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.

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.

Silver Star Mountain Musings by Brittany Kelly

You know those places you go just because you have to? We all have them, I’m sure. The places that for some unexplained reason, you are just drawn to them. Sometimes I wake up (usually early) on a Saturday and simply because of a hectic work week, I just haven’t had the time to seek out somewhere new to roam and sometimes it just isn’t in the cards to take off the whole weekend and travel up to the North Cascades, a place that is magical and always worth the effort. Anyway, when I have one of those weekends there are a couple of hikes within two hours of Portland that are always on the top of my list. Silver Star Mountain in SW Washington is one of them.

This particular weekend I knew it was going to be hot so I wanted to get up into the mountains where the higher elevations would call for cooler temperatures. I had a couple friends who wanted to join me as well (a welcome change of pace). I am more of a solo hiker, for the most part it’s just me, my thoughts and my dog for miles at a time, so having some friends to break up the internal conversation was welcomed.

We took off around 9:30am and it was already 80 degrees outside. My fourth floor apartment was bound to become an inferno so I couldn’t wait to be on top of Silver Star, sitting at roughly 4,400 feet and 6 miles RT. It’s certainly not the highest point you could reach in a day, but where it sits between Washington and Oregon provides you a 360 degree view of some of the most prominent peaks from Mt. Adams to Mt. Jefferson on any given clear day – which this was.

We set out from Grouse Vista Trail, which is a bit longer than taking off from Ed’s Trail, but the road to get there is better. Grouse Vista is still a few miles of driving on gravel roads deep within old logging roads but Ed’s trail leads you through some pretty gnarly unmarked foresting and hunting roads that I wouldn’t recommend attempting without a 4 wheel drive car that has good clearance. The beginning of the trail begins with steady elevation gain and starts on the opposite side of the parking lot. For the first quarter mile you are just heading up a rocky and stump laden path with trees on both sides. However, you will reach a point where everything opens up and you are greeted with gorgeous and expansive views of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and if it’s the right time of year – dozens of wildflowers line the trail like particles of a rainbow.

Silver Star Mountain Path

Silver Star Mountain Flowers

For the most part, the trail looks like this (above photos) as it winds up to the summit, which doesn’t suck. Even on a hot Saturday morning, where most of Portland is looking to get out of town, we only saw a dozen or so people on the trail and summit. Making it so, at times, it was just the mountains, our dogs, the wildflowers, and our conversation, which really doesn’t suck. To deal with the heat I took a small 18L backpack, 2 1L water bottles, some snacks and wore a comfortable pair of shorts, a sweat wicking tank and low profile hiking shoes. Since this hike has so much uneven terrain I would definitely recommend some sort of hiking shoe or hiking boot over road running shoes or regular tennis shoes.

After about 2.5 miles there is one last pitch and a right hand turn up the summit trail (PRO TIP: there is an undesignated camping spot just past this summit tail and the sunrise from Silver Star would be INCREDIBLE) and then you are greeted with the expansive 360 views, usually a nice breeze and a bit (or a lot) of sweat trickling down your forehead.

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain View

Looking to the right you see Ms. Hood, in all of her glory, just past that you can see Mt. Jefferson, scanning left you can see Mt. Adams, Mt Rainer, Mt St. Helens, the lower and usually snow covered Goat Rocks (more about that area later – TEASER ALERTAHMAZING) I have one particular rock below the right hand summit that I like to go sit on. If it’s a crowded day that rock always seems to be free and fits my dog and I perfectly for some serious mountain top lounging time. I won’t tell you anymore because it’s my secret rock.

We visited both the left and right summit areas. Both sides offer incredible deep green valley and snow covered cascade mountain views. Because the view is completely exposed there is nothing to obscure the 360-degree view of the expansive mid cascade region all the way down past Mt. Jefferson, there really is nothing like it. Since the summit has so much exposure there is always a chance of wind or snow depending on the season. Make sure to come prepared with a light wind jacket no matter what time of year, sunscreen in the summer and boots with traction in snow from late fall to early spring. After about an hour, some food and a few hundred photos we started heading back down. When it’s just me, I usually hang at the summit for a while – there’s no better way to clear your mind AND get a tan than on a quiet mountain a few thousand feet above sea level.

When heading back, go back the way you came down, which is a lovely second chance to take in the views and wildflowers while working the “downhill” muscles. There are some loose rock so if you have weak knees or ankles, a pair of hiking or trekking poles could be needed. An hour of so had past and we were back down and in the parking lot ready to head back for some social scenery, fully pleased with the much-needed re-charge and outdoor goodness barely two hours outside of Portland.

Here are some stats below for more travel and gear info.

Portland –Trail Head: 1 hour 30 min

Car-Summit: 3 miles/ 2040 ft. (info taken for Portland Hikers Field Guide)

Car- Car: 6 Miles / 3 -3.5 hours

Gear:

Small Day Pack – 18L

2L Hydration Pack or 2 32oz water bottles

My trusty and well used Montrail Mountain Masochist hiking shoes. I didn’t bring hiking poles but they could be used.

Sunglasses/Sunscreen

And most importantly: Good Vibes Only

Happy hiking!

Mt. St. Helens Suprise

Running Toutle Canyon

Running Toutle Canyon

During late July, 2012, I took a couple of co-workers on a small backpack trip to Mt. St. Helens. I had been putting off trips there for years since I always assumed it had a homogenous landscape, was busy with tourists, and that special permits were required. I was pleasantly wrong on all accounts.

To begin with, no special fees or permits are required for lower elevation wilderness travel. All you need is a Northwest Forest Pass or Snow Park pass to parking, which you can purchase at the US Outdoor. Climbing fees and permits are only necessary for those who are attempting to summit the mountain. When the mountain is snow covered in winter and spring, the fee required is worth the price considering the pristine nature of the Mountain. The neat thing about Mt. St. Helen’s is that hikers reach timberline below 5000 feet. This makes accessing alpine environments less arduous than many of the other volcanoes in the area.

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

Regarding monotonous unchanging terrain, the mountain has undergone a massive transformation since it’s eruption on May 18, 1980. The trail systems include canyons, waterfalls, old growth hemlock forests, prairies, grasslands, and alpine flower environments. Traveling paints a picture of the destruction and rebirth of the many ecosystems surrounding the Mountain. Evidence of the explosion is apparent everywhere, but so is the magnificent succession of new species reoccupying the landscape. The flowers and ground covers are more diverse than any of the other Cascade volcanoes I’ve hiked. The dust and ash I expected instead seemed to nourish a rich botanical diversity with unique textures and color tones. The story that unfolds as you hike provides a new dimension to backpacking that no other wilderness can match.

West Side of St. Helens North Viewing

West Side of St. Helens North Viewing

Finally. Privacy. We all want to know where the secret places are that no one else goes. They don’t exist as we envision them. However, my visits to Mt. St. Helens typically include fewer visitors than I expect. My vision of tourists swarming the mountain has vanished. The only people I see are nature lovers with a mellow attitude and an appreciation for the beauty of the land. No ski lifts. No cash hungry mountain towns. Just the Mountain its self. Camp sites are available, and use is minimal. Serenity abounds at Mt. St. Helens during all four seasons. Hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and mountaineering all await those who choose to venture out.

If you have not yet hiked around Mt. St. Helens, then a wonderful opportunity awaits. A great way to see the whole mountain is the Loowit Trail. It circles the entire mountain, and offers views of all the amazing features and ecosystems surrounding the dramatic history of the place. Of course, any supplies or gear needed to maximize your experience can be found at US Outdoor.

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.

Sunday School: Backpack Fitting with NOLS

With weather on the mend, it is time to get out and fitted with the right gear for summer.  So take a gander at this NOLS video on pack fitting. Pay attention and take notes! It is extremely important that you outfit yourself with a backpack that is comfortable and that fits your needs as an explorer. Getting fitted for the right backpack can save you from unnecessary fatigue, muscle aches and pains.