A weekend off

I forgot to mention this last week! The weather forecast for this past weekend was dismal, and we didn’t want to drop a bunch of money on a Zipcar for a dreary weekend… so, we decided to take the weekend off from hiking. *gasp!*

Instead of forests and streams and lakes, we just had a city weekend full of being lazy, getting haircuts, eating, drinking, shopping, and movie-watching. Well, Paul managed to squeeze in a 35-mile bike ride; but me? Not so much. I exercised my trying-clothes-on muscles.

In other news, today is our 2-year wedding anniversary! How lucky I am to have found my best friend and soul mate, and how nice of him to ask me to marry him. πŸ™‚ In honor of two years, I’m revisiting our wedding photo slideshow, which is amazingly still online here (if you watch it, turn your sound on).

Paul’s friend Ben is coming to visit this weekend, and we fully intend to go on a hike, so we’ll be back in action soon!

June Lake

Summertime finally made its long-awaited debut in the PNW this weekend! We had sunny skies, temps in the 70s and not a drop of rain. To take advantage, we headed north (well, north east) to Mt. St. Helens for some backpacking fun. My cousin Bobby decided to get off the base for the weekend, and drove over from Ft. Lewis to meet up with us.

We decided on June Lake as our camping spot after sort of stumbling upon it online earlier in the week. It’s a gorgeous spot, but for some reason there isn’t a ton of info on it out there and only small blurbs in our hiking books… which is a good thing, that means less people. πŸ™‚ We also added in a few extra miles by hiking from June Lake to Chocolate Falls after setting up camp.

I also want to note that the photos from this trip are not stellar. I forgot that I had set my ISO to 1600 for some night shooting last week, and forgot to change it. As a result, all of these photos are grainy and noisy. 😦

June Lake (continuing on to Chocolate Falls)
Mt. St. Helens, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Distance to June Lake from trailhead: 2.8 miles out-and-back
Elevation gain to June Lake: 447 feet
Total hike distance (including loop to Chocolate Falls): 5.73 miles round trip
Total elevation gain (including loop to Chocolate Falls): 1,150 feet

Click map for full GPS data

The hike from the trailhead to June Lake is about 1.4 miles and very little elevation gain. Not much in the way of scenery (aside from a peek or two at the summit), but at least it’s short, so you arrive at the lake in no time.Β  June Lake is situated at about 3200′ on the south side of Mt. St. Helens. This is just about at the treeline, so the terrain is very interesting; lush forest and waterfalls on one side, dry and sandy terrain with small, scrubby vegetation on the other side, and vast, barren lava fields just beyond that.

Hiking in, pretty close to June Lake at this point.

Little baby trees on the dry terrain

The name June “Lake” might be a bit deceiving, it’s actually fairly small, more like a pond (although perfectly clear and still). A giant basalt cliff provides the backdrop for the lake, complete with a dramatic waterfall feeding into it. There are a handful of campsites scattered along the water and further back, but we scored a sweet spot on the water directly in front of the waterfall! We got there at about 2pm and were the first campers to set up. I was pretty shocked by this. I would bet this place gets more popular later in the summer, so it would probably be a good idea to arrive early to claim your spot.

The view from our campsite! For real?!

The water is actually much clearer than that… Buckley had just taken a run through it πŸ™‚

After setting up camp we decided to seek out a path over to that waterfall, as we had seen some people over there a little earlier. Well, Paul and Bobby (and Buckley) took one trail and actually made it over. I totally didn’t think they were going to find a trail the way they were going, so took a lower trail and dead-ended. 😦 Oh well, at least I got some pictures of the guys over by the fall.

There they are!

Bobby actually took his camera with him over to the fall, so here are some of his:

Looking back at our campsite

This looks… scary

Looking up from the bottom of the fall

While I was stuck halfway around the lake, looking longingly at the waterfall that I could not reach, I saw some cool vegetation.

Fiddleheads everywhere!

And what the heyo are these? Whatever they are, they are everywhere and they hurt!

After returning from waterfall adventures, we set out on another hike to Chocolate Falls, which was about a 3-mile loop from our campsite. This extra bit took us through forests and over some serious lava fields to the falls.

Just starting

Getting into the rockiness now

After a while, the trail sort of disappears and you are left to navigate the lava fields by making your way from pole to pole.Β  DIY hiking, if you will. I love climbing over rocks, but after miles of it, the ankles and shins really start to scream.

Finding the poles

Just after that ridge, we were suddenly greeted by Mt. St. Helens herself! What a mountain. This is the closest we had ever been to St. Helens. It’s pretty majestic up close.

Making our way through the lava

It was kind of crazy to stand on St. Helens looking back at Hood… it’s usually the other way around

Mt. Adams peeking over

The rough terrain/heat/sun made it seem like forever (to me anyway), but we finally reached Chocolate Falls. These falls “shut off” every night, and every day around 11:30am they turn back on as the glacier above melts in the daylight. The water picks up a lot of volcanic silt on its way down, which often gives the water a brown, chocolate milk effect. It looked pretty clear when we got there, but it’s a cool spot nonetheless!

Bobby at the top of the falls

Chocolate Falls (I thought the rocks at the bottom sort of resembled big chunks of chocolate…)

Where the water comes from just before diving over the cliff edge

While at the top of the falls, we ran into a family of four that was on their way down after summiting earlier in the day. I chatted for a little bit with them, the dad going on and on about how breathtaking the summit is. He revealed that it was his 11th time summiting, his wife’s 2nd, and his son’s 1st time (he looked to be about 10 or 11 years old I think). I congratulated the son on his first summit and asked him how it was… he looked at me and gave me an “it was okay” shrug. Haha! The dad immediately scolded the boy and informed him that it was, in fact, the time of his life. πŸ™‚ Perhaps he will appreciate his accomplishment later in life.

Ready to head back

The way back was even more grueling, crossing lava fields with even larger boulders (and hence larger gaps between boulders). At some point I read a trip report that mentioned hikers were left to hop from boulder to boulder in the last stretch… they weren’t kidding! My ankles and feet were sufficiently thrashed upon our return, so we just hung out at camp for the night.

Getting firewood ready

Not a bad backdrop for the campfire, eh?

Getting that fire going

Completely pooped after a full day of hiking and swimming

We brought our usual freeze-dried meals along, but this time we also got to try some Army MREs – Meals Ready-to-Eat – that Bobby was nice enough to bring along. Every pre-packaged meal is 3,000 calories, so you can eat parts of it all day long to sustain.Β These things are kind of amazing. There is a main entree piece (such as Chili Mac, Beef Stew and Ravioli) and it comes with this crazy little heating bag. You drop the entree into the bag and add a little water, and this thing heats up to boiling to warm the food. Crazy! There are also little packages of cookies, bread, powdered beverages, etc. There is even a little condiment package included with the cutest little 1″ tall bottle of Tobasco. And you know what? The meals don’t taste half bad.

Everything fits into neat little packages

Going through the contents

Okay, one more look at the waterfall

A little further down the shore

Enjoying our fire, which eventually was roaring

As it got darker, the stars really started to come out. It’s been a really, really long time since we’ve been somewhere where we could see stars like this… the kind where you can just stare at the sky for hours and hours, and even spot the occasional satellite orbiting. It felt pretty good. I tried to take some astro-photos, but my camera is just not equipped for it I don’t think. I left the shutter open for 30 seconds but the photo below is all I could get. If you click on it to make it larger, you can see a little better… but it still doesn’t do it justice.

Tried to capture the stars…

After staring into the sky for so long that my neck ached, we turned in for the night. I have to say, this was the best I’ve ever slept outdoors. I don’t know if it was the rigorous hike, all the sunshine from the day, the white noise of the waterfall, or perhaps the beer (come on, you didn’t think we wouldn’t have beer did you?), but I slept like a rock. Usually when we camp, I inexplicably wake up a good 7 or 8 times during the night and readjust. This time, I woke up twice. Twice! It was amazing. We even got to sleep in later than usual, even Buckley was tuckered out. Here’s what he looks like first thing in the morning:


Once we realized we slept in (oops!), we made breakfast and packed everything up pretty quick so we could attempt to get the Zipcar back in time. I always dread that point in time when the realization that we’re heading back to reality sets in. We bid June Lake and the waterfall adieu and headed out to the car.

On our way back out to the real world

We will totally, absolutely, definitely come back here again. I am still shocked at how alone we were out there, given the gorgeous weekend weather and the easy hike in. Perhaps we will stay here when we inevitably attempt to summit St. Helens…?

Backpacking the Siouxon Creek

Another successful overnighter on the books! And, if you’ll take a look at the widget to the right… we have broken 100 miles this year!

This weekend we backpacked the Siouxon Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest area in Washington. Another gorgeous riverside hike and campsite. While still a relatively easy (i.e. flat) hike, we did hike in a little further this time – a little over 3 miles to our site.

Siouxon Creek
Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Washington)
Total hike distance: 6.6 miles to campsite and back (the trail does go further than that)
Elevation gain: 456 feet

Click map for full GPS data

From the parking lot, the trail drops about 50 feet quickly to reach the water. From there on out, the trail more or less follows the creek. By the way, don’t let the “Creek” in the name fool you… this is no babbling brook. There are some pretty gnarly rapids at times, as well as very deep swimming holes around some of the falls. The trail leads through lots of deliciously mossy old-growth forest perched above the creek bed.

Crossing West Creek


Looking down onto the Siouxon Creek (a particularly narrow section)

After about two miles we came across the first big waterfall, Horseshoe Creek Falls. The trail crosses a bridge across the top of the falls, but there is also a small scramble track down toward the base for a view looking up – of course this is where I headed to take some photos.

Looking back up at Paul on top of Horseshoe Creek Falls

A swirling pool of turquoise water at the top

Shortly after crossing the bridge, there is a spur trail that takes you down to a lower viewpoint at the base of the falls on the other side. There are also some campsites here. Stellar views from these sites, if you don’t mind the constant misty spray from the plunging falls.

Another view of Horseshoe Creek Falls, taken from one of the available campsites

In about another quarter mile, another waterfall! This one is Siouxon Falls. There is a big swimming hole at the base, accessible by a couple of very steep scramble tracks. We didn’t go for it this time, conditions were sort of wet and the water is still ice cold.

Siouxon Falls

Of course, there is another grouping of campsites located here as well with great views, but it looked like a group of Scouts had beat us to it. According to our guide book there was another bunch of sites 1.1 miles further, so we forged on. Sure enough, after about a mile we saw some unmarked spur trails heading down to our left. We checked one out and found our home!

Our site

Just like on our Salmon River backpacking trip, we scored a spot right on the water. The site is huge, plenty of room for our gear and for hanging out. Plus, no one else seemed to have bothered to venture that far along the trail, so it was nice and secluded.

Surrounded by green… this photo is unedited, it was really this green.

Buckley taking a dip. A very quick dip… water was freezing!

After setting up camp and having a snack, we headed back out with our lightened packs to check out the trail beyond our campsite. We didn’t go too far, but did get to see Wildcat Falls (which I didn’t take a picture of, drat) and some more pretty scenery.

Lots of little tributaries to cross on the trail. It must be the kid in me, but I absolutely love to stomp through these with my waterproof boots!

Twisty tree

After our walk we settled in for the night – lots of freeze-dried food, trail mix, instant coffee and wine ensued. Sadly, the only thing we were without was a fire. After several days of rain, there was not a dry twig to be found. Even using firestarters we could not get a single thing to burn (maybe we should have gone back and asked the scouts for some Β help?). Luckily it was pretty warm, and it stays light out pretty late, so we hardly missed it.

Sitting by our would-be fire, using some nifty slings that turn our sleeping pads into chairs.

Of course we brought the PlatyPreserve, filled with a delicious 2008 blend called Momentum from Cor Cellars (one of the wineries we visited last weekend).

This gigantic tree stump served as a wonderful table top. I kind of want it in my dining room. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

I just learned these are called “nurse logs.” Fallen trees with new life sprouting from them. Something I’ve always loved, now I know the name.

The mighty trees surrounding our campsite.

After a glass of wine or three, I thought it would be fun to play with exposures. This is what you get. If you get motion sickness, look away.

After it got dark, we retired to our tent for the night. Unlike our last backpacking trip, this time we found a nice, level, flat piece of ground for our tent… so I had a wonderful night’s sleep listening to the sounds of the creek, without sliding to one end of the tent or having to negotiate the tree root under my back. Aaaahhh. We even got Buckley his own Thermarest doggy sleeping pad, which he enjoyed immensely. After a peaceful night, we woke up to the sound of rain at sunrise. That’s okay, still a soothing sound… plus, according to the forecast any rain was supposed to be done and gone by 7am. In reality, our soothing drizzle turned into an increasingly hard and steady rain. So, we packed up our stuff very strategically to maximize our dryness. And you know what, I think we did a pretty damn good job. Paul had the brilliant idea of purchasing a couple extra tarps ($5 each for spare tent footprints at Next Adventure, amazing deal!!) which really saved our asses. After successfully getting everything into our packs, we started on the hike back. By this point, I think the only word to accurately describe the rain is drenching. Aside from the downpour, all we could hear was the squish squish squish of each footstep. While this might sound miserable, it was strangely enjoyable. We were wearing waterproof foot gear, head-to-toe quick-drying fabrics, and had draped tarps over our packs to keep them dry… so really, what’s to worry about? It wasn’t cold, so all that was left to do was enjoy the shower. We were sufficiently soaked to the bone when we got back to the car. There was, naturally, not another soul around that morning, making it easy to conduct a quick costume change to rid ourselves of wet socks and skivvies. πŸ™‚

After dealing with that rain, I must say I feel a little more like a wilderness girl. Is there a patch or something I can add to my sash? The “packed and stuffed all my soaking wet gear and then marched back to the car without complaining and then got nekkid in the parking lot” patch? I’ll put it next to my “dug my first cathole” patch. Which I also earned on this trip. Google at your own risk.

Memorial Day Weekend

And now for a little non-hike blogging…

Finally posting about the holiday weekend! Yes, I realize that was now a week ago. I think I needed until now to recover. Paul’s Dad and Marissa came out from Orlando to visit us for the long weekend, and I think we sufficiently wore them out as well. πŸ™‚

We got together on Friday for happy hour and dinner. We started with some amazing drinks at Beaker & Flask… we hadn’t been here before, and holy crap are the drinks good. Of course I’ve forgotten what mine was called, but it consisted of some really good rum, pineapple gomme, and coconut water ice cubes. Mind blown. As the ice melted down it gave the drink a tropical flavor. Spectacular. After that we headed over to Laurelhurst Market for dinner, another first for us. I had been dying to try this place after hearing rave reviews, and it did not disappoint. Pretty classic fare, but with top-quality cuts of beef.

Saturday morning we headed over to the Farmers Market to grab some breakfast and wander a little.

Tom and Marissa

Pine State Biscuits breakfast!!! We had to wait in line for like a half hour, but so worth it.

After the market, we headed over to NW 23td area to grab some beers and do a little shopping.

Goofing around at Lompoc

Lompoc’s beer garden… the sun actually came out for us!

Fun at the hat store

After a few beers we walked up to the International Test Rose Garden to see what was in bloom. It’s still a little early, but lots of roses are just starting to bloom… a few more weeks it should be perfect.

After that, of course it was time for more drinks!

Wild Turkey!

From our balcony, picking out his next house out in the West Hills πŸ™‚

Obligatory cute Buckley picture

And all capped off with dinner at the drunk carts (late-night food cart pod in SE Portland).

We kept ourselves busy on Saturday, but we had a very full day on Sunday. We started with breakfast at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. We were bummed that it was a very cloudy day (and spent a decent amount of time actually driving through the clouds), but the mountain was beautiful anyway. After breakfast, we cruised through Hood River for a quick drink (and a little shopping, it turned out). We then crossed the river into Washington and did some wine tasting at a few small wineries. Oh, and met lots of cute doggies along the way!

Timberline Lodge

Mimosas at the Hood River Hotel

Our new friend Lucy πŸ™‚

At Syncline winery… grapes and chickens?

Syncline tasting room

Amazing chocolate collection!!

The Syncline winery dog

Next stop, Cor Cellars

Had a few glasses already πŸ™‚

I just love this picture

The Cor Cellars doggie! She was all about playing fetch.

Our final wine stop was at Memaloose, which we read was a great picnic spot. We brought a cooler with some cheese, fruit, sausage and bread and wanted to find the perfect place… this was it! They weren’t kidding about the scenery. It’s gorgeous.

Preparing lunch, overlooking the Gorge

The Memaloose dog, Dixie, came right over and decided to hang out with us for our picnic. She was so sweet and loving! We found out later that this is one hardcore dog… she does not eat any dog food, only hunts. Gophers and squirrels. I didn’t know I was staring into the face of a hardened killer. πŸ™‚

Dixie under our picnic table. So sweet.

Oh, and the wine was pretty delicious too!

Not a bad lunch spot

All tuckered out πŸ™‚

If Buckley found out I was taking so many pictures of other dogs, he would not be happy…

Monday was spent… what else… eating and drinking around town, until Tom and Marissa had to depart for their flight back to Florida. It was a whirlwind weekend, and hopefully our guests had as much fun as we did! It is pretty exhausting trying to fit in all the things there are to see and do around here, and we barely scratched the surface. It’s always fun to have visitors though, it allows us to be a little bit touristy. πŸ™‚ Paul’s best friend Ben is coming to visit next month, so we’ll get to do it all over again!

Paul and I spent last night camping by the Siouxon Creek in Washington, so I will have another blog post coming up on that soon!

One exhausting weekend down…

While we didn’t get out for a big hike this Memorial Day weekend, we did get out plenty! Paul’s Dad and his girlfriend came to visit us from Florida, and I’m pretty sure we ran them ragged… restaurants, breweries, Farmers Market, Mt. Hood, wine tasting in the Gorge, more restaurants, more breweries… just another weekend in Portland!

Blog post coming soon (tonight with any luck)!