An unexpected trail

An unexpected trail

Fungi were sprouting from the side of a massive redwood tree like tiny white umbrellas. My wife and I stopped to inspect, marveling at how delicate yet sturdy the stems and caps appeared.

Just a half-mile away, in busy Simpson-Reed Grove along Highway 199, such leisurely scrutiny might be considered rude. We would probably be blocking the way of someone coming up from behind us.

But the trail we were on was deserted, except for us. It didn’t even have a name, as far as we.....

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No snow makes Marble Mountains accessible early

No snow makes Marble Mountains accessible early

The iconic backcountry wilderness hike to Marble Valley is a bucket-list destination that attracts nature lovers from far and wide. I’ve arrived during summer months to find dozens of rigs at the trailhead parking lot and stiff competition for prime camping spots. Never did I think I would hike the 16-mile loop up Red Rock Valley, follow the Pacific Crest Trail north through Little Marble and Marble Valleys, and descend down Canyon Creek without seeing another soul on the...

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Cycling through the pear blossoms

Cycling through the pear blossoms

The fragrance of flowering pear blossoms coupled with the lush, green foothills are one of the best treasures in the state of Jefferson, and a bike ride through the orchards in early April with thousands of pear trees in bloom is a visual symphony.

Every year my wife, Barb, and I look forward to cycling through the pear orchards when they are transformed into a white, fairy-tale landscape. It is our annual rite of spring. We have different cycling routes along the east and west sides...

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The Pacific Crest Trail in 30 Years

The Pacific Crest Trail in 30 Years

I was 30, married, raising four children and teaching full time when I first heard about the Pacific Crest Trail. I had backpacked the Rogue River Trail and into the Seven Lakes area. The thought of hiking from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada intrigued me, but I couldn’t imagine how to manage it. I couldn’t leave my young children or my career for six to eight months.
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Call of the wild is sometimes a solitary song

Call of the wild is sometimes a solitary song

Sometimes the best way to experience the outdoors is alone. That's why I continually choose to overlook the many warnings against solo hiking.

Whether it's the official website of a national park, a sign at the trailhead or a word from a friend, the message is always the same: Don't hike alone. But as an adventurous individual seeking solitude, what am I to do? To me, the freedom found in solo hiking is worth the risk.

I solo summited South Sister in Bend last summer when none of....

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Great Pizza Adventure on the PCT

Great Pizza Adventure on the PCT

With the movie “Wild” bringing so much attention to the Pacific Crest Trail these days, I am reminded of all the outings I’ve enjoyed on this wilderness route as it cuts through Southern Oregon.

My family and I have used it for pleasant hikes to see wildflowers and aspen trees on Mount Ashland. We were challenged by its steepness the day we veered off it to the top of Mount McLoughlin.

And then, for sheer goofiness, there was our Great Pizza Adventure on the.....

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Soda Mountain hike is tougher in winter

Soda Mountain hike is tougher in winter

Soda Mountain overlooks its namesake wilderness area, straddling the border between Oregon and California in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. It is easily accessible and from spring through autumn, a day hike to its summit is an easy 4.6-mile round-trip.

In winter, however, the hike is transformed into an exhilarating adventure through a winter wonderland.

Some of my kids were home for the Christmas holidays and there had been a recent snowstorm in the mountains. So the...

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Wolf track brings a rush on a snowy trail

Wolf track brings a rush on a snowy trail

The day following Thanksgiving was solo time to head into the woods to camp and track, just wandering as each whim dictates. Whether a scent on the breeze points to the east or the sound of running water pulls slightly northward, it was pure tracking with no time or destination. My dog, Taru, and I found ourselves on the leading edge of a large storm with dropping temperatures and heavy rain.

Holy smokes, is that a wolf track? Right there in the snow beneath our feet — Why is...

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'Slack packing' in the Colorado mountains

'Slack packing' in the Colorado mountains

In July of 2013, as we were finishing a backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, I told my hiking buddy, Andy, about my fantasy backpack. As a guy approaching 65, I no longer enjoyed carrying a 40-pound backpack all day.

“Andy, can you think of any Rocky Mountain destinations where we could backpack in 4 to 6 miles, set up a base camp and do day hikes from there?”

Andy got back with us a few months later with an amazing plan. He had researched the trails in....

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Birding with the clapper whisperer

Birding with the clapper whisperer

I wasn’t even supposed to be standing next to my sister on her San Francisco Bay Trail walk, looking at the clapper rail crouched under the bush that we shouldn’t have been able to find in broad daylight.

In fact, on this day, we came down during the day even though we knew we likely wouldn’t see a clapper. But I had requested a clapper sighting for Christmas, and it was Christmas Eve. And my sister has become so good at finding these birds that one of her fellow...

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Abbott Butte trek lifts the spirit

Abbott Butte trek lifts the spirit

If walls could talk, oh, the stories that the Abbott Butte fire lookout tower could tell.

The long-retired lookout is a remnant of a different era when a Forest Service flush with funding and purpose invested in administrative and recreational infrastructure on public lands and kept a sharp eye out for wildfire from remote peaks offering sweeping views.

Most of those old lookouts are long gone, but the Abbott Butte tower is still standing, although admittedly with a tilt that...

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Coast to coast on Wainwright's path

Coast to coast on Wainwright's path

Alfred Wainwright's love of the footpaths of England resulted in the popular, 192-mile Coast to Coast Path across northern England. The route goes through three national parks (The Lake District, the Dales and the Moors) with stops in quaint villages, including Grasmere — where Wordsworth wrote many of his poems — and Richmond, a market town built around an 11th-century castle.

The 13 days in August I spent on this walk (12 walking and one rest day) were the highlight of.....

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Gates of the Arctic — a different world

Gates of the Arctic — a different world

I peered down on the land skimming below the pontoons of our float plane as it carried us into Gates of the Arctic National Park: rivers of blue and green curling around sandbars, glacier-remnant lakes dotting broad valleys, and mountains towering above. At times it seemed our plane’s wings would scrape the slopes. This was the country that would surround us for the next 11 days as we canoed and hiked in this remote northwest Alaska park. 

The plane touched down on a lake...

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Misadventure on The Rogue

Last Saturday, the Rogue Fly Fishers had their annual steelhead tournament. Participants pay $150 each for the privilege of being rowed down the Rogue by a guide or knowledgeable member to fish for steelhead with flies. There are nice prizes for the participant who catches the most inches of steelhead, and the one who catches the biggest fish.

I was rowing my driftboat with two participants, a woman and a man, from Dodge Bridge to the Touvelle State Park takeout. I am an experienced...

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Visiting Oregon Caves via Mount Elijah

Visiting Oregon Caves via Mount Elijah

The winds had shifted and pushed the smoke from the forest fires south. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the day beckoned. We gathered that morning to load our gear into one pickup and then ourselves into two other vehicles. The plan was for Tom Gilley and Tom Murphy to transport our overnight gear to the Oregon Caves, where we would meet up with them after a long hike.

Those of us traveling to the Sturgis Fork trailhead agreed to meet at the Applegate Store before turning up.....

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Climbing the Callahans is an enjoyable experience

Climbing the Callahans is an enjoyable experience

Smith Rock will forever be the best sport climbing spot in Oregon, but it is not the only nearby place to climb. Western Oregon is home to many bolted crags, and while their popularity may pale in comparison to the great climbing Mecca, they offer an enjoyable experience nonetheless. 
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Birthday party on the Inca Trail

Birthday party on the Inca Trail

Seldom, a member of the Southern Oregon Nordic Club, sent an email to members inviting us to join him on a hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Pichhu — to arrive on his 80th birthday. Four of us locals took up the challenge, along with four friends and relatives from out of town.

We hired a Peruvian tour company, Karikuy Tours, with three experienced guides. After three days of acclimatizing to the altitude in Cusco, Peru, we started on the four-day trek to the World Heritage site.

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Down, but not out, at Cascade Lakes Relay

Down, but not out, at Cascade Lakes Relay

At the beginning of the year, I was invited by a great friend to join a Portland-based running team for the Cascade Lakes Relay, a 216.6-mile trek on Aug. 1-2 that starts at Diamond Lake.
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A solo summit of South Sister

A solo summit of South Sister

South Sister towered over me at 10,358 feet tall, and I couldn't stop staring at its reddish slope covered in patchy glaciers.
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Boomers on the Trail

Boomers on the Trail

For more than 20 years, my wife, Barbara, and I had dreamed of hiking the trail along the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River. In May, we made that dream a reality.
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May 25, 2014

It's the small things

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