Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Blog: Beginner's Backpack Spots in the Pacific Northwest

Guest post provided by COAST Products, a Portland, Oregon based LED flashlight and outdoor knife company. 
We had the opportunity to field test the HP 7 Coast flashlight and found it an excellent product for camping or for group backpacking. The push button switch is easy to activate with one hand. While on the heavy side for individual backpacker use, a ranger on patrol or backpacker group will find the "flood beam" helpful when hanging a bear bag at night or for Scouts setting up a tent. The flood or spot beam can be locked into place. It is durable and provides a well field of light for camp uses. It comes with its own sturdy holder that can fit on a belt. I am happy to recommend it. 
- "Blissful", 2 time Appalachian Trail hiker and ridgerunner

Beginners’ Backpacking Spots in the Pacific Northwest

When asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, climbing legend George Mallory famously responded, “Because it’s there.” Mallory’s sense of adventurous exploration is just one of many good reasons to get into backpacking.

For one thing, a backpacking trip is far less expensive than a vacation spent poolside – and far healthier. Just ask the “world’s oldest backpaker,” Keith Wright, who is currently traipsing around Europe at the ripe old age of 95. A hankering for freedom and breathtaking beauty may be the most common motivators for strapping on a heavy pack and exiting society for a few nights. Whatever your reasons for taking up backpacking, this much is clear: Your safety and enjoyment depends on your degree of preparation.

If you’re used to car camping, you may not be aware of just how much planning (and physical exertion) is required for a backpacking expedition. Navigation planning is the first thing to do. For beginning backpackers, a 4-6 mile hike in, a night or two camping, and a 4-6 mile hike out is a good format. Ideally, this expanse should consist of fairly even terrain – inclines will be challenging with a 40- or 50-pound pack on your back.

Fortunately, the Pacific Northwest offers wonderful backpacking spots for hikers of all ability levels, including beginners. Here are a few favorite beginner-appropriate backpacking spots in the Pacific Northwest:

Backpacking in the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula is located west of Seattle; it is the northwestern most area of the contiguous 48 states. It is also the sole temperate rainforest in the United States. A trip to the Olympic Rainforest is unforgettable; diversity abounds here. 

Olympic Peninsula area, courtesy Lauralee Bliss

One great Olympic Peninsula trip for the learning hiker begins at the Hoh Ranger Station and continues for 12 miles along flat ground. Breathtakingly tall ancient trees create a canopy overhead. As you become a more experienced hiker, you can venture to the more remote eastern side of Olympic National Park.

Southern Washington Backpacking

Dark firs border the Lewis River, which is located just 75 miles northeast of Portland. This tributary of the Columbia has an enchanting turquoise tone. There are plenty of places along the Lewis River where beginning backpackers can park and hike a short distance in to established camping spots.

Beginner Backpacking Around Mt. Hood

When you’re slogging along the trail, sore, hungry, and tired, there’s nothing like a phenomenal view to keep you motivated. The Elk Cove hike is perfect for the view-hungry alpinist. After about a mile of hiking through mossy forest, you reach a ridgeline with commanding views of Mt. Hood. Camp here or continue on as far as you like along this 10-mile trail. 

Multnomah Falls, Courtesy Lauralee Bliss
Backpacking in the Columbia Gorge

Eagle Creek is another great beginning backpacking trail near Portland. Considering the stunning waterfalls along Eagle Creek, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular trail. In the summer, you’ll have plenty of company – often a good thing for beginning backpackers.

These Pacific Northwest backpacking spots are great for the beginner. Once you know where you’re headed, ensure that your pack is complete. Do you have a trusty tent? How about a stove and a backup stove with fuel? In addition to bedding, a camp kitchen, food, water and a water filtration system, you’ll want a high-quality LED torch, such as the G45 LED flashlight from COAST. With its clear white flood beam and impact resistance, the G45 will probably light your way along the trail for years to come.

One last planning consideration to remember for beginning backpacking is that you will probably need a forest pass or other permit to park and hike in the areas mentioned above. Nearby ranger stations are typically happy to sell wilderness passes.

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