A Photographic Journey Through the Tetons

  
At the end of the summer I road tripped through Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Utah with the intention of trail running, though the trip involved  a lot more snow than I had bargained for in late September and meant that I didn’t get to complete most of the runs I had anticipated nor the backpacking trip I had planned for the Tetons. That being said, after seeing the Tetons for the first time I figured out why they are so famous, and know I will find a reason to visit again, so those adventures will be saved for another trip. 

  
These mountains speak for themselves, and while I didn’t get to complete my planned adventures through the park and I thoroughly enjoyed my sunrises and sunsets and the twenty mile run I did get to complete.

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 
Yellowstone wasn’t my thing – it seemed like a Disney land of boardwalks and fancy hotels – though I did visit the far reaches of the park where I was able to do multiple runs no one had been on since before the snowfall where I followed deer tracks, and, unfortunately, those of a grizzly and black bear. When I got bored of yelling hey bear every thirty seconds I decided to make him rymes (such as hey bear, please don’t give me a scare, I know you are there, and though you may not care, I would rather keep all of my hair, so don’t you even dare!)

   
    
    
 
Before ending my trip I met up with two of my closest friends from high school who currently live in Utah, and we got to go camping to a nearby canyon!

  

  

  
 I also got to enjoy the fall colors through multiple trail ones, including one to these amazing hot springs!

 
*This post has been preposted as we are currently cycling somewhere in Oman!

Backpacking in Oregon

Quick and dirty (photo) guide to three of the most popular backpacking trips in Oregon including the 50-60 mile Sisters loop (depending on your route), forty mile Mount Hood loop, and a choose your own adventure through the Eagle Caps.

Eagle Caps 

  
The Eagle Caps are the least visited (and most beautiful) mountains in Eastern Oregon, hours away from any big cities. My best friend and I did a wonderful forty mile loop there this summer, and I’m excited to explore more of the hundreds of trails in the year to come! Sleeping at glacier lake and hiking up Eagle Cap were the highlights of our trip.

   
  
    
    
 
  

 
    
   

Kevin and I also did a short trip there last summer, and I’ve gotten gotten to explore a few other trails through trail running!  

  

 
  

And, if you are in Eastern Oregon, check out the Elkhorns which have a 23 mile through trail which stays high the whole time.

  
    
    
   

Three Sisters Loop (50-60 miles) and Wilderness Area  

This loop has a special place in my heart as I completed it for my first time with my best friend when we were sixteen years old, and then again as my first solo backpacking trip years later.

  

Add ons include climbing South Sister on a very used trail where you are bound to be hiking with others and will get you some extra wonderful views.  

You could also climb up Broken Top from Green Lakes which takes a bit more navigation but gets you equally awesome views (broken phone = lost photos = you will have to climb it to see the views yourself!).

  

If you don’t have time for 60 miles and would like to experience the central Oregon Cascades in a long day hike (aka awesome trail run) or one night overnight, I would highly suggest the 23 mile broken top loop trail which starts at Tan MacArthur Rim and its georgous views, stops by no name lake (my favorite place in the cascades), passes by green lakes (the most visited lakes in the area), between Broken Top top and South Sister allowing you great views of them both (and a chance to hike up either if you want to add some more miles and elevation gain to your trip), end coming around the less visited backside where a large burn has darastically changed the landscape.
   
    
    
    
    
 

The three sisters wilderness area is becoming increasingly busy as Bend and Portland continue to boom. I would highly suggest exploring this area mid-week after Labor Day when the crowds are greatly reduced.

Mount Hood Loop

Mount Hood is my least favorite of the popular backpacking loops in Oregon due to its unimpressive camping, the busy atmosphere (PCT, day hikers, and other backpackers), and the lack of high altitude lakes or large rivers. That being said I know I’m spoiled and, especially if done when the flowers are in full bloom, I’m sure it could be a lovely trip for those who haven’t yet visited the area.  

  

    
    
   

Running and Backacking in the Sawtooths: 120 Miles of Bliss

  
This summer the Sawtooths – a stunning mountain range in centro Idaho – and I became aquantances during an 120 mile solo backpacking trip. I left from the Grandjean trailhead with a map, ten days of food, and my running shoes.

  

I love solo backpacking: I love pushing myself to hike all day, or waking up late and reading all morning. I love the days on end of solitude without a soul in sight, and of course, I love jumping into as many lakes as possible along the way. I love dropping my pack at the top of a pass to trail run an out and back I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and I love meeting other backpacking lovers along the way. This place was truly a backpackers (and trail runners) paradise. 

   

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

    

     
    

   
   
My favorite day was when I did a twenty mile day run on one of the more popular trails (Alice and Toxaway loop) before packing up camp and hiking a mile or two up a switchback filled path to camp atop – looking down on the lake and out to the mountains during an epic (mosquito filled) sunset. 

    
    
    
    
    
 
I also enjoyed running in the southwest part of the Sawtooths where I didn’t see another human soul for three days and where the trails looked less used.

  
Logistics

I’m intentionally not laying out my exact route because a) I still haven’t figured out how to draw it on the map, and b) because I think that half the fun is not knowing here you are going or leaving the adventure open ended. Near the end of my trip I met a wonderful older lady who has been hiking in the Sawtooths for years who informed me about a small (not marked) offshoot to a beautiful lake and climbing area which I did a side trip to visit – something I wouldn’t have found had I planned my whole route in advance. Never the less, here is a photo of some of the trails and a rough sketch of some of the loops I completed (starting and ending from the Grandjean trailhead). I used Avenza (a map app) which had a really great map of the Sawtooths through Adventure Maps sale on it (I also had the hard copy of the same map).

Starting from the Grandjean trailhead (west in the middle of the map) then went south  until I got to the cluster of lakes (went west where the trails are much less used, then did the loops to visits all the lakes). From there I stayed at Toxaway to do the Alice lake loop then headed back north n a different trail where I saw the Barron  lakes. I ended with a twenty mile trail run circling where, on the map, it says Sawtooths wilderness.
Though the Sawtooths are quickly becoming more visited, they are still a relatively quiet mountain range especially when compared to national parks. With no reservations needed it’s easy to do your first backpacking trip amongst this stunning scenery along the Alice Toxaway loop or do some longer, less visited trails in the other parts of the wilderness area. It’s easy to find water due to the dozens of lakes you stumble across, though come prepared because in July and August those bodies of water definitely attract Mosquitos.

In September I drove back through the Sawtooths (hoping to backpack through the White Clouds just next door only to find them covered by two feet of snow). Boy where they still beautiful the second time around!

   
                 * this post has been pre-scheduled as we are currently out of service!

From La Grande to Astoria and What’s Up Next

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in so I figured I would catch y’all up on our last year since New Zealand before we begin our next cycling adventure through Oman in just a few weeks! 

  
After New Zealand Kevin and I moved to La Grande, a small town in Eastern Oregon, where Kevin restarted his job as a seasonal wildland rapeller (firefighter who rapels from helicopters into small remote wildland fires) and I restarted my job in wilderness therapy five hours away based out of Bend (as I work eight days with six days off the commute is managable). I ended up going on quite a few adventures throughout the summer including an 120 mile solo backpacking (and trail running) trip through the Sawtooths (Idaho), as well as a road trip through Yellowstone, the Tetons, and part of Utah. Blog posts about those places and what it’s like to be a wilderness therapy instructor are to come.

A photo Kevin took of his friend as they watched the total eclipse this summer!

  

Some photos from snowshoeing around Crater Lake last spring. Talk about the snow making everything more beautiful!! 

   
    
    
    
   

A few photos from cycling around La Grande.

   
   

  

  

  


And of course some trail running photos from eastern Oregon as well.

   
    
    
    
    
 
Once Kevin finished up his job in October we moved in with his dad in Astoria for a few months so that Kevin could work with his brother installing heating and cooling units while I continued  (after a four week break to spend some time with Kevin) working in Bend, commuting nearly the same amount as I had been during the summer just in the opposite direction. We have spent the winter with family, especially with some of Kevin’s siblings and their awesome adventure loving kids.

   
    

 
On our way back from our one week winter elkless hunting trip (more like relaxing road trip in Eastern Oregon) Kevin and I went from talking about our planned five week road trip in the southwestern US this winter to buying flights to Oman. After reflecting on what we had heard from a fellow cyclist who told us, years ago, about Oman’s friendly culture, beautiful mountains with steep dirt roads, and free wild camping everywhere it just seemed too perfect: we have five weeks of time off which fits in perfectly with the thirty day visa, and when we found flights for under 1,000$ we decided it made more sense to do Oman this year and save a (longer) road trip for another winter when we will make more time for it.

  

Since we both needed new passports we quickly got together what we needed to send our old ones in, bought flights and thin long sleeve shirts for cycling, and started the (short) countdown to our flight! Though we haven’t ridden our bikes much since last year in New Zealand we know that the physical aspect of cycle touring will return to us once we are truly on the road. We are also purposely doing virtually no research (except we did find out the capital is called Muscat) so we get to be surprised once we arrive. 

Since this is such a short trip we won’t be bringing our tablet with us and will therefore write about the trip once we return to the States in late March. Until then, I’ve written a few posts about the Sawtooths, about some wonderful backpacking here in Oregon, and a post about being a wilderness therapy instructor which will be appearing in the weeks to come.

Until then, may be the winds be ever in your favor!

New Zealand: 3,400km of Photos and Logistics 

New Zealand is beautiful; white sandy beaches, tall majestic mountains, and crystal clear rivers around nearly every bend, so, without further ado, here it is in photos!

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  
As you can see, New Zealand is a very beautiful country with a lot of offer for those who enjoy the outdoors. There are over 900 backcountry huts which many hikers, climbers, and hunters enjoy (and a few which bikers can get to as well), and the rivers, besides being stunning, are known for world class fly fishing. It would be a fun place to live for a year (or lifetime) in order to explore the hidden corners of the diverse islands, especially since the locals were some of the most friendly human beings we have ever gotten to know. That being said, if we were to come back we wouldn’t do so by bike, nor would we come back in the peak Jan-Feb summer season, but rather we would come with packrafts and backpacks in the off season in order to explore further into the backcountry.

New Zealand is a very popular tourist destination, much more popular than I had ever realized, and in Janauary through March the country (particularly the South Island) is absolutely heaving with tourists which for cyclists means the roads, which don’t have shoulders, are much busier. Though other cyclists we met who had cycled premonitory in Western Europe said it was what they were use to, we found it really busy compared to any other country we have been to. We also found that New Zealand seems to be a great place for credit card touring or shorter (1-3 day)  bikepacking excursions on trails that the New Zealand government has set up, yet cycling through the country as a way to get to know the country as a whole wasn’t something we will do again.

It was the first place we have cycled that had restrictions surrounding wild camping (due to the sheer number of tourists throughout the country trying to camp) which was hard for us in a few ways. First off, it made the trip very expensive as sites throughout New Zealand cost 15-22NZD/person in areas without DOC sites (which cost 8-13NZD/person). Secondly, we realized that self-sufficiency – pumping our own water, carrying food for days at a time, finding a campsite wherever we happen to end up – is one of the most important aspects of cycle touring for us and by having to camp in actual sites we found that the “adventure” part of cycle touring sort of disappeared. Plus, we found it crazy to camp with dozens or hundreds of others in camp sites though often that was our only option.

 This campsite had rows and rows of campers – over 300 people were staying there every night! Though in other countries we feel that cycling has gotten us away from tourists as it takes us through the in between, here in New Zealand the in between no longer exists as everyone has campers which take them there as well. 
Along this trip we also realized that learning about other cultures is a part of cycle touring that we hadn’t given enough credit, and with New Zealand being so similar to our own home, we realized that we were missing that during this trip. Though we picked New Zealand because we wanted an “easy” country for our honeymoon, I think we have both realized that “easy” maybe isn’t our thing. In the future I’ll happily take street food that may make me sick, charades and mispronounced words every time we want to buy something, and little lines on maps which may or may not lead where we think they will.

While New Zealand is a wonderful country and we have many fond memories from this trip, on the whole we don’t feel that cycling through it was the best way for us to explore it. Just like back home in Oregon we would rather have seen it through various mountaineering, backpacking, and packrafting microadventures and saved cycle touring for less developed, less touristic places. hope you can use the information on this post to make your own judgement about whether you would like to visit, when you want to do so, and whether it will be by bike or not!

Kevin and I have now moved to La Grande and restarted work and look forward to focusing on Oregon based microadventures which we plan to share in the near future!

 

Bike Rafting: The Freedom, The Solitutde, The Adventure

Fresh fish smoked over the fire and a sunset overlooking a huge lake in the Fiordlands turned out to be one of the most amazing evenings we have ever had.

  
After putting our bikes back together and strapping our Alpacka packrafts to the back we cycled away from the ocean along a quiet country road before arriving to the boardland road – a 50km gravel road which goes through the Fiordlands before ending at Lake Manapouri where we planned to put the boats back in the water.

      
 
We saw three cars along the whole road though none of them went to the end, so we had the whole place to ourselves. We fished, set up camp on our own private beach, and spent the evening around the fire watching the eels feeding just in front of us as we got to hang out and enjoy being surrounded by nature in a setting which seems to feel most natural to us.

   
    
    
    
    
    
It was amazing; the solitude, the curious birds all around, the fish, the sunset and then stars, and the simplicity of being totally disconnected from the the busy world full of lights and stimulation that we are use to. This is the sort of life we feel we are suppose to be living.

 
Except for the sandlflis.. We could have done without them!

A Photographic Journey Packrafting the Waiau

  
Packrafting down the Waiau proved to be the best thing we have done in New Zealand. We got to wild camp every night, enjoyed our long days on the water, and best of all, with our boats on our bikes and then our bikes on our boats we got to enjoy the self sufficiency and solitude we have so been craving. Somehow, the fine line between uncomfortable (wet and slightly cold due to our not so waterproof rain gear) and comfort (always having a dry warm sleeping bag at night) seems to be where we have the most fun.

We put in at the beginning of the Waiau at Lake Te Anau with five days of food and our camping gear in the boats with our bikes strapped to the front. And our bananas, can’t go anywhere without those bananas.

  

 

We paddled in the sun –  

    
    
 
– and in the pouring rain.

   

   
We carried our boats across a dam…

  
… and walked them like a dog on a leash when the water was too shallow.

  

We scouted rapids,

  
   
and then we went down them.
          

We even made a few flying friends along the way!

   

   

We camped – sometimes in the rain and sometimes with beautiful sunsets on the horizon as we ate dinner – in places accessible only by boat.

  
   
     

     
  

Then, we would wake up and paddle again! 

   
      
  

       
  

   

Then, after five days and 120km we made it to the ocean!

   
    
    
    
 
We packed up our boats, put our wheels back on our bikes, and cycled to the nearest town to replenish our food supply and head to our next put in.

   
 

The Gear

We were really impressed with the Denali Llama Alpacka rafts that we got to use as we could paddle and even go through (small) rapids with the bikes on the nose of the packrafts as the rafts sit so high in the water. We were also impressed with how much gear we could fit in the internal compartments (two long dry bags which then clip inside the boat that you inflate around the stuff); we had five days worth of heavy food – unfortunately we aren’t biking with a dehydrator – and even with all of our camping gear and clothes, we could have easily fit at least twice as much stuff. We put our panniers on the boats (under our bikes) and had a day bag out with food and clothes to last us until we were ready to deflate our boats in camp.

 
Though it took us about an hour to set up our rafts, pack our gear, and figure out a way to strap on the bikes the first time we did it, we easily got it to under half an hour every other morning. We took off our wheels and then had a nice neat little package we could pick up and carry.

    
What We Learned 

We learned that we need waterproof rain gear (and preferably some sort of wet or dry suit for the shoulder or off seasons when we plan to be doing more of our future trips), and small waterproof day bags for our food and clothes that we want access to during the day. Besides that, it was actually a whole lot like cycle touring – picnicing in pretty places, camping and cooking watching the sunset, sleeping like young puppy dogs out cold all night long – just instead of being on bikes during the day we were in our rafts. We also learned that we love packrafting and can’t wait to plan our next adventure!

  

If anyone is interested in packrafting in New Zealand make sure to check out Packrafting New Zealand for rentals, guided tours, or to purchase your own!

Packrafting – “Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads”

  

Cycle touring opened a world of travel and exploration for us, and we can tell that packrafts – a magical little boat that fits in your backpack or on your bike and can be blown up and packed down in minutes – are going to open our world even further.

What They Are

Packrafts are lightweight (4-5 pound) rafts which fold up small enough to put in your backpack or on your bike, yet are durable enough that experienced rafters use them to travel down the Grand Canyon. For us, they are a small practical boat – that will fit in our apartment – which will allow us to explore new areas by paddling across lakes or down quiet rivers. We will be able to enjoy campsites otherwise inaccessible by roads or even trails, cross rivers on biking or hiking trips, and fish and hunt a whole new terrain.

How They Work

You roll them out then fill them up! It’s seriously that simple. It takes us about five minutes, though I’m sure those with practice can do it much quicker.

  

And then you go! Preferably once you are in water.

  

Or if you are like us you attach your bike to the front first. Then you go.
 

And then you cycle back home once you are finished.

  
 
Who Makes Them

Alpacka began making packrafts fifteen years ago and is still the leading brand today, hand making each boat out of Colorado. Their most popular line – the Alpacka – has a size for everyone (we are using the Llama which is the large), while they also make a few even lighter weight boats and a tandem. They have add-on’s for many of their boats – spray skirts and internal storage which we will get to try out this trip – and sell four-piece paddles and lightweight dry/paddling suits. They even have a three year guarantee with their boats and the packrafting guru we met here in New Zealand has already had his for six (with only one hole ever, which was easily repaired with a patch kit).

 

Before embarking on an eight day trip – down the Waiau to the sea before biking to the end of Lake Manapouri and then paddling across – we decided to test them out for the day (without the bikes attached). We hiked from our campsite right in town with everything in our one small backpack (two would have been nice) and put in at the start of the Waiau river. We then spent the afternoon paddling amongst jumping fish in what felt like the middle of nowhere even though there was a popular trek nearby, and a road not too far away. Once we were done we hiked out to the road and hitchhiked back to town – something which definitely wouldn’t have been possible with any other boat!

The blue bag you see hanging off is a homemade throw bag – our old stove bag, rope, and chunks of foam from a kids water toy. Since we didn’t come to New Zealand prepared for packrafting we are making due with what we have (or can make).

  
  

Fishing anyone? 

  
Or how about a gentle ride to a quiet picnic spot?

   
  

 
If you couldn’t already tell, we are beginning to get a bit obsessed; the possibility are endless!

If ever you are in New Zealand and want to try packrafting, make sure to check out Arno at Packrafting New Zealand for rentals or guided tours ranging from one to six days!

Sunsets, Steamboats, and Solitude: NZ Honeymoon

  
We strategically camped twenty kilometers away from Queenstown (in Arrowtown) where I was able to spend an evening trail running completely alone on beautiful trails before we rode a mountain bike route into town the next morning. We were able to get a boat ride across the lake – on a steam powered boat – right away, and so after just half an hour in the craziness of Queenstown we were able to escape to the other side where we found two days of solitude, dirt roads, and beautiful scenery.

  
The boat led us to a farm-turned-tourist attraction where people do horse tours, feed sheep, and eat at the extremely fancy (70$/person) restaurant. Right before arriving one of the crew members told us there was a free campsite right on the lake, and though we thought it sounded too good to be true, it turns out he was right!

  

Kevin caught a twenty inch fish which we enjoyed for dinner, and for the first time in weeks, we got to camp alone. 

   
    
 
   
In the morning we started along the “around the mountains” trail which follows a dirt road through two different working farms, before entering into a conservations area. We saw less than a dozen cars all day, and once again, got to camp all alone by a quiet small river where we watched another amazing sunset. 

   
    
    
    
    
   
Once we made it to Te Anau we got some amazing news – we were going to get the opportunity to use some Alpacka packrafts and plan our own 10 day bike rafting expedition through the fiordlands! So, after a few days getting ready, we were off.. This time paddling away with our bikes strapped to our boats.

Aspiring National Park: NZ Honeymoon 

  

 

After a few nights in and around Wanaka we cycled up to Aspiring National Park, a one way 50km road which then led us to a 10km trekking path we were allowed to cycle on. The path lead to Aspiring hut, where forty people were packed inside the hut meant for half the number, and it also lead, two hundred meters away from the hut, to a quiet camp spot where we were able to enjoy a few nights as we hiked and I trail ran the surrounding areas. There were some impressive glaciers on the surrounding mountains, and, as always here in New Zealand, the rivers were simply perfect.

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
Once we returned to Wanaka we found a somewhat hidden campsite (right across from one of the most popular, and therefore loud, ones in town) right by the river where we camped with the Te Aroroa (the 3,000km thru-trail which officially opened in 2012) hikers. From there, it was up and over to Queenstown (actually Arrowtown since we wanted to skip the insanity of Queenstown in summer).