Hello and welcome to the day one recap of our epic backpacking saga! If you missed my first post on prepping for our trip, my good friend Julianne & I set off this last weekend on an adventure to push our limits and really explore the beauty of Oregon. Many of these photos are courtesy of her far more artistic eye.
The first day we set out early, which was an excellent idea given the miles we had in front of us, and we knew that we were ‘front-loading’ with our hardest day first. The pros: we had the most energy and mental fortitude; the cons: our packs were at their heaviest and we were still figuring out the best way to distribute the weight on our hips and shoulders.
In case you’re curious, the route we chose going out was the Herman Creek Trailhead to the Herman Creek Bridge Trail (just for a mile maybe) until you get to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.
Once we hit the PCT, we gained almost 3,000 feet in elevation over slightly less than 3 miles. It was probably the most physically demanding hours of my life, and that definitely includes my half marathon earlier this year. Every time we’d turn around a bend, my brain would immediately assume that the trail would even out. Of course that’s silly, I knew that the first half of the day was supposed to be all uphill. Looking back, I’m 10% sure I’m still on that mountain going forever uphill like a modern Sisyphus and this is just a daydream.
But! It was absolutely worth it to see these views. The trail finally opened up right around the Benson Plateau so you can really get an idea of just how far up you’ve come.
Did you know that 2,740 feet is over half a mile? That. Is. Nuts.
Along the way we passed by such stunning scenery, I’m a little surprised I remembered to take some of these pictures.
As we hiked our surroundings just kept changing as we gained elevation. It went from the typical Oregon surroundings I was used to seeing like in the picture of the creek above to the rocks and scree you see below.
This will come up later as being somewhat funny, but I was even excited when I saw a little snow. The first time I actually saw snow falling from the sky was on my 18th birthday during my freshman year of college. The transition from Phoenix to Portland was hard on this sunshine-loving gal, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
This past winter was one of the wettest we’ve had in a long time, and mid-June is still pretty early in the season for backpacking. We started to run into a few issues with some watered down trails, but where there’s a will there’s a way!
Creek or trail? The world may never know.
This did lead to one little complication with finding the shorter route to our final campsite for the night, Wahtum Lake. The fork was buried in snow and swampy water, so we accidentally took the longer way around the lake.
Final mileage for Day One: 13.3 miles, according to the activity tracker on my phone. Whoof.
Thankfully we worked well together to set up our tent, even after an exhausting 9 hour day. I really enjoy camping near bodies of water, and this place was especially gorgeous.
J’s Dad taught her growing up that good food on a backpacking trip will save your sanity, and damn was he right. This ramen with dehydrated onions, bell peppers & mushrooms and some jerky mixed in seriously hit the spot. Plus it gave me an excuse to use my fiancé’s dehydrator.
Shout out to the camping stove I mentioned in my last post, it’s insanely easy to use and it works like a charm to boil water quickly. And it cooked our marshmallows for s’mores to boot.
Some tips for first time longer-range backpackers from our first day:
- Elevation gain = major drop in temperatures, especially at night
- Hiking poles are your best friend uphill
- Drink before you’re thirsty and eat before you’re hungry, both will keep your energy up and your body moving and if you’re like me you won’t feel either before it’s too late
- Good shoes goes without saying. Oddly enough these very minimal Asics trainers were utterly amazing at preventing blisters and rubs and I’m sad they don’t make them anymore.
- Accurate trail maps are a must. We had an official Columbia River Gorge map in addition to our Scribble ones and we pulled them out often.
- Keep your snacks, maps, hat, sunglasses, water, shovel, TP & hand sanitizer in the easily accessible pouches of your bag, but don’t put anything breakable in the front-facing pocket. The front of your bag will almost certainly be hitting the ground on the regular when you take your bag off no matter how careful you try to be.
- Split the time-intensive labor in-camp. Pumping water take time and so does inflating sleeping pads. Idle hands, people.
- Take pictures! It’s a mini break from the endless grind if you’re going uphill and you’ll most likely be happy to have them later.
- Learn the vital skills before you go. J was great at using topographical maps and I knew how to use our stove. But also don’t panic about trying to cram absolutely every skill just-in-case.
- Easy-access bandaids & lip balm are your friend.
I’ll be posting the next two days of our backpacking trip soon, they also ended up being a bit more adventurous than we originally planned!