Wallowing in the wallowas. BACKPACKING
Due to our huge snowpack, backpacking season has been a long time coming this summer, but it is FINALLY here! My friend Patty and I have a favorite annual tradition: A weeklong backpacking trip with our dogs somewhere within a day's drive of Bend. We load our packs with tents, sleeping bags and food from Trader Joe's, while the dogs don their Ruff Wear packs filled with buffalo kibble and milk bones. Our chosen routes always include lots of water in the form of rivers and lakes. Since I was spending this week in the wilderness without an Internet connection (horrors!), I thought I'd share some insight into a few of our great trips.
My favorite trip of all seven so far was the Wallowas in the far northeastern corner of Oregon. It is a long drive to get there, but so worth it because of the spectacular scenery. We hiked a 36-mile loop starting outside of Joseph, through the Eagle Cap Wilderness that featured breathtaking alpine scenery. I'll always remember the view from Glacier Pass down into the Glacier Lake basin.
For a fun trip only a three-hour drive east of here near John Day, try the Strawberry Mountains. It was our first trip, when the dogs were puppies. We did a 35-mile traverse and the highlights were climbing Strawberry Mountain and swimming in Strawberry Lake. The Strawberries are nice for a close trip, but not as rugged and beautiful as some other options.
Further afield, two favorite trips for their alpine scenery and mountain lakes were the North Cascades in Washington and Trinity Salmon Alps in Northern California. An excellent reference for planning your own trip not far from home is Backpacking Oregon by Douglas Lorain.
Also due to our big snowpack, we are in the midst of one of our best whitewater summers in a long time. In June, I joined a small group of friends on a three-day trip down the wild and scenic section of the Rogue River from Grave Creek to Foster Bar. The Rogue is a classic and popular river trip not to be missed. The stretch through Mule Creek canyon is especially spectacular and fun because of the steep canyon walls and washing machine hydraulics. The Rogue is also not to be taken lightly-tragically, two people died on the Picket Fence in the Blossom Bar rapid within a month of our trip. It was my first time running Class IV rapids in my IK and I was grateful to be with very experienced paddlers.
I've heard reports of great conditions for some of our most popular nearby rivers. Doug Headrick ran the McKenzie, a perfect class II-plus river for newer boaters, last week and said it was as high as he had ever run it. "It was cold and swift," he said.For those seeking a little more excitement, the Umpqua has been running high, but is at normal levels of water and activity now.
"The logs blocking the Boulder to Horseshoe section have been removed, so the run is clear, the surfing is good and the camping is busy," one friend reported.
Other popular runs to check out are the lower Deschutes near Maupin for beginners and the North Santiam for more advanced boaters. Of course, the guidebook to have if you are running rivers is the venerable Soggy Sneakers by Pete Giordano.
I have a phrase, borrowed from a Chinese restaurant, that I use to describe running, hiking and biking with my dog in the forest: "Double Happiness." The Deschutes National Forest trails are practically a part of daily life for me because my Australian Shepard mutt needs at least 25 miles a week to be a happy, well-adjusted dog.
In U.S. National Forest, dogs are expected to be in control, but are not required to be on leash. The Forest Service can institute restrictions as it sees fit, which it did about five years ago, adding a leash law season to some of our most popular trails, including the River Trail and the Green Lakes Trail. Although I don't like leash laws added to trails in the forest, I recognize the need to accommodate both dog-lovers and non-dog-lovers. My issue is with the process, which seemed arbitrary and based on anecdotal evidence at best. Recently, the Forest Service agreed to modify the restrictions by shortening the leash law seasons slightly and allowing dogs to be off-leash when playing in the water. These changes did not just happen magically. Enormous credit needs to go to Kreg Lindberg and a new organization he founded recently called DogPAC. Lindberg and members of the non-profit group have been working diligently behind the scenes to collaborate with the Forest Service and Bend Park & Rec to improve off-leash access on trails and in parks in Central Oregon. If you love running with Rover through the woods or want more dog parks near home, then join the pack at www.DogPAC.org. Numbers talk when working with these organizations and membership is free.