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.

It’s All About the Shoes

Lower Turret Lake, High SIerras

Lower Turret Lake, High SIerras

Regardless of your activity, shoes play an intimate role in how you feel during participation. There is a reason people spend so much money on footwear. Our feet are sensitive, and we use them almost all the time during physical activity. Picking the right set of shoes/boots for hiking or trail running  is a crucial part of finding enjoyment in your adventures. Two trips that I took recently reminded me how shoe choice can make the difference between success and failure. One trip was a run/walk around Mt. St. Helens, totaling about 30 miles with a light backpack in a single day. The other was a two night adventure in the High Sierras covering over 50 miles, mostly off trail, boulder hopping. Each required excessive use of my feet. The only store I trusted in picking up the right trail running shoes was US Outdoor.

Saucony Progrid Perigrine Trail Running Shoes

Saucony Progrid Perigrine 2 Shoes After 30 Miles

For the run around Mt. St. Helens, I wore Saucony’s Progrid Perigrine 2 shoes. Coming in at only 1 lb. 3.8 oz, they still offer enough heal and forefoot support to keep the foot centered and stable on the sole. Even with a backpack near 15 lbs., they provided plenty of stability and cushion. They also are minimalist regarding the foot bed. This means they do not have an arch support, or other technology that interferes with the foot’s natural movement. The sole has a thin plastic shank that runs back and forth like a riverbed S-shaped through the sole. This reduces stiffness and weight while protecting from rock protrusion through the sole. The tread has massive grip with large, knobby rubber protrusions. The trail around St. Helens has sand, mud, rock, boulders, hard pack, and “Ah Ha” lava (the rough, hard to walk on kind). These shoes held up perfectly across every type of terrain I could find. If you trail run or backpack light, there is not a better shoe out there.

High Sierras La Sportiva Trangos

High Sierras La Sportiva Trangos

Next, I went off trail in the High Sierras on the west side of the mountain range. For this trip, I needed a beefier shoe since I had heard that the terrain was brutal on foot wear. I had no idea how brutal it would be. I’m glad I chose my La Sportiva Trango Extreme Evo Light GTX boots. The moment I stepped off the John Muir Trail, I was committed to careful foot placement on boulders ranging in size from cars to bowling balls. Literally, every step was crucial since the boulders are stacked in a chaotic granite wonderland of enormous proportions. Any mistake here could be very costly since few people are likely to be traveling in the same place off trail. The La Sportiva Trango has extremely good ankle support, ridiculous durability, and more importantly, a sole that protects the foot bed no matter how sharp the rock feature placed beneath. Anything less stout would have put my safety at risk.

North Side of Mt. St. Helens

North Side of Mt. St. Helens

Of course, that nature of your trip is what matters most. So if you are planning any type of adventure, consider seriously, the shoes or boots you are going to choose. Not only is that shoe choice going to affect the entire quality of your experience, it also will influence the safety of the trip. For lightweight backpacking, hiking, or running, I can attest to the quality, comfort, and durability of the Saucony Progrid Perigrine 2. It is my favorite shoe. For three season mountaineering, and strenuous backpacking, nothing competes with the La Sportiva Trango. The ankle support, footbed protection, and rugged construction make it perfect for serious mountain travel. Both are available for men and women. The basement at US Outdoor has the most knowledgeable staff in the state regarding hiking shoes, boots and trail running shoes. Be sure to take advantage of this wonderful Portland resource when you think about your next exciting trip.

Sunday School – Dick Proenneke: Alone In The Wilderness (Part 1)

Ok class, listen up! Dick Proenneke was a beast of a man! In this timeless documentary: Alone In The Wilderness, he took us on a journey beyond the civilized limits and out into a world where life was/is exactly what you make of it. Where food and shelter are job 1 and everything else is stripped of its meaning. Where status symbols and stock portfolios carry no merit. Where the aches and pains of hard work are real and pristine landscapes and the sound of nature are your reward!

Now, I remember watching this film on OPB as a young kid growing up in the suburbs and thinking that Dick Proenneke was nuts. As far as I was concerned, the baseball diamond was the only wilderness I cared to explore. But as you grow older and the responsibilities of life creep in, you begin to realize the benefits of the great outdoors and the health and wellness it offers. A necessary balance so-to-speak that keeps our everyday lives from imploding. With that said, there are still people out there that will never see Dick Proenneke as anything more than a kook in the woods; so be it. But for those of you who are looking for a little inspiration for your next adventure look no further than: Alone In The Wilderness. Odds are you have seen it before, nevertheless, it’ll give you a good shove out the door. Enjoy!

Saturday School: How to Pack a Backpack

Hey kids, today’s lesson focuses on how to pack a backpack for extended trips into the wild blue yonder. Jimmy Chin from The North Face breaks it down like Tetris; using logic built from experience, he explains the benefits of packing efficiently so you can always be on the move and never stop exploring.

Saturday School: NOLS Expedition Training

Sometimes the biggest hurdle in an endeavor is knowing where to begin. If you haven’t heard of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), you’ve got a huge cache of untapped knowledge to explore. Their organization teaches those who wish to pursue outdoor life to the fullest the skills necessary to not only survive but to enjoy and lead others through the expansive wilderness.

There is no need to take notes, for this short film is geared toward inspiring you to lead the future expeditions of the world.

Linkin Blogs

adventure-journal-poll-coffee-or-beer-660Coffee or Beer? It is a question I ask myself every day. As I slip further into my own subconscious I realize I can’t have a normal conversation before I have a cup of morning coffee nor can I slur my words and do the happy dance without escaping judgement sober. They are two monsters that battle at the helm of consumption and they, as the Adventure Journal states, walk hand-in-hand with adventure driven outdoor activities. Read it here at Adventure Journal and make the difficult decision of which to leave behind…


dutch-oven-cookingContrary to popular belief, the Dutch Oven is NOT just the act of farting while in bed and trapping your partner underneath the blankets. In fact it serves a great purpose when cooking in the wilderness. Although I couldn’t write that last sentence without laughing maniacally, I think you should read this article at Camping Pro and let us know what you think about the recipes they bring to the table. Hopefully they don’t involve an abundance of gas inducing ingredients…


Pacific-Crest-Trail-mapOn a far more serious note, the folks at The Clymb shared a video on their thoughts of hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) which is an accomplishment a member of US Outdoor has recently achieved. From Mexico to Canada, Zane hiked his heart out and completed the trek in just over 4 months. Congrats Zane! I encourage all of you to check this video out at WendMag and if you’re ever in the shop, page Zane and buy him a beer for his accomplishment!