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Outside magazine, September 1994
In Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and B.C., our favorite season arrives just as the throngs head home. What a pity.
In the Pacific Northwest, September brings relief. For three months now you’ve been duking it out with powerboaters, poky RVs, and packs of survival school students, but when fall settles into this piece of the continent, the land quiets. The slopes and shorelines empty, yet the Pacific tethers the climate within a comfortable range. Days are long, snowflakes steer clear, and
Paddlers tired of Puget Sound’s misty grayness and heavy boat traffic migrate north to the Gulf Islands, off Vancouver Island’s southeastern coast, where the skies and waters are often clearer. Of the archipelago’s nearly 200 islands and islets, only seven have a population over 250–ideal for kayakers seeking solitude and island life as it used to be.
Within these protected channels, a great three-day, 22-mile loop wraps around the parklands of D’Arcy and Portland Islands. To get to Sidney, your starting-off point on Vancouver Island, catch the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes, about 85 miles north of Seattle. Put in at Tulista Park, adjacent to the Sidney ferry terminal, and wave good-bye to civilization. Head
The remains of a leper colony that operated from 1890 to 1924 can be seen on D’Arcy’s western side. Camping is limited here, but on the island’s eastern shore, where gravel beaches front woods and meadows, you’ll find half a dozen secluded campsites. (Camping is free, on a first-come-first-served basis, at all marine parks except Sidney Spit.) In the morning, skirt the north
First stop should be Tortoise Bay, on the south coast, where you can check out a posted trail map and stretch your legs on a shoreline hike. The best camping, however, is north at Arbutus Point, a crushed-shell beach with a view east all the way to Mount Baker’s glacial cap. The next morning it’s a mere 4.5-mile paddle back to Sidney.
For Washington State Ferry information, call 206-464-6400. Sea kayaks can be rented from Ocean River Sports in Sidney; call 604-655-2036. Weekend rates are $50 for a single, $75 for a double. Mary Snowden’s Island Paddling: A Paddler’s Guide to the Gulf Islands and Barkley Sound (Orca, $11) has detailed maps and trip descriptions. Several
Anywhere else, Mount Adams would be declared a national park. But in Washington, where Mount Rainier gets all the glory, the state’s second-highest peak (12,276 feet) remains the glaciated sentinel of the often overlooked 47,280-acre Mount Adams Wilderness.
Adams’s South Climb, the coveted nontechnical ascent for altitude seekers, follows the old mule and horse route used by the Glacier Mining Company in the 1930s to excavate sulfur from the summit. It’s a 6,776-foot, seven-hour haul that begins at Cold Springs Campground and rewards the hardy with astounding views of Mount Hood and the blast zone of Mount St. Helens. From
Crampons and ice axes are recommended year-round, and as weather on Mount Adams can be capricious, be prepared for sudden storms. Mount Adams Ranger District (509-395-2501) in Trout Lake, off Washington 141, issues wilderness permits and proffers climbing information and weather reports.
In high desert wilderness on the edge of the Snake River Plain is some of the West’s most ancient stone–300-foot granite spires as old as 2.8 billion years. On this rock, climbers have etched out more than 600 routes, rated from 5.4 to 5.14a, in the 14,300-acre City of Rocks National Reserve. Upper City and Parking Lot make up the City’s scenic downtown–a maze of batholiths
Daytime fall temperatures hover in the seventies, but be prepared for nighttime lows in the thirties. City of Rocks is 75 miles southeast of Twin Falls; take Idaho 77 south outside Burley. Roadside campsites ($6 per night) are plentiful on the dirt road between Bath Rock and Elephant Rock, but can fill up quickly, especially on fall weekends. Call City of Rocks National Reserve
On the trail along the Olympic Peninsula’s Quinault River to its headwaters in the Enchanted Valley, temperate jungle meets Ice Age grandeur in an alpine cirque of 3,000-foot cliffs. From Graves Creek Campground, 18.5 miles east of U.S. 101 on Lake Quinault Road, the 13-mile trail to the valley gains only 1,050 feet, alternating between flat riverbeds bordered by alders and
Dig out your sunglasses at the entrance to the Enchanted Valley. Here, at a suspension bridge, dark and spongy forest opens suddenly into a blinding landscape of glaciated peaks. In the alpine meadows beneath 6,911-foot Chimney Peak is the Enchanted Valley Chalet, built more than 60 years ago as a hotel and now operated by the Park Service as a shelter. Only part of the lower
Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon
There’s no denying the power of volcanism in central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness, a cluster of glacier-clad volcanoes 25 miles west of Bend. Amid 10,000-foot-plus North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister, and the shattered crown of Broken Top (9,175 feet), every step lands on something igneous.
A dozen campgrounds and trailheads line the 20-mile stretch of Century Drive (Oregon 46) between Mount Bachelor Ski Area and Deschutes Bridge Campground, so just point and hike. A particularly inspired four-mile route follows Fall Creek from Sparks Lake to Green Lakes Basin, at the foot of South Sister via the Newberry Lava Flow–a colossal jumble of glassy, black obsidian
If you’re addicted to long hauls, the Pacific Crest Trail spans the length of the wilderness–52 miles from McKenzie Pass to Taylor Burn Road 600. Or hike the 44-mile loop around the Three Sisters, which follows 19 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail’s most scenic section. Mountain Supply in Bend (503-388-0688) has knowledgeable employees and top-quality gear. For maps call the
It doesn’t take much fish-stalking evangelism to lure anglers to eastern Oregon’s Strawberry Lakes–limpid pools of high-mountain snowmelt ringed by alpine crags. Protected within the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, a swath of federal preserve six hours east of Portland, these are some of Oregon’s most remote high lakes.
Leave your car at Strawberry Camp, a rustic campground at 5,700 feet, 11 miles south of Prairie City via County Road 60. Bypass the fisherfolk at Strawberry Lake, a 1.5-mile hike up Forest Service Trail 375, and continue on to Little Strawberry Lake, 1.5 miles farther. The trail climbs Strawberry Falls toward the base of Rabbit Ears, a rock formation that thrusts 1,000 feet
Pitch your tent anywhere around Little Strawberry (no permit is required), and just log time with the rod and reel. The fishing is catch-and-eat, but there’s a limit of ten fish per day. If you must sleep indoors, bunk at Bed & Breakfast by the River ($50 for a double; 503-820-4470), a 3,300-acre working ranch two miles east of Prairie City, where Mike and Helen Emmel rent
Bring spares when you mountain bike around McCall: Idaho’s rock-hopping haven 100 miles north of Boise may just bring your knobbies to their knees.
Start with the Hazard Lake- Hard Creek loop, a rocky, eight-mile, mostly single-track ride among alpine lakes and cirques. From McCall, drive 25 miles west to Hazard Lake Campground via Brundage Mountain Road. Park there, point your bike toward the Upper Hazard Lake Trail, and let your legs do the rest until you reach Lloyd’s Lake Overlook at 7,190 feet. From here you can
But that’s just a warm-up for the Burgdorf Hot Springs Loop– a 27-mile quad-burner through the Salmon River Mountains with narrow rocky canyons and numerous streams to ford. From McCall, drive 32 miles northeast to Burgdorf Campground, off Warren Wagon Road at 6,100 feet. After a morning of cranking up ridges and screaming downhill on technically demanding dirt tracks, you’ll
For maps, trail information, and the latest road conditions, phone the McCall Ranger District at 208-634-0400. The folks at Gravity Sports in McCall know most routes by heart and can provide equipment (mountain bikes rent for $18 per day; call 208-634-8530).
Nature and a geometry teacher may have teamed up to create Bowron Lake Provincial Park, a parallelogram of interconnected lakes and rivers that form a 72-mile, eight- to ten-day canoe circuit with just six portages. Everyone paddles it clockwise, starting from Kibbee Lake in the shadow of the snow-capped Cariboo Mountains, about 525 miles north of Vancouver. Register first at
Two particularly challenging stretches of river between Isaac Lake and Lanezi Lake hone whitewater skills between flatwater paddling. At Unna Lake, make time for the hike to Cariboo Falls. The final leg of the canoe circuit is a cinch, but keep to the center of Spectacle Lakes to avoid shallows. Take out at the northeast end of Bowron Lake.
If you have only a few days, base yourself in one of Bowron Lake Lodge’s 20 beachfront cabins ($37 for a double, $59 for four; 604-992-2733) and explore the lake by day. Or just canoe the west side of the circuit south to Unna Lake and back. (You can rent a canoe from the lodge for $23 per day.)
All parties canoeing the entire circuit must reserve a departure date through D.J. Park Contractors at 604-992-3111 and pay a fee of $44 per canoe ($36 per kayak or solo canoe). For route descriptions and maps, call British Columbia Parks, Cariboo District, at 604-398-4414. Great Escape Wilderness Canoeing (604-372-8151) runs guided eight-day trips on the circuit for $775 per
When the summer’s heat finally loosens its grip, the sage-and-canyon country of central Washington becomes superb road-cycling territory. Base out- and- back day rides in Ellensburg, a historic college and cowboy town in a broad, flat valley surrounded by the foothills of the Cascades.
Old Canyon Road (Washington 821) snakes south 34 miles through the steep-walled Yakima River Canyon toward Yakima, the heart of Washington’s apple country. Stock up at one of the roadside apple and cider stands, and picnic at the Umtanum Creek Recreation Area, 15 miles from Ellensburg. Then take a hike up the five-mile round-trip Umtanum Canyon Trail, which starts at the
A slightly longer day ride (80 miles round-trip) follows Washington 10 north along the Yakima River, veering west toward the Cascades near Mount Stuart, one of the largest chunks of exposed granite in the world. The riding is fast and easy among pine forests and sagebrush foothills. About 26 miles from Ellensburg, turn north on Washington 903. If the townscape of Roslyn evokes
Between rides, bunk down at the Circle H Holiday Ranch ($70 per person, including meals; 509-964-2000), nine miles west of Ellensburg. There are five rustic but finely appointed cabins, and owner Betsy Ogden serves three hearty meals to keep your legs from running on empty. For maps and information, call Valley Cycling and Fitness in Ellensburg at 509-925-5993.
Created last year, British Columbia’s newest provincial park holds crags and ice fields circling Chilko Lake–at 4,290 feet high and 52 miles long, the largest natural high-elevation freshwater lake in North America. The park is nine hours north of Vancouver via the town of Williams Lake and Highway 20.
If you want a secluded campsite, tap Chilko’s midlake region by exiting Highway 20 at Hanceville, a hamlet about 50 miles west of Williams Lake. Bring a four-wheel-drive–from Hanceville the road to Chilko Lake is rough gravel. At road’s end (about 50 miles) you’ll come upon Movie Site, a blustery lakeside camping area with pit toilets and a panorama of the Coast Mountains. A
To get to Chilko’s more civilized north end, exit Highway 20 at Tatla Lake and follow the gravel road for about an hour. The four-mile Mount Tullin Trail starts at the campground and gives the best views of Chilko’s turquoise waters and surrounding peaks. Four lodges near Chilko’s north shore can set up fishing and horseback riding excursions. Chilko Lake Resort ($144 per
Byron Ricks, a writer based in Seattle, has cycled and climbed throughout the Northwest.