Tag Archives: hike366

Dry Canyon, Redmond

February 6, 2018.

7 mi | minimal ele. gain | 2:30 hr.

I noticed a funny thing on Google Maps the other day. I turned the terrain layer on and scrolled through Bend and Redmond, looking for new features to explore. And there, cutting right through Redmond, was a canyon. In that canyon, it was mostly blank. BLANK. In the center of Redmond. I dug around a bit, until I found out a name: Dry Canyon. And it was filled with parks. A trail ran through the length of it. I had to check it out in person.

On the city’s website, Dry Canyon is dubbed the “crown jewel” of the city parks. How had I never heard of it before? At 3.7 miles one way I could easily do this as an out-and-back hike in an afternoon. I packed my backpack.

I arrived at the southern terminus of the trail in the early afternoon. Patchy clouds filtered the sun overhead. Although it was chilly, the sun that broke through felt warm.

Blacktop cut through the dry grass and juniper trees filling the shallow canyon. I hopped on the trail among other walkers, cyclists and joggers. As soon as I saw a side path cut out into the dirt I took it. It looked like walkers and mountain bikers made several unofficial trails in the desert landscape. The tread was gentler on my joints and it was prettier in the brush, anyways.

But my off-trail exploration was short-lived. Soon I was funneled into an underpass that was decorated with murals. Then I found myself in the middle of a city park, with sports fields, parking lots and people everywhere. Then I walked onto a disc golf course. And then…

The Maple Avenue Bridge.

I’d seen pictures of this bridge in magazines. There are climbing holds, permanent bolts and quickdraws placed on the underside of the bridge so that people can climb on the structure. Pretty cool! But alas, with no rope, rock shoes or climbing partner, I had to just crank my head back and gawk at the scene today.

As I continued walking north, I found some wilder places to ramble. Dirt paths led every which way through the broad canyon. At some point I distinctly remember a smell. An odor that sliced through the air. Having a bad sense of smell, is rare that I pick up such a scent. But this was so pungent, it had to be…

Ah yes, a wastewater treatment facility. Right at the end of this lovely trail. What an unfortunate coincidence.

I had hoped to linger here and have a snack but given this new information, I hightailed it back the way I came. Once I was out of range of the sickening aroma I found a park bench and dug into my treat bag.

On my way back I admired the diversity within this canyon. In places, basalt columns rose vertically from the dry brush. Occasionally the steep walls were broken by wide stairways leading into the neighborhoods. Some areas looked wild, pockmarked with Ponderosa pine and juniper. Sagebrush filled large swaths of the canyon. Birds and squirrels filled the air with chirps and chatter. Lots of people were out recreating in a number of ways. This was truly a land of many uses.

I watched the clouds and light change as the early afternoon marched towards evening. Days are so short in February.

After experiencing the Dry Canyon in its entirety, I can say now that this is the crown jewel of the Redmond City Parks!

Shevlin Park Loop

February 4, 2018.

4.7 mi. | 300′ ele. gain | 1:45 hr.

I always find it amusing when facts are debatable. The Shevlin Park loop, probably one of the most popular hikes in the park, is listed on various websites as 6 miles, 4.6 miles, 4.9 miles, etc… The most consistent sources clock it in at 4.7 so I’m going with that.

Today I partnered up with a friend who was going through some relationship troubles and needed some fresh air and kid-free time. I was happy to facilitate this.

The air was cool and brisk, as any day in February, and we heartily took to the trail. We walked quickly as we talked. There was so much to say and so much to hear. Occasionally we pulled off the side of the trail to let a runner pass. Trail running is so popular around here. I think it’s Bend’s favorite pastime.

As we reached the mid-point of the loop we paused on the bridge. The water tumbled beneath us. It was a nice place to stop and take it all in.

Nature is chaos. Life is chaos. It seemed appropriate then, to put the two together. I was sorry that my friend’s marriage was collapsing. I struggled to hear her pain. But together, in the forest, among birds and trees and clouds, we shared a moment. I was grateful that she felt comfortable enough to talk.

We walked on, shifting gears to lighter topics. There were more people on this side, mostly hikers. Everyone smiled and said hello as they passed. It was a jovial crowd. Anyone who’s out on a walk in the winter is pretty dedicated to being out there and having a good time. How nice is it to live in a community that values preserving and enjoying natural spaces.

As always, Shevlin Park brought the goods. I only wished that our hike could have been a little longer.

A stroll on the Deschutes River Trail

February 2, 2018.

I needed a hike today for my Hike366 project so I texted my friend Sarah to see if she was available. We decided to meet at a coffee shop downtown and then walk the Deschutes River Trail until we ran out of time.

It’s easy to take a hike in Bend. The Deschutes River Trail, which covers 20 miles from end to end, runs straight through the middle of town. It’s a convenient place to take a stroll whether you’ve got 5 minutes or 5 hours. Today we had just under 2 hours, since we parked downtown and didn’t want to get a ticket.

It was a chilly, moody day. Bend is well-known for “300 days of sunshine.” Well, today was not one of those days.

Nonetheless, we sipped our coffee, caught up on life and walked on the trail through downtown, Drake Park and the Old Mill.

We stopped across from the surf wave to watch people in their wetsuits try and catch the wave. Then we turned our attention to the large numbers of waterfowl enjoying the natural side of the river.

We ended up waiting longer than we’d anticipated as a huge caravan of ducks slowly plodded across the path. They were adorable to watch.

Heading south, the pavement eventually turned to dirt and it finally felt like we were on a hike. From here the Deschutes River Trail gets a bit wilder. But we wouldn’t have much more time to explore. The clock was ticking.

I love living in Bend. It’s so easy to find a trail and start walking. But the face of Bend is rapidly changing and I wonder how things will look ten years from now. I hope that we are able to preserve access to wild spaces and contain development as much as possible.

Otter Bench

January 10, 2018.

9.3 mi. | 1060′ ele. gain | 3:30 hr. | All the trails at Otter Bench

It can be difficult to find new and interesting things to do in the winter when all you want to do is go for a hike. The snow makes access to high places difficult and sometimes dangerous. Bare ground is at a minimum. After much snooping around I came across a trail description for Otter Bench, just a stone’s throw from Bend. I checked the forecast, packed a bag and headed out.

It felt weird, pulling up to a trailhead in basically a neighborhood development. But there it was. The hardest part of the whole day was just figuring out exactly where to go from the parking lot, since there were trails and user paths going every which way.

My goal was to hike all the trails today in order to get the most out of my visit. I began on the Lone Pine Trail, which led steeply down to the river bottom from the parking area. The trail just kind of petered out, so I admired the river and the golden winter foliage before trekking back up.

Back at the parking lot I took the Horny Hollow Trail (which was open this time of year) to the junction with the Pink trail, another spur down to the river. This was a beautiful trail with great views of the Crooked River Canyon. I imagined this place would be insufferably hot in the summertime and was grateful for the cold, wet winter weather I had this morning.

After a quick jaunt down the Pink Trail I returned to the main pathway and continued north. The Opal Canyon Loop formed a lollipop shape as it looped up along the river and then cut inland to return. The riverside walk was lovely. Before turning back I stopped to eat my lunch. I had a great viewpoint overlooking the deep canyon. Far below, the Crooked River rushed by. No one else was out here today.

The hike back was across the broad, flat, high desert plateau. It was less scenic and interesting than the hike in, so I moved a bit more quickly. Occasionally I’d stop to photograph the interesting forms made by dormant winter plants. Their twisted stalks, geometric seed heads and striking colors made me curious.

One more trail to go: the Otter Bench trail. It was just as boring and mundane as the one before. I don’t think I’d go back here in the spring or summer, when access is restricted to this trail. Besides the heat, there just wouldn’t be much to look at.

Grateful for three and a half hours of solitude!

Lava Beds for Thanksgiving

November 22-26, 2017.

View all the photos from this trip here.

With forecasts for unseasonably warm and wet weather all across the west, we decided to head south to a not-terribly-well-known National Monument for our Thanksgiving weekend escape this year.

The drive down to Lava Beds is just a few hours from Bend. We arrived after dark and pulled into the campground there. There were two loops; one was nearly full and the other was (inexplicably) empty. So we chose the best site on the empty loop.

The next morning we drove to the visitor’s center to pick up our free cave permit and gather information about entering the caves. I’d been here once, a long time ago, but my caving experience was rather limited. We spoke with the rangers for awhile and left satisfied that we had all the information we needed to have a fun time in the caves.

Cave Loop

On the first day of Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to hit all the open caves on the cave loop (with the exception of Catacombs). The park brochure provided basic information about each cave, including its length and a difficulty rating. They were similar to ski run ratings: green dot for easy, blue square for moderate, black diamond for challenging. We started with a black diamond cave because it was the first one on the loop! Thunderbolt Cave. After donning our helmets and headlamps we took our last breath of above-ground air and descended a metal staircase into the darkness.

There were a few differences between walking on earth and walking underneath it. First, it was quiet. SO quiet. Second, it was disorienting. When I could only see just a little ways in front of me it was difficult to retain any sense of direction or distance. Third, it felt spooky. Okay, I think I’m pretty resilient and have dealt with quite a lot of lousy adventure situations in my life. But this felt different. Monsters lived in caves, right? And did we turn down this passageway or that passageway? Shit!

Without a map or visibility beyond a few yards, navigation was difficult. I felt that little knot in my throat at one point wondering how we were going to get back out again. Great, we got lost in our first cave. But we soon remembered a landmark and soon saw that refreshing beam of sunlight coming down from the outside. Phew! We’d have to be a little more careful in the other caves. This was a wake-up call right from the outset. Nice job, Lava Beds, on not dumbing down the caves with lights and navigation arrows. I’ll take this more seriously now.

Next, Golden Dome. This one was recommended by the ranger. As we walked deeper and deeper into the cave, I’d exclaim: I found the golden dome! There was a hydrophobic bacteria on the cave ceiling that looked like gold flakes when it was coated with beads of water. It was amazing! But then I’d walk into the next room and say, no here it is! There was so much of it! As the trip wore on we’d discover this bacteria living in most of the caves. Why this one was singled out as the golden dome I’m not so sure. Other caves also had spectacular displays of this coloration.

Then, Hopkins Chocolate. There were some low sections that required stooping and creative crawling so that we didn’t tear up our pants. In this one rare instance, I wished I would have been wearing an old pair of jeans.

On to the Blue Grotto and lots more crawling. We popped up through a few skylights and ended up wandering into Labyrinth Cave somehow. The only way we knew was that We’d found a metal staircase leading up into the light, plus a trail register in a PVC pipe with the cave name listed. Knowing that Labyrinth Cave was closed we decided to hightail it out of there. We wandered up through an unmarked cave opening and walked cross-country back to the car, being careful not to fall into any unmarked skylights!

Next up: Ovis, Paradise Alley, Sunshine. We were racking up caves left and right.

At Natural Bridge we got to do a little surface walking. Then it was back underground at Indian Well Cave. I was feeling a bit of cave fatigue.

Finally, Mushpot Cave. This was the only developed cave on the cave loop, which was made obvious by the sounds of screaming children that got louder and louder as we approached. Lucky for us, they were finishing up their cave activity and we got to have it to ourselves. It felt so plush and luxurious after being in the undeveloped caves all day.

Last cave of the day: Valentine Cave. I was so ready to be done. I would have appreciated this more in the beginning of the day. We could mostly walk upright in the spacious chambers. The main passageway looked like a subway tunnel. But I wanted to be back at camp, building a fire and making dinner.

That night we feasted on roast turkey and our favorite sides: gravy, squash puree, green beans, etc. Plus a marionberry pie and freshly made ice cream. Oh I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Big Nasty Trail and Hidden Valley

The next morning we rolled out of the tent with full bellies and headed out for a full day of exploration. We stopped into the visitor’s center again, this time to purchase a book of maps for the caves. After our first experienced of feeling disoriented I knew I’d be happier with a map.

But first, hiking. I was itching for a real hike and the Big Nasty Trail was high on my list. How big and nasty could it be?

We began walking under chilly, overcast skies. A short, paved trail led to a viewpoint of Mammoth Crater. This looked exactly as it sounded. A steep-sided crater with lava rock walls lay before us, so big that it was hard to get it all into one photo. From there we sauntered out on the Big Nasty Trail, named for the conditions of the nearby lava flow. The trail itself, however, was lovely. Pebbles and sand made of pumice lay underfoot. This soft surface felt nice after scrambling over lava blocks in the caves the day before. The landscape was very open and beautiful. While it looked very similar to the high desert near our home in Bend, there was a surprising amount of lichen and moss covering the vegetation. Mountain mahogany grew alongside the more familiar Ponderosa pine and juniper trees.

We returned from the loop and hopped on the Hidden Valley trail just across the street. It led a quarter mile out to a viewpoint of the Hidden Valley. This depression in the landscape was filled with Ponderosa pines all lined up as if planted in rows. It would make for a fun scramble down on another day. We had some caving to do.

Heppe Cave

Onward ho! To Heppe Cave. A short trail led to this short cave with towering ceilings. There was a little pool of dirty water at the bottom. In fact the hike out there and the nearby Heppe Chimney were more interesting than the cave itself. Or maybe I just felt a little grumpy about the cave because I slipped on the wet rocks several times there. I did not wear the best shoes for rock-hopping.

Merrill Cave

A picnic table outside the entrance to Merrill Cave was a great place to sit and have lunch. As we ate, a few families exited the cave, got in their cars and left. Ours was the only one remaining, so that meant it was time to explore the cave! We’d been extraordinarily lucky in our adventures so far. There were a few people out and about but we almost never crossed paths with anyone inside of a cave. We passed a few folks entering as we were leaving and vice versa, but otherwise the caves were our own personal hideaways. We felt like explorers for nearly the entire trip.

Like Heppe cave, Merrill Cave had a history of harboring perennial ice. But today, without much ice these caves were far less interesting than they must have been in the past. Good thing we didn’t bring our ice skates. Metal stairways and catwalks led to a gated viewpoint of where the ice used to be. How, so…anticlimactic.

Balcony and Boulevard Caves

It was finally time to pull out the map book! Our last stop was the trailhead for Balcony and Boulevard Caves. These were both listed as “moderately challenging” in our cave guide. We first wandered into Balcony Cave. There was no indicator at the entrance which one this was, but there was a feature that resembled a balcony right near the cave opening. So that was our best guess.

We walked under a heart-shaped skylight and explored the various tunnels and nooks, trying to locate ourselves on the cave map. While I felt pretty comfortable with my navigation skills, I felt like a total newbie in deciphering the cave maps.

We wandered back up, enjoyed the insane clouds for a moment, and then descended into Boulevard Cave. The map looked SO SIMPLE. Any idiot should have been able to figure it out. But I was struggling to match up what I saw in front of me with what was drawn on the map. To test our map skills further, we decided to try one more thing…

Sharks Mouth

On the same page as Balcony and Boulevard, we noticed Shark’s Mouth Cave. With a name like that, how could we possibly go back to camp without looking for that first? There was no developed entrance but based on the information in the book it should have been well within our reach.

Out came the map and compass and we walked slowly in the direction where we believed one of the entrances would be. One led into an 8 foot tall chamber, so we figured it would be easy enough to find.

While it was not “easy,” we eventually found an entrance to the cave and ducked inside. It was a valuable activity to practice using the map inside the cave. I started feeling a little more confidence with this skill. We noticed the shark’s teeth formations and crawled into the shark’s mouth.

Success! Yay! Emerging from the cave just before sunset, we decided to call it a day and drove back to camp.


Armed with the map book and the knowledge of how to use it, we felt ready to test our skills in the Catacombs.

According to the rangers, people can spend upwards of FOUR HOURS exploring the network of tunnels inside the Catacombs cave system. That’s a lot of time underground! Looking at the map, I guessed we’d be able to see about half of it without needing to squeeze into a 2 foot tall slot. That’s not for me.

And so, we packed a small bag with the essentials for a jaunt through the Catacombs.

As we walked through the cave we referred back to the map frequently, identifying marked points of interest and learning how to interpret the markings in the book. This cave had multiple levels, which were not always easy to figure out on the map. We climbed up and scrambled down, took lefts and rights, investigated small cul-de-sacs and squirmed through tight passages. I used all the crawling techniques I knew and invented a few more. It felt like a real adventure! But the really small spaces didn’t appeal to me, and we turned back right where I thought we would. No matter, we spent nearly two hours in the cave and got to see a bunch of cool places.

I had no idea “wilderness” like this existed in the National Parks System, and I was thrilled that this existed as a public resource without handrails, paved floors or a bunch of red tape to get inside. At the entrance of each developed cave there was a standard sign with a bunch of warnings that no one ever reads, and then you’re on your own. Awesome.

First thing I had to do after getting outside of the cave was water a tree!

Skull Cave, Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave

There were three more caves to tick off the list and all could be reached from the campground on a 5-ish mile hike. We drove back to camp, ate lunch and then set off on foot to tackle the final caves. It was a nice walk on trails through the sunny, high desert landscape to the parking lot of Skull Cave. This easy, short cave was reached via a long stairway down into complete darkness. This was another one of those “there used to be ice here!” caves which was not terribly exciting to explore. Since it was marked easy in the book there were also a number of other visitors here.

Next we walked up to the access trail for Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave. The walk, again, was the highlight of this visit. We saw a pika on the rocks and enjoyed the sunny skies above us. Symbol Bridge had some (shockingly) non-vandalized cave painting remaining from Native Americans who’d lived here eons ago. But the juniper tree growing right over the entrance was probably my favorite feature. At Big Painted Cave, very little Native American markings remained today but it used to be a spiritual place for the former inhabitants.

The walk back was a treat. A nice way to cap off a weekend of new adventures. Halfway back to the camp, we stumbled upon a couple of deer on our path. Aaron spotted them first and we both stopped to watch them amble through. Delightful.

I would go back to Lava Beds National Monument in a heartbeat. There’s more to explore. Labyrinth Cave, Hercules Leg, Sentinel, Lava Brook and Juniper Cave were all closed for hibernating bats. Fern Cave, accessible only by tour group in the summer time, was also closed. Plus there was a ton of land we didn’t even come close to exploring. And in a cold snap, the ice sculptures that form inside the cave would be worth the visit. I was glad to have had the chance to get to this special place in 2017 and hope it remains protected, and wild, for decades to come.

Paulina Peak winter hike

November 18, 2017.

12 mi. | 2400′ ele. gain | 7 hrs.

The last time I hiked to the top of Paulina Peak in the winter I remember one thing: snowmobiles. It was late December, and snowmobile season was in full swing. We heard them, we saw them, and worst of all, we smelled them. It was awful. Ruined an almost perfect day.

So this year I put my thinking cap on. How early could I plan a trip up Paulina where there would be good snow for hiking but not enough snow to get the sleds out? Mid-November. I hoped. And then I put it on the schedule for the Cascades Mountaineers.

Eight people put their faith in my planning skills, so I REALLY hoped I had timed it right. We all met up in Bend and carpooled out to the trailhead on a cold and sunny November morning.

By 9:45 am we were all ready to start walking. There was a light coating of snow at the trailhead so we started with snowshoes strapped to our pack. It would take a couple miles of walking before we decided to strap them on our feet. We trekked into the viewpoint of Paulina Falls and took a nice rest break. Food, water, pictures. It wasn’t too long before we put our packs back on and started the climb up towards the peak.

I’ve been on this trail many times and each time the most difficult section is finding the summer trail from the road. There are blue diamonds on some trees that lure you into the woods, but then they seemingly disappear. I always end up walking on the road and off the trail for a while. So after a little bit of fussing around, that’s what we did.

Once the trail started climbing steeply uphill, the group separated a bit. The fastest hikers sped ahead and the slower hikers filtered towards the back. I prefer to lead from the back so I accompanied the latter group. It was such a lovely day and I was just so happy to be out there. It felt like we were the only group on the mountain.

After much trudging in the woods we eventually broke out to our first good viewpoint looking towards Paulina Peak’s cliff faces. It was beautiful. But we still had some ground to cover, so we didn’t dally long.

As we approached the upper trail sections we were careful to follow the blue diamonds. I have been led astray many times up here by following my gut instead of looking for the trail. In just a couple spots we stopped to assess our route. We mostly stayed on track.

That final push to the top couldn’t come soon enough. We burst out of the trees to a summit sign and an epic view over Paulina Lake. All the snowy volcanoes stood out on the distant horizon under deep blue skies. It was perfect timing, after all!

At the top we all got comfortable and dug into our food supplies. One of the hikers brought out his “instant fire” and we had a little warming station to stand around as we ate.

On the way down there was lots of chatter. The hard work was mostly done. We could now relax and enjoy the walk. Heading down the mountain through a gallery of rime-coated trees was just as magical today as it was the first time I wandered up here in 2006. As the sun began to set in the distance, we completed the final riverside walk to the parking lot. It was a glorious day. I was grateful to be able to share this experience with others and hopefully inspire them to plan their own winter adventures.

Kelso Dunes

April 6, 2017.

3 mi. | 650′ ele. gain | 2 hrs.

I arrived at the Kelso Dunes Parking area at 5:30 pm with the intention of enjoying sunset from the expansive dune field. The dunes lie within the Mojave National Preserve in southern California. Miraculously, these dunes are not open to off-road vehicles, creating a little haven for hikers who want to explore the sand on foot.

Having done a few night hikes on sand dunes before, I looked forward to the cooler weather, diminished crowds and sense of solitude that an evening hike would bring. There were a few other parties out on the dunes but most were wrapping up their day.

I put my shoes in my backpack and set off on the trail heading towards the dunes. Gray clouds cast a moody glow over the massive piles of sand. On either side of me, gorgeous flowers bloomed in purple and yellow. “Look what we can do!” they seemed to shout. I was in no rush, so enjoyed each little splash of color that caught my eye.

Once I reached the open sand, footprints went every which way. There was no marked trail here, just an open invitation to explore the dunes. I plodded up the steep and slippery sand, feeling the ground move under my feet with each step. As I climbed higher the views got better and better. The setting sun began to cast brilliant colors across the landscape. “Look what I can do!” the sun said.

All along the way I kept noticing these weird tracks in the sand. What made them? A snake? I couldn’t really tell. Something was working harder than me to cross this desolate landscape.

I reached a ridge leading to the highest dune and walked methodically towards the summit. There was a group of people taking videos and goofing around up there. Fortunately for me they were packing up just as I was arriving.

Sitting atop the dunes, I was stunned at what I saw. Mountain ranges in every direction. The sun setting underneath a blanket of clouds. It was like sitting in the middle of a painting, hearing onlookers say, “ugh, that is so not real.”

And then a visitor arrived. It was the same critter that made the tracks I’d seen earlier. A beetle! And it was heading straight for me. Luckily, it was just as hard for the beetle to move quickly on the sand as it was for me, so he approached slowly. I picked up and moved so as not to be in his path. He shifted trajectory. What the?? This beetle had it out for me. I stood up and walked around a little, noticing all the shadows, all the features, all the beauty that was laid out in front of me. Incredible.

Before the sun had the chance to set, I headed downhill. My goal was to get back to the car before dark. No problem, as getting down the sand dune was far easier than getting up!

I turned to look back at the bright sun dropping behind the biggest dune. And up ahead, primrose flowers began to open. What a sight. At dusk, I reached the trailhead and brushed the sand off my feet. A spectacular end to an adventurous day.

Three little hikes east of Bend

March 15, 2017.

I was ready to get out of the snow. I grabbed my friend Sarah and we drove east in search of new places and dry ground.

Dry River Channel

Sullivan’s Eastern Oregon hiking book mentions a short hike in the Badlands that follows an old river bed. I hadn’t seen it before, so we decided to make this our starting place. Following the directions we walked on a trail that took us to a narrow channel of short rock walls where we searched for Native American petroglyphs. Sarah and I investigated the rocks and looked for animal signs while her dog Ruby explored the top of the cliffs.

We looped back to the car and piled in to drive to our next stop.

Juniper Woodlands

The Juniper Woodlands Recreation Area is managed by the BLM and is located just north of the Oregon Badlands WIlderness. When we arrived at the trailhead we were greeted by a signboard with a map. Based on the map we put together a roughly 5.7 mile loop and started walking.

The trails were named and color coded on the map. Once we started hiking we noticed that the trail junctions were marked, however, with numbers. We did our best to stay on our route.

The terrain was terribly monotonous. It was flat and dry, with sage and juniper dominating the vegetation. The sky overhead was thick and gray. We were not inspired. Occasionally we’d stumble across an interesting sight. A large pile of old, rusted cans. Three attached vertebrae. Hundreds of purple juniper berries strewn beneath a large tree.

We couldn’t have reached the trailhead soon enough. It was time for one more hike.

Reynolds Pond

As luck would have it, we saved the best for last.

Reynolds Pond was stunning. We could hardly believe our eyes. Underneath moody clouds we saw bright yellow and orange leaves that seemed to defy the desert’s color palette. Beneath the water we could look down to the bottom of the pond. There was something to look at in all directions. My only disappointment was that the trail looping the pond was only a mile long. We wouldn’t have much of a walk here.

But, it felt great to walk on dry ground and feel that cool desert air on my face. I really enjoyed checking out some new places at a time where I thought I’d seen it all. No matter how much I explore there is always something new to discover.

Cone Peak winter training

March 12, 2017.

I was itching to get a winter outing on the Cascades Mountaineers schedule. Something that would be accessible for people who wanted to practice their snow travel skills. Having done this type of event on Cone Peak before, it was the natural choice.

I had three people show up at the appointed time so off we went. It was already warm and sunny at 9 am. We immediately put our snowshoes on to help us walk across the deep, wet snow. I fell into a rhythm as I hiked this familiar trail through the woods to the first open meadow. From there we were treated to views of beautiful cloud formations and our conical destination.

We found the path of least resistance through the trees at the far end of the meadows and began going uphill. Partway up we swapped our snowshoes and poles for crampons and ice ax since that was the whole point of the trip.

Everyone got a chance to practice fiddling with gear and walking up steep snow. One of the participants was nervous about the snow so she kept veering towards a rock rib to our left. I yelled at her to come back and face that snow slope head on. She complied and got a great lesson in trusting her feet in the snow.

Up and up we went. Once we hit the ridge we strolled happily to the highpoint on the far end. It was windy up there, so we hung out long enough to snap a picture and then doubled back to hide in the lee of a small rock outcrop to eat lunch.

The return hike provided an opportunity to practice downclimbing a steep, wet snowslope, which presented different challenges than going up. Once we got through the worst of it, we changed back into snowshoes and followed our tracks back out to the trail head.

Snow conditions are different from day to day and it never hurts to get more experience practicing snow travel. The more time I spend on snow the more I am able to anticipate what I’m in for and adjust my behavior to match the conditions. I can only hope that my group members gained a little more insight and experience so that the next time they get out they feel better prepared!

Maiden Peak Shelter winter backpacking

February 25-26, 2017.

My friend Kat was looking for an overnight adventure and I decided to join her. We hiked in to a place I’d been many times before: Maiden Peak Shelter. Although I’d been there several times for Thanksgiving, this would be my first February trip. I was excited to share this cool place with someone new and revisit this charming shelter.

We arrived at Gold Lake Sno-Park and packed up to go by 9:30 am. There was so much snow! I felt the weight of my heavy overnight pack on my back but was really psyched to do some snowshoeing. We crossed the highway and started up the approach road to the trail system.

Since we were on snowshoes, we had to put in our own tracks. Cross-country skiers had been through here, leaving their parallel lines in the deep snow. So we plodded ahead, one step at a time, through the heavy, fresh stuff. It was a lot of work.

The trail leading to the shelter had been tracked out by skiers, so we continued beside their line. At some point we lost the trail and began walking cross country, up some steep slopes, angling towards our destination. It took us 3 and a half hours to find it. What a relief! When we arrived, we unloaded and ate lunch.

After a nice rest break, we threw a few essentials into our much lighter packs and set out on the trail towards Maiden Peak. I knew we wouldn’t quite get to the top, but we both were looking to stretch our legs a bit before settling in for the night.

We hiked for a couple of hours in the silent woods. The skies were blue and the sun streamed through the treetops. A delightful day.

When we got back to the cabin, a new group had arrived. This cabin was a first-come, first-served kind of deal with no reservations. So I tried to push my past experiences aside and give this group a chance.


Of course they had a dog. Of course the dog was barking and nipping at us. Of course the dog’s owner said, “she’s never done that before!” Not once, but at least 10 times. Pro-tip, you can only use that line once. Then it doesn’t work anymore. I was pretty pissed off. Of course there was music and drinking and smoking and just basically being obnoxious humans. This seems to be what people do when they go to the woods. So much for a great day.

I went to bed just dreaming for sunrise and my chance to get out. In the morning, I felt rushed to pack. And in doing so I was careless about pouring boiling hot water into my water bladder and proceeded to pour it all over the back of my hand.

Sigh. There’s never a benefit to rushing. I set the pot down, took a breath and quickly reviewed what I knew about burns. I went outside and poured some cool water over the area and let the initial trauma settle down. Then, I covered it loosely with gauze to protect the burned skin and allow me to put a mitten on over my damaged hand. Stupid rushing. Stupid, stupid.

We had 5 miles of hiking to do in order to return to the car. In stark contrast from yesterday, the sky was completely overcast. We hiked out in a snowstorm, making pretty decent time, following the now well-tracked route to the road.

So while it wasn’t the most awesome trip, I learned some valuable lessons. First, never show up at a group shelter expecting solitude or polite behavior. Second, no matter what, TAKE YOUR TIME when performing camp chores. Working in a hurry almost always leads to mistakes, and mistakes cost time (and ego). It’s way more efficient to work more slowly and methodically in the long run. Plus, the job gets done better. And on the brighter side, I had a nice walk with Kat on both days. It wasn’t a total loss. And as I always say, a day in the woods is better than a day in the house!