Sunday, July 29, 2012

30-mile Backpacking Hike!

 What do you get when you combine 8 Young Women ages 14-18...

 ...three ready adults...

 ...and an amazingly beautiful trail?

The first annual Young Women's High Adventure Backpacking Hike, of course!

Last week Mark and I joined up with our comrade Geoff to escort 8 brave girls into the wilderness. We hiked the Eagle Creek trail to Wahtum Lake, and then we returned to the Columbia Gorge via the Herman Creek trail.

 They crossed streams.

 They filtered every drop of their drinking water.

 They hiked over 7 miles a day, every day, for four days.

 They entered an official wilderness area of Oregon.

 They hiked narrow rocky trails.

 And they kept smiling all the way!

 Sometimes the trails were so narrow and the drop-offs so steep that the girls gripped the "iron rod" alongside the trail.

 They cooked food on backpacking stoves in the dirt.

 They learned to hang their food in trees every night (to protect it from the critters...mostly bear would want to come into a camp with that many girls!).

 My handsome hunk, playing "Reveille" on the harmonica. Hmmm...can you guess why the girls nicknamed him "Monica"? Get it? Harmonica.

Every morning the girls took advantage of the Log of Beauty.

 Because even on the trail, you can't have too much beauty!

 Still pumping water...oh, the girls came to appreciate the ease of indoor plumbing back home! After four days of pumping every drop for drinking, cooking, and washing, they gained a great respect for being able to simply turn on a faucet.

 I completely lost count of how many times we applied bandaids, mole skin, and athletic tape to feet. There were 22 feet in the group, and almost every foot had something done to it almost every day.

 I love to have adventures with Mark! This photo was taken on day 2, when we had hiked a total of about 10 miles.

By the way...are you wondering what that huge black thing is on the back of his pack? He was so sweet to the girls. He insisted on packing in a 5-gallon bucket, minus the bottom. It was basically a cylinder. He attached a little toilet seat to the top and set it up as a potty for the girls each night in camp. The girls loved him for it. Along with his nickname "Monica," he was also "Porter" in porta-potty porter. By the end of the hike he said he was a pooped porta-potty porter. He never complained about the awkward bundle on the back of his pack, not once. (By the way, it wasn't smelly or anything. All of the waste was buried back in the hole beneath the bottomless bucket. It wasn't heavy either, just awkward.)
Ah, yes...the porta-potty set up.

 Along the trail to our second campsite, we could see this pointy mountain in the distance. We checked our bearings and confirmed that it was Chinidere Mountain. We had a side trip (sans packs) planned to the top of Chinidere for the hike on day three. When we pointed out the mountain and told the girls they'd be on top of it the next day, they were incredulous. It seemed so far away and so high. But we did it!

This was our second campsite, at Wahtum Lake. By the time we reached this point, we had hiked 15 miles total.
 By now the girls had the hang of preparing foods in ziplock bags and eating directly from the bags. They had learned to save on washing dishes (and pumping more water to wash the dishes) that way! Here they are enjoying a bag of pudding, one spoonful at a time. They passed the pudding bag around the group and never did have to wash out a bowl.

 Campfire at Wahtum Lake.

 Morning view at Wahtum Lake. That's Chinidere Mountain poking up in the center of the photo. We'll be there later today!

 Enjoying the morning view...

 They also liked my trick of eating their morning oatmeal right out of the little paper bag it comes in. You can add water to the bag and stir it up, and that's one more dish you don't have to wash. The backpacking stove & pot are in the foreground.

Before we left Wahtum Lake, I asked each of the girls to pose for a backpacking portrait. Throughout the hike they gave each other trail names, so that's what I'll be using with their photos.

Yes, it's really spelled that way. Because she's a sassy gal.

Because she made sure the pudding bites came out even.

She has her hair braided, so you don't get the full effect here. Believe me, it's an appropriate name.

Because she throws a box of baby wipes like it's dangerous knives. Just like in The Hunger Games.

Not only because of the great clothes...she also had a "tie-dye" colored bruise after falling on the rocks during one of the creek crossings.

Because she wished she had brought her Birkenstocks for camp shoes...

Look out if she's setting up a tent near you! She has a wicked aim with the tent poles.
And the chipmunks ran for their lives when she had a rock in her hand.

Truly a Warrior Princess

 Monica Porter
You already know the story...

 The Old Cow's Tail..."OCT" for short
Yes, it's true...I'm 58 years old, and I was generally the last in line.
Hey, I was just glad to be out there at all!

 Cabbage...or Chewbaca...or The Blister Whisperer
Mark and I called him "our hero"! Geoff was great with the youth, an experienced hiker & backpacker, younger than us, tall, and strong! He tells great stories and corny jokes...always an asset along the trail. Last but not least, he really was good at helping with foot care, too.

 Later that day, at the top of Chinidere Mountain. We had an amazing view. We could see Mount Ranier (near Seattle, WA), Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Jefferson (near Salem, OR). It was a range of over 200 miles. The forests lay like rumpled green carpet beneath our feet, and we could see the creek drainages we had hiked the 2 days before. The girls agreed that our time atop Chinidere Mountain was a highlight of the trip. (That's Wahtum Lake below us in the background on the left.)

 If a tree falls in the forest and someone IS DOES make a sound! A loud sound!
We witnessed this tree falling, only about 200 feet away from where we were sitting and eating lunch.
To say that we were a little spooked is an understatement. "What if, what if, what if..."

 Another good shot of my honey...and his honey bucket. He really likes to use the hiking staves. He used to have a lot of problems with sore knees, but since he's been strengthening his leg muscles and hiking with the staves, he has very few knee problems on hikes.

 Speaking of fallen trees...we came across a HUGE tree across the path. It was a long way around either end, with lots of prickly bushes. I opted to just remove my pack and crawl beneath.

 See? It's a huge tree, alright. I can see why the trail crews haven't removed it yet.

 Our third camp, at Cedar Swamp campsite on the Herman Creek trail. There were lots of beautiful old-growth cedars, but it wasn't really swampy at all. A nice little stream ran through for easy water access. We were concerned that it would be a mosquito haven, but between the evening breeze, a couple of resident bats, and the lack of stagnant water, we didn't have any problems with bugs. By now we've hiked about 23 miles.

 Heading out on the morning of the 4th day. These girls are footsore, but SO proud of themselves. They  expressed mixed feelings about returning to civilization, and said they definitely want to do this again.

 Another water crossing...

 And finally, the end of the trail! Thirty miles in four days. These are strong and confident girls. They did so well working together as a group along the way. By this time they're all using "adventure sticks" to make the hike more enjoyable. We had such an amazing time together, and I am so grateful that we were able to take this hike with the girls.

Will we do it again? You bet!


Patricia said...

This is great, Kathy! Something I've wanted to do. You and Mark are great to give the girls that experience.

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

It looks like so much fun. I am glad the girls got to have such a gun adventure. The big tree across the trail reminds me of the trails around there when I got to go with the Bankheads. I think I was 14 or 15?
One day we almost had several trees like that thwart of plans.

Bill and I got ahead of everyone by at least a mile (his younger sister had a slow morning getting up and going, so the adults told us that we could go as far as one of the path junctions and meet them there. When we had been waiting about 15 minutes and looking at my map we realized we weren't to far ahead of the junction to a trail that went up to the ridge. We decided that quickly going up it, would only add two miles to an 8 mile day.
Since we both had done a fair amount of backpacking and hiking, we were sure it wouldn't be hard to add a few extra miles. We put a note on the trail sign where we were supposed to meet his parents (there always seem to be nails left in the signs that you can stick paper on) that gave them the basic plan, and asked them to write the time on the note when they went by, so we would know how far ahead of us they had gotten.

We thought it would take, at most, two hours to get up and down. Going up there were a lot of trees down across the path, some a little smaller than the one you ran into, but one that was as big across as I am tall (about five feet at the time) and a few we had to help each other and a few we went around. It took us almost an hour and a half to get up, and by the time we got there we were not looking forward to climbing logs down.

We decided instead to take the trail down the other side, which connected to the other trail on the junction where we were supposed to meet his parents. The map said it was shorter on the down part, but we would add another mile and a half to go down the shorter trail and then hike back to the junction.

As we headed down the shorter trail there were more trees down, although none as large as the biggest one, and several times we had to throw our packs over them while we scrambled over the trees. It took us close to an hour to get down the trail. When we got down to the junction of the short trail, we found a huge "Trail Closed" sign. (When we were done hiking we stopped at a ranger station to let them know that they probably should put signs at both sides since it was well marked on our maps.)

When we finally got down to our note we were about two hours behind his parents and sister. We caught up with them before it was time to set up camp, but we had done almost an 11 mile day. We were happy to get a slower start the next morning and do the six miles planned before playing in the water at the next camp site.

Several times I have wondered if I hike the same route if I would remember the side trail after all these years.

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

Thinking about it, I came back and left for something (girls camp? debate camp?) and I am not sure I told you many of the stories from the hike. Almost everyday Bill and I added something, a side hike or spending an hour playing at a creek or relaxing and writing in our journals, and then talking while we were ahead or catching up.

I think that is when Bill and I started thinking of ourselves more like siblings than anything else. He kissed he once, and afterwards both of us laughed because it just felt so weird. We had half an hour to catch up with his parents. Every once in a while one of us would make a face at each other and we would both break out in giggles. (Well, I am sure Bill would say he was chuckling in a manly manner.) The rest of the times we went hiking it was very comfortable. When we got back in touch in our mid-twenties, I wasn't sure if it would be weird because I was married and he had just graduated from college. When I opened the door (he came over to our apartment for dinner) he made a silly face and we both starting laughing as he gave me a hug. I think Jay was a little nervous about the dinner, but it was so obvious that we still had the brother/sister feelings, that he was fine with me and Bill doing a couple hikes that summer before he went to grad school.

I can imagine that they wouldn't want to remake the trail we hiked up. It wasn't very well maintained anyway (the trees may have been down a year or more when we went up it) and the side we went down was wider and would have been much easier to clean up. You would have only had to plant a few small trees and ferns along the up trail and no one would ever know it was there.

I actually didn't notice it when we went by, Bill did, and if the trail hadn't been on the map, I don't think we would have gone farther than the small campsite about 300-400 yards above the trail. The campsite wasn't right by the water, but water was close enough you wouldn't have to dry camp. There wouldn't have been room for more than three tents, but it would make a nice, out of the way, campsite for a couple.

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I just realized that the response from my mom was just an email, since the second comment is a response to that email, I thought I should post that, so it makes a little more sense.

"You were 15 that summer. Wow - what an adventure you and Bill had! Sounds like you must have gone to "Tomlike Mountain." It's a mile from the mail trail to the top - the trail takes off to the left as you are hiking downhill. I don't recall the map showing an alternate trail from the top back to the main trail. But yes, that section of Herman Creek trail is fairly steep.

I don't recall hearing about this adventure at the time. It's fun to hear about it now, and to be able to relate to it more since I've hiked Herman Creek Trail now. Thanks for sharing the story in the comments!

Love you, Mom"

Lauren Bailey said...

I was just reminiscing this trip when, to my surprise, I saw these pictures on a google search for Chinidere Mountain! Such a lovely reminder. Hoping to plan my next backpacking trip this summer. Thank you so much for posting and bringing back a flood of good memories.

Loren Adams said...

Great pictures! I love this hike! I did the same loop back in 1980, would you believe we were on Chinindere Mtn watching Mt. St. Helens erupting on May 18th! This was a hike with 20 high school students planned months in advance. talk about perfect timing, it is a memory I will never forget!!

Loren Adams