Are you one of those people who tracks everything no matter the activity? Yeahhhh, I thought so! You track your miles, calories eaten and burned you also track your activity level and heart-rate too I bet.
Well I can almost guarantee that there is one thing you try and track but haven't been able to track with too much certainty or accuracy. Tracking this, no matter the activity or season is rather important so you don't bonk, get dehydrated or worse yet. Water consumption is extremely important no matter if you are a general hiker, weekend warrior, cyclist or training for next big road race.
Finally, a company has developed a water bottle to do just this and with ease. Thermos has developed the Thermos Connected Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid. As hikers and general outdoor nuts we all have tons of water bottles strewn around the kitchen, garage, car and day bags. But, do any of them measure how much water you consume down to the sip? Yeah... I didn't think so. Do any of your water bottles tell you how warm or cold your water is? Ha! Exactly! Just as I thought. Hmm, do any of your water bottles nudge you to drink water? As I suspected, No, No and Heck No.
Well Hiking Forward Nation, let me introduce you to the bottle that can do all of that and more.
Learn More About the Smart Lid:
Learn about the Thermos Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid
By definition a Go Bag is created to care for emergency situations of unknown origin and severity. Consider Super Storm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina as an example of situations anyone of us can find ourselves in with little or no warning. As we have learned from those disasters, people in an urban or city environment are just as at risk as those in rural areas, maybe even more so. We as humans tend to get comfortable with our living conditions and can easily forget how disastrous it can be when infrastructure fails and there is no heat, electricity, or clean water. Our hope is that you take this advice and apply it to your lifestyle and environment as best you can, and hopefully you will never need to utilize the information or equipment. As the famous quote from Ben Franklin reminds us "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail".
We realize it is unrealistic to think a gym bag or backpack would be large enough to accommodate all the needs of every "what if" one can imagine. The subject of this blog is to provide some guidance on the basics of a "Go Bag." From this template, you can modify or enhance based on the environment, threat or situation.
As a backpacker, I go to a pack type configuration as my favored option. Any sturdy day pack of 30-35Liters is sufficient for the basics of a Go Bag with room to spare for your situational needs. By choosing a pack from a reputable company that offers some features like robust suspension, hydration bladder compatibility and multiple pockets you are ahead of the power curve. You just never know when you will have to be foot mobile so the better the load carry capability the more flexibility you have. For that reason, I do not recommend a gym bag or box of some sort (rubber maid, ammo can, etc).
I look at first aid as a three tiered system:
Purification of water when facing the unknown is critical. I become obsessive about water when we hike (everything is linked to when do we get to the next source; caring for my filter like a newborn) and in an extreme situation the last thing you need is coming down with the Mung or other stomach funk that drains you, dehydrates you and eventually can kill you. Another thing I am a believer in is redundancy so mixing into your Go Bag two of your preferred purification methods is recommended. These can be a filter, SteriPen, LifeStraw, purifying tablets, or any of the other purification gadgets currently available. Ensure you have equipment that will sustain you for a significant length of time, easy to use/practical and you have confidence in its function and maintainability. REI carries a wide variety of options, just make sure whichever option(s) you choose, you know how to use them properly.
A hydration bladder is a terrific option for a Go Bag and I recommend you consider adding one. They are virtually weightless when empty and offers hands free hydration options and ease the purification process. Camelbak, Platypus and Osprey have all engineered the bladders to be extremely robust and tough; however, I am a proponent of adding a Nalgene to your bag as well. It can act as a waterproof storage container and will not puncture or crack under even the most extreme abuse. The Nalgene also offers true extreme water collection in the use of solar stills, capturing rain, etc.
Fire, Shelter, Food and Signal:
Like purification, you have a myriad of fire starting options and as mentioned earlier redundancy is value add. Both my partner and I have magnesium fire starting/striker style tools and we both carry dryer lint in a ziploc. This is a terrific mix for starting a fire under almost any condition. Like the medical piece, I do recommend you enhance your soft skills by YouTubing some basic fire starting methods (the primitive ones are good to understand as well) and practice on a day hike or in the back yard when the pressure isn't on. I also carry disposable lighters and waterproof matches.
Before meeting Melanie, I never slept in a tent while backpacking so I base my recommendations for a Go Bag on this experience. A military style poncho (material is bombproof) or a tarp with 550 (para) cord and some lightweight bungees make a terrific lightweight shelter that provides a variety of options. It can also be used as a litter and water collection point. Dental floss with a small sewing need inside the case made it into my Escape and Evasion kit for Afghanistan. It is virtually unbreakable, can be used to sew / repair materials and lash shelters together.
Supplementing shelter with good, multi use garments (waterproof/water resistant and insulating) are critical. I recommend an Arc Teryx Atom jacket or like layer as the one go to. Additional socks from DarnTough or Smart Wool are also a good add and can not only act as their intended function but as gloves, bandages or pot holders. A pair of light trail pants, preferably with DWR finish, should also be considered. As a bald guy, I always go with a wool watch cap. We all know when your feet are cold put on a hat - enough said. Wool and its synthetic brethren over cotton for its wicking and insulating properties is the best material. Wool not only insulates when it's wet and dry, but it also repels odors, so you can wear the same base layers for days without grossing out anyone within 20 feet of you. Remember "cotton kills." Throw in a couple of space blankets as well, they can add extra warmth to a sleeping bag or be used as a shelter or windbreak.
For food, we as outdoors people understand the virtue of high calorie nutrition in small packages, and this holds true for both hiking/camping and emergency situations. Refer to Melanie's extensive discussion on the subject here. Adding fuel and a Jet Boil to the Go Bag to accommodate the dehydrated food recommended is a good idea, but realize that it will be difficult to sustain (fuel) in a protracted situation/incident or extreme environment. Depending on the length of emergency, consider food alternatives and rationing as part of your planning. Adding a titanium/lightweight pot to your bag will assist in mitigating this longer term risk. It can also act as a water collection receptacle and signal device (bang on that joker). Lightweight is key here, remember you may be carrying your stuff for unknown distances over unknown terrain. Ramen noodles are light to carry easy to cook, and high in calories. The tuna salad kits they sell are great too and come with crackers to help give a nice balance of protein and carbs.
Light is a terrific signal device. Travels incredibly far and in modern flashlights comes in bombproof, light packages. I am a huge fan of Surefire, having employed one in combat under a variety of conditions. With an investment of a little over $100 one can have 600 lumens in a package a little bigger than a roll of quarters (buy extra batteries too). A good light like this can also scare animals, act as a striking device and blind a ne'er do well. Additional signal devices in small packages include strobe lights, "Glow" Sticks and a signal mirror (Walmart ones are about $5). With some of the 550 cord you bring, you can tie a "Glow" stick on one end of the string and create what we call a "buzz saw," by swinging it around in a circle over your head. Perfect to signal rescue aircraft or foot mobile search parties. Of course, the ultimate signal device of the modern age, our cell phones will always be with us in a bad situation. Add to it a charger with multiple recharging usage and a solar panel if possible. It is always good to consider that in many situations cell service or even electric may not be an option so cell phones are a terrific tool, but not one to rely on.
And without a phone how will one find their way? Waze isn't working you say? Land navigation is a critical skill to us as backpackers, but we even lean on technology with GPS use. Remember our brains and a Silva Ranger don't use batteries. Have in your Go Bag maps of the area at the least and a good solid compass and like medical skills, you need to seek training on this perishable skill. If you live in an area prone to certain types of natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.), you should plan ahead and choose at least two places you could evacuate to if necessary and know how to get there by car and by foot.
Weapons and Tools:
Now when I thought to write about this subject I wanted to lean heavily on our backpacking roots and avoid the "Doomsday Prepper" feel that many Go Bag articles lean toward. That being said adding a firearm to a Go Bag does provide protection from animals (two legged kind included) and can put meat on the table so it should be considered within the packing list. You can debate on type and caliber all day and like any tool there isn't one "go to" firearm for every situation.
Training in the safe operation of the weapon selected is paramount. After that an understanding of its capability and having it "zeroed" (where you aim is where the bullet will hit at a determined distance) is next. From there I advise you become proficient with your selection with realistic practice. Shoot against a time standard with paper targets to record your shots and progress. Shooting beer bottles in the lot out back isn't going to cut it here.
A good knife is important too. A heavy, fixed blade knife can be used as a striking tool, firestarter and overall cutting tool. It can be used for protection and skinning game as well. I do suggest staying away from the "Rambo" foot long pig sticker. Gerber, K Bar and Benchmade all make variants that balance size, weight and utility. A sharpener is always a good add and is light weight.A folding saw and multi-tool should round out your tools for the Go Bag.
The Go Bag has the equipment you need to stay alive, but if you don't know how to implement that equipment, you are still at risk. The most important thing you have is your training and knowledge. Throughout this blog, I reference a need for training in medical skills, fire starting and firearms training. Sustained training in these type skills can easily be the difference in a bad situation. Overall mindset is important as well. Realize that you are planning for contingencies involving worst case scenarios of various origin. You may be called upon to make choices and do things that are well outside of your comfort zone, even as an avid backpacker and outdoors person, and realize that you can't "set your clock" on the incident that prompted you to go to the "bag." You need to be prepared for a protracted event of unknown origin.
It's tough. Also consider not only your tools and skills, but your role as a leader for your family and loved ones. Do they know the plan? Have you selected and communicated rendezvous points in case of a situation? Think about our days in elementary school during a fire drill. We assemble at the flag pole for a headcount and NO TALKING! Have a plan that is clear, concise and communicated. Collect your party at the rendezvous and then implement your overall plan applying your skills and Go Bag.
If you choose to take this information and build out your Go Bag try and have fun with it. Consider being a minimalist. How much can I get in this bag of value? What training would apply? Get your kids involved and consider having a survival themed camping trip Think about things like The Walking Dead and how they overcome certain challenges and what obvious challenges they ignore (as is the luxury of being a TV show and not real life). Keep it fun and educational for yourself and your loved ones and practice often. You'll definitely be glad you did if disaster ever strikes!
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike & Melanie
Fifteen hikers battled the brisk winds on a bright November morning to take to the woods for some outdoor exploration. Focusing on animals and plants and their preparation for winter, we all had a wonderful time finding evidence of our furry and feathery friends throughout the forest.
Stopping regularly to talk about hibernating, migrating and activating animals, we also learned about trees and their sleeping while dormant. But talking doesn't compare at all to exploring. We explored fallen limbs, trunks, and stumps, searching for signs of animal life.
We stopped at a very special tree, one I have called the reading tree as it is a usual resting spot dedicated to reading a picture book connected to the theme of the hike. We enjoyed Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows before continuing along the leaf-covered trail.
As is a tradition of the Tyke Hikes, our turnaround point is usually some tree. The tree I usually stop was about a 15 foot tall, limbless, barkless tree that stood out right against the edge of the tree surrounded by towering lively tree cousins. As we approached, this tree was not what it used to be as Mother Nature and Father Time combined to down it. While it didn't stand out visually like it once had, the fallen tree made a great lesson and search for bugs, chipmunks, and other exciting finds.
We also took a breather on the way back to view a few nurse stumps and a stump we affectionately called Chipmunk Hotel. While we watched, a chipmunk caught our eye and watched us as we watched him. We saw him test out a few leaves, stuff his cheeks with an acorn, and finally choose a leaf that he puled down into his decomposing stump of a den. Of course, when the kids and I moved on for a closer look, we saw that the stump seemed to have a variety of different openings and cavities, so Chipmunk Hotel was born.
Though the weather was a bit of a dip from the unseasonal, but appreciated 70 degrees earlier in the week, this autumn-like weather provided the feel like winter is certainly on the way. So too are the next set of Tyke Hikes!
Keep Hiking Forward!
We largely live in a world where medical treatment is only a phone call away. But in the wilderness, there's no 911. When you are injured and miles from help, you have only a couple of things that will help you: your brain and a well stocked first aid & emergency kit. My kit has been a work in progress since I began hiking and camping and I finally feel like I have exactly what I need for minor and major medical issues. I actually carry two "emergency" kits, one is my first aid kit, and the other is for more general emergencies like inclement weather, getting stranded, etc. I will talk about both kits in this post.
I was lucky that when I first started hiking, I had some experienced friends to guide me. One of the most important things they taught me was to always carry a first aid kit. Even on the shortest of hikes, it gives peace of mind and can help treat something that can start as an annoyance but turn into something more painful or dangerous if left untreated.
My first kit was an Adventure Medical Kit, and I still use the cool waterproof pouch, though the contents have changed since I got it. I bought the .7 size which states it's good for 1-2 people for 1-4 day trips. It came stocked with the usual: bandages, gauze, a variety of topicals for burns, stings, cuts, etc., over the counter meds, latex gloves, and a tiny roll of duct tape. Right from the start I added a roll of athletic tape, which was a lifesaver when I twisted and fractured my ankle about 3 miles from the car. I was able to stabilize the ankle and walk out on it without doing more damage to it or being in too much pain.
Over the first year or two that I had the kit, I mostly used the bandages, triple antibiotic, and ibuprofen. The gloves came in very handy when I was on a hike with a group of patients from my former job and someone who I was aware was HIV and Hepatitis C positive needed some wound care. I would restock those items as needed, but felt like I was carrying some stuff that I would likely never use and that there were other things I would need that I did not have. Once I began doing more extreme type hikes, longer trips, and frequent rock climbing, I slowly began adding things to my kit so that it would have all the things I might need while still being light and portable.
The things I always have in my kit no matter how far I'm going:
Mike carries a trauma kit when we go on overnight or longer trips much like the one he uses when deployed. Most of this stuff is probably overkill for your average hike or camping trip, but he knows how to use it and it doesn't hurt to bring it. The kit contains the following items (ensure you know how to use them and have proper first aid training):
For those just starting out, I highly recommend getting a lightweight kit like the Adventure Medical Kits and adding things like extra ibuprofen, moleskin, dental floss, athletic tape, and upgraded bandages like Tegaderm or more heavy duty Band-aids.Especially on overnight trips or long mileage hikes, bring more bandaids than you think you need.
You can then create a second bag with your emergency blanket, matches, flashlight or headlamp, water purification tablets, etc. Check your flashlight and headlamp before each trip and bring spare batteries. Mike's headlamp stopped working in Yosemite, we put in fresh batteries and it still didn't work. I always bring a spare light that clips on to a baseball hat which he was able to use to find his way around camp after dark. We sent the headlamp back to Petzl when we got home and they returned it to us saying it works fine. It's been fine ever since, and must have just been a glitch, but that just shows the importance of checking your gear regularly.
What are your must-have items in your first aid kit? Let us know in the comments!
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike and Melanie
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As if you needed proof, studies or statistics to know the benefits of being outside. But this post isn't for you the average outdoor nut, weekend warrior or adventure seeker. It is for the people who used to be like us and lost their way to the couch, those who dream of being like us or those who would rather spend their time in line at Wally World to save 5 bucks.
I, for years have attended my hiking group's Black Friday campout to catch up with friends and spend time outdoors away from the dawn of the holiday hustle and bustle. If you are a parent, I firmly believe you owe your kids a legacy of the outdoors and well-roundedness This is something that cant be found in anything from Best-Buy, Wal-Mart of Target. The joy, experience and knowledge that is harnessed from the outdoors is unparalleled.
REI has earned huge kudos from Hiking Forward for giving their employees from top to bottom the holiday and Black Friday off to enjoy the outdoors. In addition, this move began a national conversation about the post Thanksgiving holiday rush. Unfortunately for those who work in retail that post Thanksgiving rush begins ON Thanksgiving, As well, for those that would rather spend time with their families on the holiday, some see them heading out the door to now get doorbusters before seconds are served at the holiday table.
Being outside makes you feel good. It naturally lowers your blood pressure, stimulates brain function and lowers your stress level, Being outdoors regularly and being active lowers your risk of diabetes by 50%. I can go on and on. But I won't --- statistics are for work and this is my pleasure.
You don't have to climb a mountain on Black Friday. You don't have to pack up the car and drive hours to take the family camping. But take a moment to stop and think about what is important. Think of yourself, your family, your friends the beautiful resources around you and choose to enjoy them together.
Consider Black Friday this year your New Years Resolution to enjoy the outdoors. Go for a walk, a short hike in a nature preserve or local park, Take the kids fishing or on a picnic. Depending on your locale and snow pack go skiing or discover Geocaching (its a free and awesome hobby for families).
But, But..... The shopping? I need to get the deals. My friends there is this thing called Cyber Monday. Call in sick, take a mental health day... and Stay in your jammies, brew a big pot of coffee and shop till you can't shop anymore online. Do this while enjoying the memory of spending quality time outdoors with the ones you love still fresh in your mind,
While your shopping on Monday on-line, why not shop at the places that treat their employees the way you would want to be treated at the holidays. Because isn't that really what the holidays is about? Being kind to one another?
Keep Hiking Forward... ON BLACK FRIDAY!
With just a few hours of hiking time left before the rental car was due back in the Emerald City, we decided to scan the park map and see what aroused our interest. It didn't take long before the trail named the Grove of the Patriarchs stood out as the trail of choice.
Using the clues from the name of this trail to assume this was part of an old growth forest, I instantly wanted to check it out. I love trees, but I really love BIG trees. Oddly enough, as we arrived, one of the first thing that caught my eye was something quite small. I lovingly called it the Smurf Village, as it was a collection of tiny mushrooms.
There were tons of old growth trees all around us. While a variety of species was intermingled throughout the trail, fallen trees along the path made for excellent pictures and observations.
Standing next to these giants really put into perspective the gravity of how important it is to preserve nature all around us. These trees have seen so much and they need to be preserved so that so many more can see them.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Yes...It's that time of year again. Seems like yesterday It was 107 degrees in Hells Canyon and the furthest thing from mine or my cohorts minds was gift giving or the now impending holiday season.
Never Fear! Hiking Forward is here with an awesome list of gear and non-gear items to help you find that perfect gift for that special outdoorsy and overly technical person on your shopping list this season. Don't take the easy road and just get them a gift card to their favorite outdoor retailer! Show them that you did your homework and care enough to make a real honest to goodness purchase.
I guarantee they will love you for going the extra mile. Get it? Hiker Humor!
Okay... Here we go!
Hike & Draw
Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock
Stanley 64oz Growler
Goal Zero Venture 30 Recharger
TurboPup Complete K9 Meal Bars
Teton Sports Talus 2700 Backpack
Being a fan of hiking and the national trails scene, I knew I couldn't skip trekking some of the Pacific Crest Trail as we headed west. Luckily for me, the trail meandered through Mount Rainier National Park, just a scenic hour-long drive from where we stayed.
Back in the Badger State, we are frequent visitors to the Ice Age Trail. With diversity in the landscapes offered and route difficulties, each trip offers up a new adventure. When we visited the Great Smokies, we made sure to hit up the Appalachian Trail. The segment we traveled was pretty rocky and treacherous, but quite memorable. Now that we knew we were within sixty minutes of the Pacific Crest Trail, there was no turning back, though our hike did not go as planned.
Trail signage is always an issue. I must admit that the area of trail near my hometown is well-taken care of by a group of volunteers known as the Blazin' Babes, so I am probably a bit of a signage snob. My wife and I like to compare the signage of different trails and parks we visit, and honestly, it can get frustrating at times. This was definitely one of those times. Luckily, just off the parking area, there was a small sign labeled PCNST, for Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. From my research, we would start on the PCNST, embark off on a scenic loop trail known as Naches Peak, before returning to the PCNST to complete the journey. Through poor signage, inattentiveness, or a combination of both, it didn't take long before we found ourselves a bit lost. Not terribly lost, but lost nonetheless. The once wide trail had become quite narrow and unmarked.
The path was most certainly trailblazed by previous adventurers as it was by no means the easy to moderate trek promised by the trail information sheet a ranger and provided us.
Getting lost can bring out anger, annoyed feelings, and tension. However, the "Positive Peter" nickname once coined to me was able to squeeze some much needed lemonade out of a seemingly sour lemon. I kept a smile on my face, remembering that sometimes getting lost just provides an opportunity to find yourself.
We found a few other things as well, including another pair of mountain goats. We enjoyed watching them from afar and checking their progress throughout our unintended excursion. I also found a stunning yellow flower all alone in a field of rocks and roots.
Eventually, we decided to retrace our steps and see if we could find where we originally aimed to explore. It wasn't long before we found our initial error and regained the path to the promised land, or at least the PCNST.
I am sure glad we did. While the Naches Peak loop was very uphill and our already tiring legs had hiked a bit more than we had planned for, the sea of green and magnificent mountain views eased the aches and pains coursing through my legs.
Eventually, the endless climb came to a flattening out and we were greeted by a number of other hikers and a sign. We had made it back to the Pacific Crest Trail. Though connected to the previous trail, this trail felt different. The air was fresher. The rocks were prettier. And oddly enough, the terrain was ridiculously easier. It felt flat. It felt more open. It felt more comfortable.
We took in the sights, sounds, and smells of the area on this hazy and cloudy afternoon. Though the original route was altered by factors in and out of our control, the end result made all the missteps that much more worth it. I enjoyed my short stay on The PCNST. I'll be back again.
Keep Hiking Forward!
I was in a band in high school. I know, you’re thinking ‘that’s where I’ve heard his name before!’ We were called Sweet Crazy Money and it consisted of myself and three friends. These guys are some of the best men I know now. Two or them were brothers and are still my best friends. But at the time I was mostly friends with the older brother Andy and hung out with Brent the younger brother almost exclusively for sports and band stuff. The friendships with these two would prove invaluable for, among other things, my love of hiking. See when Andy went off to college in Kentucky I hung out with Brent much more. 10 years ago I took my first real hike. It was one of the high points of my manhood.
Brent had read the book Wild At Heart by John Eldredge. He too had realized the woes of Florida life and our lack of elevation. So, he declared that he was going to climb a mountain. Five friends were joining him and I, one who relishes awkwardness because I just never feel it, invited myself to join them. The 6 of us were off into the great unknown, literally, we just drove north.
Now that I have kids an itinerary is crucial. Back then we went until we saw a mountain and a path. All I know of the location of this trip is that we were in Sapphire, North Carolina. And I only know it because of the YouTube video I made. It has it in there (I’ll post the link to the video at the bottom. It was made in 1847 so go easy on me for the editing. I think I was using DOS back then). My father signed me up for Cub Scouts and I had been on fishing trips were I’d traversed a creek or two. But up until that point in my life I had never been on an actual hike in the forest. Here’s how much of an idiot I was: 1) I bought brand new work boots for the hike. Hey, I had no idea what terrain lay outside to borders of the Sunshine State. Could be Georgia, could be Mordor. 2) For food I packed 5 raw potatoes (I’m Irish. Sue me.) and 5 cans of soup. In other words, I packed 45 pounds of food. Did I mention I didn’t bring foil to cook to potatoes in or a spoon to eat the soup with? No? Well, I didn’t bring foil to cook to potatoes in or a spoon to eat the soup with. The hike was a hilarious 5 miles. I say hilarious because at one point I thought we had gone two miles and looked over my shoulder to still see our car roughly a few hundred yards away.
The trip itself and the company were spectacular. Just some dudes who went from Boys to Men (That’s what we should have named the band! Man we blew it. No wonder we came to an end of the road). We had to cross two suspension bridges very Indiana Jones style. One morning I spotted an otter living it up in the mist of the river. I made friendships for a lifetime that I truly felt were cemented on that trip. I lived with two of the dudes in college. I went to 3 of their weddings and even DJed one. Mind you I’m not a real DJ, but I can make some magic on the ones and twos. Two of them live in different states but when they come in town I give a free basketball clinic just to remind them who the boss is.
Down side, Brent got an amoeba in his cornea that he found a few weeks later and almost lost his eye…what a wuss right?! On the way out I actually had to walk backwards because of the blisters that had formed on my heels courtesy of those sweet new Walmart boots. 0 star review by the way. We stayed 2 nights and when I left my body was a broken vessel of pain. The only cure was Burger King and big ups to the King for setting me straight. When I got home I made this video to solidify the memory. I watch it a few times a year. Honestly, it’s the reason I’m writing for this blog. It’s the reason I find solace on the trail. It’s the reason I look forward to the open air. Eventually, it will be the reason my boys and I log hours, see mountains, and eat trout we caught in a river we cook on a fire we made.
Keep Hiking Forward!
The road to Mount Rainier provided many spectacular views. The snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier reminded visitors of the chilly temperatures and snow-packed glaciers that go along with being in the high elevation. Even on a relatively pleasant autumn day, climbing up the side of a mountain increased the heart rate, but because of the physical exertion and the breathtaking beauty.
Winter is coming. The frosty mornings and constant haze were sure signs. So too were the actual signs reminding park visitors that tire chains were required once the calendar hit November 1st. Though we arrived before this time, we noticed that the park was gearing up as many roads and are restaurants and lodging options were closed for the season. The restaurant and lodging option known as Paradise Inn was already closed, but the interconnected trails adjacent to it were wide open. It was time to hike!
Before we even hit the trailhead, we saw a number of beautiful birds, many of which didn't stay long enough to identify or photograph. We did get quite close to a grouse of some kind and snapped a Steller's Jay searching for a snack.
The trail system around Paradise Inn was labyrinth-like. With many trails combining at times, intersections rampant throughout, and crisscrossing a regularity, these trails all did have a few things in common. They were paved and they were a slow, uphill battle. What goes up must come down, but there's nothing like taking winding paths to agonizingly ascend a mountain. Though you're continually climbing, you rarely seem to get any higher.
Along the way, we encountered a variety of fellow hikers. Solo hikers. Young couples. Apparent campers. Families. The mountains bring everyone out. One gentlemen from Utah who we encountered was very excited to share his knowledge of the geology of the area and was kind enough to point our Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens in the distance.
A John Muir quote at the start and eventual finish of our adventure said it all. This is "the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." Now I by no means have the same bank of experiences as Mr. Muir had, but in this case, I'll take his word for it. It was a long day of hiking and while it tired the body, it rejuvenated the soul.
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