EAGLE CREEK FIRE

Eagle Creek is the most popular spot to recreate in the Columbia Gorge. The Eagle Creek trail hosts spectacular views as you pass by many waterfalls. The payoff is the iconic Punchbowl falls. The water spills down a hundred feet into a blue-green bowl. It looks like something out of a fairy tail. At the end of the trail, just for good measure, is Tunnel Falls. The trail passed through a tunnel behind the falls. It’s awesome.

View of the Eagle Creek fire from across the Columbia River

On Saturday September 2nd a fire was reported at Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It was started by some teenagers who had the brilliant idea of throwing fireworks off a cliff. Now, we were all teenagers once, and probably did some pretty dumb stuff, I certainly did, so I’m not calling for jail time. Just some community service till they’re in their 40’s. Hey, maybe they should plant some trees. Overnight the fire had spread to about 3,000 acres, and by Tuesday to 200,00 acres. Embers had flown across the Columbia River and started a fire at Archer Mountain. Can you dig that? The fire was so huge that it started a fire across one of the widest rivers in the world. Unbelieveable.

As of this Saturday morning the fire has expanded to 33,682 acres and is 7% contained. There is a massive effort to combat this fire. There are 987 firefighters, 102 engines, and 12 helicopters dumping water from the Columbia onto the fire. One of the great things to come out of disasters like this are the heroic efforts of our emergency personnel. Sunday night the jewel of the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls Lodge, had come under danger of being destroyed. Flames had lit up the entire ridge behind the lodge, coming as close as 30 yards. By midnight Monday it was a close call. The firefighters had to constantly douse the lodge with water. The roof is cedar and they were worried one ember could spark a blaze. Crews had to replenish their water from Multnomah Creek. There are no fire hydrants at the lodge. By 3 a.m. they had beaten the blaze back. The crews are going to stay until they are 100% sure the lodge is safe.

The Hero’s of Multnomah Lodge

The Eagle Creek fire is far from over and if you would like to help here are a few ways to do so:

Hood River County Search & Rescue

American Red Cross

SMITH ROCK STATE PARK – AN INTRODUCTION

I first went to Smith Rock State Park in the late 1990’s. It is truly one of the most beautiful and unique places that I have ever seen. As with all things cool, it was born out of a volcanic eruption. 300 million years ago the eruption shot ash and debris into the air. When it settled Smith Rock was created. Then half a million years ago lava flowed into the area and hardened the rocks. Over time erosion and the Crooked River formed magnificent Smith Rock State Park.

There are many things to do in Smith Rock State Park. There is a first come first serve camping area with bathrooms and showers, and it’s vast 621 acres provides hiking and horseback trails. From these you can see massive amounts of amazing animals. There is a family of River Otters that live in the Crooked River. Mule deer, marmots(I took a quiz online and this is my Smith Rock spirit animal), lizards, and rattlesnakes all dot the landscape. If you look into the sky you will see bald eagles, canadian geese, northern harriers, ospreys, great blue herons, and one of the biggest birds of prey in North America, the golden eagle. But most come here for the climbing.

Smith Rock State Park

The thing I love about climbing is the adrenaline rush you get with minimal risk. I know, minimal risk you say; have you seen Cliffhanger with Sly Stallone. That scene where that woman’s harness buckle breaks and she plunges thousands of feet to her untimely death. No wonder Black Diamond was going to sue. That would never happen. Anyway, I’ll go climb, but I would never ride my bike downtown; too risky. It’s also relatively cheap to start climbing. All you need are some climbing shoes, harness, belay device, about five locking carabiners, fourteen quickdraws , a rope and rope bag, some chalk with a chalk bag, an anchor and a personal anchor. All this will run you about six hundred bucks. Small change for a new and exciting passion in your life. And if you live near Portland, Smith Rock is only three hours away.

US Outdoor employee Dan G. sport climbing Smith Rock

Smith Rock is the birthplace of sport climbing in the U.S.. Sport climbing is a type of climbing that relies on the use of permanent anchors, or bolts fixed to the rock for protection. You climb up the route, clip into the bolt with a quickdraw, clip the quickdraw to your rope and move up to the next bolt, and on and on. Alan Watts, the father of sport climbing, started climbing Smith back in the 1980’s. Back then there were only a small group of core climbers at Smith, now it has become a destination for climbing all over the world. One of the great things about Smith Rock is the diversity of places to climb and the amount of routes, there are close to 2000. Monkey Face, To Bolt or Not to Be, Five Gallon Bucket, Crybabies, and Just Do It, a 5.14c that at one time was the hardest sport route in North America, are just a few of the famous climbs of Smith Rock.

You can see why Smith Rock is a world renowned climbing destination. Which is why the American Alpine Club is having the SMITH ROCK CRAGGIN’ CLASSIC, a 3-day climbing festival at Smith Rock. It’s starts September 15th and goes to the 17th. It’s a celebration of climbing one of the great crags in the world. There will be food and beer, and you can stop by for some of the clinics taught by professional climbers. You should probably go before the beer. Two US Outdoor climbers, Alex H. and Dan G. will be there, you will be able to spot them by the US Outdoor shirts they will be wearing. Dan’s got a pretty impressive beard, and Alex, well, he’s pretty. So stop by the pop up tent, pick up some swag and talk to those guys about climbing. They know their stuff. And like I said, the beard.

Do Not Rescind Bears Ears National Monument, Utah – Petition

Attention all who have a love of climbing or a desire to protect our natural landscapes,

Bears Ears National Monument needs your help! Bears Ears includes our precious Indian Creek, Lockhart Basin, Arch/Texas Canyon, Comb Ridge, Valley of the Gods and many other undeveloped areas, all of which are in danger of losing protection from our federal government. Please join us in telling newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke not to rescind or reduce Bears Ears National Monument! The Outdoor Retailer trade show has already opened eyes with its decision to relocate from Salt Lake City to a new host city outside of Utah in protest of this matter. OR has been operating in Utah the past two decades and generates around $45 million in revenue for the state each year.

We ask that you take a moment to review the petition in the link below and offer your thoughts. Thank you for your time.

Review and sign petition here

Adventure Time In Argentina

(We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast)

“No, we have the rip that off, it’s not going to get any better.”

“Wait, no really – can’t we just wrap it with band aid and then…” I pleaded.

“Nope, on three look at the view,” he said. (He being, Juan, my guide, double certified by the IFMGA (International Federation Mountain Guide Association).

“1, 2, 3…” I looked away as he tore off what was left of my big toe nail along with the chunks of skin falling off my heels. On the bright side, the view was amazing; we were sitting in the middle of a glacier in Argentina, Patagonia, and though my feet had seen far better days, I’d say it was well worth it! It was just Juan and I, and my restrained scream echoed on and then dissipated quickly into the cold, sporadic wind. The disinfectant spray brought on another yelp, to which Juan replied, “Well I was wondering when you were going to start saying something.” He mostly joked. “I don’t know why you are so strong…” It was either a statement or a question but I took that as a compliment coming from a 20 year, all-things-mountain veteran who had once seen three of his fingers cut off with a small saw after getting caught in a terrible storm while ice climbing a less explored side of Aconcagua, one of the Seven tallest summits in the world.

Brittany Taped Toe And Heel

He expertly taped everything up (clearly this was a part of his norm) and I slid my socks back over my cold, bloody feet and squeezed them back into my ski boots that were one size too small. We still had at least an hour of skiing left before the warming hut and at least half a dozen more crevasses for me to try and not fall into. Encouraging. Far less encouraging was the fact that I hadn’t skied in 10 years. I felt a wash of doubt and that “oh sh-t” feeling set in as I looked down the 45 degree glacier we had just spent hours climbing up; the skins were off and I was no longer connected to the snow through the science of friction. I would now be reintroduced to physics, after all, what goes up, must come down. I wasn’t leaving my guide in the dark though, he knew I hadn’t skied in ten years as well. “Esta Bien?” He asked, his eyes… concerned. “Todo Bien!” I was lying to myself but I didn’t have a choice, it all needed to be OK. My eyes got big and I threw two thumbs up and put a reassuring smile on my face as I turned my skis down the mountain.

Brittany Skiing

A few minutes later my childhood ski school lessons were coming back to me. My pie turns were just as awkward as when I was 8 years old but at least I was stronger and the relief I saw on my guides face was reassuring as he realized that he wasn’t going to have to carry me down the mountain.

“Good! Now, you are going to have to turn more because there is a crevasse there and… you don’t want to fall into that.”

To which I replied, “Well that’s one way to learn how to ski again, learn to turn or… die.”

The higher you go, the thinner the air, the greater the danger, the more important it that you try your absolute hardest not to fuck up. It’s a fantastic way to learn.

He carefully schooled me down the mountain, creating wide and sweeping turns for me to follow and used himself as a barrier for my mental as well as my physical stability when our paths came too close to cliffs and crevasses. I felt like a little kid again, arms wide and forward, skis tuned out like a pie, but the thought of what I probably looked like gave me enough of a sense of humor to find the situation more comical than scary, and humbling, so incredibly humbling.

I saw the hut getting closer, he kept reassuring me we were almost there and that I was doing great, and I believed him. When we finally reached our destination I collapsed in the snow, letting my twitching muscles and swollen feet rest in the cold. I laughed and I smiled and for the first time in a long time, I was really proud of myself. Juan looked at me and said, “So now you fall?!” He was giving me a hard time. We still had the other half of the mountain to go down the next morning and I knew that, but I had confidence in myself that I would get through it; that I would learn how; that he would help, and I felt nothing but incredible relief and pure joy as I let the sun wash over my wind blown face and fully alive body.

Warming-Hut

By that point, I had lost a toe nail, most of the skin on my heels and my right and more dominant leg was cramping and burning. On the other hand, the snow was softening and making it easier to turn and stop, my heart beat was slowing, the giant cloud we were coming down from was clearing and the majestic and beautiful Andes were glowing in the mid-morning sun, with gentle clouds dancing above them like long hair drifting in the ocean. Needless to say, a giant smile was now permanently slapped on my red and sweaty face.

The Giant Cloud

It’s a feeling that keeps bringing me back to the mountains, that feeling of being alive; of being scared sometimes but pushing through and conquering mental doubt and physical strain. It’s not necessarily the feeling of reaching the summit, it’s everything you go through to get there. The journey. You must be strong, humble, steadfast, willing to accept change and also have a pretty good sense of humor! You must be open to being a kid again and to learn and trust those whom are willing to support and help you. It’s the recipe most of us need for life and the mountains seem to have all the right ingredients.

Andes Mountains 2

So, now that winter is in full force in the Pacific Northwest, get out there and try something new, be prepared to fail, to succeed, to have a great time, and to gain a little confidence and happiness along the way. Chao!

Thumbs-Up

My Spontaneous, Illogical, No Bad, Very Good Day at Cougar Hot Springs

This trip was not planned. This trip was not logical. This was a trip of the truly spontaneous nature. Jess and I needed a break from the city and we decided the best way to get that break would be by driving for three hours to camp in a car and then wake up at the crack of dawn to hit up Cougar hot springs- a place neither of us had been before. We basically were driving to Bend and back for a just-barely-24-hour break from the city. Rational? I think not. Wonderful? I say yes.

Over the years that I’ve lived in Portland, I’ve come up with a very scientific and official rule-of-thumb to ensure my personal positive mental health levels and overall feelings of satisfaction with life. That rule is to go no longer than two weeks without leaving the city limits. Once I cross the threshold of that second week, my mind starts to go wild- I get anxious, upset, depressed and hopeless. I’m not kidding, I really do have these problems! Then, as soon as I escape from the confines of the city for a day or more, my mind feels at ease. Everything is easy and life is good again- it’s a very vital rule to follow.

And so this brings me back to Jess and I’s spontaneous, illogical, no bad, very good trip. We both needed a break. A break from the city, a break from life, a break from everything. Soaking away our worries in a natural forest hot spring sounded like the perfect fix.

As we wound our way closer and closer along shady wooded roads, the sun dipped lower and lower on the horizon. After one missed turn-off, we found ourselves traveling along the upper ridges of a deep yet very low reservoir and had the chance to catch some amazing views of the sunset as it slipped behind the reservoir’s cliffs.

We finally crept into our campsite after dark.

As our (now giant) fire blazed next to us, Jess and I turned our faces star-ward to admire the diamond-studded sky above us. You forget how many stars there are until you escape the reaches of modern light pollution. I grew up in a small backwoods town, and one of my favorite things to do on a clear night was stare at the billions of beautiful stars up above me. I used to stand outside with my dad and sister as he told us that a single beam from our flashlight sent out towards space wouldn’t hit anything for thousands of year. It’s something that simultaneously causes you to feel very, very small and fill you with a huge sense of wonder.

The next morning we woke early. Since we’d camped in the car, there was nothing to break down and we quickly left the campsite behind and found the trail-head to the hot spring.

After 10 minutes of walking along a well-maintained path we came to a rough-hewn open shelter and crudely built steps that lead down to the rock-ringed thermal pools. We disrobed quietly, not wanting to disturb the peace of the place we’d just arrived at.

Cougar Hot Springs 1There are five cascading pools that make up the Cougar Hot Springs, with the hottest pools being at the top and each successive pool below getting slightly cooler than the rest. Jess and I got lucky and snagged the third pool down. As we sat and soaked in the volcanic thermal waters, we quietly observed the forest around us. Time slipped by and the morning sunlight streamed through the high branches to dapple across moss-covered rocks. It was heavenly.

Cougar Hot Springs Pool

We soaked for the better part of almost two hours and finally had to call it quits when we both found our water bottles to be empty. As we emerged from our soaking pool, we looked at the one above us and wondered… just how hot was the hot pool? But instead of testing our mettle in the hottest of hot pools, we snuck into the one just below it to test the waters. And the waters were HOT. I have no idea how anyone manages the top pool. I saw some people in it while we were there and decided it must be something basic within their DNA that allowed them to handle those temperatures; like how some people are taller than me or have a bigger nose. Its just something they’re born with.

Feeling fully warmed inside and out, Jess and I made our final departure. We walked quietly up to our belongings and dressed in blissful silence as we watched the steam rising and curling through outstretched evergreen branches. We didn’t talk again until we had started making our way back down the trail to the car, and even then conversation was unhurried and relaxed.

Once we got back to the car, we broke out the Jetboil to brew some tea and have some breakfast. We found a great place to sit at the edge of the cliffs leading down into the reservoir below us. A family of ducks swam thousands of feet below us, and we amused ourselves by watching their progress as they zigzagged from one place to another.

By the time we loaded the car back up, Jess and I felt refreshed, invigorated and ready to take the city on once more. Well, at least for another two weeks that is.

Cougar Hot Springs Res

Black Friday Responsibly

Black Friday has become somewhat of concern for the general population, and for good reason. Much like a hard night of drinking with friends, things can get a little messy and sometimes chippy if a stranger doesn’t like the cut of your jib… if you catch my drift (all nautical puns intended). Thus the title above- Black Friday Responsibly.

Some people just can’t handle themselves when they’re swimming in deals, so they tend to overreact, often times trampling others, punching, swearing and biting as seen on various News outlets (albeit biting is my own assumption). These are the folks who can’t “hold their alcohol,” so to speak, and they make it awkward for everyone else around them. They “black out.” Know that these folks are out there. Use this knowledge to your advantage. While most of these folks will be licking the storefront windows at midnight and possibly sooner on Thanksgiving, you can be hold up, DRINKING RESPONSIBLY with your closest friends and relatives. Relax, watch football, meditate… Do what you have to to clear your mind and bring you into a state of readiness for the events about to transpire. Lets face it, there is no way to avoid the chaos entirely, but we can all do our part subdue it and end up enjoying the experience, after all, people watching on such days can be magnificent!

Remember, Black Friday is suppose to be a good thing for all parties involved, that includes the retailers. We should all be on our best behavior. Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving, travel safe and give our love to Grandma and Grandpa. Cheers!

… Oh, one more thing, if you are one to froth at the mouth and lick storefront windows in anticipation of Black Friday, please take into consideration that this is a time of joy and an opportunity to practice good will toward all mankind. Nobody likes a biter. Black Friday responsibly. Double cheers!

Visit usoutdoor.com and save on major brands throughout the weekend. View the flyer below for more details.
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