Upper Salmonberry Trail

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Distance: 7.2 miles (out & back total)

Fitness Difficulty: Easy (its flat the whole way)

Technical Difficulty: Moderate
You will walk along many railroad ties that do not have any dirt right below them and across a 105 year old bridge (Big Ben Bridge) that is maybe a hundred feet over the forest floor. I did feel safe along the trail, but if you aren’t comfortable with heights, this may not be the best hike for you. Most of the hike is shaded which kept the things nice and cool! I think a rainy day would make this hike pretty stressful because it would be easy to slip on the railroad ties.

Trailhead: https://goo.gl/maps/69Sa32R4Dm42   The road to get to the trailhead was pretty good, you’ll drive on gravel and dirt roads (so a car with low clearance isn’t ideal but a car with higher clearance is fine) but we had no troubles with our car/SUV combo.

Route (with mile markers): http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/gp/bookmark/view/id/6899936 turn around at Wolf Creek Bridge

Instagrammable Factor: A
We went at the end of June so the wildflowers were lovely. You really only see 2 photos of the trail in most blog posts: Big Ben Bridge & Wolf Creek Bridge  but there’s much more than just that! There’s tunnels, foliage & obviously overgrown railroads.

Family Friendly?  Some blog posts I read say this is a family friendly hike, but my parent’s assessment was only if your children are like 11+ years old.

History! The Salmonberry Trail is a really neat rails to trails initiative that came about after a bad storm in 2007 that rendered the rails unable to be restored for train use. BUT is has paved the way for this great trail system! This trail is not currently maintained, so you need to be careful in some sections. There’s an initiative to make this a maintained trail from Banks to the coast which would awesome! The whole trail could also be washed away forever in another bad storm next year which is why I felt the urgency to check it out on my last trip to Oregon. The hike is remote with no services and stunningly beautiful!

Also, this is the post I thought was most helpful in preparing for this hike. Its 3 years which is why I thought it needed a little updating, but its still a very good resource.

Happy Trails!

Visiting Juneau, AK

The most important thing you can do when planning a trip to SE Alaska is planning around the weather. You don’t want it to be miserably raining sideways the entire time you are up there. I have gone twice in the late spring which was great timing, but summer is pretty fantastic also. I’m crossing my fingers for great weather this third time! Here’s a little info on the trips I have taken to Juneau that will hopefully inspire one of your own!

Alaska Folk Fest (beginning of April)

My first trip up was during the Alaska Folk fest, the flight set the stage with most everyone flying with a stringed instrument in tow

The festival is a community event, where anyone can get their 15 min of fame up on stage at Centennial Hall. While primarily is a music fest, I did take a fun clogging class. The festival pour out into every hotel and house with jam sessions of fiddles, banjos, guitars, mandolins and any other folksy instrument. People primarily come from all over Alaska & the Pacific Northwest. There’s a headlining band that the festival flies in, but what I think is truly special is the community participation.

 

Here’s a jam session that happened at the beach while I was there with Lindsay’s friends. This video perfectly captures that weekend.

Its just the best, every bar is filled with live and amazing folk music. I was so happy I brought my violin to play in the fun.

jamjam sesh

 

Herring Season=Whales! (end of April/beginning of May)

SE Alaska is on a lot of whale’s migratory path, I planned my next trip around when the herring fish were hatched and running. The whales, sea otters and eagles were all out and about to munch of all the schools of fish. It was the must amazing nature experience. Lindsay and I went out kayaking at Echo Cove while sea otters swam around us, eagles swooped down to catch lunch and humpback whales bubble fed in the distance.

The next day we hiked out to a dry forest service cabin at Camping Cove and a whale just hung out with us the entire time we were there. Swimming back and florth every couple minutes you could hear it blow while it circled the cove. The ladies we went with are from Juneau and had never had such an incredible whale experience, it was incredible to watch this guy feed for hours. I was amazingly lucky to have experienced that.

whale

Lindsay is a great photographer and you can check out all her incredible adventures in AK and around the rest of the world here.

Other Juneau things

The summer is apparently magical time to go on a charted boat tour, fishing trip or helicopter ride and I’ve heard al of these are just the best.

The Mendenhall Glacier is pretty awe inspiring and a big tourist attraction in town.

Flight details, if you are flying into Alaska, you will want to be on the right side of the plane on your way up and the left side on your way down. Its the prettiest plan ride to get to the the British Columbian coast, snow topped mountains and small Alaskan and Canadian islands dotting the ocean

I may have more to update after this trip, but I’ve been so lucky to have so many great trips up there and such a great local guide!

 

North, to Alaska!

Today, I am flying up to my favorite city in the world, Juneau, Alaska to embark on a Mountainous adventure.  After living in Juneau for 8 years, Lindsay is moving to Colorado and I’m helping her move by road tripping through the ALCAN Highway in the Canadian Rockies. I’m super excited. For the full effect, play this song while reading this.

Today’s post is dedicated to Juneau, Alaska and things I have learned about the funny town through Lindsay’s eye and my exaggeration. These are loose facts. Tomorrow’s will be my trip suggestions if you ever make it up to Juneau.

  • Juneau is really far south, go look at a map and compare how far Juneau is from Seattle and then from Anchorage. Anchorage is even not as far north as you would expect.
  • Juneau isn’t as cold as you would think. The past couple winters, they have had hardly enough snow to keep their entire ski hill (Eaglecrest) open.
  • Southeast Alaska has mandatory footwear. Or at least that would you would think if you went there. Everyone is wearing yellow & brown Xtratuf rubber boots. Seriously, people wear them on their wedding day, out hiking, to work. Everywhere. The last trip I went up, I bought some Xtratufs as a sort of practical souvenir and have been stopped in the lower 48 by real Alaskans asking me where I am from. These are my adventure staple now, rubber boots come in handy way more than I would have expected, they make you feel invincible and amazing.
xtratufsThis is what the entryway of a party in SE AK looks like. This is from my first trip. xtratuf adventureMy Xtratuf’s first adventure! xtratufMy boots were super helpful at a bachelorette party in Utah last summer even!
  • Bears are a real thing in Juneau, the last time I was up there, I was sleeping soundly, but Lindsay heard garbage cans being kicked around, got up to check it out and shortly after saw an older guy walking down the street (downtown Juneau) with a shotgun.
  • Speaking of bears, here’s my favorite news story Lindsay has shared with me. (A bear crashed into a kids birthday party (nobody was hurt)
  • It is gorgeous. The town is set right on the water surrounded by mountains. All the houses are set up on the hill and have a great view of the water as they are nestled in the mountains. Its just perfect. Also, I am the luckiest traveler and its sunshine, rainbows, Northern Lights and cresting whales when I go up there.
  • Northern Lights- they don’t come out in Juneau often. Its either cloudy or not far enough north to see them. Lindsay had lived in Juneau for almost 2 years and suffered through two winters of sideways rain and saw them the first time when I visited. It was really neat!
  • Juneau has a strange seasonal population. I’m sure you have all heard about Alaskan cruises, well, a third of the downtown is full of shops for cruise goers full of ‘Alaskan Fur’, ‘Alaskan Diamonds’ and other funny shops. Those exact same shops exist in every other town that the cruises stop in and are not open during the rest of the year. There’s a bunch of people that show up to work in the town during the cruise season.
  • Juneau is the capitol of Alaska and a lot of the jobs in the town depend on the fact that its the capitol. Legislators who largely live in Anchorage live in Juneau seasonally and rent prices in town swing to match with whatever living stipend the politicians are.
  • Juneau is politically very liberal town while the rest of AK is generally conservative. When Sarah Palin was governor, she didn’t live in the governors mansion in Juneau which was a political snub to Juneau. The locals were largely happy that she stayed in Anchorage.
  • The sense of community in Juneau is like none other. There’s no road out and you really depend on your neighbors, reusing goods and reallocating through second hand shops because there’s no real other option.
  • Alaskans call the rest of the US the ‘lower 48′. Hawaiians call it the ‘mainland’.
  • Here’s another classic SE Alaskan Folk song: Lady of the Chilkoot.

I think that’s all my anecdotes for today!

Looking for an Oregonian Adventurer

I really want to stay the night in a tipi, a lighthouse and a treehouse. I have gotten really close of 2/3 and spent hours researching how to make the third happen. This one though- is way better than those three. You can stay in lookouts that were previously used for forest fire lookouts. So you wake up, on the top of a mountain, in a building of windows looking out on nature’s bounty. This is exactly what I want to do. You don’t even have to open your tent’s door. You just put on your glasses and bask in the beauty. This is my actual dream.

Contract: NRSO Park: 75520

This is where you come in. In my hours of researching how to make this happen, I found this great website that lists all the lookouts you can rent for the night in OR, WA, CA, MT, ID, WY & CO. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?? WHAT ABOUT UTAH??? DID THEY JUST WANT THE PLACE TO BURN DOWN WITH FOREST FIRES?? Probably. This is a weird place. Ugh, I am having a hard time figuring out why Utah didn’t build these lookouts in 1930-1960 like all their surrounding states, but they failed hard on this. So then I looked into how many hours it is to drive to one of these gorgeous places and its a minimum of 6.5 hours. That’s not the worst, BUT much better than that is the 11 options that are less than 6 hours from my parent’s place. Can one of you please go and stay in one of these lookouts and tell me how amazing it is? I tried to book one right after Sean & Sarah’s wedding, but all of them are already booked for August. I also have a Canadian Rockies road trip coming up in April and LOOK AT ALL THE OPTIONS in Northern ID/MT! Yeah. ALL of them open in May.

I have spent hours getting the skinny on these places and even mapped out the locations referenced in the great website above, see below. Yeah, Oregon. You are spoiled on this one.

Lookout

If you are still not convinced. Check out this post and amazing pictures.

Here’s the real deal:

The lookouts can be super rural, some of them require hiking in or a truck to get to.

There’s also no electricity, running water (yep, outhouses) or cell reception, but most have a propane stove. As long as you bring water, firewood, warm clothes and a sense of adventure, you’ll be fine. I have stayed in forest service cabins in the past and they are great, just be prepared and print out info since your phone probably won’t work.

That these places are relatively cheap for the amazingness that they are (from what I saw, $50 or less per night).

They are hard to get- they are available 6 months in advance and are sold out the day they are available, so plan your September adventures now :)

These are small structures, so only take a couple people. Most max out at 4 people.

Here’s the locations you should be checking out if you live in the PDX area:

Sites State Lat Long Drive Time from Forest Grove Dates Open
CLEAR LAKE CABIN OR 45.14944 -121.71611 2.25 Nov 1- May 31
FIVEMILE BUTTE OR 45.40472 -121.45833 2.5 Year Round
FLAG POINT OR 45.32306 -121.47222 3.25 Nov 1- May 31
INDIAN RIDGE OR 44.00556 -122.25361 4 July 1-Oct 16
PICKETT BUTTE OR 42.95 -122.84972 4 Year Round
WARNER MOUNTAIN OR 43.54343 -122.36638 4 Nov 1- May 31
ACKER ROCK OR 43.05231 -122.64561 5 July 31- Nov 1
GOLD BUTTE OR 44.80528 -122.08222 5 July 27- Oct 15
HAGER MOUNTAIN OR 43.02333 -121.04389 5 Nov 15-May 15
BOLAN MOUNTAIN OR 42.01611 -123.45944 5.5 July 1- Oct 1
EVERGREEN MOUNTAIN WA 47.83889 -121.27167 5.5 Aug 1- Sep 30