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Winter shelters in Oregon

Winter shelters in Oregon

Gold Lake Shelter with deep snow on roof

I was aware and visited the warming hut at Teacup near Mt Hood on several occasions, but little did I know that the Willamette National Forest has winter shelters maintained by volunteers for use by winter sports enthusiasts. Some of the shelters even permit overnight stays; some are warming shelters only. There are also three winter cabin rentals available by advance reservation. How cool is that?

Fuji Shelter with skiers overlooking hill to snow covered mountains in background
Maiden Peak Shelter with deep snow on roof and skiers along side

List of shelters with information, recent condition, and trail links.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/willamette/recreation/wintersports/?cid=stelprdb5109521

Garmin Fenix 5x and custom maps

Garmin Fenix 5x and custom maps

A good GPS can save your life out in the wilderness. I always carry one with me when heading out climbing or hiking. But GPS units are somewhat notorious for being expensive, heavy, burn through batteries, and often have clunky UI’s and features. Some units charge you money for map updates. Things are getting slowly better.

I currently own a handheld Garmin Oregon, but had a friend who has the Fenix 5x watch. I was amazed how well the interface worked and the quality of the GPS. The Fenix 6 was just announced, and older units went on sale. I recently saw the Fenix 5X on sale for $299 during an early Black Friday sale and couldn’t pass the opportunity up.

The next question is – how are the maps for hiking. The default watch now comes with Garmin’s excellent maps and are upgraded regularly for free. My well-healed hiking friend says he has yet to find a trail in the Pacific Northwest that’s not in the default maps.

I was even more happy to learn that the Fenix 5X allows you to upgrade your maps yourself – including open map packs and systems. I tried out the maps on GMap – which include more details and topo features than the default maps. Using the free Garmin BaseCamp software package, you can copy the free maps from GMap into the tool’s list of maps, then load those maps onto your watch. I found the process to be really smooth and worked without much fuss.

Follow the directions/links on the Hiking Guy’s website for instructions on how to upload maps too.

Links:

Eternal Flame Falls

Eternal Flame Falls

About 30 miles south of Niagara Falls, just below the Canadian border in northwestern New York, inside Shale Creek Preserve about a half-hour drive south of Buffalo, lies a hiking trail with an unusual payoff, if you can find it: Eternal Flame Falls, a waterfall tucked away in a grotto that contains a natural “torch” about 8 inches high.

The ground at the base of Eternal Flame Falls emits a steady supply of natural gas, which rises from deep below the surface up through fault lines and into the open air. This, in turn, is what lights the flame, found on the waterfall’s right-hand side about 5 feet up from the creek bed.

The flame is visible year-round, but the waterfall can run dry in the summer and often is only fully flowing in the spring. If you go right after there’s been some decent rainfall, you’ll get to enjoy the waterfall’s full effect.

The flame stays lit on its own, but bring a lighter just in case — occasionally it goes out, in which case it’s your duty as a good citizen to relight it. It ignites quickly, with a distinct “pop,” so maybe try one of those extra-long candle lighters if you’re nervous.

Historically rendered 3D maps by Scott Reinhard

Historically rendered 3D maps by Scott Reinhard

I absolutely love maps and visualizations. I’m always on the lookout for cool new creations.

Scott Reinhard combines contemporary land elevations with historic maps to create three-dimensional environments of a specific region, city, or state. To produce the digital maps, he pulls elevation data from the United States Geological Survey, which he then embeds with location information and merges with the original design of the old maps.

Reinhard was introduced to the methods he uses in his digital maps through Daniel Huffman’s website Something About Maps. You can see more of Reinhard’s digital works on Instagram and buy select high-quality prints, on his website. Check out his Shaded Relief in Blender tutorial (thanks to Dunstan Orchard and Anton van Tetering) or DesignBoom.

Grand Tetons 1899
1903 Acadia
1904 Glacier

Snowboarding from Camp Muir

Snowboarding from Camp Muir

I’ve climbed up the shoulder of Mt Rainier to Camp Muir (10,188 ft) and glissaded down; but I should have brought my old snowboard instead like these guys!

This clip brings back some memories for sure. I need to do that hike again.

My stay at Gold Butte Fire Watchtower

My stay at Gold Butte Fire Watchtower

Here’s a little video clip from the afternoon that turned really windy. View was very obstructed due to all the smoke from wildfires. Air quality was actually listed as hazardous – so I didn’t get out much this day.

I’ll be spending 4 days at Gold Butte fire watchtower

I’ll be spending 4 days at Gold Butte fire watchtower

Despite many adventures, my Oregon bucket list never seems to shrink. As soon as I knock an item or two off, it grows by 5 more. Last year saw horseback riding with Kiger mustangs and summitting the snow-covered Steens mountains. It also saw me hot-spring soaking and finding pianos on the playa of the Alvord Desert. This year is shaping up to knock another item off my list: staying at one of the few remaining mountaintop fire watch towers.

Due to their harsh and remote locations, fewer than 20 are left in Oregon and many are only open short portions of the year. Reservations are required, and getting a reservation is hard as they are almost always booked solid for the 6 month window of dates the moment they become available. One must diligently visit the reservation site very early every morning (east coast time no less) when dates are opened. After getting one of the rare reservations last year, I was thwarted when the road to the Lake of the Woods tower washed out and closed it for almost all of 2017 and 2018. This year, after about 2 months of on and off trying, I managed to get a 4 day reservation for the exceptional Gold Butte lookout. It’s located via hike out onto the summit of the butte and is known for having some of the most spectacular views of all the watchtowers.

It’s also a historic building. It was originally built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and usually manned by a married couple. During WW II, it was part of the Aircraft Warning System as an early invasion watchtower. In the 1970/80’s it was heavily damaged by carpenter ants. It might have been demolished like other towers if not for the efforts of the Sand Mountain Society – a fire tower preservation and restoration group. They painstakingly numbered pieces then rebuilt and replaced damaged sections exactly as it was first built, making a stay there almost exactly as it would have been in the 30’s.

Staying at one of the fire towers requires that you backpack in everything you need: water, food, and supplies. Firewood, a bed, table, fire stove, pit toilet and a few small items are provided – but there is no power, no phones, and it’s miles to your nearest neighbor. During the day you can read, hike, swim or fish at the nearby lake, or greet other hikers visiting the summit. The evenings you can watch the unbelievable sunsets and cook in the woodburning stove, then drift to sleep miles from civilization.

I’m personally looking forward to it more than my next trip abroad. I can’t wait.

Here’s a good write-up and video about the lookout

Paul Gerard’s 10 great conditioning hikes near Portland

Paul Gerard’s 10 great conditioning hikes near Portland

Hike Yourself Into Shape: 10 Conditioning Hikes Near Portland

Paul Gerald makes a great list of hikes designed to get you back in shape. I agree with this list whole-heartedly, but they do ramp up in difficulty very quickly. You might want to do some of these hikes (or find one of similar distance/elevation gain) more than once before moving up to the next level of difficulty. Also, hikes like the Elk-King traverse and Table mountain can be technically difficult and have exposure/very real falling dangers. So, definitely do your homework before going.

Here’s the abbreviated list:

  1. Angel’s Rest – Distance: 4.6 miles. Elevation Gain: 1,600’
  2. Hamilton Mountain – Distance: 7.6 miles. Elevation Gain: 2,100’
  3. Devil’s Rest via Wahkeena – Distance: 7.4 miles. Elevation Gain: 2,400’
  4. Nick Eaton Way – Distance: 8 miles Elevation Gain: 2,600’
  5. Dog Mountain – Distance: 7.2 miles. Elevation Gain: 2,900’
  6. Trapper Creek Loop – Distance: 13.3 miles. Elevation Gain: 3,200’
  7. Table Mountain – Distance: 10 miles. Elevation Gain: 3,650’
  8. Elk-King Traverse – Distance: 11 miles. Elevation Gain: 4,600’
  9. Tanner Butte – Distance: 18 miles. Elevation Gain: 4,450’
  10. Mount Defiance – Distance: 11.9 miles. Elevation Gain: 4,800’
75 of the Best Day Hikes in Oregon

75 of the Best Day Hikes in Oregon

Outdoor Project’s list of Oregon’s 75 Best Day Hikes.

This is a good list of the hikes in Oregon. Having done a number of these, I agree with many of these. While the Columbia Gorge list does not include the Washington side hikes like Dog Mountain, Hamilton Mountain, or Table Mountain, Coyote Wall, etc, at very least it makes a great starting point for Oregon-side trails.

Note that a number of these hikes are not for beginners or novices. Be sure to google the details before you go.

Oregon Coast + Coast Range

  1. Cape Lookout Hike
  2. Cape Falcon Hike
  3. Tillamook Head Hike
  4. Drift Creek Falls Hike
  5. Neahkahnie Mountain
  6. Cascade Head
  7. Saddle Mountain
  8. Kentucky Falls Hike
  9. Port Orford Heads Trails
  10. Golden + Silver Falls

Columbia River Gorge

  1. Multnomah Falls/Wahkeena Falls Loop
  2. Oneonta Gorge
  3. Horsetail + Ponytail Falls Hike
  4. Eagle Creek Hike
  5. Munra Point
  6. Tom McCall Point
  7. Indian Point Hike
  8. Deschutes River, Ferry Springs Hike
  9. Chinidere Mountain + Wahtum Lake Hike
  10. Elowah Falls Hike

Mount Hood/Clackamas River Area

  1. McNeil Point Hike
  2. Paradise Park, Mount Hood
  3. Clackamas + Memaloose Falls Hike
  4. Tamanawas Falls
  5. Salmon River, Old Trail
  6. Bald Butte
  7. Ramona Falls Hike
  8. Clackamas River Trail
  9. Gnarl Ridge Hike
  10. Cooper Spur + Cloud Cap Hike

Mount Jefferson + Metolius River Area

  1. Jefferson Park
  2. Canyon Creek Meadows
  3. Pamelia Lake + Grizzly Peak
  4. Metolius River Trail
  5. Black Butte Trail

Willamette Valley + Foothills

  1. Opal Creek Hike
  2. Abiqua Falls Hike
  3. Silver Falls, Trail of 10 Falls
  4. Butte Creek Falls Hike
  5. Spencer Butte Hike
  6. Proxy Falls Hike
  7. Diamond Creek Falls
  8. Triangulation Peak + Boca Cave
  9. McKenzie River Trail
  10. Brice Creek Trail

Central Oregon

  1. Green Lakes Hike
  2. Tumalo Falls + Creek Hike
  3. Arnold Ice Cave
  4. Broken Top Crater
  5. Lava River Cave
  6. Paulina Lake Loop Trail + Hot Springs
  7. Deschutes River Trail, Upper Reach
  8. Tam McArthur Rim
  9. Steelhead Falls
  10. Waldo Lake + Rigdon Lakes Hike
  11. Paulina Peak
  12. Smith Rock Misery Ridge
  13. Sparks Lake, Ray Adkeson Memorial Trail

Southern Oregon

  1. Diamond Peak, Marie + Rockpile Lakes
  2. Rogue River Trail
  3. Moon Falls
  4. Crater Lake, Mount Scott
  5. Crater Lake, Garfield Peak
  6. Crater Lake Plaikni Falls Trail
  7. Indigo Lake Trail
  8. Grizzly Peak
  9. Mount McLoughlin
  10. Lower Table Rock

Eastern Oregon

  1. Lookout Mountain + Mother Lode Mine
  2. Strawberry Mountain via Strawberry Lake
  3. Slide Lake via High Lake
  4. Little Strawberry Hike
  5. Pike Creek Mine Hike
  6. Borax Lake + Borax Lake Hot Springs
  7. Aneroid Lake