Backpacking Trip Report: Denali

Area: Denali National Park

State: Alaska

Mileage: 8

Days: 1

Type: In and Out

My girlfriend and I were traveling through Alaska after finishing our work on a trail crew at Kenai Fjords National Park and stopped at Denali National Park for two days. On our first day there, we drove until the gate at milepost 30. Since it was passed the park\’s season, private vehicles can drive down the Park Highway. On our way back at around milepost 23? my girlfriend and I decided to start hiking to a peak that we had kind of randomly chosen.

The hike was extremely difficult. The tundra grabbed at me on every step and I never knew what was beneath the moss as I placed my boot. It took us nearly 3 hours to get to the really steep parts and the beginning of the snow. We saw several sheep tracks but didn\’t spot any wildlife. When we turned around and looked at the view had climbed to, we were awestruck by the magnificence of Denali. It towered above everything else and we were over 50 miles away!

Another highlight was our mile walk across a solid snowpack. My girlfriend had never experienced that on a mountain top and I was wishing I had skis.

The hike down took considerably less, but was a strain on my body. I was exhausted by the time we reached the vehicle, but I now know a little more about what it is like in the tundra and peaks of Denali National Park.

Trip Report: Dolly Sods Wilderness – A Series of Unfortunate Events

Location: Dolly Sods Wilderness

State: West Virginia

Miles: 9

Days: 2

Type: Loop

Last weekend I went on a backpack trip with another group. It was a trip we had been planning for a few months and was supposed to consist of 3 days of backpacking. Our plan was to do a 15 mile loop in the northern section of the Dolly Sods Widlerness.

So, we meet up at Seven’s house at the butt crack of dawn (5am to you leiman) and head on down the road. Our destination would be the Dolly Sods Wilderness of WV in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest. This was all of our first time’s there with the exception of Steve that had gone on 2 other occassions. This would be his first time in the northern section of the wilderness area, however. We were playing phone tag with Eric from Cinci who had gotten a late start. I told him we’d leave an estimate of where we would be setting up camp the first night on Seven’s vehicle.

Now, let me just say, we were all aware that it had snowed about 6 or 7 inches earlier in the week, but figured a majority of it would’ve melted by the time we got there. As we get into the higher elevations of WV, we soon realize that that isn’t the case. Houses still have a good 5 inches of snow on their roofs and the snow hadn’t melted off the ground yet. Plus, we started to run into intermittant snow showers. This is going to make things very interesting…

We arrive at the trail head of Bear Rocks at around 1pm and it was just as we suspected. It was pretty darn cold, windy and snowy. We all can’t wait to get out on the trail and start getting warmed up.

Somehow…I end up at the head of the pack breaking trail in areas. About 10 minutes into the hike, the cluts in me breaks free, I lose my footing and just miss a pretty jagged rock. Thankfully, the snow was soft… After that, I relinquished my powers at the head of the pack and fell somewhere in the middle.

The scenery was spectacular with the snow covered pines and plains. The clouds looked extremely ominous and took on a life of their own. We knew we’d be hiking in flying snow soon.

I noted how extremely wet this place was and mentioned it to a friend when we returned. She said that it’s always wet, but the cold would definitely play a huge factor in this story.

At our first stream crossing of Red Creek, Cathy decided she would go first. She’d never done a stream crossing before and made a mistake of trying to do it quickly. She lost her footing and balance and fell in. The rest of us made our way across and quickly got up into tree cover to get her changed into dry clothing. Thankfully, nothing inside her pack had gotten wet. After she was changed, we headed on up the trail.

Everyone was starting to get a bit tired. The cold and wind really does a number on you. But, the views were unsurmountable…

We get to the sign stating we had come to Blackbird Knob trail and decide which was to go. If we went East, there was a campsite about a 1/4 mile up. West and we’d hike another mile and a half. We decided to go east and got to our campsite about 10 minutes later.

We started setting up camp and then attempting to collect firewood. Surprisingly, we found an ample supply. About an hour after arriving at camp, our 6th member of the group arrived. He had hiked in an easy 1 1/2 miles to camp to find us busy making home and starting the fire to dry out our boots and such.

Oddly, I didn’t have much of an appetite that evening and only ate about 3 handfulls of trail mix. Seven mentioned he was hungry, just not for any of the food he had brought. So, we sat around the warm fire and chatted and Eric had brougth a little Elmer T. Lee to share.

Around 9:30, Steve decided to go to bed. Our first thought was, “but the firewood isn’t gone yet!” About an hour later, the rest of us followed suit leaving quite a bit of wood for the morning.

I fell asleep with my hot water bottle at the foot of my sleeping bag keeping my feet nice and toasty. At about 12am I was awakend by a ‘crunch’ ‘crunch’ crunch’ in the snow and heavy breathing. My first thought was, “is that a bear?” and then, “what the heck am I gonna do?” The next thing I know, I hear someone cry out “Can somebody help me?” “I’m lost!” “I fell in the creek about 4 hours ago, I’m wet and I need some dry clothes!” Again, I thought to myself, “What the heck am I gonna do?” He went over to Cathy’s tent and tried to unzip it at which she left a near blood curdling scream. We yelled for Steve and Bill to get up and check out the situation.

They got up and walked out to check the guy out. Bill searched his daypack and found he only had food, a flashlight and a soaked map with him. They guy was completely drenched. When they asked him what he was doing, he explained that he had gone for a day hike that morning at 5am. He was about 1.5 miles from his car when he made a mistake and fell into the creek just before the sun went down. He got disoriented and lost the trail so decided to start walking up river to the next trail crossing. When he missed that, he kept going. Somehow he ended up on the trail that took him to our camp.

We scrounged up dry clothes, made some hot cocoa for him and draped him in a couple of space blankets. We got the campfire going again and start drying out his clothes. The plan was for Bill and Steve to take shifts so the guy could get some rest. The guys told us girls to go back to bad, that we had done all we could do. We were all reluctant.

The next part of the story I didn’t find out about until the next morning. At around 2:30 am, our midnight visitor said he was going to get more firewood. Bill told him not to worry about it, that there was enough there to get them through till the morning with a small fire. He insisted and left camp in search of more wood. Bill waited up for an hour and he never came back. At around 4:30am I heard ‘crunch’ ‘crunch’ ‘crunch’ again, then the rustle of the space blankets. I figured he had just gone to the restroom.

So, at around 7:30am I wake up. I’m the first one up and I decided to go out and tell our visitor to craw into my tent and attempt to get warmed up. By now, I’m scared to death to walk out and find what I might find. I shook him and he woke up. He went and layed down in my tent and sleeping bag until I woke him up about 2 hours later to start tearing down camp.

Based on everything that had happened and the fact noone got a very good night’s rest, we all decided to bail out and hike out with our visitor and Eric (who was only there for the night anyway).

It’s a story I don’t think any of us will soon forget. The most surreal thing I think I’ve ever experienced. The guys completely kept their heads which in turn helped me. Hypothermia had already started to set in on our visitor when he found us. He was very disoriented and stumbling around. Thankfully there was a happy ending and we got him back to his car which was parked at the Picnic area at the very southern section of the wilderness area.

I left our visitor’s name out in case he lurks here as he mentioned that he does backpack. I’m just glad he made it out safely.

Backpacking Trip Report: Dale Mining District



Location: Near Joshua Tree Nat’l Park

Type: Loop

Mileage: 5
Days: 3

OK, this wasn’t really a backpacking trip, we drove through in 4WD and camped. Still, the area would have been fun to explore on foot, so here’s the report.

I have often camped at Joshua Tree Nat’l Park, and while it’s a beautiful place, I was always intrigued by the blank space on the map labeled only as the ‘Pinto Basin’. Theres a few places along the park road where you can look down into it. Its just a huge, flat, empty, remote space. I’ve never met anyone who had been there. So, naturally, I had to go…

A little research revealed that the easy way in is not from the park, but to drive down from the north through the Dale Mining District. About 13 miles east of Twentynine Palms is ‘Gold Crown Road’, which eventually becomes ‘Old Dale Road’ and proceeds through mountains, into the basin, down a many mile long jeep trail of deep sand, and finally into the park.

So, on the last weekend of February, my daughter and I loaded up the ol’ Ford 4×4 and headed east.

When you leave the pavement on hwy 62 east of twentynine palms, the road starts out innocently, leading straight and narrow with just a few inches of sand. About 4 miles down the road the road forks, and you reach the first of many mines, shafts and audits. This is the Virgina Dale mine. Here you’ll find a short tunnel ending in a shaft, a rusty overturned car, a few cyanide vats, and some concrete foundations. We collected a few shiny rocks, but nothing of any value.

Now the road becomes rougher, and from here on 4WD was required. We went another couples miles, past a few more old rusty cars and a few audits and mine tailing piles, then pulled over and camped on a ridge with a great south view. We spent two days here, exploring and enjoying the last of the Southern California winter weather. Sunny, but only in the mid 70s. By mid summer, it will still be sunny, but running in the 90s-100s temperature.

We drove over to the nearby Supply Mine, and found a VERY long tunnel to explore. This must have been one of the largest mines in the area, with water tanks, concreate foundations, multiple tunnels and shafts, rock walls from what must have been a cabin, scattered sheets of corregated steel, and the biggest pile of rusty tin cans I have ever seen. It completely filled a ravine, nearly an acre long and maybe 12 feet deep.
Again, we collected a few shiny rocks. Some pieces of quartz so pure it looked as dazzling as sugar in the sun. No gold though, so it looked look I would have to drive back home to go to work on Monday.

Since we had the truck, we brought all the luxuries we don’t usually have when backpacking. Plenty of water for hot showers, the meat smoker to cook ribs, cots to sleep off the ground, etc… Well, we got lazy and spent the rest of the weekend there, and never did get all the way down into the Pinto Basin.

Trip Report: Wind River Range

Friday, July 15
After work, I left for the airport and my flight to Denver, Colorado. When I got to Denver I was to meet up with the Captn and his son Tom. My 6:00 PM flight left the gate right on time, but we sat on the runway until about 7:00 waiting for clearance to take off. I phoned the Captn to let him know. The flight went smoothly and I was only 10 minutes late. I got to baggage claim and within 5 minutes or so the Captn was ringing my cell. I told him where I was and soon heard him calling my name. He said that he figured I was the “guy walking around the airport with fishing rod in hand…” We located the hotel shuttle and within about ½ hour, we were at our hotel. We settled in and the Captn ordered pizza for supper. I called coloradodcs, our ride from Denver to Lander, and then called powerhiker to let him know we were here. After chatting for a couple of hours with the Captn and Tom, we drifted off to dreamland.

Saturday, July 16
Coloradodcs arrived at the hotel. After stowing our gear in his truck we hit the highway. We met up with powerhiker along the way and I switched over to his van. From there the caravan was off to Lander, connected by two-way radios. It was a pleasant drive. We stopped in Rawlins for lunch and were back on the road in less than an hour. The landscape changed about every 15 minutes or so. We saw dry fields leading up to rolling hills, groves of trees, and red rock formations with the rock strata canted at weird angles. There were rounded piles of rocks, which powerhiker said were a lot like what you would see in the Vaudevoos (sp?) He talked about his recent trail maintenance trip and we both remarked that we couldn’t believe our trip had actually started. Along the way we saw pronghorn roaming the plains, some even close to the road. Before long, we saw signs for Lander and knew we were close. When we checked in at the hotel we found that just about everyone was already there: eduk8er and Trail Angel; Foggy, Mr. Foggy, and TroutBoy; LiRM35 and showmehiker; Jaywalker and HighHills; Zipee and hikes-with-dumbbell; JeffB and Trail Turtle. With the Captn, Tom, coloradodcs, powerhiker and me there was only one missing. Not long after we arrived, bunion pulled in and the group was complete. We visited with everyone, reuniting with friends we knew and getting acquainted with the newcomers. It was great – and I got to get there before 2 AM this year – with all of my gear intact! Supper was at 6:30 so we unloaded and cleaned up. We got our fishing licenses and some other “stuff” then went back to the hotel where we gathered to leave for supper at Cowfish, the local watering hole. Before we left for the restaurant, Foggy and Mr. Foggy gave out our official team t-shirts for this year’s trip. I handed out embroidered patches and Leave no Trace cards to everyone. Supper was a really fun time as we continued to get to know each other. The excitement of the group was electric as each of us talked about our expectations for the trip. After supper, we hung out in the park behind the hotel until about 10 PM, and then off to our rooms for our last sleep in a bed for awhile.

At the Trailhead: In front – PowerHiker and Bunion
L to R: Trail Angel, Eduk8er, JeffB, JayWalker, HighHills, TrailTurtle, Hikes-with-dumbbell, Zipee,
Coloradodcs, Tom, the Captn, TroutBoy, ShowmeHiker, LiRM35, Foggy, Squilax, Mr. Foggy
(photo by JayWalker)

Sunday, July 17
We gathered at 7:42 AM in front of eduk8er’s room. With gear in vehicles and coffee in hand, we eagerly anticipated heading for the trailhead at the Worthen Meadows reservoir. The convoy left, traveling through town then up through Sinks Canyon to the dirt track that led us into the mountains. Following switchback after switchback, we finally arrived on top past Frye Lake to the reservoir and parking lot. There were a few vehicles already there, including horse and llama (yes, LLAMA) trailers. We gathered our gear, making sure we didn’t leave anything necessary behind (right eduk8er??). We made final pit stops, and then headed up the trail. Did I say UP? It sure was – almost all the way! It was soon apparent that there were two sub-groups in this cadre of backcountry explorers. One group of fairly quick-paced folk including Trail Turtle, whom we all were sure, spoke with a forked tongue about her hiking style! The rest of us: eduk8er, Trail Angel, the Captn, Tom and I, kept a steady, but more relaxed pace, taking photos and talking along the way. We took more breaks than the lead group, but we enjoyed the pace as we trudged up to the pass at 10,600 feet. We found a nice spot to stop next to a waterfall. It was a welcome relief to drop the pack, have lunch and string up my hammock for a siesta. I thought I had tested both of the trees I was using, but against Tom’s better judgment, I tied off the foot end of the hammock to a very large, but very dead, tree. Just about the time I began to doze off (about 15 minutes or so) I heard cracking and snapping and opened my eyes to see the huge trunk falling my way. It was like viewing in slow motion as the tree’s roots let loose from the dry ground and fell toward me veering off to my right and landing with a resounding THUD on the ground. I can’t recall ever seeing eduk8er on his feet so quickly! He jumped up shouting, thinking I was under the tree, and everyone scurried over to find me sitting leisurely in my hammock, on the ground, with a very surprised look on my face! We all laughed, nervously, thinking about what the outcome might have been. Powerhiker had come down to meet us and we got back on the trail. We laughed about this escapade more than once during the rest of the week. Heh heh… We made it to the top of the pass around suppertime, and what a view from the dinner table! Across from us were the Wind River Mountains, including Wind River Peak, snow covered in all its glory. What a sight to behold! Powerhiker and showmehiker were waiting on top for us and had water to refill our supply. They didn’t want our two groups to be out of touch with each other. As they went down to meet up with the rest of the Wanderers, powerhiker said he’d be back a little later to camp with us up on the pass. We ate supper and soon after, a couple of the members in our group felt dizzy and nauseated, so we decided to head down for lower elevations to help alleviate their symptoms. As we started downhill, I tried to raise powerhiker on the radio but he was already coming over the ridge below us. We told him what was going on, and he joined us in our descent. He had already climbed that pass three times today, so I was sure he was tired and hungry. We found a nice spot to set up camp for the night and as it was close to 9 PM, we decided to stop while we still had light to see. There was a stream nearby and our campsite was nestled in a dense copse of evergreens a couple hundred feet off and below the trail. Powerhiker and I slung our hammocks – I looked for two sturdy, very LIVE trees this time – while everyone else put up their tents. Once situated, I lit my candle lantern, set it on a large flat rock and laid back looking up at the stars beginning to show between the branches above. I thought to myself, “what a beautiful day this turned out to be”. Powerhiker joined me with his Indian flute. He sat nearby, and the mournful tones emanating from this carved piece of wood blended into the surroundings. How appropriate! The moon, the stars, and Native music! It was plaintive, but soothing and relaxing as I laid back and looked up into the sky. We talked for awhile in between songs and it felt good to be one with nature.

Monday, July 18
We awoke and busied ourselves with breakfast, cleanup and repacking our gear. I asked eduk8er if he’d like to lighten his pack a bit – I thought he had brought my supper meals. He looked at me surprised and asked, “What do you mean?” I realized he had not brought my food with him. He assumed I had brought everything I needed, so he left my meal packs in the back of his truck – 7 miles away… We had a good laugh over that one. As it turned out, nobody went hungry. The food I brought, in addition to the fish we caught during the week was more than enough to see us through. Some of the point group passed by on their way to the creek to restock their water supply, so we chatted with them about the day before. We headed down to their camp, discovering that it was only another few hundred yards away and met up with the rest. Foggy, Mr. Foggy and TroutBoy decided to hang out with us on the trail today, so when everyone was ready we set off. Keeping our leisurely pace, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the fellowship, getting to know the Foggys again. It seemed all we did was laugh and carry on, as if it really hadn’t been a year since we last saw each other. We made it to Bill’s Park that afternoon and set up camp across the river. During suppertime, Foggy built a great campfire and we enjoyed our meal together, gathered around the fire telling jokes, swapping stories and engaging in animated conversation for most of the evening. We watched the stars come out and saw the almost full moon rise through the trees. The Captn and Tom were beginning to recover from their distress of being at altitude and everyone was having a great time.

Tuesday, July 19
Sometime during the night, the cords on my hammock stretched on one side and I found myself lying towards one edge of the hammock instead of comfortably snuggled in the center. Fortunately, my hammock has sewn-in bug netting, so I didn’t fall out. Unfortunately though, the side that had loosened during the night was opposite the side from where the opening was. When I awoke to the sounds of everyone having breakfast, I tried to get out of the hammock, but kept rolling backwards away from the opening. After struggling, but before taking out my knife to cut myself loose, I was finally able to roll up and out. Eduk8er yelled, “Look – it’s giving birth!” and I found myself sitting on the ground. We all laughed at this and I was soon OK as I had my first cup of coffee. After breakfast, I decided to do some fishing and exploring. The Foggys had taken off downstream to pursue some elusive brook trout, and several of us soon followed suit. The radio crackled to life and we heard “powerhiker to Winds Wanderers” come across the airwaves. Eduk8er answered the call. Powerhiker, showmehiker, Zipee and bunion had all reached the top of Wind River Peak and they were checking in with us. We found out that JeffB was not feeling up to par and that he and powerhiker would be joining us later in the day. After lunch, we lounged by the river taking in the beauty that surrounded us. This was a good time to catch up on everything that had transpired since we saw each other last. During the day, everyone contributed to the stringer of fish that was to become our supper that night. Foggy, Trail Angel, the Captn and I had the job of preparing the fish and then it was time for the Bill’s Park Trout Cook off. We ended up with four different fish dishes for supper – Trout Chowder, Lemonade Poached Trout, Italian Spiced Trout and Cajun Blackened Trout. What made it taste even better was that we were eating it outdoors, sharing it with friends. Powerhiker and JeffB joined us in time to finish off the last of the fish. Tonight turned out to be an early to bed night for everyone as the fresh air and activity had worn us all out.

Wednesday, July 20
Woke up to a beautiful morning and today was pretty much like Tuesday. Fishing, lounging, napping, talking, but with one new activity – swimming! JEEZ! That water was FREAKIN’ COLD! Tom and I worked up the nerve to get in, and we swam across the river. It definitely was, uh, refreshing – yeah, that’s it! Others joined in – TroutBoy, eduk8er, and Trail Angel. The nice thing after the swim was that the sun was warm and the mountain breeze helped us to dry off quickly. When we gathered later at the fire, three of us showed up in an unofficial “uniform of the day”. Mr. Foggy, eduk8er and I were all wearing green cargo pants and long sleeved white shirts! We all laughed, and someone, I can’t remember if it was Foggy or Trail Angel, asked us if we planned this ahead of time. It was pretty comical. Zipee and hikes-with-dumbbell joined us later as the other group of Wanderers stopped by. They were all headed for the Stough Creek Lakes and were checking in with us. Another supper of trout and various accompaniments awaited us tonight. JeffB was a lot perkier today as he acclimated to the lower elevation.

Thursday, July 21
Today we decided to pack up and head out. The afternoon before, powerhiker, eduk8er and Zipee pored over the map to set the route back to the reservoir. We set out for Sheep Bridge to camp there for the night. This would give us a short hike on our last day. We stopped occasionally for photos and broke for lunch a little past Gill’s Park. It was here that the Popo Agie River opened up into a beautiful lake and looking back, we viewed the reflection of the mountains on its calm surface. Today’s lunch break was no different than all the other meal times… our sides ached and some of us had tears running down our faces from laughing so hard. It was terrific to be in the company of such a wonderful group of friends! We made it to Sheep Bridge and set up camp. This was a beautiful site. We had a huge flat rock for our kitchen and dining area and the river was not too far away. There were shallow pools at the edge of the water where we soothed our feet and legs and we washed off the accumulated dust from the trail. After supper, powerhiker entertained us with more flute music and we awaited the sight of the full moon over the mountain. We relived the week’s experiences with each other, thinking about plans for next year and talking about some possible locations for next summer’s gathering.

Friday, July 22
As promised, the hike out was a short one. Although the beginning was all uphill, we found a nice rest spot up on top and took a break. The Foggys, TroutBoy, powerhiker, Zipee, and hikes-with-dumbbell preceded the rest of us and we took our time together, not wanting this awesome week to draw to a close. As it turned out, we were less than ½ hour from the parking lot when we took our break. When we crested the next rise we saw the reservoir below. It wasn’t long before we reunited with the rest of our group. Powerhiker was waiting with bottles of Gatorade for all of us. When we were all there and loaded up, we headed down the mountain. We stopped briefly to check out Sink’s Canyon. This is an oddity of nature where the Popo Agie River disappears underground into a cave and reappears further downstream in a deep pool filled with huge trout. At the hotel, we cleaned up and awaited the arrival of the other group of Wanderers. We met up at Cowfish again. This time when we got to the restaurant there was no power. Such are the tribulations of being on a trip with eduk8er! We spent the time visiting and comparing notes from the week while waiting for power to be restored. Dinner was great. Afterward, we went back to eduk8er’s room to watch a slide show that Trail Angel had put together including photos from everyone who had a digital camera. We hung out for awhile in the parking lot. Jaywalker handed out some mementos and a special treat from Kentucky. I don’t think anyone wanted to see this trip come to an end!
Location: Wind River Range

State: Wyoming

Miles: 32

Days: 6

Type: In and Out

Saturday, July 23
Joined the Wanderers for breakfast at the Oxbow. Jaywalker and HighHills, LiRM35 and showmehiker, bunion, and Trail Turtle left either before breakfast or the night before. When we were finished, we packed up for the ride home. We said our goodbyes and the Captn, Tom and I piled into coloradodcs’ truck, headed for Denver. Powerhiker, Zipee, and hikes-with-dumbbell left for Pinedale and another week in the Winds. The Foggys and TroutBoy headed off to Washington. Eduk8er and Trail Angel did their final packing and would be on the road soon. We headed south to Rawlins and stopped in at the Subway where we had lunch on the way up. Eduk8er called me and said he wasn’t far behind us. When I saw him pull in, I traveled the rest of the way to Denver with him and Trail Angel. The Captn got a phone call from his niece in Boulder. She was picking him and Tom up at the hotel so we wouldn’t be getting the chance to say goodbye. I also missed saying goodbye to coloradodcs (for the second year running). The three of us – eduk8er, Trail Angel, and me – stopped at the Cracker Barrel for supper then went to the hotel. We hung out in the hot tub for awhile and then called it a night. I was really grateful for this “bonus” time with eduk8er and his wife.

Sunday, July 24
We drove over to the airport after breakfast and said our goodbyes there. I wish this trip could have continued, but all good things eventually come to an end. Well – There’s always next year! Bandelier in March and who knows where next July??

Backpacking Trip Report: Pruitt to Kyles Landing

Area: Buffalo River

State: Arkansas

Mileage: 17

Days: 3

Type: In and Out

We did this trip over Labor Day weekend. We started at Pruitt campground and headed back up river on the BRT (Buffalo River Trail) which is the trail that goes up and away from the river and is also limited to hikers only. There is a trail that stays on the river called the ORT (Old River Trail) that is for hikers and horses.As we started out we ascended a graudual climb up to an overlook. From there the trail passes several old homesteads and then winds up at Ozark campground. That leg of the trail is 2.6 miles. This is a great place to swim and relax. From there we headed on up river towards Erbie. We stopped about a mile short of Erbie to camp for the night. That was about 5 miles form Ozark and we dropped down onto the ORT to get to the river and filter some water.

There’s a great place to camp on down on the river here. It’s a gravel bar that has places where there are sand. We had to shrink the River’s snake population here by three so be careful when camping down on the river. There are some great holes here for fishing and swimming and just a great place to relax.

The next morning we set out for another day of hiking. We passed through Erbie and on to some of the coolest parts of the trail I’ve ever been on. There are several historical sites on this section of the trail. There’s the Parker-Hickman farm and an old cemetery just up the road from there with some stones that date back to 1796. From there we hiked along a ridge overlooking the river and saw some really great stuff. This is a pretty long span away from the river so if you go it make sure you take plenty of water. At this point we dropped back down to the river for some swimming and some lunch.

After lunch we decided to make it over to Camp Orr Boy Scout Camp to go through a cave there called Copper Head Cave. We got the cave and had to help get a guy out of the cave that couldn’t climb back out. This cave is a drop in and then goes for a nearly a mile. After getting the guy out of the cave we decided to head back down to the river set up camp. We ended up camping about .6 of a mile from our final destination on a gravel bar at Buzzard Bluff. It was awesome. The bluff walls here are over 300 feet tall and truly amazing. The swimming there is awesome too.

After a good night we headed the last .6 of a mile to Kyle’s landing and then over to the cave for the day. We were originally planning on making this a three day but ended up doing all but the last .6 of a mile in 2 days. We decided to stop there because of how awesome it was.

This was a great hike. I would highly recommend it! Be sure to check out the pictures.

Backpacking Trip Report: Woodswoman’s Glacier Gang Trip report

Area: Glacier National Park

State: Montana

Days: 5

Type: Loop

This is going to be a long trip report. What a trip it was! The Glacier Gang finally met up for the HOC, one that was planned for months and was much anticipated by all. We divided up into two groups – the Two Medicine Group and the Belly River Group. In the Two Medicine Group were The Fogduo, Burntfoot, Justdropin’, Coloradodcs, LiRM35, and Woodswoman. In the Belly River Group were Squilax, Eduk8er, Mtbackpacker, PJSaeli, MsKatieBear, Ardwick, and Hollowayb. The Two Medicine Group had one no-show; I won’t tell you who it was, but he gets the Grizzly Bear Poop Award for not letting anyone know he wasn’t coming.

Before I start my story, I will say this was the trip of a lifetime for me. Not only was GNP a spectacular place, but the Two Medicine Group was a great group of people to be with. We worked well as a team, and we got along famously. Friendships were made and bonds were formed. I want to thank the Two Medicine Group for the wonderful laughs, the sharing, and the memories we made while on our trip. As for the Belly River Group, even though we didn’t hike together, I enjoyed meeting all of you and hanging out together at the motel.

No s**t…there we were in Glacier National Park…
The Glacier Gang made their way to East Glacier Park by way of planes, trains, and automobiles. We met at the Circle R Motel in East Glacier, most of us getting there by Thursday, July 15. Squilax had some flight issues and then his backpack was temporarily lost. Eduk8er waited in Kalispell for him. They finally made their way to East Glacier in the wee hours of the morning of July 16. Justdropin’ was due to arrive on Friday morning via Amtrak. The evening of July 15 the rest of the Glacier Gang hung out at the motel, visited and got to know one another. We made our way to Blondie’s, a local bar near the motel, where we ate and drank an assortment of drinks (beers and sodas). Our excursion to Blondie’s is a trip report all to itself. There were 11 of us, and it was our waitress’s first night. We befuddled her and she in turn befuddled us. Food orders got confused, some food didn’t arrive for a long time, sour cream got spilled on Burntfoot’s lap, and Mr. Foggy was bonked in the head by the waitress. We survived the excursion, but we don’t know about the waitress. She probably quit after we left.

On Friday morning, we gathered and sorted out our groups and got headed on the way to our trailheads. Burntfoot was gracious enough to wait behind for Justdropin’, so the rest of the Two Medicine Group went on to the trailhead and began our trip. I think it was around 11:30 when we started out, and it was a hot day. The first day was an easy 4.1 mile hike in to Atlantic Creek. Burntfoot and Justdropin’ showed up not long after the rest of us arrived in camp. We selected our campsites and set up tents, hung food, and rested. After we ate our dinners, LiRM35, Coloradodcs, Burntfoot, and I decided to take a hike up to Medicine Grizzly Lake, just over a mile up the trail. It was well worth the short hike – was very pretty, and Coloradodcs did some fishing (he caught a few trout). I showed my clumsiness when I tripped and fell on the way up to the lake. I was impressed – none of the guys laughed at me, at least not then. That came later. At the lake, Burntfoot spotted a bull moose with antlers in velvet in the water really close to us. We all took pictures and oohed and awed at our good fortune to see it. After the moose left, the Fogduo and Justdropin’ showed up. Mr. Foggy joined Coloradodcs in fishing, and LiRM35, Burntfoot, Justdropin’, and I headed back to camp. The night was uneventful, other than it was hot and muggy and the mosquitoes were in fine form. The Fogduo shared a tent, Burntfoot and Justdropin’ shared a tent, LiRM35 and I shared his wonderful tarptent, and poor Coloradodcs was left all alone in his tent.

Saturday morning most of the folks were up early for a 3.1 mile hike to Morning Star Lake. “What’s wrong with those people?!” was my voiced thought (insert smiley face here). After breakfast, we headed out and made good time to Morning Star. Again, it was very hot. At Morning Star, we were treated to a beautiful lake that also just happened to be ice cold. Some of us had the notion that taking a dip in the lake would be a welcome relief from the heat, but we never made it past our ankles. Justdropin’ showed us who the real man of the group was. He jumped in the lake not once but at least three times! At this lake we had our first sighting of………THE HAT LADY! Yikes! What a sight to behold! This lady had a huge white, wide-brimmed hat, and was covered from head to foot in a mosquito net shroud. When we first saw her, we all wondered “What the heck is that?!” Her outfit was a pale yellow suit of some sort. All you could see was her face. I must admit, after a few days of fighting mosquitoes, any of us would have gladly offered The Hat Lady money for her outfit. On with the story….in the morning we woke up to the sound of Foggy’s flipflops flipping and flopping. She had been making her way to the food prep area and spooked up a moose. She came running back to camp to get her camera. Let me tell you, those flip flops were going to town! Poor Foggy didn’t get a picture of the moose, though. While at Morning Star Lake, LiRM35 gave knot-tying lessons to Foggy and me. I don’t think I passed.

Sunday morning we all got up early so we could get started on the Death March – a 8.6 mile hike that included a 3-mile traverse along the sides of some mountains. We had a 1800′ elevation gain ahead of us, and a 2100′ elevation loss. We got lucky that day – it was overcast and cooler than it had been the previous two days. When we left Morning Star Lake, the climb began immediately. We climbed and climbed; the views got better and better. We stopped at Pitamakin Lake and took a nice long break, and looked UP at where we had to go. Burntfoot and Coloradodcs took the lead here and made it to the first pass before the rest of us. FYI: Coloradodcs was a great “Hey Bear!” person. He led us most of the time and made sure no hungry bruins picked off any of us. After reaching this first pass (I can’t remember the name) we again rested and enjoyed the views. Then we started our final ascent up to Pitamakin Pass. This involved crossing a small snowfield, and I for one HATE crossing snowfields. It was a first for Justdropin’ and LiRM35. I nervously watched as everyone came across, and nearly had a heart attack when LiRM35 stepped on an icy patch at the end of the snowfield. I’m not sure which scared him most – slipping a little on the ice or me screaming, “DON’T STEP THERE!” Everyone made it across without mishap. Burntfoot and Coloradodcs were already the the top of the pass waiting for us slow pokes. As each of us reached the pass, we exclaimed “Oh My God!” at the views. All except LiRM35, that is. What he said can’t be written in the trip report for fear of getting banned. I’m telling you, the views were the most outstanding I have ever seen. It was like being on top of the world! We stayed there for a long time taking it all in. Justdropin’ took a nap up there while the rest of us took his picture. And then we saw it, a sight that struck fear in our hearts (well, in the hearts of some of us). It was scary, it was nasty. It was…..THE TRAIL. The trail we had to take. The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Death (we hoped not). The Trail of Heights. The Narrow Trail. And it went on for 3 miles! This trail was narrow and on a ledge. A couple of us knew we had a problem with heights before doing this trip. A few others developed a fear of heights while doing this trail. As we did this traverse across the sides of mountains, Foggy and I cursed hollowayb. He told us it wasn’t a big deal; it wouldn’t be a problem. Ha! We wanted to kick his butt. He is lucky he was with the Belly River Group or Foggy and I would’ve….well, we would’ve done something. As it was, everyone made it across this traverse, again without mishap. We were proud of ourselves when it was done – WE HAD DONE IT!! Finally we made our way down to camp at No Name Lake. We were a tired bunch of stinky backpackers. And what did we see at the lake? The Hat Lady! Some of the guys saw her after she had taken a swim. There she was, standing on the lakeshore, a siren wearing nothing but a mosquito net shroud. Later on she made her way to LiRM35’s tarptent to ask about the tent (she was dressed by then). She was very nice and explained her outfit to us and made us all drool with envy. During this time I again impressed everyone with my clumsiness when I knocked down the tarptent (insert blushing emoticon here). The tarptent is great, and I was very impressed with it, even though it was knocked down easily (it was a test, okay?). We all crashed pretty early that night ’cause we were tired physically and mentally from the Death March. Somtime in the night, though, something got into LiRM35’s hair. He didn’t scream or anything, and kept his wits about him. We were, after all, in Grizz Country. Then I woke up. It was ME in his hair. I was dreaming about my two cats at home (I really missed them) and reached over to pet one of them. Only it wasn’t one of my kitties, it was LiRM35’s head. I’m lucky I didn’t get a face full of bear pepper spray (again, insert the blushing emoticon here).

Monday morning we made our way to Upper Two Medicine Lake, 3 miles away. We arrived there to find day hikers eating their lunches in the campsites. Not a good idea in bear country! Foggy told them they couldn’t do that, so they moved out by the lake. We set up camp, then enjoyed looking at the lake. It was a pretty spot, even with all the day hikers. Clouds started moving in, so we decided to try and have dinner before the storm hit. We didn’t make it. We all were eating halfway rehydrated food, scarfing it down as quickly as we could while getting pelted with HUGE raindrops. We finally gave up, tossed food into the food bags, hung stuff up and made a run for the tents. It rained hard and there were gale force winds. Let me tell you, LiRM35’s tarptent held up like a champ. We stayed dry. Again, I am very impressed with this tent. While it was storming, LiRM35 regaled the Fogduo and me with stories and songs. He is a good story teller, and has a nice singing voice. Coloradodcs, Burntfoot, and Justdropin’ were too far away to have the pleasure of this entertainment. After the storm passed, we all made our way out of the tents and back to the food prep area. It was now a lake! You could’ve floated in it with a thermarest pad! At the real Upper Two Medicine Lake, we saw bald eagles, a treat.

Tuesday morning we got up, ate breakfast, then headed down the trail for the last leg of our hike. We hiked a couple of miles to the boat landing on Two Medicine Lake, and waited around for the boat. We all had decided to catch the boat back to the trailhead instead of hiking the last 4 miles. When the boat did arrive, the boat captain, a petite lady named Dabney, told us the engine was over heating but not to worry, she had worked on it a lot. She proceeded to take a bucket, dip it in the lake, and pour cold water over the engine. It worked because we made it back to the trailhead without having to swim.

We had it all on this trip – good weather (most of the time), mosquitoes, beautiful scenery, mosquitoes, lovely wildflowers, mosquitoes, good company, mosquitoes, lots of laughs, mosquitoes, cold lakes, mosquitoes, waterfalls, mosquitoes. It was really and truly a great trip!

Backpacking Trip Report: White Rocks Trail



Location: Shenandoah National Park
Type: In and Out

Mileage: 6
Days: 2

On a weekend late in June, a few other Shenandoah National Park Student Conservation Association volunteers and I decided to go for an overnight trip in the park. I had previously done a circuit hike on Hazel Mtn Trail to Hazel River Trail to White Rocks Trail and suggested this location. The circuit hike was about 9 miles with a bunch of elevation change, but for our overnight trip we decided to just head in on White Rocks Trail and find a campsite between the waterfalls and the White Rocks.

This overnight trip was a spur of the moment thing as we didn’t start hiking until 45 minutes before sunset. Each of us also had about 5-10 pounds of liquid weight to make sure we had a good time… The hike to our campsite was downhill the entire way and we made it to the waterfall spur trail without needing a headlamp.

The challenge now was to find a preexisting campsite to spend the night at. This area was significantly changed by the huge fire in 2000 and the understory was thick with brush and mountain laurel. Luckily we found a campsite just as we put our headlamps on. The campsite we found was tucked away in the mountain laurel 150 yards past the White Rocks – Waterfall trail intersection.

Shenandoah National Park’s camping regulations differ from many other parks since you can for the most part camp anywhere as long as you are 20 yards from a trail or 10 yards from water. However, fires are not allowed, which for a leisurely overnight trip is really a bummer. We made the best of it though using my whisperlite stove as a heat source and light. We sat up drinking beer around the stove for hours and finally made it into our bags at about 12.

I slept great during the night even though the winds picked up. I bet we had wind gusts up to 40 mph, but the beer probably helped out quite a bit.

The next morning we hiked down to the white rocks, which is basically a bunch of large boulders to climb up on. The views were fantastic as we almost had a 360 degree view. We sat up there for a good hour until the wind chilled us enough to make us want to move again. We then hiked the 3 miles back to the car and took the 20 minute drive back to the house to catch some World Cup Soccer action.

Spur of the moment trips like these really make me appreciate working in a National Park and living so close to a great resource. I’ll have to start posting some of my dayhikes now!

Hiking Trails

With the current changes in the economy, it is great to know that there are still ways to get out and have fun without having to spend a lot of money to do it. And one of the best ways to get out of the house is to enjoy a weekend camping trip or even a simple day hike. In fact, there are so many camping sites and hiking trails across the nation that you could experience a new one each time you set out on an outdoor adventure! No matter what your fitness level or hiking experience, there is sure to be hiking trails that will work for you.

When choosing which hiking trails you set out on, a little research can go a long way. Choose hiking trails that match your skill level and make sure to note how far the trails are and how technical the terrain is. The last thing you want is to get to a hiking trail and realize that it is not at all what you expected; a little research beforehand can help you avoid this problem situation.

And no matter what type of hiking trails you choose, make sure to come prepared with the proper foot wear and enough water to get you through the hike. Hiking shoes should fit properly, be comfortable, and give your feet the support that they need. You will quickly learn that the right gear can make the difference between a fun outing and a painful experience.

Backpacking Trip Report: Lost Lake

Area: Chugach National Forest

State: Alaska

Mileage: 15

Days: 2

Type: In and Out

I was recently building trail at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska for a month as part of a Student Conservation Association crew. On one of my weekends, my girlfriend and I went for a short backpacking trip to Lost Lake.

We began the hike from the Seward side and soon ran into a wind that just about knocked me over when we reached tree line. When I turned around the wind would smack the straps on my backpack against my face, but the view of Resurrection Bay was amazing. It was a crystal clear fall day in Alaska and was the peak of the color change. The mountains were covered with the red of fireweed and other tundra plants while the aspen gave the lower forests an awesome golden glow.

The trail was somewhat heavily used by locals as a common dayhike. We passed several trail runners and day hikers. I guess the lake was no longer lost.

We didn\’t end up camping on Lost Lake but stayed on a slightly smaller one to the east. My girlfriend and I tried our luck on fishing, but gave up after a while. We had the perfect spot to camp, out of the wind with a terrific view.

The next day we began hiking out but focused on berry picking for a solid hour. We collected nearly one gallon of high bush blueberries and probably ate many more that didn\’t make it into our ziplock bag. My hands and lips were stained purple for the rest of the day. The rest of the hike was a bit more peaceful than the day before; there were fewer hikers and much less wind.

It was a wonderful backpacking trip and I suggest the trail as a dayhike to any visitors to Seward, AK.

Backpacking Trip Report: Pyramid Peak



Location: North Cascades National Park

Type: In and Out

Mileage: 10
Days: 2
After a few weeks of not getting to the top of anything, (tiger doesn’t count tongue.gif ) I was getting hungry for a summit. But where to go? To the North Cascades of course! I’ve been spending a lot of time in the n.c. this winter because I love the views. Unfortunately, the weather can be bad a lot of the time. Most times when it’s nice everywhere else, it’ll be bad in the n.c. To get around this issue, I figured if I went there nearly every weekend, my chances of good weather would improve! I had been fiendishly checking the weather all week, and it was not looking good for the weekend. On the other hand, it was not looking good anywhere in the state, for saturday anyway.Laurie and Katie arrived at my place at 5am on saturday morning. I wanted to give them the dire weather report, and give them fair chance to bail. Not that there was anything to bail to. We all agreed to go anyway, 100% chance of precip. be darned!

Medium rain had slowed to light mist by the time we left the car. We were on the trail to pyramid lake by 8:15am. (1100ft) We followed the trail until it became obscured by snow, after which we followed the creek up towards pyramid lake but never crossed over to the lake itself (not really worth seeing, IMO), instead we headed up steep timbered slopes until we reached an undefined ridge with an open area where we stopped for lunch(4500). It had been snowing lightly since 2000ft and there were no views at all. We were wearing snowshoes, but removed them for the next steep slope ahead. Two rocky, cliffy areas we encountered were bypassed to the right(north). We broke out into open alpine slopes at about 5200ft. I strained my eyes for views, but alas, all was obscured by fog and snow. We found a semi sheltered place for camp(5350ft) and set up the “baby”.

The “baby” was a 3 person, 4 season tent we had borrowed for this trip. Since I wasn’t familiar with this type of ‘suspended in the fly’ tent, I didn’t want to take it all apart to split up the weight between us for fear that I wouldn’t be able to re-assemble it properly in a snowstorm embarassedlaugh.gif We worked out a system instead, where we would rotate the baby every few hours so each of us could have the pleasure of carrying the whole tent (minus the poles, of course). After my turn with the baby, I handed it over to Laurie, who didn’t want to give it up once she had it. Katie and I couldn’t find a reason to complain about this situation up.gif

After some april tomfoolery with the tent poles, we had our palace set up for the night, and went to sleep to the sound of snow hitting the tent, and hopes for views and maybe even a summit in the morning.

All that was hidden the previous day was revealed in all its glory for us on sunday morning! But, we had slept in too long to make a real summit bid – or had we? We had some breakfast (can’t climb without coffee doh.gif ), and set off with day packs toward the col at the base of Pyramid peak, which was only about 20min. from camp. We were ready to have a look at the traverse we would need to do below the east face of pyramid peak to gain the colonial glacier. Our route would be a U-shaped one, and traverse below paul bunyans stump and Pinnacle peak in order to gain the easy south slope of pyramid peak. The traverse from the col to the snout of the colonial glacier was the crux of the climb. It was an exposed traverse, and would have to be done one at a time, quickly.

We stood at the col, sizing up the route ahead. We had many factors against us and few in our favor. The sun had been baking the slope for hours, and as we stood there, snowball after snowball rolled down its length. We had decided to leave the snowshoes in camp (a weird call, in retrospect) and were postholing and moving slowly because of it. We would have to re-cross this slope later in the day, which would make it even more dangerous than it was right now. We all decided it would be unsafe to cross, and climbed up and over the knob to the east of the col to get out of the wind, sit in the sun, and enjoy the views. About 10 minutes later, we heard the thunder of a good sized slide, and ran back up to the knob to take a look. The slope had released a good sized, long running wet slide right across where one of us would have been had we gone. eek.gif No foolin’.

We were happy with the decision we made, and made our way back to pack up the “baby” and head down. From a couple thousand feet below, we could look up and still see the slide path. A leisurely descent had us back at the car by 4pm with many hours of daylight left!! We almost had time for another hike…… wink.gif