Snow (but not mud!) Free Hikes for Off Season Training

 Neahkahnie Mountain from the Cape Falcon trail.
Photo: Darrin Gunkel.
by Darrin Gunkel

Snowshoeing not your thing? Traction devices annoy you? Here are 8 hikes to keep your blood pumping through the winter months that don’t involve strapping anything beyond gaiters to your feet.

One of the beauties of hiking and climbing in the greater Portland area has always been the multitude of 365-day per year (more or less, depending on the occasional ice storm) training options afforded by the Columbia Gorge. That is, until the Eagle Creek Fire shut down most every trail on the Oregon side of the river. The 2017 conflagration put dozens of reliable all-season hikes out of commission indefinitely. And it ruined more than a few winter training schedules.

The speed of the recovery isn’t smiling on the itchy-footed and the impatient. Gorge trails are beginning to reopen, particularly around Multnomah Falls and Angel’s Rest. Unfortunately, the Forest Service warns conditions can be dicey, with downed trees, washed out trails, and lots of loose mud and rock. As a result, expect your favorite off-season training trails to be a bit slower than before. Even if you’re experienced with rough trail conditions, there’s also the matter of conservation to consider. During the wet season, the erosional effects of fire damage are magnified and “normal” wear and tear takes a greater long-run toll. The message here is maybe we should go easy on the Oregon side of the Gorge for a while.

Not like our region doesn’t have plenty other winter hiking options. What follows are some of the better low elevation trails for varying degrees of training. Outside of the occasional winter snow blast, these routes are open year-round, and more or less the same distance from the main population centers as the Gorge trails.

1. Tryon Creek Outer Loop: 5.7 miles, 630 feet elevation gain

If you’ve found yourself a little out of shape after the holidays, Tryon Creek State Park’s a great place to break your hiking fast and begin warming up for the summer. The Outer Loop, as described in the OregonHikers.org field guide is just the right length to begin restretching those (ahem) well-rested muscles. The park has tons of trails through mature second growth forest, though, and with a trail map in hand, you can tailor your own workout to fit whatever mileage and elevation needs you have.

2. Milo McIver Riverside Loop: 6.1 miles, 690 feet

This loop around the north side of Milo McIver State Park drops down the bluff to wander along the banks of the Clackamas River, saving the workout for the end. It also skirts a top-notch disc golf course! Again, Oregon Hikers maps out the details of this particular trip. But as with Tryon Creek, plenty of trails crawl up and down the bluff, allowing you to patch together any sort of workout you like.
Clackamas River Trail. Photo: Darrin Gunkel

3. Clackamas River Trail: 8.2 and 1,550 feet, one way

If you want to bring a bike, or an extra car, you can stash either the Fish Creek or Indian Henry Trailheads on the Clackamas River and through hike this fine portion of the Clackamas River, and sample one of Oregon’s newer protected areas, the Clackamas River Wilderness (established in 2009.) The net elevation gain from Fish Creek to Indian Henry is just 350 feet, but the trail bobs up and down the whole way, stacking up the elevation and making it a better workout than many other lower-elevation river hikes. If you don’t want to car shuttle or bike (or hitchhike) back to your car, an out-and-back trip from Fish Creek to Pup Creek Falls is bit shorter, at 7.8 miles, but adds 145 feet to the total elevation. Or, if you’re feeling particularly energetic, you could always do entire trail out and back for a workout equal to many of the tougher trails on Hood. 

4. The other Eagle Creek: up to 15.4 miles and up to 1835 feet

Not a lot of people know about the other Eagle Creek, flowing west out of the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness, into the Clackamas, near Estacada. It could be argued that this is a better springtime hike, once the carpets of oxalis on the old growth forest floor start blooming. Then again, there are many things to recommend the deep ancient forest in the depths of winter. Not the least of which is the lack of company. This hike begins and climbs a little higher than the others listed here, so check with the Estacada ranger station about snowpack before you go. 

5. Silver Falls

There’s a lot more to Silver Falls State Park than the Silver Falls and Ten Falls Loops. The Perimeter Loop rewards your efforts with 16.8 miles and 2470 feet gained, but could be a bit snowy or icy. If you do the Buck Mountain Loop and add the Howard Creek and Cutoff Trails, you not only clock 8.6 miles and nearly 1,000 feet, you get to admire some fine old growth trees, as well.

6. South Molalla River Trails: up to 9.9 miles and 1,375 feet—or more!

 As with Tryon and Milo McGiver, many trails in BLM managed Molalla River Recreation Area wind up and down the bluff and along the river. Half the fun here is just picking a route. And there’s another possibility in this neck of the woods. Just 20 minutes further down the road, and you come to the Old Bridge Trailhead for Table Rock Wilderness. The trail into the wilderness here leaps up 1800 feet in the first 2.5 miles. This would put you at 3000 feet, not entirely out of the question in a low snowpack year like 2019. Not a bad jaunt, if you feel the need to do something steep with your day. 
The pyramid wall at Macks Canyon. Photo: Darrin Gunkel.

7. Macks Canyon Skyline: as much mileage as you want, and up to 1,800 feet elevation

The Deschutes River Canyon east of Tygh Valley, where Oregon Route 216 crosses the river, doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. A BLM road leads north from the river crossing, winding through a spectacular collection of basalt pyramids, ridges, and walls, ending at Macks Canyon campground. From here, you could march 23.6 miles, slowly and steadily downstream, to the Deschutes River State Recreation Area at the Columbia. Or, you can pick a route up one of those ridges. The pyramid walling the east bank of the river just past the campground is a good option. Traversing it south to north and returning via the river trail will earn you 1800 feet up and down in 4.8 miles. And views of Adams, Hood, and Jefferson from the canyon rim. 

8. Oregon Coast Trail from Shingle Mill to Short Sands 15.9 miles, 2,750 feet. 

You can drive within a half mile of Short Sands Beach, but unless you’re carrying three kids and four surfboards, why would you want to do that? To get a real workout, and a real feel of the Pacific Coast, spend a whole day on this leg of the Oregon Coast Trail. Beginning just off Highway 101, at the OCT Shingle Mill Trailhead, it’s the nearest true hiking stretch of the OCT to the Portland-Vancouver area—a little more than an hour and a half. As long as the traffic gods smile upon you or leave early enough to beat the day-tripper traffic on Route 26 (which you probably want to do anyway, given the mileage on the route) you should have plenty of time to hike, dawdle among ancient Sitka spruce, lounge above the Pacific Ocean at Cape Falcon, and watch surfers compete for waves at Short Sands.


Lightweight, Nutritious, Sustainable, Delicious

by Ali Gray

Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay
If you’re anything like me, you get super hungry when you’re out in the backcountry. After a long day of backpacking or climbing, all I want is to sit down to a hot meal and load up on calories. An outdoor meal should leave me feeling satisfied and happy. Food that’s local, created sustainably, tastes great, and doesn’t break the bank is a definite plus.

When you’re craving a burger, fries, and a cold beer, re-hydrating a package of freeze-dried mediocre linguine from the store can be a bit of a letdown. But it doesn’t have to be! There are tons of options for do-it-yourself adventure food, and just as many non-corporate, tastier options than the wall of Mountain House at REI.

Enter: the dehydrator.

You can pick one of these up for pretty cheap (around $60 from many online stores), and they’re well worth the investment. Any beginner knows a home dehydrator is perfect for dried fruit of any kind. Apple rings (tip: cut the apple through the core for pretty star patterns in your rings), banana chips, mango, kiwi, strawberry, the list goes on. Feeling adventurous? Try adding some spices—spicy dried mango, anyone? Home-dehydrated fruits are cheap, easy, flavorful, and don’t contain added sugar and chemical preservatives.

After drying some fruit, it’s time to branch out into the wider world of amazing dehydrator meals. Believe it or not, a simple dehydrator is capable of drying all sorts of foods, including vegetables, sauces, meats, soups, and beans (no soak time required).


Dose Juice on Unsplash

  • Trail smoothie: Simply blend up your favorite smoothie and spread it out on a dehydrator tray. Once it’s brittle, grind it up in a coffee grinder and put it in a resealable bag. Out on the trail, add a little water and you have a smoothie, just like at home.
  • DIY oatmeal: Packaged oatmeal is a little…gross. Sugar and mystery ingredients, anyone? Instead, add whatever you want to some instant oats and you’re all set. Some fun ideas are chia seeds, hemp seeds, oat bran (fiber), powdered milk (creaminess), sugar or substitute (if you have a sweet tooth), vanilla bean powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon or other spices, dried fruits, and nuts.

Lunch and snacks

  • DIY trail mix: Home-dried fruits, nuts, seeds, chocolate, coconut...
  • DIY granola bars: Easier than you think to make at home. There are plenty of recipes online, including for KIND bars.
  • Summer sausage or home-dehydrator jerky paired with a hard cheese (safe without refrigeration in cooler temps). Eat on whole grain crackers, or rehydrate some hummus and make a wrap.
  • Consider rehydrating a meal pouch at breakfast and letting it soak until lunch. Many foods are just as good cold as they are warm.


StockSnap on Pixabay

  • Soup: Use your favorite soup recipe: dehydrate the veggies and add all the ingredients in a resealable bag. If you’re adding meat, consider purchasing freeze-dried meats since they don’t rehydrate very well when dehydrated. I did read that dehydrated canned chicken works fairly well.
  • Couscous, pasta, and instant rice: Same instructions as for soup. There are tons of recipes online—risotto, curry, jambalaya, and many more. Consider dehydrating a marinara or curry sauce in your dehydrator!
  • Ramen: Ditch the nutrient-deficient spice packet, and use the instant noodles with your own blend of dehydrated veggies and spices.
  • Other ideas: Instant mashed potatoes or polenta.
  • Dessert: Rice pudding (instant rice, raisins, sugar, cinnamon, water to rehydrate), fruit leather (DIY), apple crisp (granola, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, dried apples, water to rehydrate).

Online dried ingredient marketplaces

Don’t want to invest in a dehydrator or don’t have the time or space? There are online shops that cater to backpackers and sell pre-dried individual ingredients, reusable rehydration pouches, and single-serve condiments.

These stores are more expensive that doing it yourself, but if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to figure out how to dry some of the more persnickety foods (I’ve always struggled with squash), they’re a fantastic option. I’ve used Packit Gourmet (they also sell tasty meal pouches), but other options are Harmony House Foods and FoodStorage.com.

Other quick tips

Save your boil-in-a-bag pouches. Wash them out and re-use them for your own dehydrator meals.
Organize your dehydrator meals in clear, resealable bags. Write on the bag what is inside (and the day you plan to eat it on a multi-day trip), and place breakfasts, lunches/snacks, and dinners in separate stuff sacks for easy sorting.

Dry dark leafy greens in your dehydrator, then grind them into a powder in your coffee grinder. This is an easy way to add nutrients to your morning smoothie or oatmeal, or into a dinner pouch. “Power green” powders are also available online, but it’s much cheaper to do it yourself. All those grains and nuts take a toll on our digestive systems and adding greens can really help.

Alternatives to Mountain House

Mountain House meals are fine, but they can quickly get old. And 2 servings? More like 1. Found that one out the hard way.

There are plenty of smaller companies producing dried meals popping up in local shops and online.

  • Food for the Sole: Originally a mom making meals for her son hiking the John Muir Trail, they now make “tasty health-conscious adventure foods”. And they’re based in Bend!
  • Backpackers Pantry: Becoming widely available at local stores. They do actually serve 2 people, use high-quality ingredients, and are a member of 1% for the Planet.
  • Heather’s Choice: Small batch, healthy, and handmade in Alaska.
  • Fishpeople: Soups and chowders made with wild, sustainably caught seafood.
  • Packit Gourmet: Tex-Mex inspired meals from a mother-and-daughter team.
  • Outdoor Herbivore: Vegetarian and vegan options with no additives, less sodium, and no artificial anything.

Now get out there and plan some tasty meals!


Groundhog Day

by Jonathan Barrett

It is Groundhog Day ... again. In honor of the movie (and the holiday), I have five suggestions for how to break out of your climbing and hiking deja vu. From the gear that we use, to the goals that we set for ourselves, a repeated outing is given context by these things. Although we are to some degree trapped by the fact that the Gorge is only so large and that there are a limited number of crags within an hour or two of home, we don’t need to feel like Bill Murray’s character waking up every day to the same bars of Sonny and Cher: “Then put your little hand in mine/There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb.” It is possible to expand the universe without leaving the confines of its boundaries.
The author considers the merits of eating ice cream on a saddle
during a summer climbing road trip. Photo: Andrew Barnes. 

Use someone else’s gear

We all get used to the gear that we employ: our cams, our pack, our tent. This breeds familiarity, and frankly it makes our lives easier. Setting up your personal tent in a downpour takes only moments because you have done it a thousand times before. Plugging your gold Camalot into the hand-jam-sized crack becomes second nature. Every so often, I get the opportunity to climb on a partner’s gear such as during my most recent ice trip to Hyalite. I have climbed on Petzl Nomics since they were first introduced; my partner had brought a pair of Trango Raptors. Midway up The Dribbles, right before the WI4 headwall pitch, I asked to use his tools. The first couple of swings were awkward. The ice axes felt weirdly imbalanced. To compensate, I turned to using better footwork and looked down instead of up. The features of the ice curtain were transformed. Blobs appeared that I might not have noticed before, and I stepped on them gently, like they were features on a rock climb. In the minutes that followed, I climbed a completely new route with improved technique.
John Sharp investigates up-close the elusive (and viviparous)
rubber boa on the approach to Goode Mountain.
Photo: Jonathan Barrett. 

Climb at an odd time of day (or year)

“You know what I want to do?” Jarred asked me. Frankly I couldn’t guess, given his proclivity for provocative ideas. “Climb Dod’s Jam in the dark,” he said. In the dark? Why? When pressed, he didn’t have an answer really, something about the moonrise over the Bonneville Dam. Because I acquiesced, two weeks later I found myself face to face with a bushy-tailed woodrat, otherwise known as the infamous snafflehound. It’s eyes were glowing spheres under the light of my headlamp. He (or maybe she) tried to squeeze its shivering body into the fissure at the back of the “bird’s nest” belay stance. The moon had not yet risen over the cliffs of the Gorge, so beyond the wan circle of light, it was exceedingly dark: a hold-your-hand-two-inches- from-your-face-and-not-see-anything dark. Typically when I stem up the off-width corner on that climb, the exposure rattles my nerves a little. The climbing isn’t very hard relative to some of the sequences on the rest of the route, but there is something about the way that feature pitches ever so slightly towards the river that normally makes me sweat. That night, though, I didn’t feel any trepidation. I could turn my light towards the Oregon side of the Columbia and view only a wall of black. I carefully pasted the rubber of my shoes against the wrinkled edges and moved upwards with uncommon confidence because I could not see. Three months later, Jarred and I found ourselves finishing Young Warriors in the dark after attempting a multi-route link-up. As I belayed him up onto the final ridgeline, I turned my headlamp toward the remaining slabs and cracks. A familiar set of glowing eyes looked back at me in what must have been disbelief. Or perhaps it was annoyance. What was the little bugger thinking? Maybe: Oh! Not this guy again!

Bring different food

Knowing that a little levity can ease a tedious activity,
Andrew Ault takes the time to posedown mid-slog up
Mt. Adams. Photo: Jonathan Barrett.
Food is fuel, but also culture. As anyone who has traveled internationally knows, cuisine defines an experience, even if it is just Le Big Mac consumed on the streets of Paris. As such, the meals that we bring color our experiences in the outdoors. For better or worse, freeze-dried options have transformed backcountry dining and the way that people move through wild spaces. I have both a Jetboil and a Whisperlite. The choice between the two affects the culture of the trip. Typically, I bring the former for many of the obvious reasons: weight, fuel efficiency, and speed of eating. Consider the impact that this kind of choice has on a trip up the Emmons Glacier. With a night before and potentially after the climb at Camp Sherman, the instinct is to go as light as possible. However, a pot of tortellini smothered in pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and sausage is worth the weight. As a matter of fact, it would be difficult to suppress a smug smile as you watched other parties scarf so-called “Chicken and Rice” from a plasticized foil pouch knowing that the only GI distress you will suffer will be altitude-related and not a function of the food. This is true in other ways as well. Last summer I brought with me the makings for a no-bake cheesecake when climbing in the Bugaboos. A bank of snow served as a refrigerator. Dinner that night felt Michelin five-star luxurious as I spooned out servings for my partner and I.

Find a new partner

Who one climbs with determines the vibe as much as what one climbs. With established partnerships, it is easy to warm up on the same routes, eat breakfast at the same joints, and pack in a matter of minutes, which is generally preferable. A new partner can breathe life into stale routines and jolt one out of tunnel vision. For years, my goal when traveling to distant climbing destinations was to climb as much as possible. This seemed to me like the logical thing to do given the financial outlay involved. Once, on an overseas trip, I was stunned to learn that my partner wanted to take the train into a neighboring country just to have lunch. I argued that it wasn’t raining that hard and would probably stop soon. He chuckled at my stupidity and pointed out that there was more to do than climb from sunrise to sunset. Through that new partnership, I have recalibrated and reconsidered my goals when traveling for climbing. This can be just as true for a local spot as well. Who knows how many times I drove past the Beacon Rock Cafe before a new partner once pointed out that we could climb all morning, drive a short distance down the road for a burger, and then head back for more laps. Suddenly that Clif bar in my pocket seemed slightly moronic.

Set completely different goals

I tend to want to hike fast and climb as many pitches as possible. My regular partners give me a hard time for always setting my watch to see how long it took from belay to belay. My goal is efficiency, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, per se. However, it does flavor the outing with a sense of urgency. Consider instead the influence that other goals might lend. Photography is not a hobby of mine, and in the attempt to move quickly, I don’t take many pictures. When I return to share my adventures with friends, the sloppy and ill-framed images are nearly useless. This is not to say that I should be asking my partner to reclimb a pitch multiple times to allow me the benefit of having a perfectly captured and Instagram-worthy photo. I do however envy the care and effort that folks like Steph Abegg have taken to thoughtfully and completely document a trip. This goal-setting philosophy can be applied in other ways as well. Out for a hike on a familiar trail? Maybe try to engage others in conversation or at least friendly banter. How many new acquaintances could you make over a dozen miles? Bring a bird, flower, or tree guidebook and stop to actually investigate that glorious flora that you have seen so many times. Use familiar terrain as an opportunity to try out a new piece of technology. What better place to learn the mapping software than in an area where you can double-check your work?

Some final thoughts

What benefits do these changes have for us as climbers and human beings? If Groundhog Day can teach us anything, it is that being stuck in a loop is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. How we respond to the conditions of our confinement is the question. In reflection, I can honestly say that making these kinds of changes myself have made me a better and more thoughtful climber. As someone who looks at my life and actions through the lens of climbing, they have also reframed the way that I travel, engage with people, and consider the possessions in my life. In doing so, I am equipped so that there is no hill or mountain I can’t climb.


Skiing the Summit—Reflections on a December Mt. Hood Ski Descent

Words by Jordan Machtelinckx. Photos by Kevin Machtelinckx.

Faraway sounds wake me periodically from a fitful sleep. Giant machines meander around the empty parking lot, putting my REM cycles just out of reach each time they rumble by. Through my iced-up windows I can see windblown snow pass under glowing streetlamps. The wind creaks as it passes between the glass and the metal of my frozen-half-shut window. I continue to straddle the worlds of the waking and that of dreams as I drift off a few more times.

A sharp knock on my window scares the sleep away for good.

Assuming that’s my brother bundled up in the dark out there, then it must be five o’clock. I’ve slept in this parking lot at Timberline Lodge a number of times before, and I fall into the same ritual of emotions brought by an alpine start in December.

It’s cold. I’m tired. Maybe this was a bad idea.

I could be in a real bed.

There are many key attributes to the perfect climbing partner, but the most important one right now is that it’s someone who holds you accountable to get up at a ridiculous hour, in a ridiculous place, to do a ridiculous thing, when the last bits of slumber inject an ominous sense of doom into the day’s undertaking.

I force down a pre-dawn granola breakfast and reward myself with as many sips of thermos-tepid coffee as I can force into my waking body. Freezing fog gently coats my sleeping bag with ice crystals and going back to bed becomes significantly less appealing.

Packs are closed. The beeps from our avalanche beacons are swallowed by the gloomy dark of the overflow parking lot. I realize I’ve got more neighbors now than when I went to bed in the back of my Element. Lights flicker on through foggy windows in one car. Another van lays newly empty as its owner also starts his way toward the edge of the parking lot; the first steps toward the frequently-sought summit of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

Clicking into my bindings, I tune into the music playing through the wires from my pocket to try to pass the time slogging through the last trees and onto the slopes.

I’m not wearing a watch today, but the milestones are familiar.

Breaking through the final trees: scrambled thoughts contained within the ring of my headlamp on the snow.

Passing by the rime-covered Silcox Hut: doubt.

Starting up along the Palmer express lift: anxiety.

I see climbers’ headlamps shining through the last siege of darkness above, hours ahead of us. Maybe we should have started earlier, too.

A rest near the Palmer lift house—the highest outpost of civilization, past which hikers become climbers. I watch as daybreak washes away the self-doubt. Rays of sunlight illuminate safe, mellow skies.

Not much further up, climbers who have reached the summit are passing us on their way back to the waking lodge, now 3,000 feet below. I leave my self-doubt below Illumination Rock as I enter the spectacular, rime-encrusted cirque of the summit crater. We are now committed to a summit attempt, graced with pleasant weather and agreeable snow conditions, and my rational mind knows that self-doubt has no place in this final 1,500 feet of technical terrain.

The question is no longer “if,” let alone “why,” but “how.” Which of the many routes up the final headwall will present us with the optimal balance of challenge and safe passage? We opt for an exciting attempt on the spectacular Pearly Gates, climbing a few hundred feet of steep, deep snow into a narrowing couloir. The right Gate is occupied by a slow-moving rope team, and melting chunks of ice from the sunlit cliffs above warn us that we have no time to wait around.
I ascend the left Gate, hoping it goes, because I dread downclimbing our steep, unconsolidated boot track extending below.

But alas, I’m stopped by a six-foot vertical wall of hard, blue ice. The longer I debate whether I should attempt it, the more I realize my forearms may not hold out long enough. The obstacle is spectacular, well-featured. A boulder problem of ice. I want to climb it, but more importantly I want to have climbed it. I want to push the threshold of my climbing past this icy couloir.
I take a few steps toward the feature, shattering holds with the tips of my ice tools. I search for solid foot placements, but my calves are burning. I reach up, hesitate, and reach down.

I want to be good enough. I want to live up to my expectations. But my instincts know better. I’m tired. My pack is heavy. One slip and the weight of the skis on my back will catapult me off the wall, tumbling a thousand feet into the summit crater. It would be foolish.

I curse myself for not bringing a rope and ice screws to make an attempt realistic. I immediately thank myself for leaving them behind since we made good time without the extra weight. I am terrified of the downclimb out of this couloir. I am wrestling with the thought that I may have sacrificed our summit because of my selfish desire to climb a route that is beyond me.

My mind is running wild but I am still clinging to the steep ice by the metal tips of my crampons and tools. I acknowledge the rampant emotions and set them aside, one by one. They have no place here. I have a job to do and I know how to do it. Nothing else matters until I get back to the ledge below the couloir.

Downclimbing seems endless. I hate my footholds and my ice tools plunge deep into useless powder.

We meet back at the ledge. I think we both know it was my lust for the Gates that cost us an hour and a half in that couloir. Our skis will save us hours on the descent compared with our previous bootpacking attempts on this mountain, so we agree to make a second attempt up the Old Chute, where most parties are summitting today. I let Kevin take the lead across the wide-open slope. I’m not going to let my ego fuck this one up, too.

The slope steepens, the chutes narrow, and we pick our way through the final rime formations to the summit ridge. Two hundred easy meters take us to a breezy summit, where we realize our fingers are frigid and we have no time to waste.

The summit is the halfway mark to safety. Long, deep breaths lower my heart rate from its frenzied battle against 11,241 feet of thinning air. I have to maintain control of my body so it can keep me safe as I cross a dizzying 20 meters of one-slip-and-you’re-dead knife-edge summit ridge to gain the descent chute.

The steep, soft snow is a cakewalk after that. We find the highest spot to feasibly transition to skis, as skiing off the true summit is impossible for us amateurs.

Perspectives change in downhill mode. Steep slopes which intimidate the uphill climber in me now appear as ideal ski terrain. My interface with the mountain changes as I now want to be sliding across its surface. I distance myself from the summit, with no more desire to be there.

I ski back toward the lodge, my car. To civilization, to safety, to satisfaction and self-fulfillment. Away from fear, self-doubt, and primal danger.

Back down to where I may find the courage to face my demons once again on another dark, cold morning with my brother knocking at my window.

Wake up. We’re going climbing.


New Hike Leader! Reid Vandewiele

Get to know one of our newest hike leaders, Reid Vandewiele:

Hometown? home·town / noun / the town where one was born or grew up, or the town of one’s present fixed residence. Therefore: Woodland Hills, UT; Eagle Creek, OR; Portland, OR–in chronological and strongly reverse-preferential order!

Years with the Mazamas? I heard about and attended my first Mazamas AYM pub night two and a half years ago. By total coincidence, it happened to be the night Matt Reeder (then the AYM chair) was presenting on his newly published book 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region.

Favorite trips that you’ve led with AYM? My first and still-favorite “leader”-ish role was assisting on an AYM Q (alpine) hike led by Toby Creelan; a summer summit of Mount McLoughlin.

What is one thing that you always bring on a hike that is not one of the 10 essentials? Five-finger hiking shoes. Best. shoes. ever.

Favorite Leader Treat? Surprises (surprise!) of the fruit or chocolate family.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why? A bear. I have no idea why. It’s on video. Now, I AM getting hairier as I get older, but assuming a life expectancy of >100 years the curve is not looking good...

What is one surprising thing about yourself that people don’t usually know about you? I have to dig a bit to answer this, most of the really interesting things about me many people already know. Um... I have a 2nd Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do / Kyusho Jitsu / Hapkido mixed martial arts (though I haven’t practiced in years).

People should sign up for a trip with you if.... you like to get your heartbeat up when you’re hiking! I hope to lead some longer, faster, or higher hikes once 2019 gets rolling. If I don’t get an Enchantments permit this year you can bet I’m going to put together a thru-hike!


Mazama Women Make It Happen—In 1932

by Rick Craycraft

Long before Stacy Allison or Junko Takei set foot on top of Mount Everest, and even before Arlene Blum found her place on Annapurna, Mazama women were out there making a statement in the mountains. Yes, they were well represented on the original Mazama organizational climb in 1894, but not until 1932 did they separate themselves from the leadership of men.

A small item appeared in the July issue of the Mazama Bulletin that year. The bold-faced title of that announcement was Mt. Hood Climb—Girls Only. The climb was scheduled for July 10. The appeal for participants stated, “Girls, you are all urged to get out the old climbing togs and come on the first all-girl climb of the club.” They promised as well that “an ample breakfast will be served after which we will saunter up our old friend, Hood, minus the boyfriends.” The challenge was made complete by declaring, “Let’s show’em we can carry our own packs and have a big turn out.” The invitation listed Bea McNeil and Margaret Lynch as Leaders, and Edith Pierce as Rear Guard.

When the day came the weather did not cooperate and a subsequent article in the August Bulletin stated, “Of these three, two were to have been the leaders for the large party that was anticipated, while the third was to have been the rear guard it was said. So all three took turns at being leader, rear guard and “customer.”

Nevertheless, they persisted, and the three women, plus another, Karin Maki, returned two weeks later under fair skies and gained the summit and made history. There was mention of their landmark climb a few days later in the Oregonian, albeit buried at the end of a paragraph about the accomplishments of men. Still, the author was impressed enough to call their effort “daring.” In any case, these women, and many others, opened doors for our amazing Mazama women climbers of today.


Volunteer Spotlight: Rex Breunsbach

by Brian Goldman

Many of us in the Mazamas (more than 550!) have hiked quite a few miles with affable, self-effacing Rex Breunsbach. In less than a decade, he has led over 500 hikes, traveling over 7000 miles. He leads a popular Wednesday hike from the MMC that often fills quickly.

What made you decide to start hiking? 
I always liked walking around in cities when I was doing business, but I never hiked in the Gorge until 2010. I saw a brochure for the Trails Club and hiked to their lodge. They told me there was another group called the Mazamas that did more hiking. I was hooked after that. I wasn’t very good at first. I worked at a desk for 50 years. I practically had to crawl on my knees coming back from the Trails Club lodge my knees hurt so bad. I hiked some with Kate Evans and she said I should become a hike leader and join the committee. That got me into leading hikes.

Has your health changed since you started hiking? 
I lost 75 pounds, most of that before I started hiking, but hiking has allowed me to keep it off. My diet was just to eat less. The Jenny Craig diet really did help at first, especially with the portions.

Do you do any exercises to stay limber? 
I do some yoga, mild yoga, not fanatic stuff, probably not enough. It’s a good complement to hiking.

Do you have any favorite hikes? 
I think Larch Mountain is my favorite Gorge hike. Greenleaf Peak, too. One consequence of the Gorge fires is that it pushed people out to try other hikes like Greenleaf Peak.

Any good stories?
We were on Spyglass Ridge in the Smokies and on the way up there are some granite slabs that have some markings so helicopters can land. We went up there and sat on the ridge, similar to Angel’s Rest. As we sat there for lunch a young couple came up behind us and asked us if we came up by helicopter—as if we were too old and feeble to get up the hill.
Any hikes or outings that didn’t turn out as expected?
I’m such an optimist and they generally turn out well.

Ever got lost?
I’ve ended up bushwacking occasionally and it would have been better if I’d stayed on the trail. Sometimes a trail you can see on a GPS doesn’t exist.

Why do so many people show up for your hikes? 
Oh, you get a following and I have an email list that really got it going. I like to keep the group together and they appreciate that. After awhile, you get a core that likes to hike together. I enjoy the camaraderie. I like sending out a group photo afterward.

What equipment do you prefer? 
I like my Deuter pack for the Gorge, especially in the winter. I’ve moved to ultralight when backpacking.

Any favorite foods while hiking? 
Heath bars.

If someone’s never hiked before, how would you encourage them to start? 
Maybe start out with the Rambles - pick a hike that you’re comfortable with. Some people enjoy seeing flowers, others the birds, the trees - nature. Maybe some place like Latourell Falls, with lots of water and trees.

Any favorite places you’ve traveled? 
I thought it was the Alps but now I think it’s the Dolomites, especially in terms of rock formations and scenery. My favorite trek has been the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.

You’re 76 now. Are you slowing down? 
Oh, yeah. I learned that if you go at a reasonable pace you can get anyplace. My proudest hike lead was getting 23 people on top of Mt. Washburn at 10,219 feet. A lot of them hadn’t done any strenuous hikes for a long time. If you have the time, you can get most anybody up these hills—just don’t run. In Patagonia, our hike leader started out really slowly but we all got on top and had a good time when we slowed down and enjoyed it rather than overheating ourselves. It’s better to go slowly than running and running, stopping and then starting.

Anything else? 
Hiking is my drug of choice.

Interested in hiking with Rex? Head over to Mazamas.org/calendar, click on the Leader filter, and type in Rex's name.


Ann Wendlandt: A conversation with a former editor of the Mazama Bulletin

Ann and Jim Wendlandt at the Mazama Lodge
circa 1953. Photo: Unknown. 
by Jonathan Barrett

When Jim Wendlandt recounted how he met his future wife, it always began, “I saw you sitting by the fireplace…” He and Ann, his wife of 65 years, met at the Mazama Lodge, raised their daughters at the Mazama Lodge on their regular visits, and welcomed guests to the Mazama Lodge as if it were their own home. Daughters Wendy and Nancy recall learning to ski on the slopes outside. The intervening years have obscured who their instructor was, but it is very possible it was Frank Kalec, the lessons costing only ten cents apiece. As the girls kicked about on their used skis, their parents took the shuttle bus up the hill to Timberline before carving their way back down for lunch, which they had to eat in the basement because it was not prepared in the lodge’s kitchen but brought from home. Ann Wendlandt’s life was deeply intertwined with that building for decades. I recently had the opportunity talk with her and listen to her narrate a series of vignettes that arced across a lifetime of experiences and relationships.

Ann Wendlandt at NcNeil Point in 1976.
Photo: Unknown. 
It was a blustery December day as I sat across from Ann Wendlandt at Jennings McCall, a retirement community in Forest Grove. Mostly I just listened to these stories, one folding over into the next. With the aid of her daughters, she wove an account that was both intricate and beautiful. It was punctuated from time to time with, “If you had only come last year, I would have remembered more.” I was stunned by how much she does remember at the age of 88 and how the life she described is peopled by the who’s who of Mazama history. For example Ann’s aunt Abigail Choate was married to Fred McNeil, after whom McNeil Point on Mt. Hood is named. As a matter of fact, it was likely Fred and Abby’s son Malcolm who introduced Ann to Jim at the lodge in 1952 when she was visiting as a guest and still a year away from becoming a member.

Our conversation zigged and zagged. Ann’s eyes, though only narrow slits as she wrestled with her inability to recall, were still bright. She peered intently at the yellow legal pad of names that had been drawn up before I arrived as a tool to jog her memory. Bob and Martha Platt. Vera Defoe. Nick Dodge. That last one drew out a clear line. She told me about the book that he wrote and that she edited for him, A Climber’s Guide to Oregon, which was published in 1968. Editing? Yes. Our conversation turns with the flexibility of a water-born otter. For a dozen years she edited the Mazama Bulletin. Articles were delivered to her by members who had authored them, and in her own home she worked on the layout. This was the late fifties and early sixties after all. Each month she drove the final copy to John Arbuthnot on Sandy Boulevard who was the printer. These details poured out clearly but then came to a dead end.

Ann Wendlandt accepting the Parker Cup in 1967.
Photo: Unknown.
We returned to the list again. Bill and Margaret Oberteuffer. Joe Leuthold. Jim Craig. Everett Darr. I asked her about the club. What was it like? How was it different than it is now? She smiled and stated simply that things got done because people made them happen. She cited as an example Don Onthank, “Mr. Mazama”. If you wanted a ride to the Mazama Lodge, you called Don; he would give you a lift. This was the spirit of the club, she recalled. The conversation rolled slickly into novel territory. She told me there were only two paid staff: the lodge caretaker and the cook. That was it. Guests and members signed up to do the dishes and care for the building. In that moment we were back at the beginning of our conversation, but covering new territory too.

I asked how the club has changed in the intervening seven decades. Without skipping a beat, she said, “Without staff you need the volunteers to step up to make things happen.” The portrait that she painted next surprised me. Once a month, there was a membership meeting where it was common to have a hundred people in attendance. Committees made reports about the goings-on and their events. Then, rudely, the grandfather clock in the corner of the alcove where we were chatting interrupted us as it tolled eleven times. The line of thinking was disrupted.
Ann Wendlandt in the foreground on the 1953
anniversary climb of Mt. Hood in 1953

The slippery otter that was this tete-a-tete rolled deftly over despite the turbulence of sound. She recalled Martha Platt who was the club president in 1954 and Bob Platt, her husband, who served in the same role seven years earlier. Their son, Bill, would eventually go on to marry Fred McNeil’s daughter, Judy. In a sense they were just a branch of Ann’s extended family. Then out of the fog of memory emerged Betty Parker, who served on the Executive Council in 1954, and Jack Grauer, who was Wendy’s Basic Climb School teacher when she was just a mere freshman in high school. Wendy chuckled as she told me that it was a bit scandalous at the time, as young as she was. The web of names kept coming and bits of storytelling for each one. I listened to Ann weave the narrative with the assistance of her daughters until, finally, it seemed we had come to the end at last.

Jonathan Barrett and Ann Wendlandt.
Photo: Wendy Wendlandt.
“I’m sorry. If you had just come a year earlier, I would have remembered more,” she said again. I wondered what there was to apologize for. I was stunned by her memories, thrilled by her life, and charmed by her presence. This woman, who is still a dues-paying member of the Girls Scouts of America and who belongs to a troop called the Elles Gantes, needs no excuses. An hour and a half after starting, we hugged in the hallway of Jennings McCall, and Wendy took our picture. Ann’s eyes shone brightly, and I, a guy who doesn’t smile much, couldn’t stop grinning as I walked away transformed by her storytelling. I got in my car still thinking about a young woman sitting by the fireplace, only twenty-two and totally unaware of how the Mazamas would one day become entwined with her life.