Saint Patty's weekend

Suddenly it is mid-March, and winter is all but flown past. I have been skiing more, for which I am thankful (and enjoying immensely), but skiing has always been more about speed and entertainment than balancing the inner spaces of self.

I find I am missing the Gorge and the stormy, wild character it exudes in the deep of the winter months. I love what I do but, ever since I started, work has been about long hours that are (as I suspected they would) beginning to kick the emotional stuffing out of me. Since childhood, hours lost in the woods have been about self-care, about quiet, repose and reworking the jigsaw puzzle pieces I become when I'm too stressed. Time for a hike.

The weather forecast was a gamble, which we lost. It was a soggy five miles spent hunting imaginary leprechauns in the vibrant green of the Gorge, lost among the mosses and ferns along the trail.

But beautiful. It never ceases to amaze me how a landscape so close to civilization can feel so untamed. Our breath was visible in the air, the scent of the rain clean and poised between deep winter and spring. The cusp seasons have begun.

beautiful Herman Creek
hunting leprechauns

Pacific Crest falls

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
~5 miles, ~1000 feet elevation gain


Fellow blogger and occasional (when we can coordinate crazy busy schedules) adventure buddy, Allison Wildman, tagged me in this international blogger-style chain letter/game. It's a question posed from fellow like-minded bloggers, who then tag other like-minded bloggers...and said question gets to leap frog its way around the cyber globe. It's a fun concept that allows you to take a sneak peek into what's in other peoples packs. I kind of like it, so I'll play. It's also led me down some fellow hiker/blogger rabbit holes I wouldn't normally have gone down. 

The question posed by this blogstöckchen is: What three things do you always bring on a hike?

I'll be honest, I had to think about this. I'm the frequent butt of jokes among friends regarding the size of my day pack, mostly because I always, always go out prepared for the possibility of spending the night. While this tends to slow me down on the hill climbs, it gives me quite the gear laden inertia on the downhills [GRIN]. The ten essentials plus-sized. So it took me a minute to think about what's in my hiking wallet that is really specific to me and my needs. 

1) Maps.

I may require a twelve step program

I'm a planning junkie. I {heart} maps (and, if I'm airing all my dirty laundry/obsessions: guidebooks).  Maps are a fundamental part of the ten essentials and navigation, but truth is, they don't always have to come along- some hikes in the local area I know well enough to not really require a map. But a map always gets toted along. Or, if I'm on an extended backpacking trip, must I carry the entire wilderness map (you know, the ones big enough to be a table cloth on your tent floor) when a shrunken photocopy version of the region would suffice? 

Yup. There's always a map in my pack. Because I'm a dork, and I like planning other trips while I'm on a trip. And that ends my confession box. 

That said, I still think navigation devices are key to going out someplace, even if it's a place you know fairly well. Our local Columbia Gorge is proof positive that many, many people, even out on "just a day hike", spend the night in the backcountry after having their sense of direction turned around by the twisted and interconnected trail system. 

2) Trekking Poles. 

I acquired trekking poles a couple of years back, mostly to help with sketchy creek crossings on rocks where my balance wasn't so great. Anyone who knows me well can profess that I am not the most coordinated of individuals, and I routinely lose fights between my knee and the corner of the living room coffee table. 

Trekking poles have become one of my coveted outdoor items. They not only help improve my balance and coordination on ledges or sketchy creek /snow crossings, they have also become the tent poles for my Nemo Meta2P tent, which I love. They improve my posture on uphill climbs (I have a tendency to hunchback forward on climbs, using the poles corrects that bad habit) and save my knees on the downhills. They've also come in handy during times past when I forgot real tent poles. 

trying to correct hunchback posture

impromptu tent poles

3) Moleskin.

I give to you some exhibits from years past on why I carry moleskin on every hike, long or short, and why I have single-handedly been known to clean out the entire stock supply of moleskin at my local grocery store.  

My feet have been the bane of my existence for many, many years. I have platypus feet- wide at the front, narrow at the back. It's difficult to find shoes with a big enough toe box for me to jam my hulking feet into while being able to latch my heel down at the same time.  The result has been years worth of blisters and no combination of socks or different shoes, slathering my feet in Vaseline or covering them in duct tape has worked so far. Trail runners and moleskin (applied at the first inkling of a hot spot) have been what's worked the best, thus far. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has more.  

And there you have it. My three must-haves. 

I'm tagging my old fellow HS friend, Justin, who  launched an amazing dream some time ago, taking off for the south, and who now runs his own business in Patagonia (can you say DREAM JOB?)

Anne, a fellow Portland hiker who can often be found "hiking [her] ass off" and whose trip reports always make me smile. 

And Steph Abegg, an amazing mountaineer and determined woman with outstanding photography skills and who has one of the most incredible recovery reports I've ever read.