Benson Plateau (Intro)

A while back, I set a pair of goals for my summer backpacking: to hike a 40 mile loop in the Columbia River Gorge and to hike the Timberline trail on Mt. Hood. The trails I wanted to use in the Gorge finally started clearing up in June, so that is where I headed first. I didn’t go backpacking last year, so I had a lot of preparations to make and since this was the first time that I was going to carry a pack while wearing my FiveFingers, I had a lot of conditioning to do. Oh, and of course there were last-minute changes to the route that had to be made on account of the weather. A lot to do.

My original plan was to follow the loop that Doug Lorain describes in his Backpacking Oregon. I would have started at the Eagle Creek trailhead, hiked down trail 400 to the Herman Creek campsite then hiked up the ridge behind Herman Creek to Whatum Lake and then followed the Eagle Creek Trail back to the start. About a 40 mile loop in four days. Unfortunately, rain started to invade the forecast and my buddy decided to veto my plan on account of the difficulty and the aforementioned rain.

So, the day before we were set to leave, we decided that we would hike up the Ruckel Creek trail to Benson Plateau and then head to Whatum lake and hike out along the Eagle Creek Trail. Less than thirty miles for our four days. A much more reasonable pace. There were complications and risky decisions during the hike that wound up making it much more difficult, but that was in the days to come.

I put a lot more thought into my food for this trip, wanting to learn from my mistakes in the past. On previous trips I had taken macaroni and cheese for my dinners, but this always turned out to be a mess and generally more work than it was worth at the end of a tiring day. This time I took ramen packs instead. My goal was to start and end each day with a hot meal and to be able to eat hearty lunches that didn’t require any cooking. This would keep my from having to unpack my bag during the day.

This was also going to be my first trip wearing my FiveFingers. I’ve been hiking in them for a year and using them as my around-town shoes for a few months now, but carrying a load in them is another thing. There were a lot of unknowns for this trip.

So, to make it short, I am going to write a bunch of blog posts about my trip and what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully someone will actually enjoy reading about it. More posts will be coming soon!