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 ย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.


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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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:ย  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 aย PlatyPreserve wine platypus that holds a full bottle. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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!ย 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.

Big step this weekend!

Tomorrow Paul and I will embark on our very first ever overnight backpacking trip! We’ve been talking about doing this forever, and collecting gear for it for the last year and a half. I’m a little nervous (why, I don’t know) but mostly excited. This is sort of a “beginner” backpacking trip, to test out our equipment and set-up before taking on longer trips.

We’ll be hiking/camping on the Salmon River near Mt. Hood:

Wish me luck, and a full report will be up next week!