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Category: Explorations

Campervan Trial

Campervan Trial

What to do…
I was looking for some adventuring options – boating, ferry rides, cruising, car camping – and such, when I settled on RV-ing. At least it’s something that can be tried out at relatively low cost and risk. There are several companies that rent RV’s for people that don’t use them full time, like an airbnb. I wasn’t going for some huge land-yacht, just something big enough for one or two people, and agile enough to tackle the camp and logging roads I like to explore.

Fortunately, there is a category of RVs, or camper vans, called “Class B” which falls into these parameters. These are usually high-roofed commercial vans, visualize the typical Amazon or FedEx delivery vehicles, that have been converted into an RV. A common chassis is the Mercedes Sprinter with 4-wheel drive. Dodge, Ford and Nissan make vehicles that are almost indistinguishable from the Sprinter. As far as I can tell the Sprinter is the only 4×4. There are many variations in outfitting and the Revel and Storyteller are widely described and reviewed. Google either of these and you’ll see many videos and blogs describing them. I checked out and found a Storyteller near me.

The sign-up and reservation process was easy. I signed up for 3 and a half days so I could pick up in the morning and return in the evening. Once I paid, I was put in contact with the owner. My reservation was a few weeks out and I was able to get a preview look at it so I could prepare as much as possible.

On the road…
I picked up the the 2023 Storyteller Mode Classic 4×4 in Wednesday morning (23.01.25), and took it home to load up my gear. There was a bin of clothing, a bin with food, coffee maker, and “stuff”, my “I hope I never have to use this” duffel, a portable toilet (much more about this later), my “office” backpack, my hiking backpack, and some bedding. I ran a few errands with the van and found that gear was sliding around all over the place due to the slick plastic floor and lack of tiedowns. Fortunately, I prepared for this. The reviews told me the Storyteller had L-tracks on the floor and I ordered some clips ahead of time. I attached these, prepped some ropes, and was able to firmly fasten everything. By about 13:00 I was on the road – a bit later than I wanted. Days are still short in January and I wanted to get to Quinalt Lake before dark. I expected the drive to take about 4 hours.

After a stop for coffee in Longview, WA, I got on the highway again and discovered I was in what is apparently a known condition called “limp mode” (Google it), however there were no dashboard warning lights. Aaaarghhh!!! Up to this point, the Sprinter had been behaving like a large, powerful sedan. It accelerated easily onto the highway, kept speed on hills, and, generally, was a joy to drive. I called the owner, who had no resolution but would do some research.

After reviewing the dash pictures I took for the owner, I noticed that there was a yellow engine check light on. Very subtle, when compared to the boldly displayed text message on the screen that told me to add DEF fluid. The check engine light can be caused by many things, all boiling down to “send in for maintenance”, which wasn’t really an option. Owner said I should carry on.

It didn’t disable me but the van now had all the acceleration of a 70’s VW bus loaded with Boy Scouts and their camping gear. Been there, done that! At this rate, I wasn’t going to make it to my preferred first stop on the north shore of Quinalt Lake – I didn’t want to navigate the forest roads and try to find a campsite in the dark. I checked the iOverlander app and found a spot right off the highway just before Quinalt Lake.

I parked on a spot about 100 yards off the highway on NF-2258, or Quinalt Ridge Road. I backed into a spot just as it got completely dark, and settled in for the night. I still had cell service so I was able to call home and do a little (fruitless) research into “limp mode”. During the night I could still hear the highway. The gravel road announced any passing cars, of which there were only a few. The only noteworthy incident was around 5:00 when a car stopped just past my spot on the road. The driver couldn’t avoid seeing my bright white van. He got out, rummaged about in the back of his station wagon and fed his dog. He did have a pretty big flashlight that he didn’t shine directly at me, but it did light up the forest. He also entertained me with some rock music. Eventually he packed up and went on his way toward the highway. Perhaps a “resident” from further up the road, trying to discourage any new neighbors? Back to sleep.

Day 2…
Got up around 7:30, had breakfast, took some pictures, and headed out to Quinalt Lake. Still in “limp mode”. Drove a ways up South Shore Road and then went to North Shore Road. Drove all the way out to North Fork Ranger Station. See pictures. Partly cloudy and some sun all morning, making for some nice pictures. Retraced a lot of where I was in 2020. No time for serious hiking. The fern field was totally brown – sad. You can compare pictures to the ones I took in 2020. I checked out the Quinalt Inn, and the person there said it had been a really hot summer.

Headed to Forks after lunch, started raining and drizzling. Picked up a green salad and a fruit salad at the market, reset power, and fueled up. Still in “limp mode”. Headed to Ho Campground and settled in to overnight there. No cell service but could text home via satellite link.

Day 3…
A beautiful rain forest winter morning! Everything was wet and sparkly, the sky was partly cloudy and the low morning sun was creating some nice effects. There was even a rainbow over the van! I had breakfast, headed to the parking lot and booted up for some hiking. I took the Hall of Mosses trail and the sun shining through the moss-covered leaf-less trees created some awesome and creepy pictures. The mile or so was as much as my hip and knee could take so got back on the road again.

Going south on 101 I stopped at some of the beaches and roadside views. Checked out campgrounds around Quinalt (all closed) and headed for a boondock just north of Neilton on NF-2303. I selected a spot on a power-line access road. This was a bit more open and sky was still only partly cloudy. Maybe see some stars?

Cell service allowed me to call home. I did a little walking about, took pictures, had dinner. I also tried out the Halo shower. Note – turn on the vent. And, when using the vent open one of the windows a little. The van is sealed pretty tight and the vent labored without some inflow. Shower worked OK, the instant heater had a lot of trouble keeping up with the flow. Way better than not having one, though. Some reading and then lights out. Highway was close enough that I could hear trucks. It did cloud over and drizzle, so no stars 🙁

Day 4…
Got up around 6:45, was still dark but I wanted to be ready to go when it was light enough to see. Usual cereal with blueberries and almond milk, and coffee. Cleaned up as much as possible and drove out at 7:45. Headed home. The Sprinter briefly got out of limp mode and then resumed after a stop. Totally weird because there was no indicator, and the vehicle had less than 6000 miles on it.

Got home, unloaded gear, cleaned, rinsed off mud, and returned to owner at ~ 13:00.

I really look forward to doing this again – once the “limp mode” issue is settled. A key advantage of camping close to hiking and scenic sites is being there early. If I was staying at the motel in Forks, as I have in the past, I’d have to get up, check out, and drive to my destination. It’s nice already being there at sunrise 🙂

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. These were taken with a Samsung Galaxy S21 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and may take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.


  • 2023 Storyteller Mode Classic 4×4 (2022 Sprinter chassis)
  • Galaxy S21 phone
  • Garmin inReach Explorer+ for satellite texting
  • Thetford Porta Potti 565
  • L-track clips for tie-downs:

Injuries: None. Haven’t been hiking or walking a lot lately so hip and knees easily tired.

Costs: The 3 1/2 day rental was $1057.90. This included 125 miles a day. Additional mileage was $0.40 per mile with tax. The vehicle got 13 miles per gallon, and at about $5.20 per gallon of diesel, that added another $0.40 per mile. Add in the periodic DEF refills and operating cost approaches a dollar per mile, not counting maintenance. Something to bear in mind for longer trips, or purchase considerations. My total driving distance was 642 miles. Would have been more with more daylight and less limping.

Comments, observations…

The Storyteller is a stock item so it makes some compromises. Clearly, if I was building my own I would do it a little differently.

  • A curtain behind the front seats would provide privacy for eating and toilet use while in areas with other people around, without need for installing all the window shields.
  • The second row seat is too wide. I kept bumping into it and it really cramped the cabins space while trying to use the galley.
  • A longer counter would be nice, even if it extended under the bed area. I didn’t use the induction plate, but when I set it out as a trial it used up most of the available space.
  • Even with the beds folded up, I had a hard time visualizing suiting up for snowshoeing or skiing for just one person, much less two. Not sure how I would fix this but needs to be considered for future trips, or a custom design. I saw some custom designs that eliminated the “lounge” area and had a bench seat and table at the back, thereby opening the central area.
  • The indicator LEDs are a nuisance at night. The USB outlet had a bright blue LED that lit up the cabin. A towel over it fixed that. Since I was using the inverter for the electric blanket, the microwave was on and it’s timer light added to the night lights. A piece of cardboard fixed that. Bring black vinyl tape next time.
  • Being able to sit or stand on the roof is fun. Also a great platform for taking pictures.


The toilet…
Having access to a toilet, in comfort, is a significant modern convenience. As one ages and the personal plumbing becomes less reliable, this is even more noticeable. In the course of reviewing the Class B RVs in general, and reading reviews of the Storyteller in particular, there was information about the toilet options that are available. Discussions covered built-ins with black water tanks, cassette systems, and totally portable options. The Storyteller comes with a portable. These are essentially two-part systems consisting of a top seat with a reservoir for the flush fluid, and a bottom reservoir that is the holding tank. After reading Joe’s review of the Thetford Porta Potti 565 on, I decided to get that, since the Storyteller came with a smaller one.

The Thetford 565, as compared to others, is almost normal toilet height, and the seat and opening are almost normal toilet size. Other models are lower and have small openings, which can make wiping and peeing while sitting uncomfortable.

As a test, I used the Thetford exclusively for both #1 and #2 at home for two weeks. One week I tried the vinegar option recommended by Joe, and for one week I tried a chemical option. Vinegar works fine and smells less, so I stayed with that for the trip.

  • Use septic tank friendly toilet paper. Mine was bamboo-based.
  • Guys – sit for #1!
  • In addition to the electric flush, I also used a spray cleaner to rinse the bowl after each use. I would also spray the bowl before a #2 to reduce sticking and streaks. Use the electric flush with each wipe to encourage the TP to fall into the hole.
  • Spray and wipe bowl to be sure it’s clean before closing the seal.

I set the toilet into the shower well on the Storyteller. The extra hoses and cleaners nestled around it to hold it in place. The lid to the well stayed open. (Sorry, no picture – one of many I forgot to take.) It worked well. There was no smell in the sealed van. Everything was closed up most of the time due to the weather. It was nice to have it available during the night and first thing in the morning.

I don’t mind having the spare toilet. It can be handy as a bedside toilet during illness, can be used during emergencies, and, of course, will be used for future camping trips. Even if I decide to go car tent-camping, it might be nice to have.

Happy wandering 🙂

Quinalt Lake

Quinalt Lake

After being cooped up for way too long, we, Orion and I, decided to head out. Birthday is coming up on Sunday, but we thought better to go out during the week. We looked at the map and decided that Lake Quinalt, in the southwest corner of Olympic National Park would be a good target.

Headed out on I-5 at 7am until we hit Tumwater. I had intended to turn west earlier but missed some turnoffs. Anyway, west to Aberdeen and then north on US-101 to Quinalt. Took a little over 4 hours. On the way back we took 101 south until we met the Columbia River and then hugged the north shore, back to I-5 at Longview, and then back home. Got back 10:30pm. Love these long summer days! When I left Lake Quinalt I considered going on to Hoh rainforest, only 50 miles away. For another day though. Temps for most of the drive up were in the 60’s and 70’s with some drizzle as I dodged around mountain ranges. Once I got into the valley around the lake temps were in the 80’s and it was pretty dry overall. I want to come back when it’s wetter, and more rain-foresty. At least I have a good idea of what it takes to get here.

Quinalt Lake has some resort cabins and inns, nothing fancy. Spotty cell service. Best bring your own food if you want to eat healthy. The lake is nice, clear, and swimmable. There are South and North Shore Roads along the shore. They meet further up the Quinalt river, which feeds the lake. The north road is less populated and has hiking trails off it. Aside from serendipitous walks along logging trails, lake parks, and forest meadows, I only took one “official” hike. That was to Lake Irely, about 2.2 miles round trip. It’s a bog lake at the upper end of the glacier-carved valley, which has Lake Quinalt at the lower end.

Along the North Shore Road, just before it splits at the bridge to the South Shore Road, there were several fields of huge ferns, out in the open, unshaded by trees. This section was significant enough that the road was paved, instead of gravel.

Traveled light on my hikes, even though the car was loaded with gear. A collapsible canoe would have been nice for paddling on the lake. Could have taken the kayak, just don’t like to take long trips with it. And, it covers up the sunroof 🙂 Used the Garmin InReach to keep SJ updated via satellite texting.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. These were taken with a Nikon D5300 and a OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in. The HDR on the One Plus works well – it’s crazy how some of my phone pics come out better than the Nikon’s.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

On the first Sunday in March, Orion and I ignored all chores, to-do lists, and all other clamorings for attention, and headed out for a drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Starting at the Stark Street bridge, we headed east through some small towns.

Chanticleer Point was our first stop. This provided a nice view eastward along the Columbia River, with snow-topped mountains in the distance. We also got a view of Vista House, a popular site in the gorge. There was a stiff wind and temperature was right at freezing.

I got out at Vista House to take a few pictures and had to lean into the wind to avoid being toppled. My face become numb quite quickly.

Then on to Latourell Falls. This is a pair of falls, with the lower one visible from the parking area. The upper falls are about a mile in. At this time of year there are lots of icicles around the falls. There was plenty of ice wherever the spray from the falls hit the trail. A trekking pole would have come in handy, but since it was only a short walk, I left them in the car. Crampons would have been better. I’ll be better prepared next time.

I wandered on to Bridal Veil Park which also has some nice views. I didn’t go to the falls, saving that for next time.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

Salmon River Wanderings

Salmon River Wanderings

Sometimes I just wander about without any specific destination. I wanted to explore around the Salmon Butte trailhead and today I did that. I scheduled this outing and it was going to happen, rain or shine. They day turned out to be somewhere in between, somewhat misty, and more water dripping off trees than from the sky. Temperature was in the 40’s, a bit warmer than my previous visit. All the fancy ice crystals were gone. I did bring my new gloves and they kept my hands nice and toasty. I didn’t really need them and wore the glove liners most of the time.

First I headed up the South Fork of the Salmon River, to see how far I could go. Close to the bridge there is a huge boulder that has several large trees growing on it. The path goes through large ferns and moss-covered trees. The path runs out pretty quickly where a cliff face comes all the way to the river.

Next I followed the South Fork downstream to see where it meets the main course. Water temperature is a chilly 42 F. Again, lots of ferns and moss-covered trees. I also found some interesting fungi. I wonder, does the mycelium (root network) of the fungi on the trees go to the ground and interconnect?

After running out of exploring options along the river, I followed the old roadway to where the trail branches off. I detoured onto the trail as far as the two camp sites. The first one had a trail leading away from it. This is also an old road, heavily overgrown, and you can still make out the center ridge. I followed only a little way. I suspect the camp sites were gravel depots. Orion and I have come across other large open spots, with gravel under the moss and grass, along other logging roads.

I continued on the roadway past the trail turnoff. It was filled with saplings. In the spring and summer it will be difficult to go along here because you won’t be able to see where you’re going. A few people have come this way since fall as evidenced by flattened leaves and ferns. The first portion is a thick layer of packed gravel, crossed by streams. After a while the gravel runs out and the road is just a graded way through the forest. Orion and I have passed along similar tracks elsewhere.

I passed two hikers with packs and trekking poles striding along. I also passed two runners puffing up hill at a good pace. Some postings on AllTrails claim to make the round trip to the top in a bit over three hours!

I sometimes just stand, or sit, by the trail, just to be there. In the distance is the tumbling of a large river. Closer by is the burbling of a stream crossing the path. One ear hears the uphill portion as the water comes toward me, and the other ear hears the downhill portion that’s making its way to join the larger roar. Sometimes  a bird will chirp. The wind tickles the tree tops, and tufts of mist roost among the branches. Nice!

I do need to come back with a tripod. Some of these pictures would make nice murals or screen savers. Fortunately the best ones are close to the parking area.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

Devil’s Peak Lookout

Devil’s Peak Lookout

On Thursday, August 23, 2018 I went exploring to see how close I could drive to Kinzel Lake. Looking at the map, the forest roads should get me very close. Also, after reviewing the maps and trails around my last hike along the Salmon River, I discovered a lookout tower on Devil’s Peak, just above Kinzel Lake. While I did not expect to actually make it to the lookout, my plan was to see how far I could get.

The trip map is shown below. As usual, I drove out US Highway 26 toward Mt Hood. Just beyond Government Camp is a turnoff to Still Creek Campground, which I had explored in May. The orange line follows the road I took from the highway, through the campground to Forest Road 2613. This starts out as a rough gravel road and gets progressively worse. It is passable, slowly and carefully, all the way to the end where the Hunchback Trail starts. My hikes are along the green and blue lines. The purple line heading north-west is the Cool Creek Trail #794. It’s another way to get to the lookout. (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

I arrived at Still Creek Campground at 10:17. Driving through the campground I realized this would be a nice place to practice some overnights and try out different tent setups. The sites are a bit more spread out than the ones at Oxbow.

There are some roads that lead out from the south end of the campground and eventually I arrived at the beginning of Forest Road 2613. The road is rough with huge potholes, ridges, and random rocks. I didn’t scrape bottom once, “Yeah Orion.” 8.9 miles and one and one-half hour later I arrived at the end. I had not expected to be able to get all the way to the end of the road, but now that I was here I had to climb up to the lookout tower! It should be less than 2 miles and just 500 or 600 feet up. I shrugged into my pack, tightened my shoelaces, locked the car, and headed out.

The trail is Hunchback Trail and follows the ridge, all the way to the Zig Zag ranger station 10 miles away. Much of the way the ground falls away to both sides and you get nice views in both directions. Unfortunately there is still a lot of smoke in the air from forest fires in California and eastern Oregon, which interferes with the view. After 1 mile there is the junction with Cool Creek Trail which goes down to Still Creek Road 3.5 miles away, all downhill. Another half mile along and I’m at the lookout! See the pictures!

The lookout tower is not very high off the ground, but does give a good view of the surroundings. There are heavy shutters all around that protect the plexiglass windows. There are assorted boards available to prop up the shutters. Watch out for protruding nails! The interior is quite spacious with tables, chairs, cots and a cast iron stove. There are plenty of tools and some supplies, including several canisters of isobutane fuel. A file case contains log books full of visitor comments and stories. Some entries limit themselves to name and date while others include some excellent drawings. The current notebook was full and the latest entries were made on the back of a map page. Someone had already been there earlier in the day. I signed in as well.

While I was there three other hikers and a dog showed up, all (except for the dog) apparently older than I. They had come up the Cool Creek Trail, a bit over 3 miles one-way, 3000 feet up! The rating is “Most Difficult.” I was chatting with one of the hikers and he said he was celebrating his 70th birthday that day. None of them looked particularly exhausted. It looks like a lot more practice on Gresham Butte with a full pack is in order.

I prepared lunch from a double serving of Good-To-Go Thai Curry. It says to let it steep 20 minutes but 30 minutes or even longer is better. It is really good and has lots of veggies. No pieces of TVP (textured vegetable protein). This was too much to eat, I could only eat 2/3 of it. A single serve packet with some extras would be better, but they cost more per serving – the double serving costs $12 and the single serving packet costs $10. I do love the packaging – just pour hot water into the pouches, let them sit and then eat from the pouch. Zip the empty pouch and pack it out. No pot or dishes to clean. All I need is a pot for boiling water for the meal and drink. While I waited for lunch to rehydrate I took some more pictures and tossed out some trail mix to a chipmunk that showed up. It was quite happy to join me for lunch.

The adventure was taking longer than I expected and it was time to go. I closed the shutters, made a note of supplies I should bring next time (a weather-proof journal, toilet paper) and headed back. The return to the car was pretty quick since it was mostly downhill.

Once I got back to the car, I decided to check out Kinzel Lake. According to the map it should be just a short distance away. I walked down the trail looking for the lake or a turn-off to it. After a while I checked my GPS and discovered I had gone past the lake. The map showed a trail to the lake campground but I couldn’t find it. Too tired to explore further, I returned to the car to start the drive home. I’ll find it another time. Maybe the staff at the ranger station has some information for finding it.

In summary…
No injuries – I only hiked 4 miles.
Yellow jackets were out. There were several about while I was eating. I had to be careful they didn’t crawl through gaps in my clothing and get trapped. Sometimes I had to blow them off my spoon to avoid eating one.
I had cell reception all along the trail, probably because it was on a ridge. Good, because I could easily keep SJ up to date on my status. Bad, because it doesn’t count as being in the wilderness if I have bars on the phone.

I definitely have to come back to the lookout. Am I ready to tackle Cool Creek Trail?

A Foray into Gifford Pinchot National Forest

A Foray into Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Just north of the Columbia River, along the Cascades, is the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I finally had a chance to check it out as a possible adventuring area. According to the maps I have, I should have been able to go to Carson and then follow some forest routes for a ways and then follow the Lewis River west and then return home. Things turned out a little differently, and more fun.

Here is the track I followed: (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate the pictures.

From Gresham it took about an hour to get to Cascade Locks where you can cross the Columbia via the Bridge of the Gods. After some detours and short side explorations I ended up in Carson ( 1 ) about a half hour later. I gassed up at the single gas station and followed Wind River Road looking for Panther Creek Road. I found Bear Creek Road and took the next one ( 2 ), which was unmarked. It turned out to be the one I wanted.

Panther Creek Campground ( 3 ) has quite a few sites, not too crowded together. Some were reserved, and there were still a few open sites, despite the Memorial Day weekend. There is access to Panther Creek.

The road is nice and smoothly paved, 1 1/2 lanes wide. Real fun to drive on. Eventually I got to the intersection with 60 ( 4 ) and encountered a sign that indicated there might be a change in plans. The pavement soon ended and dust swirled on the gravel road. That wasn’t too bad until oncoming traffic zoomed by. Since I had the windows and roof open, there was soon dust everywhere. Falls Creek Horse Camp ( 5 ) would be a nice place to camp, and there are several trails around there.

An open spot along the road provided a nice view of Mt St Helens above the trees. I convinced one of the local bears to take a picture of me and Orion.

We got to what the sign warned about: a culvert was plugged and a small creek washed over the road ( 6 ). The original plan was to follow forest roads to ( 6a ), or even further north along the Lewis River and then head west. Large 4WD vehicles made it over fine, but without tools to level things out a little, I didn’t want to risk getting stuck, or worse, damaged. I don’t think breakdowns out here are covered by the roadside assistance coverage. And how would I contact them anyway? So, I backtrack to the intersection with 60 and head west. Poor Orion wanted so badly to cross the stream, and after watching the 4WD truck go through he had a serious case of big tire envy!

Along the way there was an inviting turn-off. After following some hillside-hugging and overgrown roads we ended up in a large meadow ( 7 ). Careful examination revealed that the flat area is actually a huge flattened pile of gravel. This might have been a gravel depot for preparing the forest roads. In the course of trying to find a route through the forest, I found several similar, smaller sites which might have been work and storage areas for road crews. All that was left was piles of gravel, trash, and evidence of much target practice.

This was a good place to have lunch and I convinced another bear to take our pictures. Unfortunately the bears are very bashful and wouldn’t let me take their picture. We had lunch and tea and said our good byes. A nice thing about this place: it was very quiet! Some wind, some birds and a few insects was all I could hear. What a place to have a cabin, and there was already an outhouse.

I was trying to find a route back to Wind River Road without having to return to 60, but failed. I got over a berm and moved a few (small) fallen trees but eventually the prepared road ran out. Again we backtracked, and continued on 60. The gravel road gave way to smooth pavement that wound through trees and we slalomed joyously along the traffic-free path until we rejoined Wind River Road ( 8 ).

It was a scenic drive to, and along, the Lewis River. McClellan Viewpoint ( 9 ) provided a spectacular panoramic view of Mt St Helens. The lakes looked pretty but trees blocked most of the view. It was getting late so I didn’t stop at any of the parks. The last picture was taken at ( 10 ).

Overall, the wilderness I passed through was rather typical, dry forest. It was pretty, but not really what I was looking for. At least I now know what it is, and may come back for some more exploring, particularly around Mt St Helens, but I think I need to aim west if I want to find rain-forest.

Equipment I need for Orion so we can go more places (because I can’t get him the big tires he wants):

  • Large folding bow saw
  • Collapsible but sturdy pick/shovel
  • Long tow strap, to reach to the nearest tree
  • Manual winch
  • Blocks to put under scissor jack, maybe pieces of 2×8 or 4×4
  • Wheel chocks
Going Around Mt Hood

Going Around Mt Hood

Some projects are finished and it’s time to go adventuring again!

The plan is to head down US Highway 26 toward Y’East (Mt Hood) and check out the trail head for an overnight hike I’m planning in mid-June. After that, just follow my hiking muse, or wherever Orion (my car) steers me. Ultimately, here is the track I followed: (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate the pictures.

There are 5 major areas I explored. These are noted with the yellow numbers on the topographic map.

The drive from the house to Salmon River Road takes about 1 hour (Marker 1). Then it takes another 20 minutes or so to get to the trail head. I checked out the beginning of trail 793A, which starts opposite the sign to the Green Canyons campground. It has a (very) brief level section and them goes up, and up, and up. I went only 3/4 mile and climbed over 500 feet. Ultimately the climb is about 3000 feet! With an overnight pack that will be fun. After my quick mile and a half round trip, I went to the absolute end of Salmon River Road, which ends at the trailhead to Salmon Butte. That hike is 8 miles, round trip, and also climbs about 3000 feet. The main parking lot for the Salmon River trail was overflowing and there were plenty of cars here as well.

I wanted to stop at the ranger station at Zig Zag, but it was closed, so I continued along 26 and stopped at Mirror Lake (Marker 2). This can only be accessed from the uphill, or eastbound side of the highway. According to the signs, this is one of the most popular places to visit around Y’East. It is about 1 1/2 miles each way, with gentle switchbacks. You can see more comments in the picture descriptions. There was a lot of two- and four-legged traffic.

At Marker 3 I checked out Still Creek Campground. About half way around the campsites I noticed a dirt road and Orion pulled the wheel in that direction. This went through a strange collection of what looked like unofficial campsites that seem to be occupied for long durations. Eventually I found a sign leading me to Trillium Lake which was on my list of places to check out. My NW Forest Pass saved me the $5 entrance fee. It was a pretty busy place with lots of anglers, picnickers, and people enjoying the official beginning of summer that is marked by the Memorial Day weekend. I found an out-of-the-way picnic bench and made my lunch. I do not recommend the freeze-dried Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry. It’s just noodles and textured soy protein and flavoring. It tastes fine but the textured soy protein has the consistency of bits of pencil eraser! Well, that’s why I’m trying it out on day trips like this. Even though it’s almost June, it’s in the low 40’s and I’m glad of the many layers of clothing. Hands were pretty cold. Another thing about the food packets: they never tear open the way they’re supposed to, and cold fingers have a hard time grabbing the tough plastic. Having a multi-tool with scissors is essential. It is unlikely that I will have a reason to revisit this park.

I returned to Highway 26 and had a choice of following it south toward some other lakes, or taking State Highway 35 north around Y’East. I chose 35 as the route that would still get me home that day. Shortly after turning onto 35 there was an unmarked dirt road off to the right (FR3560, according to the map). Again, Orion tugged that way and off we went at Marker 4 . A cliff-hanger of a drive with great views of Y’East. Eventually we were stopped by too much snow on the road. Definitely will come here again later in the summer, perhaps with Little Bear.

Marker 5 We headed home via the towns of Mt Hood and Hood River, and then west along the Columbia River. There were some nice views of Y’East along the way.

Overall, a very productive exploration. I know a little more about my planned overnight to Kinzel Lake and found a nice forest road to explore. The contrast between the west and east side of Y’East is interesting. As I came back west around the north side it got cooler and cloudy again. The town of Mt Hood on the north-east side had been sunny and warm.

Coming back along the gorge I could see the damage done by the Eagle Creek fire last summer.

Here is the day pack I prepared:

Adjustments for the future are:

  • Get a smaller tripod!
  • Don’t forget the lens filters!