Badger Creek

Back in action! As you may have guessed by lack of posting, we did not get out to the great outdoors last weekend. The week flew by, and before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we had nothing planned. We decided to just have a weekend at home in the city, which was quite pleasant; went out for breakfast, bike ride, shopping, even went to the movies.

We figured we’d be able to get out for a longer trip over Labor Day weekend anyway, but Paul ended up having to work most of Saturday (and it was looking like the rest of the weekend held the same fate). 😦 I had almost given up hope on the weekend, but then miraculously, Paul was given the all clear on Sunday afternoon. We decided to act fast and salvage the back half of the weekend. We packed up our gear in about .2 seconds, snagged a Zipcar, and got the hell outta dodge. We decided on Badger Creek for a few reasons. 1) It’s at a relatively low elevation, so it wouldn’t be too cold, 2) our guide book gave it a high solitude rating, and 3) there were reportedly several campsites along the trail, upping our chances of getting one that late in the day (and secret reason #4: the trail is flat, and I didn’t feel like working that hard this weekend :)).

Badger Creek
Badger Creek Wilderness (east side of Mt. Hood, OR)
Roundtrip hike distance (to our site): 5.19 miles (the furthest campsite is reportedly at about 2.9 miles, making a 5.8 mile roundtrip)
Total elevation gain: 397 feet

Click image for full GPS data

(Also want to take a sec to thank Paul for getting all our GPS tracks pulled off the device, onto the computer, edited, and online every week. Thanks Paul!)

After stopping for a late lunch, forgetting the directions at home and having to do a quick backtrack, we made it to the trailhead around 5pm or so. The forest is interesting around here; it has a much broader variety of trees, including more deciduous trees than we’re used to. It’s supposed to be gorgeous in late October, so we may hit this one again. While the trail is a pretty standard forest trail and the scenery is not mindblowingly gorgeous, I found it to be quite charming and adorable. The trail follows right along the creek, which is beautiful. We passed by four campsites (three of which were occupied) before finding our home for the night. It was just perfect; big, secluded, and right along the water.

Home sweet home

We set up camp and started a fire in record time (we lucked out again on wood; the previous campers dragged a bunch of branches over, we just had to take a saw to ’em!). The sun was on its way down, but we still had plenty of time to enjoy the creek and play a little fetch with Buckley before the inky black nighttime took over. The darkening sky provided some very nice lighting for creek photos, so there are… a few. πŸ™‚

Looking down from our site. The creek is only a couple feet deep all the way across.

Just a few steps down from the campsite and we were at the water’s edge.

Getting really dark out now

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the fire (really enjoying it… we hadn’t had a campfire since Cooper Spur!) and the bazillion trillion stars that showed themselves. Seriously clear sky. Gotta love being on the east side of the mountain.

In case you’re wondering, the strange green stuff at the top is Paul’s laser pointer. Fun with lasers and smoke.

After nearly melting my face off staring at the fire, I hit the sleeping bag and was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Something about the sound of rushing water just knocks me out. I’m usually a pretty light sleeper when camping, waking up at least a half dozen times overnight, but I think I only woke up twice this time. Incredible night’s sleep. In the morning, the sun was shinin’ and the birds were singin’. We had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and making breakfast and watching Buckles romp around in the creek. Life is good.

We even had enough dry wood left for a breakfast fire

Our trusty home away from home

Where I had my morning coffee. Not bad.

Contemplating his next dive

Look at this little guy! He kinda blends in, but you can see him just to the lower right of center. He was about 3 inches long or so.

Bucktown waiting while we pack up and put the fire out

Paul packing up Buckley’s pack. This might only be adorable to me. πŸ™‚

The water was reflecting the trees and sky. So pretty.

We were packed up and headed out by 11am or so. The short hike back out was uneventful and we were back to the car in no time.

Not much to say about the trail… it all pretty much looked like this.


See ya later Badger Creek

We decided to stop in Government Camp on our way home for lunch, had a quick burger and beer at the Mt. Hood Brewing Company Ice Axe Grill. Traffic on the way home was a nightmare. We realize it was Labor Day weekend of course, but it was especially heinous. Looking forward to the regular, non-holiday-weekend crowds again!

Green Lakes

Back to our usual adventures this weekend! My Dad flew out from Michigan on Friday for our annual camping trip. The tradition started as a Father’s Day gift in 2006, when we decided to take him camping with us (since my Mom would never, ever be down for that :)), and we’ve done it every year since. Up until this year though, it’s been car camping every time. Since we’ve come to love backpacking so much we decided to bring pops along for a new kind of experience.

We went back and forth a hundred times on where to go for the weekend, as the weather was not looking great anywhere near Portland. Mt. Hood, St. Helens and Adams all had forecasts of clouds and cold temps… not what I was looking for! We decided to make the extended drive out to Central Oregon to hike into Green Lakes, situated in Three Sisters Wilderness right between our old friends South Sister and Broken Top. This part of the state is considered high desert, so it’s almost guaranteed to be sunny (and it was definitely sunny in the daytime hours, but it surprised us all how cold it got that night). Still a good time had by all.

Green Lakes
Three Sisters Wilderness, OR
Elevation: ~6,500 feet
Total hike distance: 9.46 miles (this can vary depending on where you camp)
Total elevation gain: 1,746 feet (also varies depending on campsite)

Click image for full GPS data

We took off early on Saturday and made it to the trailhead around 10:30am, and were greeted by about a hundred other cars. Oy. Luckily most of these seemed to be day hikers, but it was still a pretty busy area this weekend. While picking up our wilderness permit at the trailhead, we saw that there was a campfire ban where we were headed. 😦 Bummer! We’ve camped without a fire before, but I was most disappointed for my Dad because I know he loves campfires. Sorry Dad!!

It’s about a 4.1 mile hike to the Green Lakes, but not too much elevation gain, which made for a very pleasant hike. The trail follows the appropriately named Fall Creek for the first couple of miles, which is just lousy with waterfalls.

One of the many falls along the way

After the trail parts ways with Fall Creek, it follows a smaller creek the rest of the way to Green Lakes. This part of the trail is very cool, with rock slopes full of shiny Obsidian glinting in the sun, stream crossings and tons of wildflowers.

You can see Broken Top peeking out between the trees

One of the many little stream crossings

Bright and colorful flowers everywhere

A short time later we arrived at Green Lakes! The area consists of the main Green Lake, and the smaller North and South Green lakes on either side. Next task was to find our campsite. The process of finding a site here was different than anywhere we’ve been. It’s kind of organized, but also not. There are a number of designated campsites around the lakes (I think about 28 in all), which are numbered and have corresponding post markers at each site. A map of the area with the numbered campsites is available at the trailhead.Β  But, there aren’t necessarily trails leading to all the sites; rather, they give you the GPS coordinates for each of the numbered sites, and you have to find your way there. Some of them are fairly obvious as they are close to the trail, but most of them take some wayfinding. It was early afternoon by the time we arrived in the area, so of course most of the sites that were relatively easy to find were already taken. Rather than all three of us wandering around trying to find a campsite, Paul took the map and GPS and set off to find our home for the night. With the GPS, he was able to find an available site (site #14 to be exact, near South Green Lake), hooray! This was one of the sites with no designated trail leading to it, and happened to be perched way up on a ridge. So, we climbed… straight up a fairly steep slope a good 100 vertical feet or so (and at that elevation, my Dad and I were huffin’ and puffin’ to get up there). Despite it not being the easiest site to get to, it actually was quite a nice spot. There weren’t any other sites within view which made it feel more secluded, and we still had a view of South Sister through the trees.

We got to work setting up camp, us in our tent and Dad in Paul’s brand new bivy sack. I think sleeping in a bivy sack makes Dad a more hardcore camper than myself… it’s basically a sleeping-bag-shaped tent with just a little head room on one end. Not for the claustrophobic.

Taking a little nap after setting up his sleeping quarters

ZZZZzzzzzzz… sorry Dad, had to post it πŸ™‚

That’s some nice handiwork to keep this thing stable

Beer time

Buckley’s already a very tired pup

After having a little Mountain House lunch (natch), we headed out to explore a bit more. Heading down the back of the ridge that we were camped on, there was a giant meadow sprawled out before Broken Top. Lots of cute little flowers (we were careful not to trample them), a creek, and amazing views to enjoy.

Broken Top


All the little plants and flowers made the ground look pink


The wide angle view: Mt. Bachelor waaaayy in the distance on the left, South Sister, and just the peaks of Middle and North Sister on the right

On the way back down

Back at camp, we downed a few more beers/glasses of wine/pulls of whiskey with dinner. When the sun started setting, it started getting cold. We all added as many layers as we could to keep warm… and the effing campfire ban didn’t help things! We did see a couple deer running our site after dark though, which was pretty cool. At about 9pm (maybe it was 10pm? who really knows) it was time to turn in, as it was just getting way too cold. We anticipated it would get down to maybe the upper 40s but damn… it was f-f-freezing. Luckily we all had several layers, so we were all just about warm enough overnight, but a few degrees cooler and we might have had some issues.

Night night

Usually once the sun starts to come up, it instantly warms up in the tent and I can sleep a couple more hours in peace. Not this time… I swear when the sun came up, it got colder. None of us wanted to get out of our sleeping bags until it was tolerable, so we ended up sleeping in until like 8:30am! That’s late, for us. Even then, when we got out of our tents we were greeted with frost on the outside. Frost! Luckily after that point it warmed up very quickly, and we were comfortable in no time.

We decided to gather our food and cookset and have breakfast down by the water. It was just beautiful… sunshine, blue skies, and crystal clear views of the mountains. That morning made up for the entire frigid night.

Good morning, South Sister

The panoramic view over South Green lake

Paul bringing us our morning coffee

After a (very) leisurely breakfast, we slowly started packing up to head out. It was quite a pleasant hike out, very flat but the creeks and falls made up for it.

My brand new 64-liter pack (so exciting!!), before shoving everything in it

Broken Top

A trailhead beer to celebrate the close of a great trip

After heading back through Bend for lunch (at the Bend Brewing Co.), we stopped at Smith Rock briefly just to show my Dad. Still an awesome place… maybe one day we’ll be good enough at rock climbing to scale some of these walls!

Despite the freezing cold and campfire ban, we had a great annual camping trip with Dad. Hopefully he thinks so too! πŸ™‚

Lewis River Falls

Sorry for the late-week post! I have been a total slacker this week. This post is actually from last weekend… this weekend my Dad visited from Michigan and we backpacked the Green Lakes area in Central Oregon, blog post on that coming in the next couple of days.

Last weekend, we did something a little different from our usual hikes and backpacks. We had another heat wave move through the area, and something about a steep, sweaty, dusty trail on a 98 degree day did not sound awesome. Β Instead of torturing ourselves, we decided to spoil ourselves a little and headed out to the Lewis River Falls area in Washington. What started out as my idea of finding a good waterfall/swimming hole and parking ourselves for the day with some beer did actually end up turning into a 5 or 6 mile hikey-walk. Ah well, at least I felt less guilty that way. πŸ™‚

It was, as we expected, an extremely hot and sunny day. The bright sunshine made it difficult to take photos of the falls, and for some reason I was feeling uninspired that day (photographically speaking). So, I’m not super proud of these photos, but wanted to share anyway!

We hit the stretch of river that includes Lower, Middle, and Upper Lewis River Falls. We started at Lower Falls, which is very close to the parking area and campground, so naturally it was also the most crowded area. We took a little scramble trail down to the water and proceeded to wade out to the waterfall, which was quite enjoyable. The water was moving pretty quick, but it only was only knee-deep in most places and the rocks weren’t too slippery. I did get off to a rough start though… I slipped and slid down part of the scramble trail on my butt, then one of my flip-flops came off in the water and got swept away by the river (dammit!), and finally I lost my balance for just long enough to dunk my camera (which was hanging around my neck) in the water for a second. After a brief heart attack, I checked the camera and it was fine. πŸ™‚ After my klutzy start to the day, it was smooth sailing.

Wading up the river to the Lower Falls

Playing a little tug

Slowly but surely making my way with one shoe

There were lots of kids cliff-jumping from the top of the falls down into the river (which was maybe about 40 feet?). It looked like a lot of fun, but I’m way too chicken to try it myself.

You can see the kid who just jumped toward the top

Getting ready to hit the ice cold water

We hung out at the larger swimming area for a little while, cracked open a beer and enjoyed the sunshine a bit.

Buckley taking a swim

Oh yeah, there was a rope swing tied to that big log teetering on the edge too (that the little girl is hanging on to). Looks totally safe and stable huh?

We headed another mile and a half up the trail to Middle Falls, slightly smaller waterfall but with less people. We cracked another beer here πŸ™‚ and played a little fetch with Buckles.

Buckley needed a little help climbing up on the slippery rocks πŸ™‚

Waiting until the stick got close enough to the edge that he wouldn’t have to jump in… cheater!

Our last stop was another mile up the trail to Upper Falls. By the time we got there it was 5pm or so; most people on the trail seemed to be on their way out, so we had this place to ourselves! Most of it was in shadows by that point though, so a bit cold for swimming (well, for us anyway… not for Buckley). We cracked our final beers and hung out for a while.

Endless games of fetch!

Just to show scale (you can see Paul and Buckley off to the left)

I believe these are Red Willowherb but am not certain… it was the closest match I could find but still not exact…

Almost naptime

We headed back out on the trail around 6pm or so and headed back to the car. It was a quick walk back as the trail is relatively flat the entire way.

Having a little trouble identifying these as well, but I think they may be Three-Nerved Daisy

Looking down at the river as the sun was going down… beautiful.

The last stretch of trail on the way out

Overall this was a great way to spend a really hot weekend, if you don’t mind the crowds and slow-movers on the trail. We’ll be back!

CooperΒ Spur

Holy mother of wow! It’s true that almost every hike we go on is dubbed my “new favorite,” but I think this one is most deserving. Paul had been wanting to do this hike since we moved here two years ago, and we finally made it. We ended up hiking up to the Cooper Spur Shelter and setting up camp there (around 6,600 feet), then hiking up to the true Cooper Spur, which is the highest point you can reach on Mt. Hood on a formal trail (at around 8,500 feet). The trail officially ends at Tie-In Rock, a spot where those continuing to the summit typically rope up.

Cooper Spur
Mt. Hood (NE side)
Total hike distance: 6.72 miles (for our route – we took some shortcuts, some longcuts, and I forgot to turn on the GPS in the very beginning :))
Total elevation gain: 2,725 feet
Highest point at: 8,507 feet

New discovery! I can actually show our GPS track on a 3D view of the terrain with Google Earth. Badass! Full track is still loaded into GPSies for download as normal, just click the image.

Click on image for the full GPS track data

We started from the Cloud Cap Trailhead near the historic Cloud Cap Inn – after driving in on the very rocky and bumpy dirt road. The trail first took us through old-growth forest, then some boulder fields, and then through some very soft volcanic ash (talk about a calf workout). After about 1.2 miles we came to the Cooper Spur Shelter. This is a stone shelter built some 60 years ago, one of only a few shelters still standing on the mountain today. Anyone can stay in the shelter, which might not be a bad idea in a storm or something, but we opted to pitch our tent just outside the shelter.

Toward the beginning of the hike, we could barely even see Hood

Hood, Cooper Spur Shelter, and our home away from home. I think this is a suitable location. Yes.

And looking the other direction, heyo!

Mt. Adams in the distance

While setting up camp, the clouds started to lift ever so slightly, which was quite encouraging. From camp, we had approximately two(ish) miles and 1,900 feet to go to reach Cooper Spur. The trail took us right along the rugged, heavily crevassed Eliot Glacier, which is just awesome. Soon we were switchbacking up the shoulder of the spur, all the while the grade was surprisingly gentle and forgiving. One mistake that we made: the final long switchback leads right across a snowfield, with no clear trail after that. We crossed the snowfield, weren’t sure what direction to take next, so we just decided to go UP. We climbed up the snowfield until it met back up with the trail on the ridge. We found a different trail back down (along the ridge), and saw where it met up with the other trail that we mistakenly took. I think it was around 8,100 feet or so that we went straight but should have cut right (the ridge trail is a little fainter and less obvious). If you look at the GPS track close to the spur, you can see where we took different routes on the way up and down. I don’t think we took the wrong trail necessarily, that one may just have gotten buried at some point. Oh well, our way was more adventurous. πŸ™‚

Getting ready to head up

The clouds and sun made for some very cool views along the way

Once we got about to the point where we hit snow, we were also heading straight into the clouds. It’s kind of a crazy feeling to be walking through clouds, but also see clouds high above you, and then look out behind you and see lots of clouds below you.

Looking back toward Mt. Adams

We were clearly not the first to make this mistake, judging by the existing tracks (notice we’re heading straight into nothingness?!)

Oh just a little ways to go

I know this looks very dark, scary, and cold… it wasn’t. It was beautiful.

Here we go

At about this point, the yucky clouds just sort of magically… lifted. There were still some white puffy puffs lingering around here and there, but the dingy foggy clouds were dunzo. We did have some pretty gnarly cloud formations for the rest of the night though, more pictures of that below.

The mean-looking Eliot Glacier

Looking down the other side

Before we knew it, we were on top of Cooper Spur! The view, to say the least, is absolutely breathtaking. This was also officially the closest we’d ever been to Hood’s summit. I know it’s still almost 3,000 (vertical) feet away, but it looks so close from there. Like you could just walk right up to it. The photos have a hard time capturing the depth and scale I think, but I can tell you this thing is just massive.

The boulder on the very left edge here is Tie-In Rock

Proof πŸ™‚

On the spur, passing clouds, looking out at high desert

Looking back out toward Mt. Adams, you can actually also see the Columbia River in the bottom left

It was suddenly very chilly and windy up there, so we took it in for a minute then started heading back down. As we did, the sun started to peek out here and there. Hooray!

Gentle sunshine on Eliot Glacier

Beginning our descent

The descent was quick and painless (especially with no snow :)), and we made it back to camp pretty quickly. Time for a quick dinner (Mountain House Beef Stroganoff and an MRE my cousin Bobby gave us) before the spectacular show that was the sunset.

Dinner time

Buckley just chillin’

This was easily one of the most insane sunsets I’ve witnessed. It kept us completely, completely engrossed for at least an hour, probably more. Of the hundreds of photos I took, here’s a small handful. πŸ™‚

The sun just starting to go down, but with a final blaze across the land

A nice cozy spot for Buckley to enjoy the sunset

We did end up having about 10 minutes or so of rain, which was little more than a light sprinkle. Even with just that little bit though, the sky started doing crazy things… swirling clouds, rays of sunshine, rainbows..

Ginormous rainbow over rays of light (which almost look like they are emanating from the bottom up, don’t they?)

Now, I probably snapped this photo just a few seconds too late, but I promise you this was actually a double rainbow for a minute. Seriously! Double Rainbow All The Way!

Lenticular cloud that totally looked like a flying saucer. I wonder how many people mistake these for UFOs?

Look closely… Mt. Adams is actually in there (toward bottom right), a massive mountain completely buried in sunset.

Once the sun went down, it did get just a bit chilly out (although really, not nearly as cold as you’d think). Campfires are technically banned above treeline, although there were a few obvious firepits around (and the gang of three that decided to camp about 50 feet from us had one going). We decided to take advantage of the little fireplace built into the shelter, and got a fire going in there. It was great! Β The place is small and cozy, so we just brought our little chairs and some snacks and beer in there to enjoy the fire. We thought we heard a mouse squeak once, but didn’t see anything. After a little while, we stepped out of the shelter into the completely dark night, and were just awestruck. The sky had cleared almost completely and we could see millions and millions of stars, including a 180 degree view of the Milky Way overhead, from one horizon to the other. While staring at the sky, we also heard the booming crack and roar of ice falling in the Eliot Glacier (which went on for several minutes). Epic.

Our little fire

We had decided early on that we were definitely waking up in time to see the sunrise. I set an alarm for 4:45am, and promptly dismissed it when it went off. Luckily we did wake back up around 5:30am, and after a little convincing, Paul managed to drag me out of the tent. I am so, so glad he did. I thought the sunset was epic, but this was like… double epic? We were completely above the cloudline in the morning and got up just in time for the sun to rise. Again, hundreds of photos taken, but here are my favorites.

Good morning Mt. Adams

Adams and Rainier, and even the very tippy top of St. Helens

There are no words

Dear Marmot, yes, I will sell you this photo for your catalog πŸ™‚

Oh Buckles

Hello Mayos

Wake up!

It was a magical 30 minutes. After that, we had a leisurely breakfast and started packing up camp in regular old daylight. We started the short hike out around 9am, and made it to the trailhead just as dayhikers were starting to make their way in.

Our wilderness permit

Buckley taking it easy while we pack it up

There was tons of lupine on the way down

Ready to go home

The old dusty trail

Mini meadow

Not exactly sure what this is… some sort of Penstemon maybe?

Cooper Spur is a very special place. We’ve only done a handful of overnight trips really, but this is certainly my favorite, and I can’t wait to go back.

A Michigan Wedding

Okay, one more non-hiking related blog post…

As I mentioned in the last post, we were in Michigan last weekend for my mother-in-law’s wedding. She had asked me to be the official unofficial photographer, which of course I was thrilled to do! I take thousands of pictures every month, but don’t get to shoot people all that often, so I was psyched. It was certainly a learning experience. I enjoyed every minute of it, but yeesh, weddings move fast! There were definitely moments I wish I had been more prepared or better positioned for, people I wish I would have gotten more photos of, and details I wish I would have paid more attention to (I will never forgive myself for the bride’s diamond ring being turned the wrong way during cake-cutting!).

The wedding was just gorgeous. It was a perfect Michigan summer afternoon, right in their beautiful backyard with a gathering of their closest family and friends. There was a very emotional afternoon ceremony followed by dancing, eating, laughing, and lots and lots and lots of bubbly. πŸ™‚ Since there were so many photos (271 to be exact) I’m including a smaller selection of them below as a slideshow.

Update: I’m also including the photos as a gallery below the slideshow, so you can click on individual photos to view an enlarged version.

Cheers to Mr. and Mrs. Nugent!! ❀

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