Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Camping Post #1: Backpacking at Opal Creek

We had a glorious 2 days backpacking at Opal Creek with Josh (11) and Sarah & Kat (both 9). The weather was perfect, the scenery was outstanding, the kids were great, and we had a blast!

We went to Opal Creek, a beautiful area of old-growth forest, just east of Salem. It's about a 2-hour drive from the Portland area. There are creeks everywhere, feeding into the North Santiam River. Huge trees, 500+ years old, are common in the woods there. We hiked in 2 miles and made our camp, then had fun with a day hike, playing in the river, making fires in our campsite, and just generally playing in the woods.

Here are a few of the many photos from the last 3 days.

 At the trailhead - Monday early afternoon
Kat, Sarah, me, Josh, Mark

 Sarah, Kat, and Josh touch a 1,000-year-old tree

 How tall can it be???

 Sawmill Falls, near our campsite

 The kids love "secret" campsites. We found a great one, tucked back into the trees and down a small slope so we didn't get noise from the main trail. Kat, me, Sarah, and Josh enjoy the campfire Josh built...with some help. By the end of our campout, he was pretty good at it, and the girls were right behind him.

 All 3 kids felt compelled to sharpen sticks. Only 1 bandaid required for the entire outing! Here Kat sharpens another stick.

 Josh was our main cook, to help complete a Boy Scout requirement. Here he is mixing muffins in a ziplock bag. We cooked them in the bag with a gizmo called a "bakepacker." Yum!

 Sarah sharpens yet another stick...

 We all took turns pumping water through the water purifier, but Mark got the main workout. Thank you Mark!

 Sarah had the first turn at this campsite's Log of Beauty" - another backpacking tradition with the girls. Isn't it amazing that every single campsite always seems to have its own special log for a morning beauty routine?

 Before we left home I did a little internet research and found instructions to 3 different letterboxes along the trail. We found 2 of them. Here's Josh discovering the "Douglas Fir" letterbox tucked into the base of a stump near our campsite. We brought rubber stamps and a stamp pad, as well as our little hiking journals, so that we could add our stamps to the letterbox journal, and stamp the letterbox's unique stamp into our own journals. Fun treasure hunts!

 Josh, Sarah, and Kat heading out on a day hike.

 Snow melt!
The kids wanted to play in the water, but they didn't go in too far...

 Sarah and Kat

 For another of Josh's scout requirements, we kept an eye out for wild animals or evidence of wild animals. He had to identify 10. Here the family is pointing to bear evidence--the scratched-away section of a rotting snag. Mr. Bruin would have been looking for insects in the dead tree.

 On Tuesday afternoon, the girls asked Mark to take them fishing. He had brought fishing line, bobbers, and flies, but he forgot the actual pole back at the car. No matter...they rigged fishing poles on long sticks. And Sarah caught a fish!! Too bad, it was an inch too small to keep, so they released it back to the stream, but it sure was exciting!

 This morning, packed up and ready to head back to the car. 
Me, Sarah, Kat, Josh, Mark

Backpacking with the grandchildren has become one of my favorite traditions. We started with Josh four years ago, when he was only 7, and we added the twins two years ago when they also turned 7. That's the youngest I want to take grandkids out into the woods for overnighters. It's fine to take younger children out backpacking when they are with their parents, of course, but to be away in a dark tent overnight when the trees make interesting noises...tough to do that if you're littler than 7. This year, the kids were talking about how fun it will be to include cousin Katie next summer, when she will be 7. They're looking forward to showing her the ropes.

Stay tuned for Camping Post #2, coming this weekend!


Dorothy said...

Oh, that does look like a fun outing with the kids. I'm glad you all had such a great time, and took so many pictures for the rest of us to look at. :)

Sarah said...

Looks like so much fun! I love the pigtails on the girls. Those huge trees are amazing!

mamaa said...

Kathy - How wonderful to find your blog on a search about backpacking to Opal Creek with my boys; a trip we have planned for June!