Backpacking: Green Point

Backpacking

Location.

North Cascades National Park

Trail(s).

Ross Dam Trail; Big Beaver Trail

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

5-1/2 hours

Date(s).

September 15-16, 2018

Mileage.

5.4 miles RT

Elevation gain/loss.

515′

Trip Report.

Our second backpack was a little less planned than the last. We picked a weekend that worked for all of us and decided on the North Cascades NP for our destination. My friend, Anjelica, lives in the Seattle area and had came down to the Portland area for the first backpacking trip. This meant it was our turn to make a trip up to her. Alex had a wedding to go to Friday evening and then we planned to leave around 3AM Saturday morning to get there before the ranger station was open for permits. Permits are now reservable online through recreation.gov which is a blessing and a curse. Online permits are easier to access but it drives more people to the park and makes getting permits more competitive. When we visited the North Cascades NP you had to submit for permits during a certain time period. Otherwise, you were at the mercy of what is left in walk-ups. We didn’t plan far enough in advance to have permits secured ahead of time, but we were winging this one. The plan was to ask for a recommendation on a permit within a certain area of the park that fit within a certain mileage. We didn’t really care where we ended up, we were just happy to be there. Alex and I drove to Anjelica’s house first from Portland and then she drove the remainder of the way to the park. We arrived at the Marblemount Wilderness Information Center an hour after it had opened. There were a few people there and we hoped they had something available for us. The ranger we spoke with was very helpful and had a few recommendations for us. We knew we wanted to be near Diablo Lake since pictures of the lake were what first piqued my interest in the North Cascades. Her first recommendation was a 6-mile one way camp along the East Bank Trail on Ross Lake. I wasn’t confident in my backpacking mileage yet, so I requested something shorter for one night. Her second recommendation was Green Point on the other side of the lake. It was a little under 3 miles one-way and had the luxury of a back country toilet, fire rings, picnic tables, and bear boxes. It is technically considered a boat in campground but there is a hiking route to get there and it still requires permits. We all agreed this sounded like a decent option and if we wanted to explore more we could continue farther up the Big Beaver Trail. We headed back out on the road with permit in hand. It was only another 45 minutes to the trailhead from the Wilderness Center. The trail starts from the paved Ross Dam Trailhead right off of HWY-20. We made a quick stop at the Diablo Lake Vista Point on the way. It is an impressive overlook of the lake and mountain range. It is also where most people stop to take their picture in the North Cascades NP. I used to constantly see this exact picture on Instagram and thought it was on some impressive hike in the back country. It was still gorgeous nonetheless.

Diablo Lake Vista Point

The trail moderately switchbacks down towards the Dam from the parking area. It will briefly meet up with a service road that will take you to the Ross Lake Dam. You will need to walk across the Dam to reach the other side of the lake and connect with the Big Beaver Trail. Once on the other side you will continue along this trail for less than a mile before you reach the junction towards Green Point. On your way there you will pass the Ross Lake Resort which is a boat or hike in only resort. It offers boat rentals, overnight camping, and cabin stays along the lake shore. From the signed junction to Green Point it is another half of a mile of switchbacks down to the camp. The Big Beaver Trail continues farther into the wilderness and connects with longer routes through the park. It was nice having mostly elevation loss on the way in, but I wasn’t looking forward to only gain on the way back to the car in the morning. There are a five camp spots to choose from when you reach the campground. It also has a dock for those that choose to boat in to the sites. We had the whole place to ourselves for the weekend and only saw a few day hikers on the trail before we crossed the Dam.

The forecast for the weekend wasn’t great. We knew that. There was a definite chance of showers with small breaks in between. We were lucky enough to only get cloudy skies with a bit of sun on the hike in to camp. The weather was even kind enough to wait for us to set up camp before the rain clouds rolled in and it started raining. We all huddled in one tent for a round of cards with wine and charcuterie. Anytime we heard a break in the rain we would exit the tent to enjoy our wine on the shores of the lake instead. Eventually we surrendered to the fact that we were going to be damp this whole trip. This made the draw of jumping into the crystal clear water more appealing as the day went on. I was already wet, so why not take a dip in the lake? We decided to build a fire before committing. This way we would have somewhere warm to dry off immediately afterwards. I had brought way more clothes than I needed for this trip too and knew I would have something dry to change into. I was the first to take a dip and the water was FRIGID. I made it up to my chest before deciding to run back to shore. Anjelica and Alex eventually worked up the courage to take a quick dip as well. Alex went all the way in putting his head underwater. I ran back in for another dip with them and then we all ran out to huddle around the fire for warmth. We hung around the fire for the rest of the evening until well past dark. The rain started to come down a bit heavier forcing us to retire to our tents. It continued to rain heavy all through the night.

I woke up early the next morning to the sun rising behind the peaks overlooking the lake. I sat on the dock for a bit by myself while everyone was still asleep. It was a calm morning that gave the impression of a nice day ahead. Once everyone started to wake up we made another fire. Alex, once again, planned the meals for this trip which consisted of miso noodle soup for dinner and avocado toast for breakfast. The avocado toast was so good. We roasted the bread over the fire and had pickled roasted peppers, feta cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette for toppings. Talk about gourmet! Shortly after we finished breakfast the rain rolled in again. It was heavy and had no plans of letting up. We packed up in the wet and hiked out in the wet. I was completely soaked by the time we reached the car. The ride home consisted of car karaoke and a late sushi lunch.

Despite being a relatively successful trip, I was once again ill prepared. I only mention this in hopes that you can learn from my embarrassing mistakes. Invest in proper rain gear people! Even if you aren’t planning on backpacking in the rain. In the Pacific Northwest, no matter what, the rain will eventually follow and find you. My rain gear for this trip consisted of a jacket that was water-resistant but not water-proof, the rain cover from my day pack since I hadn’t bought one big enough for my backpacking pack yet, and rain pants. The rain pants were my only effective piece of gear. I layered the jacket over my puffy which worked to a point but it would’ve been a poor choice for a longer trip. The rain cover for my day pack barely covered my larger pack but it did help keep the top of it dry. The hike in had been dry so all my gear was dry when we set up and it really only got wet on the hike out. I was pretty lucky this trip.

Why it’s called Green Point
Wet and tired on the ride back

More Information.

WTA: Ross Dam Trail

WTA: Big Beaver Trail

AllTrails: Ross Dam Trail

AllTrails: Big Beaver Trail

NPS: Ross Dam Trail

NPS: Big Beaver Trail

4 Popular Hikes That Are Former Fire Lookout Sites

Former Lookouts

In the prime of fire suppression, Oregon had over 800 fire lookouts and Washington had 750 fire lookouts topped on almost every high peak in both the states. Many were dismantled, destroyed, or burned down in a blaze of glory. But remains of the foundation can usually be found on the summits as a reminder to what once stood. Below lists 4 popular hikes close to Portland, OR that have a history in fire detection and lookouts.

Beacon Rock

Location.

Beacon Rock State Park – Columbia River Gorge

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1 hour

Mileage.

1.5 miles RT

Elevation.

730′

Beacon rock is one of the tallest monoliths in North America and stands at 848 feet tall. It is also considered one of the most distinctive geological features in the Columbia River Gorge. The route follows a mostly blasted and bridged trail on the exposed west side of the rock. Parts of the trail have been paved over throughout the years and is completely lined with handrails. It is basically just a series of short continuous switchbacks to the summit. The history behind Beacon Rock is extensive and interesting. The feature itself was once the core of a volcano and what remains is what was able to withstand the force of ice-age floods. It was noted and named as Beacon Rock by Lewis & Clark during their voyage in 1805. Though I’m sure it had a different name for those native to the area. It was even slated for demolition at one point for either railroad construction or a new jetty on the Columbia River Gorge. Henry Biddle bought the rock and surrounding area before this happened. He is also the one who originally built the trail between 1915 to 1918. His property was later offered to the Washington State Parks by his estate for $1. The Washington State Parks originally refused this offer until Oregon expressed interest in maintaining it as a park. It was purchased by the Washington State Parks in 1935. Although you won’t find any remnants of a former lookout structure on the summit of this rock, it does have a history in fire detection. Given the height of the rock, it was used as a fire detection camp from the 1930s up until the 1950s when it was abandoned. I’ve hiked this trail more than any other trail and with more people than any other trail I’ve every hiked. It is a good beginner trail or trail for showing your out of town friends to a quick hike.

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Saddle Mountain

Location.

Saddle Mountain State Natural Area

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1-1/2 hours

Mileage.

5.2 miles RT

Elevation.

3,283′

The top of Saddle Mountain offers expansive views from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Mt Hood. It is no question why they would want to have a lookout on this summit. The trail switchbacks through an old growth forest until you reach the last push up the rocky slope. Parts of the trail are covered in mesh wiring to help with erosion and traction. It is a steep 1,640′ gain in elevation over 2.5 miles to the summit. Saddle Mountain was established as a fire camp in 1913 with a log cabin situated below the summit. In 1920, a frame cabin with observation platform was built. It was replaced in 1953 by a 2-story live-in cabin. The lookout structure was destroyed in 1966. I have been on this summit a few different times but didn’t take the time to look for any remnants of foundation.

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Dog Mountain

Location.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest – Columbia River Gorge

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1-1/2 hours

Mileage.

6.5 miles RT

Elevation.

2,480′

Stretching my calves on the way up
wildflowers on the trail!
Near the summit where we turned around

Dog Mountain is a very popular hike in the Columbia River Gorge due to its proximity to town and being right off of HWY-14. In the spring, between March 31st and July 1st, permits are required to hike this trail on the weekends. This is due to the hazardous conditions created for the cars on the highway by the overflow of people during wildflower season. There are a few different routes and loops that can be done to reach the summit once at the trailhead. My friend and I completed this hike on a hot July day before the permit system was in place. We arrived to the trailhead early to give us enough time to reach the summit and attempt to beat the crowds. We took the “less difficult” route which is the newer trail and offers more views on your steep climb up. We made it just past the former fire lookout site, also known as the Puppy Dog Lookout site, before turning around. I vaguely remember there still being some foundation there. The trail originally was developed to service this fire lookout that was destroyed in 1967. The original lookout was constructed in 1931 as a gable-roofed L-4 cab with windows only on three sides. It was replaced in 1953 by a standard L-4 cab. Both structures were located 1/4 mile from the actual summit of Dog Mountain. I used to have more pictures from this hike, even one of us standing on the former lookout site, but they have been lost in multiple phone transitions since 2017.

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Mt. Defiance

Location.

Mt Hood National Forest – Columbia River Gorge

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1 hour

Mileage.

12.5 miles RT

Elevation.

4,960′

Mt Rainier
Mt Adams
Mt Hood
Mt Saint Helens & Wind Mountain

Mt. Defiance is one of the more brutal hikes I’ve done. It is the highest peak in the Columbia River Gorge and offers views out towards Mt Hood NF as well. This made it the perfect candidate for a fire lookout site. I recommend starting this hike early if you want to make it to the summit and back before dark. Or at least hike a lot faster than I do. We didn’t start this hike until mid-morning and ended up getting back to the car after dark. The hike starts out paved and passes some pretty waterfalls. Once you have reached the junction with the un-paved trail you will start to go up and continue to go up the rest of the way. There are still some communication buildings on the summit and I’m sure there are foundation remnants if you spend some time looking for them. We didn’t spend much time here since it took me so long to get there. The trail had recently re-opened after the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. The ashy portions of the trail made for un-stable ground and was hard for me on the hike down. By the time I got back to the car my feet felt like they were going to fall off completely. The first fire lookout on this site was a crow’s nest and tent in 1925. A more substantial structure was built in 1934 as a 40′ pole tower with L-4 cab. This was eventually replaced by a 41′ treated timber tower with L-4 cab in 1952. In 1959, the lookout was destroyed by a windstorm. The Forest Service didn’t build a replacement lookout until 1962 which was a R-6 flat top cab and 41′ treated timber tower. It was completely removed from the summit in 1971.

Struggling on the way up, but with a view!
Dying on the summit, also with view!

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Fox Butte L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Deschutes National Forest

Status.

Abandoned; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

May 15, 2022

Elevation.

6,025′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

NF-550 road sign to Fox Butte
Park near this sign
Open gate
First view of the Aermotor from the road

Trip Report.

Sunday was our last full day of the trip. Our only set plan was to attempt to locate the Pumice Springs crows nest. I was given the choice to add on East Butte or Fox Butte since my partner had already been to both last year. I decided Fox Butte made the most sense since it was closer to our camp and recently slated for decommission. My partner’s dad decided to hang back at camp instead. After breakfast and packing a lunch, we headed out on NF-23 to NF-550. It didn’t take us very long to get there from camp. There are three water bars along NF-550 that will need caution if you are in a lower clearance vehicle. We obviously had no issues in the truck and parked at the signed junction for Fox Butte. There is a locked gate up the road that doesn’t have a pull out or turn around spot. We were well aware of this gate beforehand and didn’t attempt to drive up. The lookout is about a mile or so road walk from this junction. As we headed up the road, we were surprised to find the gate was actually open. I speculated that maybe the Forest Service was on top of their plan for once and had already torn down the lookout. Luckily, I was wrong and someone had just cut the lock. We made sure to close the gate on our way out in hopes to deter at least some vandals. The weather was clear and it felt like summer as we hiked the road. Once on the summit we checked out the L-4 ground cabin that had seen better days and climbed part of the Aermotor tower. My partner climbed all the way to the top, but I stopped on the second landing. It seems to still be in somewhat decent shape, but be wary to climb at your own risk. We spent some extended time on the summit since this would most likely be our last time up here before it’s gone.

After hiking back down to the truck, we headed out on NF-23 towards Sand Springs Campground. We were following directions based on a Geocache that was supposed to take us to the area of the crows nest. We turned left at the four way junction near Sand Springs Campground than right on to NF-900. The cache and crows nest were supposed to be right off the NF-900 road according to the coordinates. We wondered around the area for 2 hours trying to find the tree but all existing pines looked too young to host a crows nest. It was definitely not down this road. Another source had mentioned it was located half way between Pumice Springs and Sand Springs. We drove out towards Pumice Springs and kept an eye out for significantly taller trees in the area. I assume it is probably farther off the road than the eye can see but we didn’t have the hours to spend hiking off of every road in the area. We were unsuccessful in our attempt which was disappointing. This just means another trip to the area is in our future.

History.

Fox Butte started as a lookout site in 1919 when a heliograph was set up on the west point. A year later, in 1920, they ran a telephone line to the butte from the Cabin Lake Ranger Station. A standard D-6 cupola was built on the western summit in 1924. The lookout was later destroyed by the Fox Butte Fire in 1926 that burned over 15,000 acres of timber. They started to rebuild a new lookout tower the following year. This was noted as a pole tower with ground cabin for living quarters. In 1933, they started construction on the eastern summit of the existing 80′ steel Aermotor tower. The living quarters from the western summit were moved to the eastern summit for use with the new tower. A 16×18 wood frame garage was added in 1934. The living quarters were eventually replaced with the L-4 ground house moved from Sixteen Butte in 1948. There is record of it being consistently staffed up until the late 1950s. It could have been used for longer but I wasn’t able to find a definitive date on when it was abandoned. The Forest Service briefly used the lookout for a season in 1995 while the East Butte L.O. was being reconstructed. It is now apart of their proposed plan to be removed.

Green Mountain L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Bureau of Land Management – Lakeview District

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

5 hours

Date visited.

May 14, 2022

Elevation.

5,190′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

We woke up Saturday with a plan to make a day trip to Fort Rock, Green Mountain, and Crack in the Ground. We headed out of the Deschutes NF via NF-18 passing Cabin Lake Guard Station and made our first stop at the Fort Rock State Natural Area. This large semi-circle rock that now sits in Oregon’s high desert used to be an island in what was once a shallow sea. The oldest sandals dating back to 9,000-13,000 years old were discovered in this area. We hiked the short loop around the rock before moving on. We had to make an unexpected pit stop in Christmas Valley for gas and propane. For some reason our propane connection to our larger propane tank wasn’t working when we tried to make breakfast that morning. We had a half used disposable Coleman propane bottle that got the job done but it wouldn’t last us the remainder of the trip. We were relieved to find Christmas Valley was stocked with both despite one of the stores mentioning a supply shortage. Crisis averted. Just outside of Christmas Valley is a scenic byway aptly named Crack in the Ground Road that takes you directly to Green Mountain and Crack in the Ground. It is a rough and bumpy road but should be passable to most vehicles with caution. We drove past Crack in the Ground to Green Mountain Campground first. The small primitive campground is situated at the base of the lookout. From there it is only a few hundred feet up to the lookout. It was locked behind a barbed wire gate and still closed for the season. You still get a pretty good view from just the base. There were only a couple people camping in the campground, so we used one of the picnic tables for our lunch. On our way back out towards Christmas Valley we stopped at Crack in the Ground. This hike takes you through an old volcanic fissure that is roughly 2 miles long. We were running out of day again so we only went part way into the crack before heading back to camp.

History.

A fortress. A tower for a high-security prison. The tower that kept Rapunzel locked away. The current structure on Green Mountain hardly resembles what we would typically recognize as a fire lookout. The 50′ enclosed cinder block tower with observation cab was built in 2010. This lookout was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The recovery work consisted of demolishing the existing lookout, building the new lookout, and associated site work. The original 2-story lookout was built in 1963 with a 10′ concrete base and wooden live in cab.

Spring Butte L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Deschutes National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

May 13, 2022

Elevation.

5,464′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

My partner had planned a 4-day camping trip to the Deschutes NF with his dad and myself to celebrate his birthday. We had an ambitious plan to see Spring Butte, Green Butte, Green Mountain, Pumice Springs, and Fox Butte while in the area. This trip we had the luxury of taking his dad’s truck. Which meant what we didn’t have to worry about in road conditions were replaced with high gas prices and low gas mileage. We left Portland as early as possible to see if we could get to Spring Butte and Green Butte before setting up camp. Luckily, my partner and his dad had been to this area before and knew where there would be dispersed camp spots. This helped cut down on the travel time that we would normally have to allot to searching for a spot. The amount of Forest Service roads in this area are extensive and unmarked due to the OHV traffic. I strongly recommend having a ranger district map of the area if you plan to go down more than just the main roads. Never rely on GPS for navigation within the forest. We came upon a lost couple on our drive out of the forest on the last day of the trip that flagged us down to ask for help. They thought if they continued down the road long enough it would eventually turn to pavement and had ended up there due to their GPS. We warned them they were headed for more miles of gravel and should turn around since they were still close to the edge of the forest. Luckily, they took our word for it and followed us all the way out to La Pine.

On the ranger district map the most direct route to Spring Butte looked like NF-2220 off of HWY-31. I think under normal circumstances this road would be a good route to take but since it was still early season we ran into a lot of debris and downed trees. I also wouldn’t recommend this route as the best way for lower clearance vehicles. We were able to drive down NF-2220 until it’s junction with NF-600. There was a large downed tree blocking the road that, even if we had remembered to bring our buck saw, would have been too big to cut without a chain saw. We noticed NF-600 basically paralleled NF-2220 and decided to attempt that route instead. NF-600 is a rocky spur road that doesn’t see a lot of use. On the map it appeared to connect back to NF-2220 via another spur road, but we quickly found out it was barely even a jeep track up a rocky slope. We continued on NF-600 until it met up with NF-2420. This took much longer than expected since we constantly had to stop and move downed trees out of the way. Thankfully they were all small lodgepole pines. From NF-2420 we took a left and headed towards NF-2430. You will turn left and stay on NF-2430 until you reach the spur road NF-830 that will take you all the way to the lookout. NF-2430 crosses NF-2220 before you reach the spur which is where we were hoping to come from originally. There is a sign for the turn to Spring Butte L.O. from NF-2430 as well. From this junction it is only a mile. If we had been driving my Civic this is where I would have parked and started to road walk. We drove the truck a half of a mile up the road but decided to walk the rest of the way after a particularly rutted section. The road is gated near the lookout so you would have to get out and walk no matter what. It looked like someone had been here recently prepping for the start of their fire season since the shutters on the lookout had already been removed. We spent a short time on the summit since we were pressed for time and still wanted to attempt to find Green Butte. This lookout completed our set for all the lookouts with octagonal cabs in Oregon.

Once back at the truck we started heading towards Green Butte on the map. This meant taking NF-2430 back the way we came. You will want to stay on NF-2430 until you reach NF-2222 on the left. It looked like there were multiple connecting spurs that would take you to Green Butte but the most direct route is from spur NF-700. This spur unfortunately wasn’t signed. We were able to guestimate the turn after we went too far and met a different spur that was signed. Once you’re on NF-700 you will turn right on to NF-720 which is in fact marked. My partner’s dad didn’t feel like road walking with us and parked the truck at the junction. From here my partner and I walked up NF-720. We made the mistake of not taking our map or taking a picture of the map before we left. We thought NF-720 would take us to the summit but quickly found that there were multiple spur roads heading towards the butte while NF-720 paralleled it. The two spurs we had to choose between were NF-725 and NF-550. We started up NF-550 first and it appeared to be headed in the right direction. I’m a significantly slower hiker than my partner and I was worried we wouldn’t have a enough time in the day to make it back to the truck and camp before dark. I turned back before the road got too steep but my partner continued on in hopes of finding the lookout. I made it back to the truck around 6PM and we waited for my partner to return. He was lucky that we had guessed the correct spur road to reach the summit and was successful in finding the lookout. From NF-550 you turn on to NF-555 that will take you all the way to the platform lookout. I’m bummed I didn’t make it this time but now I know how to get there in the future. My partner made it back to the truck around 6:30PM mostly because he ran the rest of the way after I turned around. We ended up setting up camp much later than expected but it was worth it.

If you are wanting to reach Spring Butte L.O. with a lower clearance vehicle, I recommend starting on NF-22 which leaves directly from La Pine. It is marked as Finley Butte Road in town but eventually turns into a Forest Service road. From NF-22 you can take the other side of NF-2220 to NF-2430 to NF-830 or you can go to NF-2222 to NF-2430 to NF-830. Since I can only speak on the roads I’ve been on, I’d recommend NF-2222 to NF-2430. I would consider these portions of the road passable to lower clearance vehicles.

History.

Similar to Sisi Butte and Calamity Butte, the existing Spring Butte L.O. has an octagonal cab. It was constructed in 1991 as the first of its kind in Oregon. The 16’x16′ cab sits shorter than the other two with a 41′ pole tower. It is still actively staffed every summer, so always make sure to be respectful of the active lookout attendant’s space and only climb the tower if you’ve been invited up. The previous lookout structure was developed in 1932 as a 30′ tower with 14’x14′ L-4 cab. It was maintained regularly between the 1950s-1970s and used up until it was deemed unsafe in the 1990s. In November of 1997, the existing lookout was broken into and vandalized. The damages were estimated up to $10,000. The fire finder and other furniture were torn and tossed from the height of the tower with complete disregard. It is unfortunate to hear that some people have such a lack of respect for places like this which is often why they are hidden behind locked gates. It is our collective responsibility to help keep places like this intact for future use and others to enjoy.

Backpacking: Burnt Lake

Backpacking

Location.

Mt. Hood Wilderness

Trail(s).

Burnt Lake Trail #772

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1-1/2 hours

Date(s).

July 14-15, 2018

Mileage.

7.5 miles RT

Elevation gain/loss.

1,420′

Preface.

This was my first backpacking trip. None of us had any experience besides our extensive day hiking knowledge. My friends and I decided the year before that we wanted to get into backpacking. It was motivated by our urge to go to the popular backpacking destination on the Havasupi Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon. It took over a year to collect all the gear we thought we needed to start. I did a lot of research, fittings, and waiting for things to go on sale. You don’t have to buy all your gear overnight. The basic essentials you are going to need will be a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, backpack, water filter, and stove. Keep in mind most gear will be personal preference and not all gear will fit the same for everyone. I recommend going into REI to get fitted for a pack. You can even test out how it feels weighted down in store to make sure it’s exactly what you want. Another option, if you’re non-committal, is to rent gear or borrow from a friend. It has been close to 5 years since I’ve purchased most of these items, so a lot of them are no longer available. This is also not an accurate reflection of the exact gear I use now, but I wanted to show you what I bought to start. I’ve linked their closest matches below.

Backpack: Osprey Aura AG 65 Pack – Women’s

Sleeping pad: Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad

Tent: Kelty Gunnison 1 Tent with footprint

Sleeping bag: Kelty Tuck 20 Sleeping Bag – Long

Stove: Snow Peak GigaPower Auto Stove

Water filter: Katadyn BeFree Gravity Water Filter – 3.0L

My main tip for getting started is committing. There will always be a million reasons why you’re not ready but committing to start is the biggest hurdle. If you would have asked me about backpacking when I was still getting back into hiking, I would have laughed in your face. This is not because I wasn’t interested but because I felt like I wasn’t capable. Backpacking is intimidating. It’s marketed for the extreme outdoors enthusiast that loves to go the extra distance. Or at least that’s how it felt to me before I started. I’ve also struggled with weak ankles due to overuse during my high school cross country running years. These weak ankles have only caused mild issues for day hiking but I worried it would be hazardous for backpacking. I only mention this as encouragement to not let similar issues stop you from doing what you want or at least trying. After deciding to start, you will need to choose your first trail. I would recommend keeping it short, staying close, and bringing a friend for your first time. All of these will be helpful if something goes wrong. A shorter trail will help you get acquainted with your pack weight and how a backpack feels without overexerting yourself. What might be an easy trail for you day hiking might not translate the same for backpacking. Staying close to home gives you more time in the day for hiking to your destination and keeps it in your familiar bubble. This will also give you extra time for finding and setting up a camp. Bringing a friend or two is not a requirement but will add to the fun, help your confidence level and disperse the weight among packs. If possible, pick a trail you can day hike beforehand as well to get an idea of the terrain. Less surprises, less stress.

Trip Report.

I had hiked this trail a month before with my friend, Alex, as a day hike which is how we landed on it for our first overnight trip. We knew it was backpackable, had multiple camp spots, and was a fairly easy trail. We originally planned the trip with four people but one couldn’t make it down from the Seattle area. We decided to divide the weight since there was only three of us and we all didn’t need multiples of the same thing. We still managed to overpack our packs for one night though. I was carrying the stove, pot, and water filter along with my own sleeping bag and pad. All essential and necessary for the trip. But I also managed to stuff a hammock, an extra blanket for sitting, my DSLR camera that I didn’t use, extra layers, and clothes in my pack. I was sharing a tent with my friend, Anjelica, so my one-person tent stayed home. That’s the only thing I ditched to “save” myself in weight. I also managed to forget to pack one of the most important items, toilet paper. I was lucky enough that my friends had enough to share. NOTE: DO NOT FORGET TOILET PAPER. Alex ended up carrying all the food plus three liters of wine and his dad’s old 6lb Eureka tent. Anjelica’s pack was probably the most reasonably packed of the bunch.

Crossing Burnt Lake Creek

This is a busier trail due to its proximity to town, so it is good to get to the trailhead earlier than later. We started at the North trailhead off of FS-1825 spur 109. The road will dead end at the trailhead and is paved up until the last mile and a half when you reach Lost Creek Campground. I drove us in my Civic and remember the gravel being well maintained. But it’s always good to check current conditions before you go. You will need a NW Forest Pass or equivalent to park at the trailhead. You will shortly pass into the wilderness boundary after you start hiking. Make sure to fill out a free self issue wilderness permit at the kiosk. The trail starts out very flat on an old decommissioned road in dense green forest. It is sandwiched between two creeks for half of the way; Lost Creek on the left and Burnt Lake Creek on the right. You will start to gain more elevation after you cross Burnt Lake Creek and continue up a few switch backs. It is a long gradual ascent until you reach the lake. There are a few small creeks to cross but Burnt Lake Creek is the most substantial. You will know you’re getting close to the lake when you’ve reached a no campfire sign. A reminder that there are no campfires allowed while camping at the lake and to only camp in designated camp spots. There is a small user trail that wraps around the lake and will take you to a day use area plus some of the camp spots. The shore of Burnt Lake is brushy and doesn’t offer many views unless you are directly on it. The main trail continues further into the wilderness where it connects with other trails. We found an available camp spot following the main trail just past the lake. It was off the trail a bit to the left and was secluded. You could still hear noise from other backpackers and day hikers near by, so you never felt completely alone.

After setting up camp, we decided to take a break by opening the wine. My body was sore from my improperly packed and over weighted pack. The bugs here weren’t great either but the wine helped. We had plans to hike further up the trail to East Zigzag Mountain but I didn’t want to push myself and the wine hit a little harder than expected. Before we drank too much we took a stroll to the lake to try and filter water for the first time. Filling up the gravity filter wasn’t working very well with the still water from the lake. It was a bit murky and didn’t fill as much as we needed. We remembered passing a small creek shortly before we reached the lake and decided to try that as a water source instead. A pump filter would’ve worked better for filtering directly from the lake. The creek we found ended up working better for what we had brought. We headed back to our camp to start a game of cards, drink the remainder of the wine, and eat. Alex was kind enough to do all the food planning for this trip. The dinner was a pesto pasta with a fancy meat, cheese, and cracker appetizer. We took a collective trip to the lake shore for dishes and to watch the sunset. It was a perfect sunset to end the day. After the dishes were done and the food was hung, we played cards until well after dark. Climbing into the tent was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We had left the rainfly off the tent and there were so many stars above. I had been camping plenty of times before this but I had never seen so many stars that were so clear. We truly fell asleep under the stars that night.

The next morning we woke up to the sun rising and debated getting out of bed to watch it rise over the lake. The coziness of our sleeping bags easily won that debate and we slept in for a couple more hours. We had bagels with homemade nut butter for breakfast and had a relatively uneventful pack up. The hike out was much easier than the hike in since it was all down hill to my car. My shoulders were still sensitive and sore from the unfamiliarity of the heavy pack. While hiking out we ended up taking a short out and back side trail to check out Lost Creek Falls. It was worth the detour if you like waterfalls. The remainder of the hike out flew by and we returned safely to my car. There’s always a sigh of relief when I see my car still there and find everything is still intact. We ended our first backpack by getting a late lunch and drinks in Portland to celebrate our success.

Lost Creek Falls
A map of our route

More Information.

US Forest Service

Oregon Hikers

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