I have a really bad habit of thinking that as long as the forecast is above freezing (and by that I mean 33 degrees and above), that I should be just fine and not really cold. Seriously. I blame nearly a decade of living in Wisconsin for my seriously skewed viewpoint on what cold actually is. And even more importantly to point out is that the reality of the situation is that if it is below 74, I am freezing. So I bet you know how this story plays out.
I did a little camping in February. No snow. No chance of precipitation. This translates to me as “Oh it’s a nice weekend. I should definitely go camping and climbing.” This also translates to me as “nice weekend. it’ll be a little chilly at night, but it’ll be cool, I’ll just sleep in the jeep.” Because apparently my jeep possesses magical warmness and is unaffected by the temperature outside.
Things I did right:
- Brought my zero degree down sleeping bag
- Brought theoretical layers
- Brought my puffy, fleece, and wool jackets
- Brought several hats
- Wore a fleece unicorn onesie to bed on night one, because that’s how I like to roll. Plus extra warmth.
- Let the Jeep heater run for like 10 minutes before bedtime making it all snuggly and cozy. Well, this was good for falling asleep, not staying asleep.
Things I did wrong:
- Did not bring my real winter layers that I own, that I bought specifically for winter camping. Apparently those fleece lined running tights were going to be just warm enough as an under layer… they were not. why didn’t I bring my real under layers?????
- Did not zip up my mummy bag the second night and was like eh, this’ll work out just fine. I feel a little trapped in the mummy bag sometimes so occasionally I don’t like to zip it up all the way. I always regret this.
- Waited until day 2 to take out my septum piercing. A little piece of metal through the center of your nose can make your nose significantly more cold than you’d think.
- Did not bring real gloves, just fingerless mittens…. WTF.
- Have yet to purchase a really good pad that keeps out the cold. I think I definitely need to invest in this, even if I’m sleeping in the back of the jeep.
- Kept the window of the jeep cracked the first night because I was sure I would suffocate and die. Nope, I assure you that Jeep is nice and drafty, this is an unnecessary and cold intervention.
- Did not wear the unicorn onesie on night two. Was significantly colder.
Things to do when you’re just cold and realize that sleep isn’t going to come soon:
- Lie around and wait for it to be really close to dawn to justify to yourself that you gave sleep as many chances as you could and that you tried to get as warm as you could without waking up anyone else. Dawn also seems justifiable in that if you happen to wake up your camping mates you can be like oh but look the sunrise and the mountains! and distract them away from hating you.
- Once the sun has started to rise, find a beautiful spot to freeze your ass off as you watch it rise. It’s better if mountains are involved. So serene and you’ll be able to say things like “Oh, even if you are freezing, how can you really complain about the sun greeting the mountains good morning?” You sound deep. Meanwhile on the inside you know that you would have killed to have a tauntaun to gut and snuggle inside of all luke skywalker like.
- Be very very grateful that you chose a super car camping RV friendly campground that has a heated bathroom! And find no shame in hanging out there for a long while.
- Reread the email that your dad sent on how not to die while winter camping and be like “oh yeah, definitely should have reread this before the camping”
- And finally when you think it’s a reasonable time and safe enough that your camping mates won’t mind, build a fire. They’ll at least be happy to wake up to the warmth.
And as a bonus for you all, here’s my dad’s email on how not to die while cold weather camping that he sent me last year when I did my first winter “camping”. However, that “camping” was in a lodge that didn’t have “heat” but it did have a massive fireplace in the lobby so not really the same thing as camping. All good information, however, I think he should add unicorn or other animal onesies to his list. This has an added bonus that in the very off chance someone thought they may be able to cause you harm, there’ s a chance they may back off based on their assumption that perhaps you are crazier than they are and maybe they don’t want to get involved in that. It helps if you’re also wielding a knife while wearing the onesie. Perhaps this is why I have few friends…
The email full of actual good information as compared to this blog post:
Heard you are going cold weather camping. Here are some tips, which you can take or leave, from dad regarding equipment. My priorities are to 1) Stay alive 2) Not be miserable. The combination of cold and wet start to make #1 (staying alive) unlikely. Being cold or wet makes #2 a sure thing. So here’s my tips.
1) Cotton is the enemy – if it gets wet from precipitation or from sweating – it will suck the heat right out of your body.
2) Use multiple layers – if you start to sweat – shed a layer – (if you are hiking or snowshoeing it’s best to start a little cold because you will start generating hear in a hurry), but always have the next layer ready to put on – if you stop for more than just a few minutes you will begin to cool quickly and need to be able to layer back up. I use the following layers:
- A base layer – I prefer merino wool – it’s light, it wicks, and wool has the very neat property of still insulating when it gets wet (the insulating properties of poly and down drop off quickly – and as noted before – cotton kills)
- Second layer – I use a fleece
- Third layer – down jacket or sweater (personally I like the Patagonia Down Sweater – but there are others out there which are good) – What makes them good is this: 800 FILL DOWN IS YOUR FRIEND!!!! You can get less expensive down jackets but they will have 600 fill – and they are not even close at keeping you warm.
- Top layer – wind resistant/ water resistant shell – no matter what the advertisements tell you there is no waterproof material which is breathable – avoid waterproof if possible – guaranteed to make you sweat – nice if your shell has vent zippers – helps with the sweat situation.
3) The temperature rating on sleeping bags is always at least 10 degrees lower than there comfort zone – they will keep you alive at their rated temperature, but you will not be comfortable – not meaning to be sexist in any way – but most people agree that it is probably more like 15 degrees lower than the comfort zone for females.
- Synthetic bags will maintain insulating properties better than down if wet.
- But, nothing beats an 800 fill down bag – I keep mine in a waterproof compression sack to make sure it is dry . Personally I have a Western Mountaineering 0 degree bag – I’m hardly ever out below the teens – if I was expecting to be out in single digits I would go with a -20 bag. Again, there are other good bags out there. I like the Western Mountaineering – they will maintain, refresh the bags etc for you if needed. Downside, like all 800+ fill stuff is $$$$.
4) If you are going to be cooking, heating water, melting snow for water, etc. keep in mind that canister type stoves (iso-butane/iso-propane) get real inefficient under 30 degrees – you need to keep the canister warm if you use one, and even then the iso-butane probably won’t vaporize well. I use a liquid fuel stove (white gas or alcohol) in cold weather.
- If you have the capability of heating water – the following is a very, very, very warm and fuzzy thing to do – heat up your water and pour it into a Nalgene or other container with a good waterproof seal. Put it in a sock and stick it in the bottom of your sleeping bag when you go to bed.
- I also keep the flask you sent me handy at night time – just don’t hit it so hard you forget to get in your sleeping bag.
- Also if you get cold at night – putting in some readily available calories (candy bar, etc) can help your body produce more heat.
5) Last personal opinion – you can skimp dollar wise on your summer equipment if you need to, but don’t skimp on winter equipment.
Keep warm, have fun .
Sometimes you go on an adventure to a place that you have several times in the past gone on similar adventures, but you just suck it up so bad. This describes my day of attempted climbs at Smith Rock this past weekend. Pretty early on in the day I said to the folks I was climbing with that they should do the climbs they wanted because I was sitting this one out. Some days climbing is all about where you’re at mentally and I definitely wasn’t there. I was struggling with some insecurity and trying not to hold back the people I was climbing with that were significantly more advanced than me. I do not say this to say it had anything to do with their skill level, they were both willing to work on easier problems, but quite honestly I’m not sure what I would have been able to accomplish that day.
There’s always much talk about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, just going for it, take the leap of faith, and I’m often happy with at least attempting that leap of faith and dealing with the failure. But sometimes, just sometimes, I choose to stay right in my comfort zone where I am happy and content that day. You know why? Because somedays you’re just not in the right place to spend a day failing and you know that you’re not in the frame of mind to appreciate that you tried. So I opted to be the best belayer I could because that, my friends, was right within my comfort zone for the day. I will be attentive and keep you safe while you’re up there on the rocks. I will try to anticipate your needs for when you’ll clip in so you can be protected as soon as possible. I’ll keep my chatting to a minimum and keep my eye and attention on making sure you have a safe and happy climb.
Sometimes I believe it’s very important for children to skip school. One can learn to long for an adventurous life by reading about other’s adventurous lives, but isn’t it better to actually teach the importance of adventure by going on adventures? When we heard that there was a sled dog race over in eastern oregon and realized that the bear would need to miss a few days of school for us to see the start, we decided that was totally a justifiable cause for skipping school. And I’ve been dying to get out to see the Wallowa mountains and I was in desperate need of some mountains (which is pretty much my constant state of being). So, Wednesday afternoon after the bear was out of school, we headed over to Joseph Oregon.
Joseph is a wonderfully quaint town that is highly seasonal and that season is summer. But I find quite a bit of fun of going to seasonal towns off season. First of all, way better rates and second less crowds. Which did mean I wasn’t going to be making my way up those gorgeous mountains on this trip, but it’s an excellent time for some recon work of the area to plan for summer summits.
The main event was the dog sled races at noon on Thursday. The start and finish is at the Fergi (Ferguson Ridge) ski area, whichis just about my favorite ski area I believe I have ever laid eyes upon. I’m very used to ski resorts that are well, resorts. Fergi ski area is a fantastic truly local place. Season pass owners have to volunteer 4 days out of the season. A local group of folks who enjoyed skiing would appoint someone “the captain” to locate a good ski spot every Sunday, eventually they settled upon Fergi as a permanent spot and constructed a home made rope tow. They purchased a T bar in the 70s and finally put it up on the Ferguson Ridge in 1985. 1983-84 was the first ski season on Ferguson Ridge although the t bar didn’t go in until 1985. The take cash only, no credit, no checks. You can read the full history here and I highly suggest if you can, you should at least take a visit up to check out Fergi. Lift tickets are only $20! Ferguson Ridge Ski Area Webpage.
We also made it up to Salt Creek Summit Sno Park. We did not, however, make it to snowshoeing that day. You’re pretty much in the wilderness there and snow can mask a lot. We decided to check out the trails in the summer so we felt more confident taking Indie on them next winter. Had it just been Eric and I, we likely would have been a bit more adventurous. However, the views were beautiful and Indie had a fun time playing in the snow.
We stayed at the Eagle Cap Chalets by Lake Wallowa. I was highly anticipating those mountains in the morning since we arrived around 10pm. At first I was extremely sad to see fog, but then it was awesome to see those lovely giants peaking out here and there from the fog. The second day we were given the treat of a beautiful sunny perfect day. I couldn’t have been happier to experience those mountains in both atmospheres. Each brought their own magic to the experience.
Alyssa and I went to do some skiing this weekend up at Mt. Hood Meadows. It was pretty fucking hilarious. Last time I skied I must have been around 13 or 14 and it was a travesty. Then last year I tried snowboarding and both me and my friend who tried to teach me agreed it was also a travesty. And Alyssa grew up in Hawaii. So, needless to say, we took some lessons.
We did pretty good I suppose for what was her first time and basically mine. However, our best moment was when I started going backwards down the hill and bailed out and then she did and same thing and fell over me and it was basically a scene from an 80s ski movie.
However, we should note that we did not do more than just the magic carpet. No buttercup lift for us yet! We have two more lessons, but we’re going to go practice on the magic carpet more before our second lesson because we’re pretty sure we’re not ready for more skills than making pizza with our skis and trying to turn. We also need to improve our standing up capabilities. We’re mainly in this to justify buying cute ski outfits and to feel like we are legit wintertime activity people. Someday I will also conquer that chipmunk run at big mountain montana.
I do not take much advantage at all that I live in Portland and have Forest Park within reach. I generally find myself going out of town on adventures and thinking oh I can make it there anytime when I don’t have a lot of time and want something convenient. However, what I find is that I just don’t go. So, yesterday I went. I originally planned on 10 miles, but changed to 5 because I wanted lunch and beer. Pretty legit reason if you ask me.
However, if one lives in Portland or a close area, you should take advantage of Forest Park. One of my favorite hikes to do there is to do a nighttime hike up to Pittock Mansion starting from around the Japanese Gardens. It’s just fun! And you get to look out on the city lights, also super fun when it’s a full moon hike.
One thing I need to remember is it’s muddy there. Always muddy this time of year even if it’s a sunny day. So much mud!
Here’s a link to my favorite map of forest park
Here’s a selfie of me hiking in forest park:
Yesterday I was in need of a distraction because I was stressing out big time, which makes me generally no fun to be around so I try not to do it often. But yesterday I did. Luckily a friend wanted some beer from a brewery in Tillamook Oregon which presented the perfect distraction for me. I would head over there in the morning do some hiking and enjoying the Pacific Ocean, then hit up the brewery when it opened at 3, meet up with another friend of mine when she got off work and then mosey on home for a bluegrass show in the evening. And during all of this I would receive news about work that would hopefully ease the stressing.
A few weeks ago we went out to Tillamook to Cape Lookout for some whale watching and we took the Cape Trail. There’s also another trail there, the south trail, that takes you down to the ocean. Now I will tell you that there are infinitely easier ways to get to the ocean along the Oregon Coast so I only suggest this trail if you’re looking for a hike. It’s a 3.6 mile roundtrip. Consider that down to the ocean is half that mileage of downhill switchbacks and you’ll be like oh these aren’t too bad, seems like a slow burn, but the way up you’re like dear god! what happened to the slow burn. UGH! I prefer to do my uphill first and give myself the glorious view from the top as my reward and then hike down so this inversion of my preference is always hard for me.
I’m glad I did this trail without the bear. It’s not the worst trail, but it wouldn’t have been fun for him. I’m trying to keep trails and outdoor adventures fun for him as a 5 year old and not overly challenging so we can slowly build up the challenges and not make being outside and having adventures to be pure torture for him. Here’s why I’m glad I didn’t have him on this trail:
1. There are so many places on this trail where people have cut through that it’s getting quite washed out in places and a little dangerous, lots of erosion. However, it would have a been a good teaching opportunity for why we don’t make shortcuts.
2. Lots of big tree roots to contend with. Not a big deal really for our grown up legs, but this creates a lot of extra work for his little 5 year old legs.
3. The beach was actually full of trash so I would have spent a lot of time telling him not to touch things. It’s weird that this beach was so dirty because it’s so remote and I can’t imagine people bringing all this crap down there (like shampoo bottles and such) but my friend who lives there reminded me that they’re now getting a lot of tsunami trash on the beaches so that’s possibly what was happening.
4. Just the trip back up. He would have been so miserable on the hike up because it’s quite relentless and after the hike down and how much he would have run on the beach, he would have been so exhausted!
Good things for me:
1. I had the entire beach to myself for as far as the eye could see. That’s not too uncommon for Oregon winters on the coast, but usually there’s a few other people.
2. I had the perfect day! It was sunny and just a light warm wind. Gorgeous!
3. It was an excellent day for sand dollars and I found like 6 totally intact!
Next time I’m down there I’m bringing some trash bags and lugging some trash out!
Some pictures from the day:
Once again, I was obsessively checking the weather to see when we might have some good weather here so we could take advantage. Today looked like it might be beautiful so we decided to head up to Mirror Lake while the bear was at school. It was going to be cutting it close to be able to finish the hike and get back in time to pick him up. We did manage to do that though. Originally we were planning to snowshoe, but once we arrived it became a bit obvious that there wasn’t enough snow.
I’m really glad we did this one without the bear. I don’t think I would be comfortable taking him on this hike particularly in the winter. There were just a few steep cliffs and some stream crossings with slightly sketchy bridges. I think he’d be good in a year or two, but not right now.
The trail ended up being a mixture of surfaces, some snow, some ice, some soggy ground. A little more icy than I would have preferred without microspikes or other traction devices. I had them in the car, but I did not bring them on the hike. Of course!
This is the hike where you get the very famous picture of Mt. Hood reflecting in a lake, hence Mirror Lake. That’s why clear days are the best for this hike, otherwise I would have been a sad panda to just see grey clouds in the lake. So I present to you probably one of the most common pictures of Mt. Hood:
Me and my friend Alyssa have been trying to make it out to Ozone to climb for quite some time. The first time, we couldn’t find it. Totally lost and we eventually figured out we were one parking area too far and were a mile or so away. Apparently giant cliff faces aren’t always easy to find when they’re nestled into a forest. Second time, we actually found it, but there was snow and we were going on a different hike so we didn’t climb. So, when I saw that Saturday was supposed to be rain free and knowing that usually means that Ozone is dry, we decided to give it a shot.
Saturday turned out to be foggy and misty and damp. But fuck it, we went anyway! Mostly because Ozone is proclaimed to be the driest place to climb outdoors in the Portland area. And it definitely could have been a lot worst, but it was still quite moist there. And yes, I hate the word moist just as much as you, but I can’t think of a better word to describe it. Funnily enough it was drier there the day we went with snow.
Alyssa took the hard part and did the route setting and braved some slick rock and a crazy last move to set the anchor. As well as us not totally being sure she was on the right route half way up. We were like you might be on a 5.11b instead of a 5.8, we’re not sure, up to you if you want to keep going. She’s a major rock star so she kept going and finished and set up an anchor because I’m a wimp and I only top rope. Some day maybe I’ll get brave enough to lead.
It was a super fun day. I didn’t climb a ton because wet slippery rock scares me even on top rope. However, it was good to get outside and climb. Oh winter, I love you but I miss climbing!
I start stalking the weather here about ten days out and then I start over planning and getting really excited when I see a sunny day in the forecast. And I start planning I’m like oh we could climb or hike or snowshoe or go to the ocean. So many things!!! But since it’s winter and we just got some really decent snow up on Mt. Hood, snowshoeing was most definitely what I wanted to do and the boys were on board!
We decided to hit up Frog Lake Sno Park. It’s supposed to be nice and flat and easy peasy for the little one. It is shared with snow mobiles, but otherwise it seemed like a good choice for us.
Let’s take a moment to discuss the snowmobiles. We’re used to snowmobiles since those seem to be the Wisconsin winter recreation choice. And I wish I had a lot more positive things to say about them, but I was kind of expecting people to be assholes on the trail and that we’d most likely run into a close call or two. Apparently like in all things Oregon, the vast majority of the snowmobilers are nice and considerate. No close calls. Everyone going at a decent speed, but still having fun.
The other thing about snowmobiles is that Indie had never actually seen one that he could remember. So when he saw the first one today he immediately said with the most wide eyed amazement “I want one of those.” I guess we know what kind of kiddo we have.
Onto some more info about the trail. It was nice and flat. The trailhead is on the opposite side of the parking area from the bathrooms. We almost ended up on Barlow which I didn’t have any info on so I didn’t want to risk an exploratory trip with the bear. It is nice and flat and wide. We stuck to the side of the trail to be polite to snowmobilers. This trail is also shared with cross country skiers and apparently the occasional dog sled, which was the other really awesome part of the day.
You can make many different loops with all the trails out there, we went a ways, realized we were going past the campground area by the lake. I really wanted to see the lake so we forged a path through the campground to the lake. That was the most challenging and the most fun (in my opinion) part of the journey. It was a bit of a trek for the bear, but we kept reminded him to follow our footsteps, which he did for the most part, but apparently forging his own path in waste deep snow is fun for him.
We made it out to the lake, which was frozen solid. I don’t go on frozen lakes. I think it’s growing up in Tennessee where nothing was ever actually frozen solid enough for it to be safe. Also, I think that I was emotionally scarred by It’s a Wonderful Life. Eric ventured out because he grew up in Wisconsin and apparently that’s what they do there when growing up.
We had the usual pb & j post hike and some coffee.
Then because Eric loves me and humors me, we decided to take the long way home over the rest of hte mountain to Hood River and then drive through the Columbia River Gorge. It’s been cold here so I had a theory that all those waterfalls would be freezing over and they were and it was beautiful!