Looking Back 2016 – Looking Forward to 2017

Looking Back 2016 – Looking Forward to 2017 for Instragram for Instragram

2016.  What a year.  Some are celebrating it, some want to forget it.  I myself have explored, taken risks, failed, learned, revamped, been burned, conquered, and had an epic adventure throughout.

I climbed South Sister, hiked the Grand Canyon, explored many parts of the Columbia Gorge, the PCT, the Sisters Wilderness, Central Oregon, Olympic National Park, the Snoqualmie region of Washington, and many other beautiful places, many of which were completely new for me.

Personally I don’t believe in living in the past.  Those who say they only made great music in the 60s or the 90s or whenever it was that they were younger are missing out.  You wouldn’t believe how much great music is coming out these days, if you only take the time to look, listen, and had an open mind.

Enjoy your old trophy, or look at photos of that mountain you climbed 10 years ago, but let it inspire you to take on new challenges.  If you’re not facing new challenges something’s wrong.

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Why Do We Climb Mountains?

Why Do We Climb Mountains?

South Sister

“Because it’s there,” respond climbers automatically, echoing the legendary George Mallory who may or may not have climbed to the top of Everest before dying in the attempt.

It’s an inner desire and purpose, which you can’t always express in words to someone who doesn’t have it.  It’s like asking, “Why do you fall in love?”

There’s a great book called Into the Silence which tells of Mallory’s quest for Everest and the story of the World War 1 veterans that accompanied him.  He hit on a great point that to truly understand the story you need to know a few things about the Great War.

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Four Epic Sites at Olympic National Park Worth Visiting

Four Epic Sites at Olympic National Park Worth Visiting

So many adventures, so little time to write.  This summer has been full of sites and bucketlist items, it’s hard to blog about everything, but I do photojournal and put it on social media.  But I did want to tell of my adventures at Olympic National Park in Washington.  Here’s also a video set to the music of Within Temptation, a band from Holland.

First I had to drive for hours, camping on the outskirts on the way in redneck country with many “Ill Eagle” fireworks stands near the Fourth of July.  The drive itself was nice and had views of Hood Canal.  Much of the area is private, but there are a few places to beach explore by the highway if you look enough.  But the main attractions are in the park itself.  Up US-101 to Port Angeles, and then on into the park!

Hikers on Hurricane RidgeHurricane Ridge

Usually you hear about the forest you hear about Olympic National Park, but I will definitely say this was the highlight of the trip and worth a trip in itself to see this view.

This is one of the most accessible alpine sites around, and you get a lot of bang for your buck.

If hiking uphill is difficult, you can drive to the visitor center for epic mountain views.  Just about anyone can be a photographer here.  Just point your phone and click and get beautiful mountain photos.

Hurricane Ridge view

But I will say the hike is fairly moderate for a mountain hike and is worth it for the alpine views.  The summer weather was so hospitable that day I could more accurately call this place “Nice Breeze Ridge.”  I even got to see deer, which seem used to people by now and willingly posed for my photos.

sol-duc-falls2Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls has been on my bucketlist for years after seeing it in a nature photography book.  It didn’t disappoint.  The evening lighting was just right and you could walk around all over catching the falls from different angles.  Go check it out and snap a few photos.

Rialto Beach in the morningRialto Beach

Unfortunately being Fourth of July weekend, the camps and hotels were booked solid. So after driving all over the place around looking for somewhere to crash for the night, I ended up having a cop help me find a small park near the beach to sleep in my car.

To stretch my legs I hung out at Rialto, ate breakfast and snapped a few sunrise photos.  The place reminds me a lot of Cannon Beach near Portland back home.  I’d seen this before when backpacking the coast a few years ago, and it’s still beautiful to visit.

You can access this beach by driving up 101 on the West side by the coast or from the North over the park from the East side.  Don’t forget to grab a vampire burger or coffee at Sully’s, a Twilight themed cafe near Forks, Washington where the films took place.  After all this wilderness, some dive-food and wi-fi can really hit the spot.  Cool people there too.

Hoh Rainforest

Here you’ll see the weirdest trees covered in moss, or “old man’s beard” as I’ve heard it called.  It’s beautiful and I’d definitely recommend the Hall of Mosses trail to see the moss in all its splendor.

Hoh Rainforest

Mick Dodge and Josh Taylor

This is also where Mick Dodge, the National Geographic reality show celebrity, hangs out.  When I met him and asked for a photo with him, he said the rules were you had to take off your shoes like him.

He was easier to find than the show makes him to be.  He helps attract tourists like me, as his show helped to familiarize myself with the Hohs.

Also don’t forget the Ancient Groves trail on the North Side, which is where normal forest and rainforest meet, giving some interesting trees and scenery.

To visit all these places be prepared to spend quite a few hours of driving.  Well worth the time and gas though.  I’d also recommend going on weekdays and not-so-crowded days.

So if you’re in the Northwest and looking for something to do, go check out the Olympics sometime.  What kind of adventures have you been having lately?  Let share adventures photos on Instagram and Twitter.  Happy adventuring.








A Windy Night at Mitchell Point

A Windy Night at Mitchell Point

Moon over the Columbia GorgeFinding purpose as a landscape and night photographer is definitely fulfilling.  But it has its drawbacks.  The risks and hardship that come with venturing beyond your usual routine and what you know could be considered a drawback or a reward in itself from the experience.

On one episode of America’s National Parks on the National Geographic Channel, they filmed Saguaro National Park in Arizona, with spectacular footage of a thunderstorm in the desert in HD.

You can experience a bit of beauty and terror at home as lightning strikes and huge clusters of rain drop like bombs to the thirsty dry below.  The sky turns orange and gray, and windows of sun move through the swirling dark clouds.

I’m also thinking, what type of crazy cameramen would dare venture in there to film this?  Hardcore National Geo cameramen, that’s who.

Thunderstorms in the PNW are more like scattered showers and cloud burps, so though I haven’t filmed real thunderstorms, I do venture out at times to bits of the elements.

The rock hill in front of Mitchell Point was one site I’d staked out for nightshooting.  It’s away from the city, and yet it’s near I-84 for carlight shots along with a great view of the Columbia River and the Gorge.

So after hiking Mitchell point for some golden hour shots, I came back and hung out in the car awaiting the stars with a traveling dinner of Greek yogurt, crackers, cheese and energy bars.  Darkness soon fell and it was time.

gorge-sunset-colorsMany hikers are afraid of heights and sometimes go partly for that reason.  I’m not really afraid of heights, but when I was a kid I was afraid of the dark.  Not so much at home these days, but when I venture out at night, sometimes the old fears hang out in the back of my mind.

There are no ghosts, but what if you trip over a stick and fall off a ledge?  What if a black bear suddenly rushes out from the trees and eats you alive?  But I know those are normal weird thoughts a lot of people deal with.  There are times for caution, but sometimes you just have to logic things out and put the weird thoughts aside.

Couple darkness with wind and what you get can both scare you and exhilarate you.  And so I stepped forth from the parking lot.  It’s not really a hike, just a short climbing walk over a rocky hill to a viewpoint overlooking the freeway.  Short enough to carry my heavy-duty Tiltall tripod in one hand and my cellphone flashlight in the other, along with my camera and gear.

So when I got to the top… wow, what a view, and a bit vulnerable on a cliffside, though not that high.  Little did I know how windy it would get.

hole-in-shale-michelle-pointIt’s really an interesting spot as the Michelle Point cliff towers above you on one side and winds from the Gorge pummel you on the other.

There are foxholes made in the shale, I’m assuming from Native Americans on their quests long ago.  I only know this from hiking and researching Wind Mountain, a Native heritage site around the area, with similar structures on top.

Nightshot of I-84 and the Columbia Gorge

Night Photography Techniques

Here’s some technical photography, so scroll down if you don’t want a photography lesson, but just want to read the story.

People are asking me my settings and how I do nightshots, so here’s a simple lowdown.  You will need a DSLR, tripod, and editing software to do this:

Beforehand it helps to scout out a location in the daytime.  I’m often traveling and hiking in the daytime, and during my adventures I’m always on the lookout for good spots for night photography.  Generally open areas away from the city will do.  A plain open field or parking lot will work, but even better if you can get a landscape view, interesting subjects, architecture, etc.

Often I surf the web for viewpoints for stargazing.  Many parks close the gates at night, so make sure the spot you choose is accessible.  Hot clear days in the summertime are the best times to practice your starshots.

When out in the field, first, set the focus to manual and adjust it to “infinity”.  That’s the line just before the little figure-eight symbol on the focus ring on your lens.  A headlamp definitely helps with adjusting settings in the dark, but you want a low-light only when you need it, so your eyes can adjust to the dark.

I often bump up the ISO extremely high for fast test shots, then bring it back down and slow down the shutter for the real shots.  Some will tell you different, but my strategy for stars and very dark nights is 30 seconds, 4-5 f-stops, and around 3200 ISO.  They get noise from the high iso, but shooting in RAW helps in cleaning up the mess later on.

A few tips I’ve learned over time for post-editing:

  • Reduce noise in Raw
  • To bring out the stars, up the contrast and clarity.
  • When you have ground and other lights involved, such as this one of the Gorge, it makes it harder, so keep that in balance.  Some use several shots and layer them together, but start with simple and go on.

Best thing is practice.  If you’re not familiar with manual settings or nightshooting, you can practice in your backyard.  If there are lights around you’ll have to tone the shutter speed and ISO.  Practice with a tripod and photos around 8 seconds.  If you’re near a road, carlights are a fun subject which do the light painting for you.  Just stay far enough to be safe from the oncoming cars.

Lesson’s over, and now back to the story..

I stuffed the tripod into the ground and started testing.  Many times you’re shooting blind, since distant objects are too dark to appear in the viewfinder.  So I kept readjusting till I was getting what I wanted.  I alternated between taking shots and then crouching down, hanging on for dear life as the wind assaulted, then subsided.  For fun here’s a video selfie of me getting pulverized in the wind.

In certain places in the Gorge you feel the whole force of the bottleneck as winds pass through.  While I can’t say I’ve experienced God quite like Moses did when he had to hide in the cleft of the rock, I have been around strong winds and clouds.  When I was on Dog Mountain I’d huddle in a tree shelter as the elements pounded away like a storm.

After getting the shots needed and feeling the worst of the windy onslaughts, I’d had enough.  The worst is on top in the open air, but you can still feel it while climbing down the shale path.  After carefully making my way down, I finally made it back to the parking lot.

I could hear the sounds of freeway, river, winds, and the occasional train as I silently walked alone in the dark parking lot.  The Milky Way and Big Dipper silently shined overhead.  I felt alive, glad to have completed one more bucketlist item, and relieved at being away from the wind and darkness on top.  For parting ways I took one last shot of the Dipper, the North Star as a plane painted dotted light through the sky.

Big Dipper from the Mitchell Point parking lot

I’d had one more adventure.  As vivid as that desert storm on TV was, I’d never feel this alive while on the couch.  While I’m still not an athlete and don’t care for sports, I now can’t imagine how I spent so much time in my younger years just sitting around for hours with television or a game.  There comes a time where you need to experience life not just pretend.

This might not have been Everest or the Amazon Rainforest, but this was my experience.  As long as you keep challenging yourself a little bit you’ll do great.  It’s time to live life.

How are you living your story?  Tell me yours.  Let’s exchange adventure tales on Instagram, follow @OutbackTales.


































Tales from the Columbia Gorge Video

Tales from the Columbia Gorge Video

After spending so much time Gorge hiking over the winter and last year, I decided to make a video about it to the tune of Frozen Pines by the indie-folk band Lord Huron.

I also collected a list of links to the sites shown in the video, so if you see something you like, you can go check it out for yourself.  There’s also more in depth adventure tales of winter hikes in the Gorge
here.  Enjoy the video.


Steep Trails by John Muir-This book tells some history behind some of the scenic areas we’re
familiar with nowadays. It’s interesting to see what John Muir thought
back then of Oregon and places we’ve seen nowadays.


Bonneville Dam-There’s a visitors center with some history and science displays, which is fun if you want something laidback to do after a hike.

Stonehenge Replica-An interesting site to check out.  Closeby is the Maryhill Museum.

Bridal Veil Fall-A very easy scenic hike on the Historic Highway near Angels Rest.

Shepperd’s Dell-If you’re on your way to Crown Point from the East side, this is a great little scenic nook to stop at.’s_Dell_Trailhead

Crown Point-Check out this lookout site if you’re coming to Oregon.  Heck I’ve been there many times and still enjoy it.

Cape Horn-Great hike close to the city in Washington.


Wind Mountain-This place has some interesting native American history.  It’s a great hike and is off the beaten path, as hardly anyone comes here.  It’s a bit different kind of Gorge hike.  For some epic tales, check out my
Wind Mountain blogpost.


Dog Mountain-Very steep, the workout about killed my thighs, but hurt so good for a few days.  In the spring there are supposed to be some great wildflowers here.  There were hardly any videos or photos taken on my hike here, because it was mostly rain and wind.  The summit was so windy I was hanging on for dear life and didn’t want to deal with video right then.  The cloudy viewpoint footage is from the trail further down.

Bridge of the gods-A scenic Oregon/Washington Gorge crossing.  This is also where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the stateline, and is where Cheryl Strayed ended her thru-hike in the epic final scene of the movie Wild.

Pacific Crest Trail near Cascade Locks/Bridge of the gods-If you want to experience the PCT close to town, here’s where to go.  Check out Dry Creek Falls while you’re there.

Angel’s Rest-This trail was icy on New Years Eve.  Beautiful if a bit dangerous.’s_Rest_Hike

Beacon Rock-Very easy and scenic.  Unfortunately it’s currently closed for a while due to a storm.

Hamilton Mountain-Easily one of the most scenic hikes in the Gorge.  That windy waterfall is called the Pool of the Winds.  It’s like a constant storm within a few feet of rock, and is definitely one of nature’s wonders.  Go check it out about a mile or two up the trail, even if you don’t want to to do the entire mountain hike.

Multnomah Falls-As many times as I’ve seen it, it’s still epic as I can see it driving by on the freeway.  If you’re touring Oregon, this is one of the main sites to see.  If you live in Portland already, you’d probably best leave sunny Saturdays for tourists and find something less crowded.

Larch Mountain-You can hike or drive to the summit (road closed for driving from November to May).  From Sherrard Point you can see five major mountains including the colossal Mount Rainier 100 miles away!  The mountains shown here are Mount Hood as well as Saint Helens, Rainier and Adams, the three Washington Mountains to the North.

Wahclella Falls-Like many places in the Gorge, this is easy, scenic and close to the city.  Good for family hikes or hanging out for photography.  Best go on a weekday or early morning Saturday, because of the crowds.

Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls-One of the most popular Gorge hikes.  The bridge to go further on the trail unfortunately is down.  Because of the bridge, USFS has deemed the rest of the trail unsafe.

Mystery on Wind Mountain-Photo Shrine

Mystery on Wind Mountain-Photo Shrine

trees-at-wind-mountain-summitYou know the cool thing about exploring is you never know what you’ll find.  Sometimes it’s just a trip with family and friends and you have great time, other times it’s a disaster, car problems, logistics issues, etc.

And then once in a while you get a really interesting story you can tell your friends.  Whatever the outcome all these scenarios are more interesting stories than sitting around watching Saturday morning cartoons.

The Wind Mountain trail has become of my favorite hikes in the Columbia Gorge.  It gives a great view similar to Angels Rest, but with far less people, and an interesting history behind it.  I learned it’s an archaeological site and a place where native American made quests hundreds of years ago.

Wow, I didn’t even know we had a history aside from the zillions of Lewis and Clark museums covering the Northwest.  And it’s actually rather interesting.


trailsign-wind-mountainThe road was a bit outback ending in a steep gravelly one lane road and parking lot.  No fancy trailsigns, just a reminder to brush off foreign weed from your shoes.

The hike was fairly moderate.  Though it’s about a one and a half mile climb, it’s steepness makes it feel like more.

The summit had these foxholes dug into the rocks on top.  These apparently are formations native Americans formed whether recently or hundreds of years ago.  You’re not to disturb them.


After a time of contemplation, photoshooting and eating a snack of greek yogurt, I made my way down, thinking my adventure was more or less finished.  Time to go home…

About halfway down I explored a turn-off from the trail which went to a cliffside which offered a great view.


What’s that basket on the cliffside? Let’s go check it out.

At the end of the cliffside were these photos of a couple laid out with a basket, store-bought french bread and not a soul in site.


When I show others the photo, they ask me, “What is it?”  I don’t know.  You tell me…


The photo sparked a conversation on a hiking group on Facebook.


It gets more interesting as the conversation continues on:


Can anyone possibly take this amount of curiosity?  Like an old mystery novel where someone ripped out the ending, and you can’t find the book anywhere in stores.


To be honest I really don’t know.  People kept writing, and I said if you’re that curious, go check it out yourself!  If the photos are still there, it was probably a memorial.

Update from a recent conversation on Instagram #windmountain:


If you want to hike Wind Mountain here’s a link with some good information about it.

What do you think it was?  Follow me on
Instagram and Twitter @OutbackTales and get in on the discussion.

Here’s the photo on Instagram:





Finding the Best Hiking Camera for You

Finding the Best Hiking Camera for You


Which Hiking Camera is Right for You?

When you go on an adventure you have many options for shooting your visual story.  Today’s technology offers so many options, how do you decide?  Should you get something top-of-the-line, or something practical that does what you need it to?  Should you even get a camera, if you’ve already got a smartphone?

It all depends on what you want out of it. Some hikers want to move fast and light taking photos on the go, others don’t mind lugging heavy equipment for scenic photos.  Some want to show the the scenes they came across and their friends and family on the adventure, others want to take the time to get great shots.

The four I’m going to share are phones, point-and-shoots, bridges and DSLRs.


Many hikers are fine with just using their phone.  And it makes sense.  Why carry extra weight when you don’t have to?  With a smartphone you can have your camera, gps, maps, mp3 player, books, and when service is available, communication with the outside world all in one device

With great apps like Instagram you can show great artful stories of you and your friends without a lot of training. Just have a creative eye.

Personally I like my DSLR, for high-quality landscapes, nightshots, etc., but occasionally I’ll whip out my phone for quick zoom shots or critters.  I haven’t seen many phones great for nightshots, but quality keeps getting better and better, so you never know.

If you go this route I do suggest having a decent quality camera, and most of the good phones do.  Generally you’ll need at least 7-8mp (megapixels) for decent quality photos.  I-phones, Galaxies, etc. are great for this.

This pleaveshoto of leaves in the city to the right here was taken with a Sky Independent Android with 13mp and then edited through Instagram.

The photo down below is my crew and I summitting Mount Saint Helens with Mount Adams in the background and was taken from my friend’s smartphone.  It’s one of my favorite photos, and it shows the incredible landscape as well as captures the emotion of the moment with friends.

Adventures are meant to be shared, right?  Another advantage of phones is you have social media integrated into the same device, so you can easily show your mountaintop adventure to your friends on the spot if you have service and data in the area.  No, cords, computers, or add-ons required.  Just take the photo and upload.

Another disadvantage with phones is that not all are waterproof.  I learned that the hard way, recently when I was climbing on rocks on
the ocean bank and a few heavy waves soaked me. I protected my camera under my jacket, but forgot my phone was in my pants pocket.

Normally in the rain I protect it in a plastic bag, but for some reason didn’t anticipate the soaking I got on the bank. To repair salt-water damage it would’ve costed so much, I ended up just getting a new phone. So lesson here is always expect the worst.  Even on a sunny day, always keep a plastic bag in your pack for your phone just in case.

Get the most durable hardshell you can, because you can expect to drop it a few times.  Plastic bags and hardcases are a must in rain unless waterproof.  The deeper in your pack, the better.

But you still want to get shots when they’re available so you need a camera outside and ready to go. Especially in those beautiful
after-rain fog shots in the forest.

The other disadvantage with phones is the batteries run out faster on a backpacking trip, unless you turn it off.  But it’s impractical to have to boot up your phone every time you need to take a shot.

Having an extra camera when you need it definitely helps.  Of course you can also bring a portable charger when traveling, which is what I do.


Compact Point-and-Shoot Cameras


Point-and-shoots are obviously not near as popular nowadays with so many great phone cameras available.  This just means they have to come up with BETTER ones.  And there are some excellent point-and-shoot cameras out there that are great for hiking and backpacking.GorgeFall20132014_0704(001)

These photos on the left are taken with a Sony Cybershot I’d had for a few years before getting my DSLR.  Not quite DSLR or prime lens quality, but definitely enough to capture your adventures.

There are some areas you can take great shots with just about anything, and these places often require hiking or backpacking a few miles.

Remember with shots of friends and family, having a device easy and small is sometimes better for capturing realistic moments as opposed taking time for posing.

Waterproof point-and-shoots are definitely a plus in rough weather.  Have one in your jacket pocket handy to record these epic treks in the rain and storm, or whitewater rafting, or playing by the ocean.

They’re also affordable.  If you happen to lose one, such is life… But you can still get another one.

They’re also the lightest and most compact of any of these cameras except of course the phone, where you’re not bringing extra cameras along at all.

The disadvantage is that it’s one more gadget to carry, when you’ve already got a phone.  So you can use the phone on sunny daytrips, assuming the camera feature is good, but use something waterproof for your rainy backpacking trip.  If you’re on a thru-hike, you could go through all sorts of seasons, but you still want to keep light.  More decisions!

Bridge Digital Cameras

Bridges are a step up from compacts.  They’re typically more expensive and carry more features like zoom, manual settings, etc.  You even use them for nightshots.  They’re great to learn on if you’re not ready to invest in a DSLR just yet.

My first camera was a Fujifilm Finepix S1000 with 10mp.  I learned enough on that, that by the time I’d bought a DSLR I’d already had some experience.  It can do long-exposures, nightshots, panaramas, and much more.


This photo of me walking by the highway was one of my first nightshots with my bridge camera.  It had a maximum of 8 second exposure, but it worked.  There’s some noise there, but it’s still not too bad.

One of the main annoyances was that when strapped, it kept bumping around on my chest when walking or climbing on rocks.  It’s seen many days and has a few bumps on it, but it keeps working away.  When I got a compact it was so easy and light when I could just have it in my pocket at the ready.

If you want to do more than you would with a compact or phone, but nothing too heavy, bulky or expensive, maybe a bridge is right for you.



Ever since I got my Nikon 7000, it’s hard to do without.  You might think, are you crazy, lugging that thing around the mountains?  Yes, I am.


You see I’m the type that would get out of my tent on a freezing night to take nightshots.  And with night photography or shots where you really take your time, a DSLR is best.  I tend to hike slower, because I keep stopping for photo ops.  Rain or shine, these are everywhere.

On the other hand I don’t lug all the gear everywhere I go on a backpacking trip.  That’s why I prefer a mini-tripod.

I also wouldn’t want it out in heavy rain.  When those days do happen I either have it tucked away in my pack or under my poncho.  It’s my baby.  Guard it with my life!  When I slipped and fell on ice on one trail, someone asked if I was okay.  I said, yeah, just worried for my camera!  Maybe a point-and-shoot or phone might’ve been a better choice for that type of trip, but the quality…  Yeah, I’m hopeless.

Another option is the mirrorless DSLR, which is also popular with backpackers.

Just remember just having the gear isn’t what will make you a great
photographer.  This takes practice whether on a phone, point-and-shoot, or a DSLR.  If you’re wanting video you can also check out
GoPro cameras from Backcountry,
which are waterproof, durable and great for the adventurer. Whatever you decide, as long as it inspires you to adventure more, then go for it.

Let’s share adventures on Instagram and Twitter.  I love seeing your adventure tales in photos!

GoPro HERO4 Session One Color, One Size





Winter Dayhikes – Five Easy Places to Hike in Oregon and Washington

Winter Dayhikes – Five Easy Places to Hike in Oregon and Washington

bridgeeagle-creek-resizedWinter is here. As we still lag from the holiday cheer, and get back into our new year goals, diets, workouts, etc, it’s still hard to be as active in the winter. After all, “It’s cold”, “It’s wet!” Hey, I get it. I don’t like going out in the cold and wet either!

Someone asked me are you gonna keep hiking in the wintertime when it’s cold?  I said, I don’t see why not.  Just bring a coat.

Who made this rule that you hike in summer and sit on the couch in winter, because it’s “off-season”?  Personally I enjoy cooler air when going uphill.

You might not backpack or camp overnight, but there are plenty of opportunities for dayhiking, which is a blast.

The cool thing about hiking is it’s not just being active, it’s an experience. It’s fun. Young and old, athletic and non-athletic alike can participate. The difference between hiking and going to the gymn is it’s not as hard to motivate yourself when you really enjoy it.

Mountain roads can be treacherous so be careful.  Carry chains, shovel, etc. But if you don’t want to drive in snow or slip in icy trails, there are still great places you can visit which are close to the city.

As for the rain? Who cares? Rainy, foggy days are great for photos.  All the photos in this post were taken in “off-season” fall and winter.

Around here usually it rains, then it lightens up later. You don’t have to wait to get “special gear” to walk in rain. (Though you eventually might want to get some merino wool clothing, because it’s just awesome.)  A basic poncho in your pack works great though.

I do suggest protecting your phone and electronics deep inside your backpack wrapped in plastic.  I once almost ruined my phone on a rainy hike by having it in a side pocket of my pack.  Don’t learn the hard way!  You can keep your camera under your coat or poncho or get one of those handy waterproof cameras.

So now that we’re ready for hiking let’s check out some great dayhiking sites!multomahfalls-resized

Multnomah Falls

People come from all over to appreciate the beauty of these falls. Word of advice, don’t come on a sunny Saturday. You’ll have trouble finding parking and crowds are everywhere. I’d suggest some of the other falls around the area, though they will often be crowded as well. Elowah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, and Bridal Veil are all great short hikes and fun trips for the family, even for beginners.

Waterfalls are all over the Columbia Gorge, so just take I-84 East, follow the signs and pick a waterfall adventure.

cape-horn-sign-viewpointCape Horn

Cape Horn is another great Gorge hike just outside Vancouver/Camas on the Washington side. The entire loop is seven miles, and it gets difficult when you come to the rocks and bridge. However two or three miles and back is a good hike and you’ll get a great workout going uphill. Check out some of the amazing colors on this trail on my Cape Horn Adventure last fall.

Note: The lower part of the loop is closed February 1 to July 15 to protect
nesting peregrine falcon. The upper part of the loop, down to the Gorge
viewpoint is open all year.

Cape Horn Loop

Just take Highway 14 East and it will take you right there!

Silver FallsSilver Falls

With ten beautiful waterfalls, this is one of the gems of Oregon.  This can be as long or short as you want. The entire loop hike is 8 miles with smooth trails most of the way, steady uphills and downhills. But it’s great for short hikes as well. Pick a waterfall and drive there. This makes it fun for everyone if you’re not ready for longer hikes.

North Falls, South Falls, and Winter Falls are the main sites with parking lots you can drive to. South Falls is the main center with a lodge, nature store, etc. There’s also camping, cabins, and bike trails.

Enjoy a hot cup of coffee by the fire at the lodge after your hike.

There’s sometimes a bit of snow, so check the weather first. You can call the ranger’s office and ask about it, if you’re concerned. The workers there love their job and are glad to help however they can.

Directions: Take 205 to Mt. Angel and Silverton, then take OR-214 S to Silver Falls.  Silverton is sometimes tricky, keep following the signs.  More detailed directions on
Google Maps.

Silver Falls State Park


Flowers at Smith RockSmith Rock

This is right near Redmond, a small town near Bend, Or. I like to say this is like a tiny Utah canyon. This is one of the top rock-climbing destinations in the US. You’ll see often them climbing on your hike. I personally find it inspiring. But you don’t have to rockclimb to enjoy this place. It’s wonderful rock and desert, especially if you’re used to green near the city. Take a photo anywhere.

You can even camp out in the bivouac area, though I warn you there’s not much seclusion. But rockclimbers are great people to hang with. They do like to party, but they’re not too bad.

Directions: Just take Highway 97 North from Redmond to the town of Terrebone and follow signs to Smith Rock.  The road is called Smith Rock Way.



If you’re around the Seattle area, there’s some great places to hike around the city, which is surrounded by nature and phenomenal views of the Puget Sounds, Olympic mountains, and Mount Rainier. Further away from the city is Snoqualmie Falls, Little Si, and Twin Falls (trail is closed close to a mile in so you can only see the falls from far away).

Within the city Discovery Park is great for hiking or jogging. Also Golden Gardens park is a great beach. Catch it at sunset sometime. Yes, expect cold and wind near the Sound.

Special thanks to my Facebook group
Hiking in the Pacific Northwest for lots of great information about these sites and winter conditions.

Know some other great adventure hikes?  Whether in the Northwest, across the country or across the world, please share! Let’s exchange adventure stories on
Twitter and Instagram.  Just follow me @OutbackTales.




7 Ways to Get Back in Shape for Adventure – Hiking Training

7 Ways to Get Back in Shape for Adventure – Hiking Training

Mount Saint Helens Climb

Okay, so you ate too much over the holidays… Guess what? Me too. But rather than sitting around feeling guilty over gaining a few pounds, why not just jump right into the active adventure lifestyle? It’s a new year. What’s done is done, and guilt will just hinder you further.

Some people join a gymn, but personally I like to be outside. But hey if that works for you, more power to you. Some join classes or get a trainer, and that can definitely help.

These tips are generally for self-motivation. Here’s a few things you can do start training for hiking and get back to that exciting adventure lifestyle we long for.

1. Adopt a walking lifestyle.

There are lots of things you can do to avoid being too sedentary. When it’s nice outside, make that extra effort to enjoy it. You can take your friend, significant other or kids, if that helps, but there’s nothing wrong with going by yourself either. My grandpa lived to be 98 years old and one of the things he did was take walks in the morning.

There are other things you can do as well. Park on the far side, take the stairs, drop in at the park, etc. I tend to walk a lot for my job, so that at least keeps me in walking shape. Just look for ways to incorporate activity into your daily routine, especially when you’re busy.

2. Jogging

Even though I don’t hike as much during the winter, I try to keep in shape by jogging at the park. Is it cold? Oh yeah! I layer enough to be somewhat cold at the beginning, but then warm up later on. I’d take cold over hot summer anyday.

Jogging is hard for some when you haven’t done it in a while. Take it easy.
A lot of getting in shape is psychological. Nothing wrong with pushing yourself, but when you’re just starting it becomes a monumental effort and you can end up quitting.

You want to push yourself just enough for a bit of challenge, but keeping the consistency. Better to have easy workouts three times a week then one hard one every two weeks.

3. Eating healthy

Outback Tales emphasizes living a healthy adventurous lifestyle, rather than being results oriented. Rather than counting calories, and constantly worrying about your looks, just embrace this lifestyle.

The emphasis is put on feeling great and confident, as well as productivity at work. And when you go adventuring, you’re already burning calories. When you think this way, you’ll want to start eating foods that give you energy and make you feel good about yourself, rather than junk foods that weigh you down and hinder your adventuring abilities.  The results won’t always be instant, when you do this, you’ll also starting look great over time!

4. Cycling

If you ever struggle with knee or ankle issues, this is the way to go. It’s a way to keep active while keeping the weight off the knees. Some like exercise machines, but others like me gotta be outdoors. Getting fresh air is a large part of it.

If you’re going on errands within just a few miles, why drive? Hey, if you’re busy, rather than wasting time driving, you can have your transportation and your workout all at once.
One advantage to an exercise bike is you can set the workouts for your level however easy or difficult you want it. As long as you’re active and pushing yourself slightly it’s fine. If the exercise bike is too easy or boring, then might I suggest a regular bike and some hills. Trust me, we can make it harder any time. 🙂

5. Stretching

Stretching tends to be underemphasized in many programs unless you do martial arts or yoga. But it’s very helpful for getting those hiking muscles in shape. They say you should warm up first and then stretch. I typically do stretching after a jog at the park.

You can always take a taekwondo class if you really want to learn stretching. I wish I’d grown up doing splits and stretch kicks, so I wouldn’t be as stiff as I am, but hey, you’re never too late.

6. Training for Backpacking

This is the fun one. No special equipment required. Just throw some weights in a backpack. If the other stuff I mentioned is too easy, try doing all your fitness routines with the pack. 20 or 30 pounds may not sound like much, but when added to your jog, walk, cycling, etc. you’ll feel it. Pullups too easy? Try the backpack.

This is also more applicable to the adventure lifestyle. I tend to do this more when I have a backpacking trip coming up. When I’ve trained it makes all the difference in the world.

Busy and short on time? Grab your weighted backpack and run a good sized hill three or four times or however many it takes to do 10 minutes. Staircases inside can work too. Now being too busy isn’t an excuse. Anyone can find 10 or 15 minutes in the day.

And last, but not least…

7. Go hiking!

Wintertime is definitely harder for adventure. But there’s still things you can do. There are meetup groups and guided tours from the city that can get you adventuring in no time. Whether by yourself or with a group, be prepared.  If the trails are icy, I’d suggest


Ice Trekkers
so you’re not slipping and falling all over the place.

When driving in the mountains carry chains at all times. If you’re not comfortable with your vehicle, find friends with four-wheel drive. Above all, be smart and be safe.

Now is the time to get back in shape for adventure!


Central Oregon-Part two: Three Sisters Wilderness

Central Oregon-Part two: Three Sisters Wilderness

crooked-river-highway-27After my Crater Lake adventure, I took the Crooked River Highway and camped out by the river.  Then I found a much needed Starbucks in Prineville, a small ranch town in the Oregon desert area.  A hikers’ group on Facebook gave me great information, since I wasn’t as familiar with the Bend area.

They raved about Green Lake Trail in Three Sisters Wilderness. And it didn’t disappoint. Just a half-hour west of Bend just past the Mt. Bachelor ski area was the wilderness parking lot.


As outback as it seemed, it was easy to drive to.  There’s even phone service in the parking lot and parts of the wilderness. Problem was I got there late and had to book it to get to the camp by dark.

Hiking by moonlight is an experience you don’t forget, but I wouldn’t recommend it, unless it’s early morning and light is coming sooner or later. But I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? If it gets too dark, I can just pitch my tent by the trail. Not that I should, but it’s in the off-season, just so long as you have a permit and are being
safe and following Leave No Trace.

Three-sisters wilderness signHowever remember I had backpacking gear, a tent, sleeping bag, etc. Dayhiking is a different story. So unless you want to get lost or stuck in the wood on a cold night with no shelter, don’t go unprepared and racing darkness. And remember, mountains often have cold nights even in summer.

So I eventually camped and pitched my tent in the dark. It sucks, but sometimes it happens. Easy backpacking tip: bring a headlamp!  You might not think it important when packing, but it makes things easier in the dark when your hands are free.

Of course later in the night after the clouds left, I peeked out my tent and saw a glorious clear sky. Had to force myself out of the tent to get the shot. It was COLD, but I’m glad I did.


In the morning I completed the trip to Green Lake, and took my time on the way back to get photos.

Green Lake Brokentop Mountain

Green lakes trail waterfall


Here’s something I love about vacations like this. All I needed was my car and a bit of gear. I also work a job where I took just three days off plus the weekend for a roadtrip through Oregon.  Backpacking, hiking and camping are great ways to get your wanderlust fix on a budget. Just because you might not go overseas, doesn’t mean you can’t adventure yourself. So don’t let lack of money or time stopped you from pursuing the story that awaits you.

The cool thing about social media is we get to experience our stories as well as share them and inspire each other. I’d love to hear your story. Let’s connect on Instagram and Twitter.