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.

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.