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.  

  

    
    
   

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!

Gear, Routes, and Rings: Honeymooning in New Zealand 

“Let the dream devour your life so that the life does not devour your dream.”

  
Kevin and I are currently sitting at the airport in Sydney waiting for our final flight of the day which will bring us to Auckland, New Zealand, where we will begin our three month cycle touring honeymoon. We left straight from our two-day wedding campout – which took place around a huge campfire in a ranch at Silver Falls State Park – and can’t wait to begin life as a married couple on our bikes enjoying the absolute freedom that cycle touring brings.

I got the snow I had been dreaming of, and though the recent ice storm made it impossible for some of our guests to arrive, for those who made it it was absolutely beautiful! There will be more photos in the coming weeks once our photographer has a chance to go through them all.

  
Our plan these next three months is to cycle through the mountains partially using New Zealand’s new  bikepacking “Great Divide” route – Aotearoa – and partially following whatever mountains and rivers seem most appealing as we make our way south. We are setting out with our typical overarching goals as well; to find beautiful small rivers to fish, peaceful and breathtaking places to camp, and small rough mountains roads to climb. 

  
Though I still have a comprehensive gear post from our last big trip, I figured I would give an update for this one-season summer trip as we have been able to reduce our gear to just our back panniers. For information about packing for a multi-season world tour or for more about our bikes feel free to check out our previous post about gear

Clothes (for one person)

 

1 light down jacket

1 rainpants + rainjacket 

1 warm hat

1 sunglasses

1 buff

1 cycling gloves

1 neoprene gloves (going downhill in the rain = very unhappy frozen hands)

1 neoprene socks (so that I can wear Keens when it’s raining)

3 small bags (to sort and hold clothes)

1 thin fleece jacket 

1 pair track-pants 

1 Icebreaker 200 merino wool base layer

1 thin (silk/merino wool) leggings base layer

1 pair keens (I wear these in all seasons with different layers of socks)

1 running shoes

2 cycling shirts (not cotton)

1 spandex shorts

1 knee length shorts (cycling or around town)

2 thin socks/ 1 longer thing sock/ 1 big socks

2 sports bras/ 8 underwear

1 dress (for around town and rest days)

1 running shorts (swimming/sleeping/hanging out)

1 tanktop (swimming/sleeping/hanging out) 
Electronics (for both of us)

  

1 Garmin GPS etrek 30 – open source maps of New Zealand

2 back lights (small rechargable)

2 headlamps

1 solar powered lantern (if you haven’t seen these, check them out they are under 20$ and awesome!)

1 Go pro (thanks to Kevin’s brother for letting us borrow his)

1 camera (both my old cameras broke so now I have a canon G5X)

1 Gorilla pod

1 Ipad

1 Kindle

1 power bank

Bike stuff (for both of us)

1 Pump

1 knipex (extra small) channel locks 

1 leatherman

1 hub wrench

1 bicycle multi-tool

1 cassette remover

1 break cable

1 shifting cable

1 Patch kit

10+ zip ties

Assortment of bolts/ miscellaneous small parts

4 BB7 brake pads

1 roll electrical tape

Chain oil

Cooking/Water stuff (for both of us)

1 Katadyn water filter

2 Fuel bottles

4 water bottles on the bike

2 nalgene water bottles (1L)

1 Primus stove

1 flint lighter (no more running out of lighter fluid)

1 six liter MSR bladder

1 pot/ handle

2 bowls

2 long spoon

1 Victorinox knife (we love these, they are very sharp)

1 can opener (p38)

1 small cheese grater 

Other (for both of us)

50 feet p-core

1 first aid kid (plus waterproof matches)

1 sewing kit (needle, dental floss, patch kit for Thermarest/tent/waders)

soap

toothbrushes

Contact solution/mirror

1 quick-dry towel 

 

Down sleeping bags, sleeping pads (Therm-a-Rest Neoair), and our three person Big Agnes tent.

 
 

We are trying out a waterproof backpack this time around which will sit on our back rack and be used for day trips without our bikes.

 
  
  
One additional thing I’ve brought with me this time around is a small handheld running water bottle, my running shoes, and my running watch in the hopes that I will find some time (and energy) to run semi-regularly along this trip. 

 

Photo taken just before my first 50km trail race a few weeks ago!

 
Feel free to follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@awanderingphoto) for photos and stories throughout our journey!

Finding, and Then Making Home: Bend, OR

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
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It’s been a while since I’ve check in, partially because I’ve hardly been on my bike except for my daily commute, and being a bike touring blog, I haven’t had much to say, and partially because I have been waiting with anticipation these last few months to move back to Bend. Now that I am here, I am ready to share. Though it was great to be near family in Astoria, Kevin and I both realized that we had left a part of ourselves in Bend, a part of ourselves that we weren’t going to be able to proceed without, so a few months ago Kevin applied for repel jobs with the forest service, and I applied to OSU-Cascades in order to move in time for spring semester.
 
So now we are here. Like many people moving to this booming town, we moved here for the lifestyle; for the hundreds of miles of running and mountain bike trails in and around town, for the six months of skiing just twenty miles down the road, for the river (Deschutes) that runs right through town, and for the hiking, rock-climbing, mountaineering, backpacking and snowshoeing all within a half hour drive. We moved here for the thousands of outdoor possibilities and for a community of people who love all of these things at least as much as we do.

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2015 In Pictures: A Year of Highs and Lows From Patgonia to Oregon

A bike packed full of food, some mountains, and a boy equals one happy girl! Torres del Paines, 2015.

A bike packed full of food, some mountains, and a boy equals one happy girl! Torres del Paines, 2015.

This last year will be remembered by Kevin and I as a year of high highs – from cycling through Patagonia with friends to pushing our bikes up and down rough roads in the Andes – but also, one of incredibly low lows – like when ending our trip early became a reality and I cried for nights on end. 2015 was the year of South America, and all of the wonderful adventures it held, but also, 2015 was the year we began to adjust our thinking from what’s most fun in the moment, to how to accomplish long term goals. It’s been a divided year; a year in which we spent the first six months living in a tent, and the latter half living in an apartment. A year where we had complete freedom for part, and jobs, appointements, and commitments for the rest. A year where we lived in nature, and then a year where we were stuck indoors. This last year has also been the year we lived near family, the year Kevin and I solidified our relationship both on and off the bike, and the year we began to figure out where we want to be in the future. It’s been a year of transitions, and it hasn’t always been pretty, but looking back, it’s also been a hell of a lot of fun.

We began 2015 in Turkey, before quickly making our way down to Ushuaia where we began the South American part of our trip. We spent six months cycling from Ushuaia to Peru, before taking a last minute flight back home where we surprised our families, and started a (temporary) life for ourselves in Astoria, OR. So here it is, our year of adventures from cycling the Andes to canoeing in our own backyard.

2016 will also be a year of adjustment for us; we will be moving again (and are both very excited about this), and with that, we will both be changing jobs as well (plus, I will be going back to school). We are both excited by what this near year will bring, and anxious to start planning our next adventure (spoiler alert, we are in the beginning phases of planning our next three month bike trip). But until then, we are both commited to making more microadventures happen in our attempt to explore our beautiful state. Here is to what 2015 gave us, and to the new year to come.

Commuting By Choice

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Grocery shopping at its finest! The check out lady asked me if I was homeless after she found out I was cycling home with my groceries. It amused me in the moment, but in reality, its a pretty darn sad fact that so few people cycle here in the States, so incredibly few that everyone else assumes that you do it simply because you have no other options. I am proud to commute by bike; not because I’m desperate, but because I can.

I do not currently live in a bike friendly town like where I grew up in Eugene, or Oregon’s most famous cycling city, Portland. Here in Astoria, there are no bike racks outside of stores, and it rains pretty much everyday for eight months of the year. Never the less, I choose everyday to ride instead of drive for economic, health, and environmental reasons, never mind the fact that it simply makes me happier. There are many benefits to commuting by bike, and I hope that someday our country starts to catch on, but until then, I’ll proudly be the “homeless” person at the grocery store buying a weeks worth of groceries and a whole bag of toilet paper.

Pursuing What Feels Right: Checking-in and Changing Plans

‘You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them.’

Near Bend Oregon.

Near Bend Oregon.

Within two months of living here in Astoria, OR, Kevin and I decided that despite all of our best intentions of making this place home, it just wasn’t going to work out for us. Though part of our unease with the lifestyle we have been creating for ourselves here simply has to do with coming back from such a long trip – from transitioning from a life of freedom to one of western confinement – the other part has to do with things we have control over, like our location and our jobs. Though Astoria is a cute perfectly sized (10,000 population) town right on the water, it lacks mountains – and all of the wonderful activities that come from having mountains in your backyard – and the outdoorsy and active community we seek. And though I do enjoy my job working in the leaning center with children with behavioral needs at the K-2 elementary school, it is most certainly not what I plan to do for the rest of my life.

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When A Beautiful Night Just Isn’t Enough

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

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Just seventy-five kilometers from my front door, I found one of the best camping spots I have ever had. It was a much need reminder that I don’t have to go half-way around the world to pitch my tent, and that there is still plenty to explore in my own backyard.

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Ironically enough though, after such an amazing night, I decided that I was done. For perhaps the first time ever, I decided that I would rather be home than cycle touring, and so I turned around and cut my five day weekend cycling trip short. It wasn’t because I don’t enjoy the camping or the cycling anymore, because I do, it was because I realized that escaping on weekend trips every now and again isn’t changing our daily reality. One of the best parts about our long tour was that it was our reality. We weren’t counting down the days until the next weekend, because we enjoyed (not always in the moment, but at least in retrospect) what we were doing every minute of the day, and there was never anywhere else I felt that I would have rather been. Now though, there always seems to be somewhere else I would rather be. While I am at work I would rather be cycling, yet while I am cycling I would rather be back home.

So I headed back home and spent the weekend cooking (one of my new hobbies now that we have a kitchen) and then joined Kevin on a small kayaking-crabbing adventure just outside our town on his day off.

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Though there are moments of fun and happiness, both of us are frustrated with our lives here in Astoria for a few reasons. For starters, we are extremely busy (especially Kevin as he works a lot) so really all we do is work, eat, sleep. Every single day. That’s all we do. Everyday is so predictable, and the weeks fly by not because we are having so much fun, but because they are all the same. It’s not that every moment itself is miserable; I actually really enjoy my job in the special needs classroom (at the k-2 elementary school), but simply working, cooking, and sleeping isn’t enough to make me feel fulfilled anymore. I feel as if something is missing now that I have no outlet for my passions, now that I am no longer doing any of the things that I love on a daily basis, but rather on the occasional weekend. It is hard to go from so much freedom and free time to absolutely none of either of these things, and though we both realize that jumping back on the bikes for an endless tour isn’t the solution, we also know that we need to make some life changes in the near future in order to find a balance between all of the things we love and create the sort of life we actually want to live.

For a photo of the day and other updates follow me on facebook here, and for some awkwardly cropped photos from our journey, follow us on Instagram @awanderingphoto!

The Power of Commuting by Bike

“Riding bicycles will not only benefit the individual doing it, but the world at large.” -Udo E. Simonis

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Cycling to work everyday is the best part of my day. It’s thirty minutes where I can’t be doing anything else; where I’m in my own head with the wind in my hair. It’s more than just a cheap way to get to work, it’s a way of life which connects you with amazing people who are interested in the outdoors, responsible living, and an active lifestyle. I commute by bike because I enjoy it. It’s refreshing to begin and end your day on the bicycle, alone on a river path, or zig-zagging through stopped cars. I commute by bike because it does not pollute the air. Because it does not clog up the streets. Because it does not harm our planet. I commute by bike because those thirty minutes twice a day act as an antidepressant. Or cheap therapy. Or just simply time to reflect on your day, year, or whole life. I bike to work everyday because it’s an inexpensive and effective form of transportation and because it encourages a healthier lifestyle. I cycle to work every single day because no matter what the weather looks like, there is no other way I would rather arrive.

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Favorite Cycling Routes: The Pacific West Coast USA

Camping on the Oregon Coast.

Camping on the Oregon Coast.

I started my tour in July 2013 by cycling down the Pacific West Coast as a warm up; a warm up which turned into an amazing five weeks as the cycling was easy, the hiker/biker campsites were a great way to meet other cyclists, and the scenery was beautiful. Though I had never toured, knew absolutely nothing about bikes and hadn’t trained at all for this trip, this didn’t seem to matter as I was able to start out slowly (doing fifty or so kilometers a day) before increasing my mileage when it felt right. Within a few weeks I was cycling 80-120km/day, and loving every minute of it. Along this route I stayed with various hospitable families who renewed my faith in humanity, was encouraged along by passing cars, swam in rivers amongst the gigantic redwoods, and fell asleep beside the beach listening to the crashing waves. I also met dozens of other cyclists, from students to retirees, doing this same route which made nights around the campfire a whole lot of fun.

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