Muggy Meadery

We crossed the Columbia twice to get to camp. First we rose over the Lewis and Clark bridge and, later, after the dog drank from a dirty fountain in Clatskanie and my husband did not, we crossed again from Astoria.

The park was a zoo, the registration booth surrounded by RVs and cars trying to squeeze between them. I was surprised to hear they were showing up on a summer Sunday without reservations and actually getting in. When I chose a site online, the campground map showed us next to a small lake on one side, but it didn’t show the road and booth on the other. Was Cape Disappointment aptly named this time?

We packed dinner, but got so hungry on the drive that we stopped for takeout on the way, and we sat down at our picnic table to devour every last morsel by five o’clock. The chicken strips were funnily shaped, as if plucked from a Dr. Seuss illustration, trailing curly tails.  Later, we would share a bottle of mead, a rare treat, while sitting by the fire and covertly observing the Canadian couple in the site beside us. I enjoyed it more than he, but we will try different flavors since he found a horde in a store back home. Honey and apples and spices, oh my!

His little tent went up quickly in the grass, and we wandered down the park road to find a trail we haven’t walked. Finding ourselves at the bottom of McKenzie Head, we started up the hill. Off a side trail was a small and crumbling concrete building. There were holes in the walls and half the roof had fallen in. It would be an oddity if we didn’t know we were so near an old battery. We found it at the top, and entered…

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Despite the obvious camping opportunity, we decided to stick it out in the tent. And in spite of the cooler temperature at the coast, it was so muggy there wasn’t much relief, and no wind. However, there were an abundance of fighting crows before dark and an army of raccoons to sniff and brush the tent walls after, which is alarming and exciting if you’re a dog. Before first light, an angry fog slowly pelted the rain fly with tiny droplets in the thick air.

After packing up in the morning, we were back on the trail, this time to North Lighthouse. I was right to be skeptical of the difficult rating. It was undulous and rooty, but never hard. I didn’t take a single photo of the lighthouse, but we stayed to endure the noise of the unexpected restoration crew, watching lines of low-flying pelicans rise and dip with the swell while we snacked on ‘paradise’ trail mix before quietly heading back.

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It wasn’t far north to Long Beach, a town with history and memories for us, where I hunted down a walk-up chowder joint for lunch. Although we were feeling sleepy, we parked for a quick walk on the beach. The trip just wouldn’t be complete without it.

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I got to play with my new adventure camera on this trip. It fits just right in my hand and now I won’t be draining my phone battery on walkabout. Uploading the photos to my chosen program is a thorn in my side that is slowing me down, but that will be remedied.

One more week to Mt. Adams! I’m excited and scared. It will be a dream.

~River

Abandoning the Apoc-Eclipse!

New maps spread out on the bed in our adopted small town this morning, one of us read hike descriptions aloud from a book while the other followed along on the map. Stoic and I are leaving on our first long backpacking trip together in two weeks and planning it all over again. You see, the upcoming eclipse has kicked us out of Oregon.

Incidentally, we were going to be in the path of totality. Since the predicted crowds spilling over into the back country have grown along with the wildfires, we’ve decided to skip the double trouble and abandon our last-night-out cabin reservation.

So what will it be? Goat Rocks? Mount Adams? Indian Heaven? Those were the three main contenders of the morning. Mount Rainier requires advance permits and we’d rather do St. Helens in spring or fall. Our beloved Mt. Hood is still too close to the action. We chose trailheads and pieced loops together, logged mileage and added up elevation. We are leaning toward the mountain and looking forward to rising up to meet it. I can’t wait to say hello…

~River

All Over The Atlas

Due to a minor dairy explosion and my reparatory actions, Stella smelled like a sour latte, so the family wanted to take my husband’s cushier sedan to Idaho instead. Fine! It may seem counter-intuitive to go through OR while traveling from WA to ID, but it was the fastest way from our Columbia River border town. Alongside 395, we managed to secure the biggest and best caramel apples in existence, and I ate my juicy prize over an entertaining game of cards that night at my brother’s near palace in Spokane. Yes, that’s right. WA to OR back to WA before ID. North Idaho, specifically. It makes sense. I promise. Don’t hurt your brain.

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Tuesday we walked the shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille. I was pleased that I could identify the dried up plants, but rather sorry to see them spent. There was recent fire damage among the pines from perhaps only last year. I admit it was too hot to hike, and the troops wore out quickly, but they rallied when the kids accidentally discovered a geocache. I hid it better when we were finished adding to the tiny notebook.

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Our hotel was at the northern end of the lake, and after struggling to find a place for breakfast, we spent all of Wednesday at Silverwood, the local combination theme and water park. When I say all day, I mean we were there from just after they opened at eleven and rolled out at eight. Not knowing what to expect on all the rides added to the experience. We all really loved it. The only thing that stopped us was exhaustion. We could easily spend all day in the water park side alone, but my flayed toes wouldn’t thank me.

We were ready for something tamer the next day, but finding breakfast was again a challenge. I didn’t want to return to the dirty restaurant we’d already tried, so I asked for advice while purchasing an Idaho atlas (because I was sure we’d lose phone service at the lake). Everyone in Idaho was very friendly and helpful, but when it comes to the first meal of the day, they’re at a loss. They don’t eat it.

I had thought we’d drive all the way around Priest Lake, exploring the Upper Priest Lake area as well, but the atlas told a different story. We stopped at the state park store, where we bought drinks and unexpectedly found a nice handmade set of consignment hot pads, then parked by the water to enjoy the pretty granite beach. We stood at the end of the dock watching the waves in the wind. I was mostly content with staying ashore today, but the water was calling. Before moving on, I gave the girls a bear encounter primer and we blended into the forest for a short while. It was hot in the shade and the trail got sunnier and sunnier, so we turned around. I emerged embarrassed, however, for I slipped and fell off a log bridge!

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As the road turned to gravel, I wisely held my tongue and we arrived safely at our next stop, a beach on the northern end of the lake where the kids went for a swim. I spent the hour relaxing on the sand, thinking I needed a whole day of doing nothing, not just an hour. But there was more driving ahead, and it would be a long slog home. I’d save that thought for tomorrow, and set my sights back on Spokane and and its orange kitten tonight. Paddling Upper Priest Lake was not to be.

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We didn’t rush off. Spokane held us a while longer. Riverside State Park was an unexpected gem that made me wish I had more time to offer it.

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I hugged Washington’s lower curve all the way home.

~River

 

 

Lake Wakapoogee Day 2

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This time I got my pad properly inflated the first time, but I still ached from the hips down despite the ibuprofen. Will I ever sleep well out here? I’m going anyway. I poked my head out of the tent and  watched the trees sway for a while. The clouds were nice, but they didn’t stay long. Stoic laughed at me for only making it this far out of bed. I’m slow in the mornings.

Coffee and biscuits and gravy were calling. They could’ve used some cayenne, but I’m not sure that’s a cat hole friendly spice. Parmesan, however, deserves a permanent place on the packing list. We keep forgetting it. Our morning coffee ritual is still enjoyable, but the flavor has been lacking. Next time it’s Mexican instant coffee. I don’t know what it is, but I’m curious. If it’s anything like Mexican hot chocolate, I’m in.

We walked to the creek to filter water. The bank was slippery and I nearly went for an early swim. I’m not interested in ice baths, thank you very much. It was cold enough just carrying the pouches back to camp.

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We set about packing. I’m a slow poke compared to Stoic’s Army habits, but it went rather quickly. We stood on our personal beach one last time before loading up. No fishermen, no one on the water at all, and almost no one on our side of the lake trail. Relative peace, pregnant peace, ready to explode. But at this moment, just the two of us and a dozen salamanders noodling around at our feet, it was perfect. I’d never been happier not to reach my original destination. Could Wahtum Lake possibly have been better? I’ll still see it one day.

We passed a few people and a couple of boats along the shore. That was all. In no time, we were back at the trail junction. Ready or not, here we climb. We thought it would be worse, but just plugged slowly along and had no complaints. The ice cold water was nice to have, but it was really a very manageable hill. We could both use more of those, truth be told. On to steeper things we are now. We’ve been taking it easy for a while after a severe (but completely overcome) health scare, but the time to climb has come again!

We stopped once more at our inadequate lunch log. I walked to its end, the only way to easily get off trail to make a personal waterfall. Being creatures of casually made habits, we snacked before continuing on. We met a helpful couple who called to us after we passed by, convinced we’d dropped a pair of sunglasses. I hadn’t brought any and Stoic’s were safely packed away, but when the man yelled a second time, we went back to meet him and thank him for his kindness.

By the time we reached the top, my body was finally fully awake, and we set a fast pace southward. He thought we’d make it to the car by four. I said three. What did I want to bet? If I won, we’d go out to dinner before parting ways. We didn’t let the bet keep us from stopping to pick up a rock that reminded us of a Russian nesting doll (me) or a few times to take photos with a massive camera (him). When we came upon a corner with a stream that had fresh trail work to prevent a washout, we both stopped dead in confusion because it had been done after we passed through the afternoon before.

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We were close, so close, and I was surreptitiously checking the time. I heard whining behind me. No, you do not have a cramp! We had big smiles on our faces. We could see Stella through the bushes. It was 2:52.

The road still had an unpleasant surprise for me on the way back. It was hard to see in the alternating bright and dark going in and out of the shade, and I almost-but-not-quite slammed on the brakes to stop in front of not a pothole, but a foot-deep dropoff on the far side of a bridge. Stop, reverse, use the other side of the road. That would’ve hurt.

You wouldn’t think so to look at it, but the Trout Pub in Sandy, OR has great food and a great staff. Chocolate porter for the win. 😉

~River

 

Lake Wakapoogee Day 1

So there we were happily rolling along the road beyond the Lolo Pass PCT Trailhead on a gravel road that would eventually lead us to Wahtum Lake. Or it would have if the washouts didn’t give us second thoughts. We stopped, we looked, we turned around. We didn’t want an adventure that started with getting Stella stuck. We went back to the PCT and counted our blessings. We didn’t have a Hood map along, but we did have a Columbia Gorge trails map, which brightened Stoic considerably, but still left us hanging a mile or two off the edge of where we sat. We compared it to the scaleless map on the trailhead sign to make up the difference. Four miles north plus two miles downhill would take us to Lost Lake…and just like that, we had a new plan. Since we had no phone service to notify our spouses of the change, I left a note on the front seat of the car and we were off!

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It was rocky but lovely with views of Hood and Adams. I was incredibly happy to be out with my favorite partner in crime with our boots on my favorite trail. The mosquitoes were out and we stopped so I could apply repellent, but some lucky bug got one good bite in anyway. We arrived at the junction to Lost Lake, the Huckleberry Mountain Trail, though there seems to be no Huckleberry Mountain, and made our own topographical judgments about the descent, hoping it wouldn’t be a brutal climb come morning. (I’d note back home that the trail is listed as closed, but it was in perfect condition.) We’d been looking for a nice place to sit for lunch, but there was almost nowhere to step off, much less drop packs and eat. So the next less-than-ideal log became it.

On our way down, we met a few people coming up, all campers climbing the trail to see what they could see. Without views from the crest for two or three miles, they went back down, a little disappointed, but still happy. It was just the beginning of witnessing dozens of happy vacationers. We thought we were descending into a tourist trap and were prepared to make the best of it, but I think they were all given laughing gas at the resort entrance; everyone was happy.

We reached the bottom, and the lake rim trail. To our right, inexplicably, were a gravel road and a minivan. We went left. With aching feet from much rocky trail, we looked for a place to settle in. There was nowhere. This side of the lake not only had no level ground, it had no campsites to speak of. Hmm. I’d brought my tent, not my hammock. Coming up on a mile of lake walking, miraculously, there was a large level site for us with a tiny beach for two! It was already occupied by a temporary two, a careless two who left their banana peels and water bottles, but that was as grumpy as I felt toward the vacation population entire. We took care of it.

There was room for several tents, and I put up mine quickly. Pads and bags inside, there was nothing more we needed to do. Curious about what or who else was near us, I went a little further around the lake on my own and made a couple of discoveries. I found Inlet Creek! This was great because I had reservations about drinking such popular lake water. I was content to drink it before it reached the lake, however.

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The second discovery was sweet and sad and requires no further explanation:

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We took a nap in the warm tent and I read my too-heavy-to-bring-backpacking paperback. Eventually, Stoic made us our beef stroganoff dinner and we took it down to our tiny beach. We sat on our pads looking over the water with sporks in our mouths and sipping whiskey, speculating about whether the storyline from the movie Man’s Favorite Sport, which takes place on fictional Lake Wakapoogee, might be playing out across the water over at the resort. It was a very satisfying and peaceful way to end the day. Just us, a handful of salamanders, and an unlucky fly fisherman.

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~River

 

 

Gear Woes and (Off-Trail) Solutions

All my stress is gone.

I finally got that belt returned and was trapped in Portland with my kids afterward, which led to donuts. Could’ve been worse. So now my small pack with its medium hipbelt is ready to hit the trail again, and actually pull its weight. Lift? Hold? Support? In any case, I’m confident it’s just right and will no longer slip down my hips. REI was relieved I hadn’t had the returned belt custom molded. I’d had an inkling it might be back, so I didn’t even consider it.

My KEEN Targhee II Mids are the best hiking boots I’ve ever worn, perfect right out of the box. This particular pair has one peeling sole, however, and KEEN honored their warranty, no questions asked, with a coupon code for a free pair. Curious about low tops, I got a pair of Targhee II Lows. Well, that didn’t work out so well. They don’t have lace locks like the Mids and slide like crazy, leading to pain and blisters. This problem led me to discover some neat sock liners made with silver, and they certainly help, but not enough to compensate for the inevitable slip and slide party going on at ground level. I never had any fun at those parties, so I’m back to wearing the Mids for hiking, which still have a lot of life in them despite the peeling, and the Lows for almost everything else. The blisters take miles to get started, so I can enjoy comfort and versatility without the penalty. I did read somewhere there is a way to lock your own laces with creative tying, but I haven’t tried it.

Globally controversial, but nevertheless my main transportation, my biggest gear failure was my vehicle. On the way to a day hike near Hood River, my engine started making a loud knocking noise. We went ahead a few more miles to the trail and hoped we could get home. We did, but that was the end of that Santa Fe. My own mechanic and even the dealership said the only solution was a replacement engine which, in a 2007, cost as much as its total worth. How about not? Barely out of warranty, the dealership took pity on me and offered several thousand in trade for my car that could sputter its last cough at any moment. That left me at the mercy of their stock on hand, but they just happened to have my little Stella there, fresh on the used lot, a couple of days before. On the third day, she drove again…with more clearance, more capability, better gas mileage, and yes, a little less space.

But she didn’t come with cross bars. The best-known rack companies wanted more green than I’d tolerate, so I thought again. My Malone J-hooks for my kayak are great, easy to use, and the company offered advice on picking out a model a few years back. So I checked them out and found they have new aluminum aero bars out this year for a third of the price of the other guys. Done! It wasn’t until I was placing the last end cap, because I couldn’t, that I realized the end of the bar was bent out of shape, no doubt in transit. I sent Malone pictures, and Malone sent me a new bar. Just like that. I couldn’t be happier with them. Now if only I could be bothered to switch out that bar…definitely this week.

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My most recent gear failure was rather maddening. My dog met my tent. I had set it up to dry in the back yard, and this is the last time it looked pretty. Husky vs. Tent wasn’t a fair fight.

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She ripped several holes in the mesh door and bent the front pole out of shape. Hours of sewing yielded ugly results, and I packed it away for a while. But this Friday, Stoic and I are headed for the woods again and the tent is coming out of hiding to see if the repairs hold up.

Monday morning I’m pointing Stella toward Idaho. More adventures coming soon!

~River

 

 

Kitchen Adventure

Not all adventures are fun. I spent most of the past month demolishing my kitchen by degrees until there was nothing left but the refrigerator. It wasn’t pretty. I’ll spare you the discovery of a mouse condo under the sink cabinet.

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Then, over the course of two days, it became not only habitable again, but almost a thing of beauty. I say almost because, after all, it is still just a kitchen. A little tile trim and some paint to go. Phew!

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After the new range went in, the kids and I even had a little dance and bake party in there, complete with rainbow lava lamps! The funds for this project were a gift, and we will only be about $500 out of pocket after completion.

I am happy with the quality, and thankful that the hard parts are over, but I am still working on relieving all the stress. The pressure is escaping a little at a time like steam, and I have been struggling to open that valve the rest of the way.

A day out with Stoic helped. We drove along the Clackamas River for most of a day, and it felt so good to be be going away, away, away. But I didn’t move my body enough, and I kicked myself for it later. Just when we were heading home, he indulged me with a late afternoon hike and dip in the river when I realized too late how much I needed to get out from behind the wheel. The waters are such a balm for my soul, and my sasquatch a solid touchstone for my heart.

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~River

The Full Hedon

I packed as it poured, not quite believing it would ease, and it didn’t. We went anyway. Stoic deliberately made a wrong turn to the trailhead and pulled into a mountain resort parking lot. Was I sure I wanted to do this? His expression was an open invitation for me to cave in. We can always come back, I reasoned. Off we went to the trail only fifteen minutes down the road.

Oddly, we arrived simultaneously at mid-afternoon with a group of three men and a dog. They quickly hoisted their packs and walked up the road, barely noting our existence. I have no idea where they were headed, some secret No Camping spot, I suspect. Stoic and I put on our rain jackets and set off upstream on the Salmon River Trail. It’s very popular, but we had it almost to ourselves on account of the continuous complimentary downpour. But hey, it was warm!

It was beautiful and, though I’d never been there, it looked and felt very homey. I grew up walking trails like this one, and my favorites are usually riverside. There were so many times I wanted to take pictures, even in the gloom, but I left my phone safely stashed in a heavy plastic bag in my pocket as Stoic demonstrated the benefits of having a small, waterproof camera.

There were campsites alongside us most of the way. I can’t imagine them all being filled, and wouldn’t want to be there when they are. I was thankful for the rain even as I wished it would stop. It didn’t, but we did. We’d only hiked for ninety minutes when we stopped at a cute, just-our-size little spot with nice hammock trees. We set up my little tarp, sat on our packs, and made coffee to go with our pistachios. It was five o’clock.

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Even though we were alone in the woods and had crossed the wilderness boundary, I felt confined to the shelter of the tarp. We had escaped civilization, yes, but a sense of freedom hadn’t followed. We couldn’t escape the humidity or the updated weather report taunting us with rain all night. We were content, but not joyful. We decided to continue our hike upriver in the morning, when it would be clear and blue, and to set up camp now.

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Except we didn’t. The pull of the luxurious resort was just a little stronger than my stubborn streak. I love backpacking. I love camping. I also love hotels. Tarp away, packs on, boots on trail, of course it stopped raining. This didn’t change our minds at all since it was likely a short break, but I was finally able to unsheathe my phone to take all those pictures on the return leg of what had become a fully laden day hike.

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The misty Salmon River and dripping pink clouds of heuchera.

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It was raining again. We made an attempt at looking presentable for the hotel restaurant. Our dessert of fresh berries with sabayon was wonderful. I may try making it myself. There was a pool, which we wanted to but didn’t use. There was a comfortable king bed and an amazing shower which we did. That’s backpacking decadence right there. We left the slider open all night for the air and slept in. Incredibly, the morning sky was a rich blue. I didn’t regret waking here rather than in the trees.

We had the whole day to play and a full tank of gas. We’d been missing our mountain and she was close, so after a delicious lavender vanilla latte at breakfast, we wound up to Timberline Lodge. Stoic had never been inside and we both loved all the carvings and old ironwork. We found a comfy green couch from which to enjoy the best view of Mt. Hood. It was so bright we could barely look, but we didn’t mind.

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We had a beer at the Ramshead Bar upstairs (there were ramshead carvings and iron everywhere). I slathered my thick bread with good butter and pressed it into a bowlful of warm hazelnuts to make them stick. Mmm, crunchy.

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We enjoyed the mountain lodge atmosphere, full of climbers, skiers, tourists, and us. We imagined how it would feel to stay here, what it would look like lit up at night. It’s a magical place of old timbers, iron, and big stone fireplaces where you can meet people from all over the world to talk about gear and adventure! I was fascinated by all the activity.

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The lodge is calling and you must go.

~River

 

 

 

Medium Madness

Tomorrow, when I should be feeling more serene, I will write about my weekend trip.

Today I journeyed to an unfamiliar REI because their website claimed they were the only store forever around that had my medium hipbelt in stock. My one mistake was to trust that. When I was finally able to obtain assistance in the store, they couldn’t find one. They also couldn’t order it for an inexplicable reason, so they voided the return of the large one I’d brought to exchange, as well as canceling my purchase for the few things I’d picked up looking around. Damn. I was done. They failed me. There’s zero chance I’ll spend another penny there until I have my new belt (ordered on Amazon within five minutes of returning home) and am able to return the one I have to REI before my return year expires. After all, I bought it from them in the first place because of their excellent return policy! Yet the collective employee response seemed to be “Oh, that’s too bad.” This isn’t an Osprey problem, it’s an REI problem.

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My small pack is a great fit in the torso length department, and I can adjust it if I think it might ride better a little higher or lower. The straps are the most comfortable in existence, as far as I know. The small hipbelt, banished to the peak of my closet, not so much. The cushioning doesn’t wrap around my hips like it should, but barely reaches the edges of my bones, which means the straps cut into me in front.

I was having nerve pain which makes my lower back and my whole right leg ache. No good on the trail. Comfort is key. So I sized up, all the way up. I knew it might be overkill, but it felt so good. I thought I had it! The pain was much better, but would still happen, just less severe. When I learned the key to avoiding the nerve pain was less a cushioning issue and more a positioning one, I ended up wearing the large hipbelt higher on my body, closer to my natural waist, which means now I am cinching the straps as tight as they will go, but it isn’t quite enough to keep my pack in the sweet spot in the small of my back. I have to keep adjusting up as I go. No good. This isn’t an Osprey problem, it’s a River problem.

So the only way to go is medium! If I ever get my hips into one, that is. If only I had known I should’ve stayed home today. Back to my bargain-hunting roots.

~River

How Poetic, How Romantic, How Deadly

It seemed like a good idea at the time, hiking into the woods with my love in September and emerging in October. Goodbye summer, hello fall, like a dream borne of a Robert Frost poem. And it would have been lovely if it weren’t that hunting season opened October 1st.

Our drive into central Oregon was full of optimism. As we wound higher and farther on those gravel roads, it quickly turned to dismay. This was no sparsely populated wilderness but a growing village of trucks, ATVs, RVs, generators, and barbecues. So when we finally arrived at the upper trailhead and stuffed the top sheet of our wilderness permit into the small brown box, we quickly pulled it out again. We rolled back past the long caravan of overgrown vehicles, their passengers lounging about, boring holes into us with their eyes through the window glass, or so it seemed to me. These weren’t hikers, but hunters.

We returned to the lower trailhead, which we had to ourselves. Switching made our planned hike shorter, but this way we could spend more time enjoying the prettier sections. We were getting a very late start, so we didn’t mind.

We talked as we walked about what morning would bring. Would we would be woken at daybreak by gunshots? What could we do to make ourselves more visible? His pack is orange and I had an orange tarp, but they weren’t bright enough. We were enjoying the beginning of the trail, but were not at ease. Today we were safe, but what about tomorrow?

Horses! I love meeting horses on the trail. I got to stroke one of the two while we chatted with their riders. Did we know hunting season opened tomorrow? The woman looked at us as if she’d be the last person to see us alive. Her troubled stare battled with the comforting effect of the animals.

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After crossing Mill Creek, we could see human shapes moving along the ridges. We saw them on the wooded hillsides with our peripheral vision. The wilderness was crawling with hunters and we came face to face with a man the shape of a thumb dressed in thick layers of camouflage. He was sitting on a log beside his gun while waiting for his buddy. He shared a friendly warning, but didn’t tell us what to do, which I appreciated.

I knew what was about to happen. We hiked on and made a new plan to shorten our stay from two nights to one, camp right beside the trail, then head back in the morning so we could spend at least a little time in the wild. It was ten silent minutes before Stoic came to an abrupt stop, five minutes longer than I’d thought it would be. I’d had time to prepare for this and grinned behind his back despite myself before he spun around to face me. I was instantly relieved! We were turning around. Our backpacking time would total two hours. I would have made the same decision in the next thirty minutes, but it takes me longer to let things go. We won’t risk each other’s lives.

Our packs back in the truck, we made for the nearest town to find a hotel. After stopping at several from respectable to questionable (all full of hunters, of course), we were too hungry to go on. We had the blandest meal we’d ever shared at a boring local restaurant before driving toward the next town at dusk. It wouldn’t have been the first night we’d spent in the truck, but luck found us and we happily hauled our packs into an elevator toward luxury. Best campsite ever! This was now the best backpacking trip that never was. (Man, I had a lot of stuff strapped to the outside. Silly me.)

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Comfortable bed? Yes! Hot shower? Yes! Free breakfast? Yes! Now what? Smith Rock! Whomever called it the Misery Ridge trail must not be a hiker. The tourists lamented that it’s aptly named indeed. The trail was awesome! Go.

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Looking down at the Crooked River during the climb.

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Oregon the beautiful.

Up the steep front, snack at the top, and down the back side. I watched the many climbing groups with fascination. At the base was a pockmarked section where people have stacked hundreds of small, fallen rocks. I picked up two from the ground and handed one to Stoic. We placed them wordlessly.

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Satisfied, we ate the best chocolate bars ever made while still sitting in the parking lot overlooking the grandeur. The best water in Oregon wasn’t far away, so we drove back into the green toward the Metolius River.

We don’t usually stay in campgrounds, but we had this one to ourselves. Comically, someone came and turned off our potable water, but seeing as we hung our hammocks beside the cleanest source I’ve ever tasted, we didn’t care. We collected wood together in the dark , something that struck us as a new shared experience, and enjoyed the elements. No hunters, no gunshots. Sometimes the best plans are the ones you have to change.

I was all bundled up for the cold night, but had to pee. I had to laugh at myself for taking ten minutes to unzip, climb out, unbundle, wander off to pee in the freezing dark, then get myself all put together again. Men have more convenient plumbing.

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We started up the fire again in the morning, as much to keep warm as because we could. At the last, he surprised me with an invitation back into his hammock after everything else was packed up, because he knows I hate to leave.

~River