In July 2017, the Spokane Spokesman-Review ran a story called “What’s in your daypack?” It’s premise was that when heading out on anything other than the easiest trail (and maybe even then), you should have with you what’s needed to survive an incident or accident. I felt more than a little vindicated after reading it. My years spent hiking, climbing, and mountaineering taught me (usually the hard way) to be prepared, to be ready to self-rescue if possible, to have some means of mitigating the sufferfest (either mine or someone elses), and – above all – to not put others (like SAR folks) at risk only because I was poorly equipped for prevailing conditions. I know, I know; many, many people go on hikes with little more than a t-shirt and shorts, flip-flops, a phone, and a can of warm soda (a dubious variation on “go light, go fast”), and 95 times out of 100 the poop doesn’t hit the rotor. So why carry all this stuff? Well, life is, and always will be, a little (or a lot) like shooting craps. May you always roll sevens; but if (or when) a hike rolls you snake eyes, this stuff is really, really nice to have along. Think of it as a hedge on your hiking bet.
In 2015, my adventure hiking partner – Brad – and I did a partially on-trail, partially cross-country figure-8 loop (post) around the Three Sisters in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness. In 2016, we did a similar on/off trail loop in Oregon’s largest wilderness area, the Eagle Cap Wilderness (post). This year, we sketched out another on/off trail loop in the high country of the Trinity Alps Wilderness in Northern California. Our initial plan was to start at the China Spring (or Gulch) Trailhead, go up past Grizzly Lake and over Thompson Peak (the highest point in this wilderness), then down the Rattlesnake Creek drainage, and back up to the trailhead via the North Fork Trail. This particular trip didn’t work out much as planned but it was still an adventure with a highpoint.
Oregon’s Rogue River flows some 215 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, Oregon. Although not as large as the Columbia or the Willamette, it is nonetheless one of Oregon’s iconic rivers. It’s been in our hearts for years but only recently have we had the time to give it the attention it deserves. Between 2012 and 2016, we hiked (in sections) the entire Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) as it roughly parallels the river from near Boundary Springs to Prospect, Oregon. In 2015, we backpacked the famous Rogue River Trail (USFS #1160) from Grave Creek to Foster Bar (post) and also did a rafting day trip from Robertson Bridge to Grave Creek. In 2016, we bolstered the local economy again with a multi-day rafting trip on the Wild and Scenic Rogue from Grave Creek to Foster Bar (post). After attending a presentation earlier this year by Gabriel Howe of the Siskiyou Mountain Club on their 2015 restoration of the Wild Rogue Loop, we knew we had to hike it. With lingering snow keeping us from the High Cascades and parts of the Siskiyou Crest, now seemed like just the time to do this lower-altitude loop.
Earlier this year, my brother-in-law (Russ), nephew (Bart), and myself planned a multi-day backpack through California’s John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I jumped through the permitting hoops for this and we all wrangled with what constituted a bear cannister acceptable to both the Forest Service and the National Park Service. Sadly, neither bureaucracy has officially recognized the UrSack (my preferred food storage container), so we were stuck with those unwieldy and hard-to-pack plastic barrels. But there are good reasons for the permits and the cannisters, so we worked through it all and were ready to go by late July. I spent the night before their arrival (they were flying out from the East Coast) in Bridgeport, California and, early the next morning, drove down to the Virginia Lakes trailhead – one of the gateways to the Hoover Wilderness (details) – to get in a short warmup hike before going on to meet them in Bishop.
Last year, my adventure hiking partner – Brad – and I did a partially on-trail, partially cross-country figure-8 loop (post) around the Three Sisters in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness (details). That was such a successful trip that we talked about doing something similar this year and, after some back-and-forth with ideas, settled on a similar on/off trail loop in Oregon’s largest wilderness area, the Eagle Cap Wilderness (details). This time around we would try to reach the three most promient summits in the wilderness: Sacajawea Peak (9,843 feet), its the highest point; Matterhorn (9,834 feet), and Eagle Cap (9,572 feet), the iconic centerpiece of this wilderness and the Wallowa Mountains (it might also be one of the most photographed peaks in the Wallowa Mountains if not in the entire state). Our basic plan was to start at the Hurricane Creek trailhead, go up Thorp Creek, then over Scajawea and Matterhorn, then over the divide between Ice and Razz Lakes into the Lake Basin, then up Eagle Cap, and out via Hurricane Creek. The trip worked out almost as planned but there was still plenty of room for adventure to be a big part of what actually happened. For an different take on how this trip went, look HERE.
The Illinois River Trail (#1161) suffered substantial damage north of Silver Creek during the winter of 2016-17. Expect slow, tricky travel. Also note that Pine Flat and the Florence Way Trail (USFS #1219A) are NOT part of the #1161. The Florence Way Trail is …overgrown, filled in with downed trees, arduous to pass, and quite difficult to find in many places – it should be avoided.
In 2015, we backpacked the justifiably famous Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek to Foster Bar and had a wonderful time doing so (Rogue River trip). As I was researching that trip, I kept coming across references to the Illinois River Trail (USFS #1161; but the sign at the trailhead says #1162) as a worthy adjunct to the Rogue trail. The western end of the Illinois River Trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail because of its outstanding scenic qualities and the Illinois River itself was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System in October 1984. It is lauded as one of the best hikes in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, one that gives you a unique glimpse into the wonders of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, a 179,655-acre wilderness filled with deep gorges and rocky ridges and home to many rare plant species. So I put #1161 on the list for a try at it once the better weather of Spring 2016 became a reality – which happened this week. While planning for a two day backpack of the #1161, I was struck by how little detailed information (in this age of Internet-driven information overload) there was on a complete east to west through hike of it.
In 2014, loose talk among my brother-in-law (Russ), nephew (Bart), and myself about “getting together to go hiking sometime” finally coalesced into a successful trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas (Big Bend Trip). Nothing came together in 2015, but this year we planned a “warm-up” backpack for March (to fit into my nephew’s Spring break from teaching high school) and a backpack of the North Lake – South Lake Loop in the Sierra Nevada in August. We’d initially thought about backpacking into the increasingly famous Coyote Gulch feature of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area but were dissuaded by both the number of other backpackers attracted to the gulch plus the 66 miles (round trip) of gravel/washboard/high-clearance road leading to the trailhead. So, as an alternative, we chose the Upper Paria River in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, just south of Cannonville, Utah. We sketched out a loop going down Sheep Creek, up the Paria River, and then cross-country back to the trailhead. This loop is not endowed with many slot canyons (unlike previous backpacks of the Virgin River Narrows and Buckskin Gulch) but does offer classic southwest vistas and towering walls of colorful sandstone.