My fears came true. The creative part of my brain has turned to mush. In an effort to revitalize my inspiration, Aspen and I took to the road. The writer’s block was not the only problem; I was also working through the geotagging dilemma and how social media is threatening our favorite places. My Instagram account locations have become more generalized, but I’m still figuring out how to handle trip reports here on Trails’ Guide.
During the road trip I listened to hours of podcasts, including one on writer’s block, which pretty much said it’s not a thing. You can’t cure writers block with time, only by pushing through. So here I am, pushing through in hopes that along the way I’ll figure out the balance of sharing dog-friendly adventures and not loving wilderness to death. I guess that’s the first lesson from this road trip – write through writer’s block. With more than 2,184 miles of asphalt, I was bound to learn a few things along the way.
Our journey actually began with three ladies, Hoot joined us for the long drive to Boise and our Idaho adventures. We got our passports stamped along the Boise Ale Trail then finalized our backpacking plans over a home-cooked meal. The next morning we packed while Squirrel’s toddler helped by relocating our gear around the house if we didn’t get it into our packs fast enough. The last time Squirrel and I packed for a backpacking trip was our final section of the John Muir Trail. Life looked a little different for both of us, but we were excited to shoulder our packs again and head into the wilderness. The quick overnight into the Sawtooth Wilderness ended up being the highlight of our trip. Turns out adventuring is more fun with friends.
I can share photos from solo hikes, but no one is there to build memories with. Besides Aspen of course, but she isn’t big on reminiscing. If it had just been me and her in the Sawtooth Mountains I would have hid in the tent with Aspen as soon as the mosquitoes came out instead of donning my bug net, enjoying tea, and coming up with possible meanings of S.W.A.T. team as we smacked mosquitoes that landed on each other.
After dropping Hoot off at the airport and hugging Squirrel farewell, Aspen and I headed west to Oregon. We definitely missed the S.W.A.T. team at our next stop. While in Eagle Cap Wilderness, Aspen was mauled by biting flies. I was so horrified by the copious amount of bites on her little belly that I wanted to pack everything up and hike out immediately. Instead, I used it as motivation to rise with the sun to get moving before the bugs started their day. During our seven-mile hike out, in the first five miles we saw two people stirring in their camp – the early bird gets the trail to herself!
Our next state was Washington, a new one for Aspen. We were all set to hike to Tatoosh Lake after stopping at the local gear shop for a map. I mentioned my plan to the proprietor and he said that hike would be too hot and exposed, then suggested Glacier Lake because the hike was mainly shaded, but the lake was similarly surrounded by rock. Yes the hike was shaded, but by rock he must have meant rock-ground-so-fine-it-was-now-dirt. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a high elevation snob. Trees are great, but I want a sweeping view. I want alpine lakes surrounded by solid rock. While this hike was perfectly fine, it was not what I drive more than 1,000 miles for. I’ve learned the benefits of deviating from itineraries, but there are advantages to researching pre-trip and taking advice with a grain of salt.
Our next Washington hike delivered on my Evergreen State expectations. The Goat Lake Loop was not only naturally drop dead gorgeous, but also reminded me that hikers are the best humans. Aspen and I got another early start for this lengthy hike and had already done 5.4 miles to reach the trail junction above Jordan Basin while backpackers were just starting to shuffle around their campsites. The view from Hawkeye Point was ridiculous with volcanic peaks lining up. I missed my two-legged companions and took lots of pictures to share when there were moments that made me think of them. Wildflowers bloomed on mountain-sides. Aspen romped in the snow with a new doggo friend. We were making good time to get on the road south and find more adventures. It was an absolutely fantastic hike and I was having such a good time that I started jogging the downhill sections of the trail with Aspen. When I stopped so Aspen could drink out of a stream and gave her a treat from my pocket, I realized, with a sinking feeling, that both of my pockets were empty. My phone had jumped out of my pocket at some point over the last mile, mile and a half…
In a panic, I dropped my pack and ran back up the trail frantically searching. I kept waiting for it to come into sight and have relief wash over me. No such luck… That’s when I realized not only was I missing my phone, I also dumped my pack on the side of the trail with my car keys and wallet… I proceeded to rush back down the trail trying to search the now obnoxious foliage surrounding the path while fighting back tears. The once almost empty trail was now filled with massive groups that wanted to know why I was crawling around in the bushes and relieved to know the owner of the abandoned pack was accounted for. We made it back to my pack to find all of the contents still accounted for and hiked back to the trailhead. I left a note on the information board, crossed my fingers, and drove south to Bend, Oregon. Once in Bend, I activated find my phone and saw that my phone was in Tacoma, Washington. Queue the flood of relief! A very nice father and son found my phone and mailed it back to me the day we were able to make contact. A lot of non-hikers that heard my story were shocked I got my phone back, but I had faith that if a hiker found it on the trail, they would get it back to me because hikers are the best.
Throughout our trip I realized how much the outdoor community is in need of Leave No Trace education. No where was this more apparent than on our hike to the unnamed lake in the Broken Top crater in Oregon. The trail itself wasn’t overrun with hikers, because they had already set up the new lake-side housing development. There was even a tent set up so close to the lake they could sit in their tent and put their feet in the water. I also saw this at Alice Lake in Idaho… There are many magical numbers out there, but for Leave No Trace, that number is 200 feet or 70 big steps. That’s how far away from water we should camp. Sure, we could get into the argument of using an established site versus creating a new one the appropriate distance away. But literally lake-side camping is too far, I mean too close!
Our main topic of conversation as we hiked up the ridge above the lake was, where do all of these people go to the bathroom‽ Then we spotted someone hiking up the scree slope behind the housing development. Bingo. We actually ran into a ranger on the way back to the trailhead and talked with her about the overpopulation issue. She shared that the moraine was a field of poop and toilet paper. They have to gather folks from the Forest Service to clean the area the best they can. Then the next week, the poop starts to clog the moraine again. Folks, if you’re capable of venturing into the outdoors, you’re capable enough to clean up after yourself and keep our public lands beautiful. But since the majority of visitors can’t seem to take on that task, she’s spearheading regulations to help keep Three Sisters Wilderness clean. A permit system may be a reality check for folks outside of California, but if it prevents a poop moraine, a permit system just might be what Mother Nature ordered.
One last Leave No Trace note. To the woman who spit her toothpaste directly into Alice Lake – be better! That’s one of those 200 feet situations. Personally, I use very little toothpaste and just down the minty foam. That technique isn’t for everyone, you can also give the Eco-Spray a try.
Never stop learning,
Trails and Aspen