Backpacking on the Salmon River

First backpacking trip on the books!

Finally. We have been collecting gear for backpacking for the last year and a half… we’ve been “practicing” for it by carrying most of our gear with us on day hikes… we had even started cooking on the trail on our day hikes to test out our equipment. And we finally got to use all of it! I will admit, it was the purchase of my sleeping pad that held us up for so long. For some reason, I have had an irrational fear of actually camping out on our hikes. I’m not sure if it was the thought of carrying every single item I’d need on my back, or being that far from civilization without a vehicle, or maybe having to dig a hole to poop. I can’t say for sure, but I think subconsciously, I may have waited so long to buy that sleeping pad because I knew as long as I didn’t have it, we’d have to sleep at home in bed. 🙂 Whatever the reason, it is now a distant memory that I can barely remember.

This weekend we headed out to Salmon River in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness area near Mt. Hood (still only about an hour drive from home). We had read this is a good beginner and early season backpacking route, so we decided to try it. This trip wasn’t really about the hike this time, as the one we chose was pretty short and pretty flat; this was more of a chance to test our setup out before relying on it when we’re 20 miles deep into the woods.


Salmon River
Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness
(I should note, we did not do the complete hike – just until we found a camp spot)
Total hike distance: 5-ish miles
Total elevation gain:  Haha! Maybe 500 feet.


We were camping right about here. GPS data is forthcoming… just wanted to get the post up.


While we spent a relatively short time on this trail, I am completely in love with it. First of all, talk about green. Everywhere, like whoa. The trail starts out pretty standard but then moves away from the river for a bit and into this crazy old-growth forest with gigantic trees soaring overhead and piles of colossal tree trunks that fell ages ago. It made me feel miniature, and it was so eerily quiet and still… a little surreal.



Away we go.



Enchanted forest.



Just love these mini-forests springing up on dead trees.


We hiked 2-3 miles in and started seeing campsites along the way. The further we got, it seemed that the sites were already taken… so we decided to backtrack to a nice spot we saw a mile or so back, before that was taken too. You have to see this site to believe it. Huge campsite right on the rushing river, nice and secluded with no other sites nearby, and lots of fallen trees around to serve as seating and tables.



Paul sawing some firewood for us at our site.



The tent finally gets to see the light of day.



Guard dog.



Buckley doing what he does best… barking at mommy and daddy.



No, this isn’t staged… I actually cut some firewood myself.





We had originally planned to set up camp and then hike further up the canyon with our lightened packs, but… we had gotten a bit of a late start that day, and by the time we finished setting up camp it was close to dinnertime. So, we decided to just chill and enjoy the scenery at our site for the evening. We had some more freeze dried goodness from Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry for dinner, and a couple Oskar Blues cans of brew which we enjoyed riverside.



TenFidy Imperial Stout



The gorgeous river, sans beer can.



Ghost Jenny





After a beer we headed back to camp to start a fire and relax.







Teepee style.


We were even able to accompany dinner with a bottle of wine, thanks to my birthday gift from Paul: two collapsible wine glasses and a PlatyPreserve wine platypus that holds a full bottle. 🙂 It was nice to enjoy a glass of wine or two next to the fire.



Post-sunset: once it got going, this was a badass fire.


After it got dark, I decided to see what would happen if I left the shutter on the camera open for like 30 seconds. Paul didn’t know that I was taking a photo and turned his headlamp on for the last few seconds, whomp whomp. I am regretting not taking this again sans headlamp.






I was pretty psyched to test out my sleeping bag and pad, thinking I would be super comfy and warm. Well, I was definitely warm… the tent and sleeping job did a stellar job of that. Unfortunately, we failed to notice the slight downward slope the tent was on, as well as the large tree root that stuck up right under my back. The bags were kind of slippery against the pads, and with Buckley flopping himself around all night, I kept getting shoved off the pad. Even so, falling asleep to the sound of the river is not a bad way to spend the night. I am confident that next time, on flat and even ground, I will sleep like a baby. Especially if it’s after a bottle of wine.


The next morning we were up by about 6am (thanks, Buckley). We hung around camp for a little while, cooked breakfast, made coffee, and started packing up. It was much easier to pack up on the way out, with more room in the packs after eating all the food and drinking all the beer and wine. 🙂



Disassembling the tent.



Buckley seemed a little confused and upset that we were packing up. I think he wanted to stay.



Breakfast! Mountain House Breakfast Skillet + tortillas + Cholula.


And with that, we headed out. We only had the Zipcar out for a certain time so we didn’t have the extra time to hike up further. I was actually sad to leave the campsite and head back to reality.



Fully loaded.



Bye, Salmon River…



Super clear water.



Some pretty little trail wildflowers for good measure.


And wouldn’t you know it, I actually survived my first backpacking trip! It was indeed sad to return to the city, but we will most definitely come back here soon to see the rest of the trail and the canyon views. Now that my irrational fears are quelled we can do this more often. I am pretty certain that I think this about every hike/trail we see, but this really was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen. There was a sign at the trailhead indicating that the US Forest Service was thinking about closing the area down to camping due to complaints about trash, trampled plants, cut trees, human waste, etc. If you camp here, PLEASE be responsible and clean up after yourself! It would be a shame to lose this privilege.

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