climbing and general exhaustion from the previous day’s adventure. That’s Toleak point in the distance.
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If I recall correctly, this heron was landing on one of the rocks you saw off in the distance on the last picture. On the north side of Toleak point we found another toilet. Supposedly there’s a ranger station there too, although we didn’t seek it out.
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Hiking along the beach we fairly rapidly got to Strawberry Point, although we were getting a bit tired. Taking off my boots at Strawberry point and giving my feet a massage made me feel much more energetic – I think I may invest in some new insoles for my boots. I didn’t get any blisters or anything, but the shape just made my feet ache. I’m sure the 40+ pound pack didn’t help… I think these birds are actually nearer to Giant’s graveyard than Strawberry Point.
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This is Giant’s Graveyard, and also my very most favorite picture of the entire trip. I think it’s the one that captures the most accurately the gorgeous way the light was diffused by the slight mist, the blue sky, the sparkly water, and the incredibly rugged rocks.
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See? I was on the trip. Must have passed of the camera to Ken.
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That evening we camped at a lovely, spacious site in the woods right below Scott’s bluff. We were finishing up dishes and suddenly Dad loomed over us against the sunset!
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We didn’t get our beach fire started until it was almost dark, but it was still early enough to catch a final sunset picture.
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I guess I’ll have one more post to finish up the trip.

Seriously, this trip was amazing

The trail over Hoh head is in pretty bad shape. I don’t think it’s traveled too much. It wasn’t even raining, and I don’t think it had been raining much for the previous couple of days, but there was still ankle deep mud at points. Also, note how the trail seems to just end in a wall of bushes? It’s almost totally overgrown in places. If you were hiking this in the rain you would be soaked just from pushing through trees.

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There are several places where the edge of the cliff has slid down into the ocean, taking the trail with it. Many have ropes affixed to haul your top-heavy self up and down. This particular place was the worst, it was right near the north end of Hoh head. Just beyond this was a toilet (!), and several beautiful large campsites in the forest on the top of the headland.
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Somebody built a fort at the mouth of Mosquito creek. We decided it was high time for some rest before pushing on to our campsite.
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We were warned we might not be able to get across Mosquito Creek at high tide. I think we were only about an hour after a fairly high tide and had no problems. Of course, it might have been less attractive if it was cold and rainy!
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See that grin? She’s about to pull out her fishing rod and toss a lure in the creek. At this point we met the only two backpackers we saw all day. Mom and Dad swapped yarns (I presume). Ken, Lauren, and I swam in the ocean! I thought a lot of things about this trip, most of which would be that we’d be wet and miserable in the rain the whole time, but I never thought we’d actually go swimming! It was fantastic, and we were able to wash the salt off in the creek afterwards.
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After we had finished swimming, fishing, and delightedly wriggling our sore toes in the sand, and our tents and pads were dry from the short rain storm that happened just as we were packing up our tents in the morning, we pressed on up the beach for another two miles or so. We went approximately six and a half miles that day, and it was NOT an easy hike, what with boulders, mud, ladders, washed out trails, fording streams. Even hiking on the beach was hard after a long day – I found the hard sand at low tide to be really brutal on my feet. Pretty though!
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We camped on the beach maybe a quarter of a mile south of the next, unnamed headland (the one that contains Goodman Creek).
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Look, another gorgeous sunset! I have like 20 pictures of this sunset as it progressed, and I cannot decide amongst them which one is my favorite.
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We had a fire on the beach every single night. And every single night I didn’t take any pictures of it. So here’s a picture of Ken starting it, at least.
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In the next installment: waterfalls, streams to ford, and giant trees.

Most epic backpacking

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The highlight of our vacation was a point to point backpacking trip along a part of the Washington coast which is only accessible by foot. We hiked from Oil City to Third Beach, for those of you curious. It’s 17.1 miles, we spent three nights on the trail.

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My parents and my sister and her husband were supposed to meet us for the trip. My brother-in-law came down with some nasty fever bug and had to stay home, poor guy.

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Because of his sickness, we got a later start than we had wanted, and only ended up going about a mile before camping along the coast in a huge mass of driftwood near the mouth of the Hoh river. I didn’t get a picture of our campsite, but it was pretty cool, just enough room for a tent in amongst the largest collection of driftwood I’ve ever seen. For anyone who might stumble upon this post researching the Oil City to Hoh river route, the ranger said that this driftwood is not always open enough to find a sandy camping spot – it depends on the year. But, they do check it out, and they even had pictures of it from year to year to show us at the ranger station in Port Angeles. There was also one camp site along the trail by the river before it reaches the ocean.

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We arrived at camp just as the sun was setting. There’s nothing like an ocean sunset. And we saw three gorgeous ones.
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The next morning we got up 5:30 so we could catch the 6:45 low tide another half mile down the beach so we could get around an impassable headland. It is not light at 5:30AM.

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Happily, it did get barely light by time we packed up and reached the boulders we had to scramble over. This was a pretty long stretch of boulders to jump around on. Happily they were not slippery. I’m not sure how we could have managed with our big packs if they’d been slick.
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After breakfast on the next beach, we faced our next obstacle. A ladder up the side of an impassable headland! You know how pictures never look as steep as real life? That remains true of this picture.
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After the ladder there were plenty of three foot tall steps, some missing, and lots of mud. The weary travelers break for some lunch on a log, spirits still high. Again, for those researching the route, there wasn’t really anywhere to camp on Jefferson Cove – the tide comes right up to the cliffs. There were, however, at least two campsites we saw up on top of Hoh head.
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Stay tuned for the next segment. I think eight pictures in one post is probably enough…

Pecos backpacking pt 3: dog edition

Four people. Four dogs. Much hollering.

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The pack
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May 2018
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