NYE – OUTDOOR EDITION

I know, I know, New Year’s resolutions are cheesy. We all make them, at least in our heads, and hardly ever live up to them. But this year is different because I’m talking outdoor resolutions. My New Year’s outdoor resolution is inspired by, or rather in spite of Kenny. Kenny works in the board shop. He’s a snowboarder and surfer, but his true gift is fly fishing, and thus he is my arch nemesis. Now if you know Kenny you would say how can he be anybody’s arch nemesis, he’s no Darth Vader or Lex Luthor, but you see Kenny has caught three Steelhead on a fly rod, and I have caught exactly zero. So my New Year’s outdoor resolution is to catch a steelhead on a fly.

Kenny on the Clackamas River

I spoke with three of U.S. Outdoor’s most intrepid outdoor explorers and these are their hopes for the New Year.

Kareen is a 27 year old native Oregonian that works in the camping and climbing department. This year she has three goals. She is planning a trip to Glacier Park in the spring with a good friend. She also picked up a used whitewater kayak last year and is planning on taking classes to learn the basics before she takes the plunge on going down a real river. But the thing she is most looking forward to doing is ski jouring with her dogs Gucci and Floyd. Gucci is a Husky German Shepard mix, and Floyd is a Black Lab and Rottweiler mix. These dogs were made for the snow.

GUCCI AND FLOYD

Ski jouring is where you harness up your dogs and they pull you in the snow. Ruffwear even makes a harness specifically for ski jouring. She plans on going to some of the mountain lakes around Mount Hood like Timothy Lake and Frog Lake. I asked her if she has anymore goals for the new year, she said, “Not get broken.” She broke her ribs last year snowboarding and it took her five months of rehab to get better. Not get broken. Good advice. Have fun this year Gucci and Floyd.

KAREEN AND GUCCI

KAREEN AND GUCCI ON THE TRAIL

Jen is another 27 year native Oregonian that works at U.S Outdoor. She works in the board department. Her main goal is to come back stronger than she has been in the past five years. She has had a full knee replacement and ACL reconstructive surgery in that time. Two summers ago she was skateboarding a bowl in Alaska when she went up to the top of the bowl and did a feeble, a skateboarding term for all you squares out there, as she came back down she landed wrong and heard a loud pop. A blown ACL. Since her surgery last year she has been on the road to recovery to accomplish her main goal this year. Splitboard Mount Shasta.

JEN SKATING A BOWL

JEN AFTER ACL SURGERY

She has been biking, walking and even doing a little running in her preparation for Mount Shasta. She is planning her trip for October of this year. I asked her what the hardest part of recovery was for her. It was not being able to do the things she loves the most, skateboarding and snowboarding. But she gave some great advice, “Surround yourself with positive things”, she said. She told me she has other things she loves to do, watching movies, doing her artwork, and just hanging out with friends. She also said that loving where you work helps. She may not be able to do the things she loves right now, but she gets to help people get into one of the activities she loves the most. Snowboarding. Surround yourself with positive things. More sage advice from another young lady at U.S. Outdoor. Good luck this year Jen.

JEN AT THOMPSON PASS IN ALASKA

Daniel is another U.S. Outdoor employee with an adventurous spirit. I’ll let him tell you in his own words.

DANIEL AT THE SOUTHERN TERMINUS

Plans for Summer 2018, The Pacific Crest Trail

This summer, Starting on May 18th, I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through California, Oregon and Washington.

My first encounters with “Thru-Hiking” came in the summer of 2000 when my science teacher, Mr. Ryan sponsored a backpacking trip through the Three Sisters Wilderness Area in Central Oregon. The route was a simple one, heading south on the PCT from Lava Lake to Devils Lake 26 miles away. When we were unloading our gear and checking our equipment, two ragtag bearded men came to the parking lot looking for a ride into town. My Father, who was shaperoning the trip had been reading the Oregonians articles covering the journey that the two men were on, ironically. We gave them Snickers bars. They talked about their life for the three months the had been on trail. We said our goodbyes and on the final day of the trip in Wickiup Plains near South Sister I had decided that the seed had been firmly planted, and that I should probably hike the trail someday.

Fast forward to 2013. I had recruited the help of my dear friend M. Charlie Garros of Toulouse. I had met him in Turkey and whilst I was in Peru during the new year I had made the goal to shoot out around May 1st of that year. He flew in after reading my Facebook post. We hiked from Campo, where the the southern terminus is located, to Bishop Pass together, 846 miles in. I distinctly remember the Joshua Trees of the Mojave and the Western Junipers that grew ancient in the High Sierra, along with the many beautiful and dynamic individuals who shaped my ideas of friendship along the way. A combination of physical, mental, and financial stress had gotten me off the trail as Charlie continued to nearly the border at Manning Park, British Columbia, until an early winter storm cut off the final stretch in early October for him and many others.

Now, in 2018, I have felt a debt to the dream of hiking the trail. Spending not weeks but months in the wild is such a demanding goal that it has changed my reality in the city. Saving every penny, quitting smoking and drinking, and getting into a physical condition that would warrant hiking 30 miles a day for months are not only goals but necessities if success is possible. The gear that I’ve accumulated from a life suited to outdoor living will carry me to the southern terminus, but food resupplies, budgeting, and discipline will hopefully carry me to Manning Park. I look forward to the desert section of 700 miles with great anticipation. Crossing through 25 National Forests and seven National Parks, I look forward to long days and quiet nights in the backcountry. With some light mountaineering I can climb several non-technical peaks along the way for views, and the trail passes by Portland, my hometown, for inevitable beers with pals. When or if I finish will determine future plans to possibly accomplish the Triple Crown of hiking, which combines the PCT, the Continental Divide Trail (3100 miles) and the Appalachian Trail (2180 miles).

Wish me luck!

DANIEL AND CHARLIE ON THE TRAIL

Daniel asked us to wish him luck. I wish everyone luck in all their endeavours this year.

Even you Kenny.

STARVATION CREEK FALLS-WATERFALL HUNTING AT IT’S FINEST-CONCLUSION.

I made a promise that I’d blog about the second half of my hike at Starvation Creek State Park. If you haven’t read the first half yet, you should check it out. This hike is every waterfall hunters dream. It offers up a 2.6 mile hiking loop that has amazing views of the gorge, beautiful creeks, and passes by three stunning waterfalls. Like I mentioned in my last blog, if waterfalls are what you seek, then there is no need to hike the full 2.6 mile loop. All three waterfalls are just an easy stroll through the woods. But if you’re looking for unforgettable views of the gorge, taking the full loop is a must. Last spring I took my dogs here and from our experiences there is definitely some need to know before you go information.

When I first arrived at Starvation Creek State Park I was a little confused as to where the trailhead began. There was a paved trail that ran right next to the parking lot. Do I go left or do I go right? On the right hand side the trail was boring. There were no trees, no bushes, and it took you right along the side of the busy highway. On the other hand heading left on the paved trail took you through a deep lush green forest with wildflowers, creeks, and a picnic area with waterfalls. It seemed like an easy decision to head left but everybody there was heading right. So we followed the crowd.

Cabin Creek Falls

The dogs and I walked along the busy highway for only a short distance. Trees soon separated us from the road and our lovely hike in the woods began. Or so I thought. As we made our way along the paved trail we soon started to hear peaceful sounds from Cabin Creek Falls. My excitement began, but right before we got there I saw a sign that said head left for the 2.6 mile loop. I looked at the trail and hesitated for a second. It was narrow and steep. It practically went straight up a mountain and the sounds of loose rocks tumbling down made me realize danger might be ahead. “Mmmm”, I asked myself, do I continue following the easy path through the woods toward the sound of waterfalls? Or do I head left up the scary dark path with spider webs and creepy noises? As I stood there looking back and forth, I began to feel like I was in some crazy teenage horror movie. So sure enough I made the obvious decision and headed left up the scary trail. About half way up I began to wonder what I got myself into. It was a tough climb. My legs were burning, I was sliding on rocks, but there was no turning back. Going down this mountain would be even more dangerous than going up.

View of the Gorge

We made it to the top! It was well worth the climb. The views were unbelievable. Around every corner we turned we got hit with another stunning view of the gorge. For the next hour and a half the dogs and I had the whole place to ourselves. Now I don’t mean to sound all gushy, but something special happens when you have complete solitude in a place like this. And once you experience it you begin to crave it. You want more. You’ll do stupid things like climb scary trails up steep mountains. All for the thrill of experiencing Mother Nature at it’s finest. But be careful out here It can be dangerous. For every great view I stumbled upon, there was a steep cliff below. So leave the kids at home and keep the dogs on a leash.

After a peaceful hike along the edges of the mountain the trail began to head down hill. The views disappeared and the sounds of rushing water grew louder and louder. Soon enough we came to this lovely creek. It was gorgeous. The dogs got excited and jumped in for a refreshing drink of ice cold mountain water. It was a perfect spot for a quick break so I threw down my pack and chugged some water as well. Then it hit me. There’s no bridge over the creek. Oh crap now what. Within a matter of seconds this lovely little creek turned into a monster river with water crashing down and slamming into rocks over and over again. Now what. I had two options at this point; turn around and head back and risk going down the dangerous steep trail. Or find a way to cross the creek. Well off came the shoes and socks because there was no way I was turning back now. Luckily we found a safe place to cross. The dogs had no problem. I on the other hand had to tip-toe barefoot through the icy cold and rocky water. I crossed my fingers hoping I wouldn’t step on anything sharp or stub a toe. I made it across alive! Thank goodness. Man that water was cold.

Soon after we crossed the creek the waterfall chasing began. The first waterfall we came to was Landcaster Falls, Shortly after that was Hole-In-The-Wall Falls. From there the trail went back to being nicely paved and we soon passed by the third waterfall, Cabin Creek Falls. I then knew our full 2.6 mile loop was almost over. We were exhausted, but felt refreshed and relaxed at the same time. It’s funny how hiking can do that to you. It took us roughly 3 hours to hike the full loop. Overall it was a great day.

If you plan on heading out there, be sure to check out my “need to know before you go” list below.

*Take the 2.6 mile loop in a clockwise direction.
*This trail is NOT kid friendly. Please bring a leash for the dogs.
*A pair of water shoes like Chaco”s would have come in handy.
*Hiking boots are a must. And a trekking pole would have been nice too.
*A medical kit is a smart idea. I spent a good hour and a half out there all by myself.
*Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic next to Starvation Creek Falls when you’re done.

-written by U.S. Outdoor employee Shawna B.

CLIMBING MOUNT SAINT HELENS

The first time I heard of Mount Saint Helens was when I was 10 years old. It had just erupted and my family and I were getting ready to move to Seattle from Detroit, Michigan. It was both excited and frightened. The wild west coast was something with mountain ranges and oceans and erupting volcanoes. Twenty years later I was living in Portland when I first climbed Mount Saint Helens. My friend Jim and I drove to Cougar, Washington, and went to the local bar and grill where they held a lottery for permits to climb the mountain. Nowadays you can go online a purchase the permit; ahh technology. We won the lottery, got our climbing permits, and slept the night in his Jeep, which sucked because Jim neglected to tell me snores a water buffalo. Now I don’t know if water buffalos snore, but I imagine that if they did they would sound like Jim. The next morning we headed out on the trail with spirits high. The hike was about 5 miles and gained 4,500 feet. The trail wove through the woods until we got to a huge field of boulders. Hopping from boulder to boulder for awhile it finally thinned out. Next came the pumice and ash. It was slow going. You would take one step and slide back half a step. It was overcast and snowing. We kept going for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly we pushed through the clouds and it was bluebird sky. It was a gorgeous day on top of the mountain. We could see Jefferson, Hood, Rainier, and Adams poking out over a sea of clouds. We sat for awhile soaking in the view and headed down. Looking back it was one of the best days of my life. I highly recommend it.

Andrew and Dan ascending.

Recently I was talking to two guys from the shop, Andrew and Dan, who climbed Mount Saint Helens back in June. Both moved to Portland a few years ago from New York state. They didn’t know each other, but weirdly attended the same college. Andrew has been snowboarding since he was 8 years old. He loves pizza. His favorite topping; just cheese. He’s a purist. Dan has been skiing since he was 5 and snowboarding since he was 13. His favorite food; chicken wings. Favorite sauce; the time-honored Hot Buffalo. Another purist. Pizza and wings. Classic New York.

Andrew on the ascent.

They camped overnight and hit the trail at 4:00 am. They took the Worm Flows Route which is almost 11 miles and ascends nearly 5,700 feet. Andrew was using his Arbor Coda Splitboard with Burton Hitchhiker bindings. Dan was skiing on Rossignol Soul 7 HD Skis and Marker F12 Tour EPF Bindings. Dan actually hiked up in his Rossignol Alltrack Pro 120 ski boots. They both had Dakine Heli Pro 24L Backpacks loaded with water, snacks, shovels, avalanche probes and Pieps tranceivers. The ascent took them about 6 hours. They were on the summit by noon. It was perfect weather. Blue sky all around. They hung out awhile drinking it all in and then came the fun part. The descent.

Dan at the summit.

Andrew contemplating his descent.

They took their time enjoying the ride down. It took them about and hour and a half to cover about a 4000 ft. descent. For both of them it was their first real big mountain. They both said they had the time of their lives. Cheers Gentlemen.

Dan and Andrew at the summit.

ALEX AND DIZZY – AN OUTDOORSMAN AND HIS DOG

Alex Z., his wife and Dizzy moved to Portland two years ago from Chicago. He came to Oregon for the love of the outdoors. As a young man Alex became an Eagle Scout. This is where his passion for hiking, camping, and rafting began. One of his other passions is art. He has a B.F.A in glassblowing and sculpture. He has spent eleven years blowing glass all over the U.S. What he likes most about glassblowing is that it’s a strenuous activity with all the heat and weight of the glass. Alex believes that stress brings out the best in people. He originally came out here to blow glass, but his priorities shifted and the US Outdoor Store became a better fit. It gives him the flexibility to pursue his Masters in Education. Plus, at the US Outdoor Store we can bring our dogs to work. How could Alex and Dizzy resist.

Dizzy is a nine year old Australian Kelpie. Alex raised him from a pup. This breed is highly intelligent and has the need for lots of exercise. A perfect fit for Alex and his love for all things outdoors. Dizzy is his constant companion for hiking, camping, biking, even snowshoeing. Dizzy likes to barrel through the snow like a little torpedo with legs. He is in his element. One of Alex’s favorite memories was when Dizzy was still a pup and saw snow for the first time. He got so excited and started jumping in the air to catch the snowflakes. They spent hours on a trampoline they had in the yard bouncing and catching the snow.

Alex and Dizzy have criss crossed the country several times. Like Mad Max and his dog driving and having adventures throughout the countryside. Only without freaks in leather outfits trying to kill them. They have visited the Appalachian Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, and the Cascades Mountain ranges. One of Dizzy’s favorite things is water. Going through Colorado one day they stopped for a hike. Dizzy was having a great time splashing and swimming in some streams. Then he decided to jump in the Colorado River proper. It was a scary moment for Alex. But Dizzy, a professional, pulled it off.

Dizzy at the shop

As summer turns to fall; Alex and Dizzy’s favorite time of year, because winter is coming. You should come down to the shop and check out all our shop dogs, but make sure you go down to camping so you can meet Dizz the Fearless. Stay gold Dizzy.

STARVATION CREEK-WATERFALL HUNTING AT ITS FINEST

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the ultimate hiking destinations here in the Pacific Northwest. Scenic drives, gorgeous waterfalls, and stunning views of the Columbia River leaves no question as to why this place has become such a popular spot to explore. With over 140 hiking trails to choose from, picking which one can be a little overwhelming. I could list off one by one all the great hikes you should explore, but that list could go on for days. So instead let’s take it one hike at a time.

Starvation Creek State Park

For all you waterfall hunters out there, this state park is the place for you. It’s located in the Columbia River Gorge along Highway 84 about 50 miles from Portland. It offers a 2.6 mile loop that passes by three stunning waterfalls. The picnic area is fantastic. Pack a lunch and enjoy your food with the sounds of the creek rushing by and magnificent views of Starvation Creek Falls in the background. Many of the visitors who come here choose not to take the full 2.6 mile loop around the park. If waterfalls are what you seek all three waterfalls are just a short stroll through the woods. Start your hike by heading west along the paved Mount Defiance Trail that follows Highway 84. At first this trail may seem a little awkward. The sound of the rushing cars may be a bit unpleasant, but don’t worry, soon there will be trees separating you from the road and your peaceful hike in the woods begins.

Cabin Creek Falls

First up, Cabin Creek Falls. It’s the smallest of the three waterfalls, but certainly worth the stop.

Cabin Creek Falls

Hole-In-The-Wall-Falls

Next up, Hole-In-The-Wall-Falls. This magnificent 92 foot beast will most certainly catch your eye. Originally called Warren Falls, this waterfall used to flow right over the cliff, which caused floods on Highway 84 during the winter. Rather than moving the road they decided to move the waterfall. In 1938 a hole was constructed to allow Warren Creek to flow into a tunnel and out through the “hole-in -the-wall.” Many visitors choose to turn around after this point, but I’d recommend you keep going. There’s one more waterfall to see and it’s only a short hike away.

Hole-In-The-Wall-Falls

Lancaster Falls

Last stop, Lancaster Falls. My favorite out of the three. From Hole-In-The-Wall-Falls, cross the wooden bridge and continue to hike along an easy rocky/dirt path. You will come to a fork in the trail and a well marked sign will tell you to head right. Do as it says and you’ll find yourself standing here, up close and personal with this beauty.

After an easy 1.8 mile out-and-back hike, passing by three magnificent waterfalls, plus a bonus fourth in the picnic area, I would have to say Starvation Creek State Park will most certainly not disappoint. And for those of you interested in hiking the full 2.6 mile hike, stay tuned. I took that hike last spring and trust me there’s definitely some “need to know before you go” info that I’ll tell you about later. Until then, Cheers.

-written by usoutdoor employee Shawna B.

Falls Creek Falls Hike – Washington

Falls Creek Falls Trail

Living in beautiful, gorgeous, green Oregon, (with its self-proclaimed, “7 wonders”) it’s easy to forget about our neighbor to the north- Washington, and all of the amazing natural spaces it has, too.

This was how I felt as I stood at the bottom of Falls Creek Falls, up near Carson, Washignton, watching feathery wisps of cold creek water pour over the ledges of not just one, but two falls, before it culminated in a brisk cascading pool of white-water.

We started the day out as most good PNW weekend days do- mildly hungover at brunch. My friend’s cousin from Ukraine was visiting her and we wanted to make sure he got out on some gorgeous hikes in the states before heading back home. After scarfing down a mouthwateringly-great late breakfast, we loaded our Osprey packs with snacks, filled our water bottles and set off for the leisurely day hike.

Now, it seems almost unfair that a place this cool was so easy to hike to. The trail was only 1.7 miles in to the falls and 1.7 miles back. We had originally been looking to take the longer 6.4 mile “balloon” route, but we ran into some issues that made us forget that plan and begin booking it back down the trail as fast as possible. But I’ll get to that later.

The hike started in a dirt parking lot which boasted no cell phone service. That was our first sign that this hike was going to be a beautiful one. Anastasia, Damien, Elvin, Totem (the tiny anxious and adorable terrier that belongs to Anastasia and Damien) and myself started off chatting along the dusty path. We were quickly quieted, however, by the woods around us. A creek followed the path for at least half of the trail, and its burbling combined with the cool shade of the trees set the serene mood for the walk in.

Falls Creek Falls BridgeMeandering through the forest we saw trees that must have been hundreds of years old. Before too long, we came to a small bridge that crossed over a long-dry creek bed that we all imagined must host a raging current or water during the spring time.

The woods were open and calm. We passed some other hikers, but nothing in the amount we thought we would be seeing for a summer Saturday in Oregon. But wait- we weren’t in Oregon. We were north of our home state in Washington. We should come here more often…

As the path made another turn from left to right, we saw through the trees the impressively gorgeous falls we had come to find. Falls Creek Falls- It was awesome!

Falls Creek Falls 1

We couldn’t stop staring. Elvin, the cousin from Ukraine, immediately went down to the lowest pool for a quick skinny dip. I mean hey, why not?

Falls Creek Falls Skinny Dip

Damien had disappeared after a few moments but we thought nothing of it. Then, we heard some shouting from near the falls. It was Damien! He was safe- don’t worry. He’d just found a path out to the middle of the falls. We quickly found the path he’d taken and began making our way to him.

Falls Creek Falls tricky route

It was a slightly trickier path than what we’d been traveling across earlier (read: not so good for kids) but we got to an amazing picnic spot pretty soon and quickly broke out our snacks. Our surroundings were blissful. More photos were snapped, cheese was shared and everyone was content.

Then…

TOTEM… vs. The Bee

Falls Creek Falls Totem Cheese

Someone noticed the little dog had been itching a lot. It looked like his stomach might be red, though that wasn’t unusual for him- he sometimes got heat rash from running too much. Anastasia picked him up. It wasn’t heat rash.

This poor pup had angry red boils all along his stomach and running up his front legs. We froze. Then we remembered that Elvin had told us he’d taken a bee out of Totem’s mouth about 30 minutes ago. Allergic reaction. To a bee. That’s what was happening.

And none of us had any Benadryl.

We quickly wrapped up our picnic spot and began passing the pup up a train along the path because he couldn’t climb it himself and we didn’t want him rubbing his legs together and irritating the rash further. Thank god my friends didn’t have a husky.

We got up the trickier trail and back onto the main path. We were jogging. Totem was being carried until he whined too much, then we would put him down and continuously called his name so he never had a moment to sit and itch more.

As we were hurrying along the trail, I was running our current situation over and over in my mind. We were about 40 minutes from the car, maybe 30 minutes from the closest store where we could buy Benadryl and then another hour and a half from home. Anastasia began asking everyone we passed if they had any Benadryl. We debated aloud for a while if maybe it was actually poison oak, but eventually refuted that idea. We moved quicker. We all watched Totem.

Then, finally- we came across someone who had the drugs on them.

Thank. God.

There is probably no worse feeling than the feeling of wondering if your friends’ dog is about to go into anaphylactic shock while you’re 30 minutes from help. Maybe if you were said dog’s owner. That’s the only way you could be feeling worse.

We thanked the woman profusely (who was allergic to walnuts and so always carried benadryl on her) and fed Totem his doggie-sized dose as quickly as we could. We waited and continued to hike back to the car, nervously keeping an eye on the tiny guy. After about 10-15 minutes we picked him up to check again- and the boils had gone down! His skin was red and agitated, but the angry fluidy bumps had receded and he’s noticeably stopped scratching himself so often.

Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. The dog was out of trouble!

We slowed our pace to a walk and began to enjoy the woods around us again. We even stopped off at a lower part of the creek to hang our feet in the water and dip totem in it to cool him off more.

As we wound our way back to the parking lot, we all felt happier than when we’d left. Although we’d missed the longer hiking route due to a dog-emergency, we’d had a beautiful, scary and exciting Saturday in Washington.

We’ll probably be back again soon.

And yes, Totem slept for the entire drive back home.