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Why Everyone Needs a Go-To Camping Spot

Up in Utah’s La Sal Mountains, about 45 minutes from Moab, there’s an undeveloped campsite on Forest Service land. A rough dirt road forks, then turns even rougher immediately before a stand of aspens opens onto a field with a sweeping view of La Sal Pass. 

This was my family’s favorite spot when I was in high school. We would set up our tent at the edge of the trees, the mountain peaks visible out the door. In spring, the field was a riot of wildflowers; in fall, the leaves turned golden. Cows sometimes wandered through, flustering our Jack Russell terrier. 

We visited that spot at least twice as often as we went anywhere else. It was a summer escape from the desert’s baking heat, and it was beautiful, free, close by, and almost never occupied. We could bike or hike, but mostly we just hung out around camp, enjoying the view and the silence and each other’s company. Having a go-to spot eliminated decision anxiety and cut down on planning, making camping more a good habit than a special occasion. After a busy week that left no time to dream up new adventures, if we realized we wanted to sleep under the stars, we could be on our way in an hour.

Our spot was familiar (we knew which trees could anchor our tarp when it rained and which rocks made the best seats) but returning to it was no less memorable than trips that took months to plan. The only mountain lion I’ve ever seen bounded across the road in broad daylight as we drove to our site—in disbelief, we confirmed with each other that it was what we thought and kept the dog on a leash that night. We saw a double rainbow and dense wildflowers and the orangey-pink light of summer evenings slanting across 12,000-foot peaks. When we forgot our stove, we made tacos and pancakes over the campfire in a cast-iron pan.

By letting go of the expectation that every vacation be unique, we got out more. We cultivated a relationship with the place—I brought a high school boyfriend there once, a compatibility test on par with having him meet my parents. Our family camping spot wasn’t just a place we went to; it was an extension of home.

Read more: outsideonline.com

The Best Outdoor Gear Comes from This Hunting Brand

Growing up in the Midwest, I constantly considered searching as a lazy male’’ s sport, one where you were restricted to a tree stand or a blind and didn’’ t relocation much. After taking up bowhunting for elk, deer, and antelope over the previous 2 years where I now live, in New Mexico, I understand I couldn’’ t have actually been more incorrect.

Western big-game searching is among the most physically tough activities I’’ ve ever done. Almost all your time is invested off-trail, and you’’ re in some cases needed to run up hillsides and pass through ridgelines while bring a lots of equipment, frequently in nasty weather condition.

In all my days of mountain cycling, backcountry snowboarding, backpacking, and sport climbing, I’’ ve never ever done anything that’’ s so hard on clothes and devices, and by the very same token, I’’ ve never ever been as impressed with an equipment business as I am with Sitka , a searching brand name that makes high-end clothing and carries out. Its motto is ““ Turning clothes into equipment,” ” and its items live as much as that much better than anything I’’ ve used from a standard outside brand name.

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 searching equipment for outdooors( Photo: Courtesy Bryan Rogala)

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As somebody who originates from a nonhunting background, it got me thinking of the equipment I utilize regularly to trek, ski, and bike.The Sitka pieces I use searching have actually been a few of the best-performing clothing I ’ ve ever utilized in the outdoors, complete stop. And now I use them to do more than simply hunt. I bring my Cloudburst Jacket on every walking and reside in the Mountain Pant whether I ’ m outdoor camping or simply operating in the backyard. I ’ ve discovered the materials Sitka utilizes to be extremely long lasting, and I like that the business sweats the little information, like how loud a material is , so you can be as peaceful as possible while stalking video game. If you ’ re not into its basic camouflage appearance, a great deal of the coats and trousers are’now readily available in earth-tone solids that are a welcome departure from the extremely brilliant colors so prevalent in the outside market.

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Even if you aren ’ t a hunter, there ’ s a lot to be gotten by utilizing devices and clothes developed to prosper in a few of the harshest conditions you ’ re most likely to discover yourself in outdoors. Here are 3 of my favorites.

. Mountain Pant($ 199 ).

 Sitka Gear( Photo: Courtesy Sitka)

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This is among&the very best sets of trousers I ’ ve ever owned. I ’ m 6 feet 3 inches high, with long legs, so discovering trousers that fit has actually constantly been difficult, however these in shape completely. That ’ s partially thanks to the numerous sizing choices (I use a size 33 high) and their style: the efficiency fit is a bit slimmer than conventional treking trousers in order to decrease noise, perfect for strolling through the woods. I ’ ve used them in temperature levels varying from 25 to 75 degrees, and aside from being wind- and waterproof, the standout function is their toughness.’These trousers feature detachable knee pads( exceptionally helpful for searching), however the four-way-stretch woven polyester material itself deals with and withstands tears abuse extremely well. I ’ ve used them for various hunts in New Mexico over the previous 2 seasons, and they still look new. It ’ s uncommon to discover such a fitted, flexible set of trousers that can stand up to a lots of off-trail hiking in the Rockies, not to discuss crawling on your knees and hands. For this factor, they ’ ll work for almost any outside pursuit, consisting of climbing up or treking.

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. Mountain Hauler 4000&Pack($ 485).

Sitka Gear( Photo: Courtesy Sitka)

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I got fortunate this year and filled my very first elk tag. It was an experience I ’ ll always remember, and one that was made profoundly much better by having this piece of equipment. My pals and I needed to loadout the meat over 2 and a half rough, trailless miles back to the truck, and the Mountain Hauler 4000 dealt with almost 100 pounds&of meat and antlers with ease. I ’ ve utilized many various&knapsacks created for heavy loads, however none might deal with weight like that. This one is expandable from 3,700 to 4,500 cubic inches and chock-full of hunting-specific functions like antler’straps and an internal load-hauling rack for a rear quarter. The convenience is what actually offered me: I didn ’ t understand you might bring that much weight and not be in discomfort. Anytime I require to bring a great deal of equipment along on a backpacking or ski-hut journey, I understand which load I ’ ll be getting.

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. Kelvin Active Jacket($ 289).

 Sitka Gear (Photo: Courtesy Sitka)

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Hunting, like backcountry snowboarding, is among those sports where having the ideal layers is vital. Preferably, you desire a midlayer that insulates when you ’ re standing still which breathes when you ’ re trucking uphill. This coat does both actually well. It ’ s filled with 80-gram Polartec Alpha insulation, which is utilized by a lot of&the very best brand names in the outside market since of its thermoregulating capabilities. I own comparable coats from other brand names, however information like brushed-fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets and the Polygiene odor-control treatment make this one of my favorites. It works as an excellent layer for ski trips, physical fitness laps at the resort, and even cold early mornings on the mtb.

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Buy Now

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Read more: outsideonline.com

The Ultimate Hood River, Oregon Travel Guide

It took me years to fully appreciate Hood River, the outdoor recreation fairyland just an hour east of Portland, Oregon. Since moving to Portland in 2010, I’ve been drawn to the wind-carved canyon of the Columbia River Gorge, the quick access to Mount Hood’s year-round snowy runs, and the Hood River area’s abundant apple orchards and vineyards. But it wasn’t until 2016, when I made the one-mile crossing over the Columbia from Oregon into the neighboring town of White Salmon in Washington, that I was able to grasp Hood River’s beauty; from that vantage, it looks like some ancient Swiss mountain village—vibrant, tree covered, etched into the side of the river gorge, and set against a backdrop of Mount Hood’s craggy, 11,240-foot peak.

For the uninitiated, Hood River isn’t exactly a mountain town, at roughly an hour by car from its namesake summit. Since the 1980s, it’s earned a reputation as one of the world’s premier wind-sport destinations, thanks to its wind-tunnel effect. Warm, dry desert air from eastern Oregon pulls cool, wet weather from the Pacific through the Columbia River Gorge, giving this stretch of river Goldilocks conditions and violent whitecaps. Every summer, brightly colored kiteboards dot the river’s edge. “It’s a unique dynamic that doesn’t exist in many other places in the world,” explains TJ Gulizia, a wind-sports expert at the Big Winds shop in town.

Forty years after the birth of windsurfing, international diehards and curious tourists still come for gusty thrills. Most visitors, though, are drawn to Hood River’s proximity to downhill skiing, world-class whitewater, view-filled hikes, and precipitous mountain-biking trails in the gorge and the Mount Hood Wilderness. The area also happens to be nestled in the center of Oregon’s orchard country, which produces apples and cherries that will redefine the fruits for you entirely.

With a slew of new boutique hotels and a blossoming food and drink scene on either side of the Columbia, there’s never been a better time to explore this Portland-adjacent adventure mecca. The biggest challenge when visiting Hood River for the first time, it seems, is knowing where to start. 

What You Need to Know Before Visiting

Hood, OR(Photo: benedek/iStock)

Prepare for the occasional trail closure and hiking permit: Many of the gorge’s most popular trails remain closed for rehabilitation after 2017’s historic Eagle Creek Fire scorched 48,861 acres of forest on the Oregon side of the river. No need to despair: although the waterfall corridor is a crowd-pleaser, it makes up only a small fraction of the 293,000-acre Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. If you’re headed west from Hood River into the corridor, check the Forest Service website’s handy map of fire-affected trails. Outside the burn area, one of the gorge’s buzziest treks—nearby Dog Mountain—requires a special day-use permit during peak wildflower season on weekends from April to June. 

Watch for ice: Hood River’s steady westerly gusts are a double-edged sword for travelers during the shoulder season and winter months. Locals are easily identifiable by their studded snow tires, and for good reason: the combination of heavy precipitation, just-around-freezing temperatures, and intense winds can turn Hood River and its main artery, Interstate 84, into an ice rink. Visit the Oregon Department of Transportation’s website beforehand. 

Take a shuttle: You don’t need to find your way through peak summer traffic, thanks to Columbia Area Transit’s (CAT) next-level public transportation. It offers shuttles from Portland to Hood River, with multiple stops in the gorge and free winter trips from Hood River to Mount Hood Meadows, one of the area’s biggest downhill ski areas. 

How to Get There

Hood, OR(Photo: Michael Ver Sprill/iStock)

The vast majority of visitors drive east from Portland on I-84, which runs along the border between Oregon and Washington. The one-hour trip takes you through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and past the state’s most impressive waterfalls, from Multnomah to Wahkeena.

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Hood River?

Hood, OR(Photo: DaveAlan/iStock)

Summer: This is prime time for the area, when average daytime highs hover in the low eighties, meaning you can wear nothing but swim trunks or a bathing suit while windsurfing or paddleboarding. Mount Hood, meanwhile, typically thaws out by early August, opening up a wealth of high-alpine backpacking and mountain-biking trails. That said, you’ll still find plenty of snow atop Palmer Glacier at Timberline Lodge—one of North America’s only year-round ski areas. The rub, of course, is that everyone else is out there with you. Expect heavy traffic en route to and around the mountain.

Fall: There’s a sweet spot in September when the crowds thin and before the weather turns. Expect temperatures ranging from the forties at night up to the seventies during the day. A major bonus is the Hood River Fruit Loop, a 35-mile scenic drive through farmland and forests when produce is at its ripest, with endless acres of apple orchards containing heirloom varieties from Arkansas Black to Northern Spy.

Winter: In-the-know powder hounds use Hood River as their home base between December and March. Typically, there’s minimal traffic on the way up to the mountain on bucolic Route 35 coming from Hood River, especially compared to the daily jam that clogs Highway 26, which runs directly from Portland to Mount Hood. Regardless of the weather, always bring chains in the winter if you don’t have snow tires. 

Spring: Even if it’s pouring in Portland on a spring day, it’s likely you’ll find reliable sunshine in Hood River and eastward, thanks to Mount Hood’s rain-shadow effect: prevailing winds rise, cool, and condense in the form of rain (or snow) on one side of the mountain, leaving dry, warm air on the opposite side. March through May is peak wildflower season in the gorge, and the 3.5-mile Mosier Plateau, four-mile Dalles Mountain Ranch, and five-mile Lyle Cherry Orchard Trails all put on stunning displays of lupine, paintbrush, and phlox, just to name a few.

Where to Stay in Hood River

Hood, OR(Photo: Talia Jean Galvin)

The past few years have seen a wave of redesigned hotels in the area. The circa-1912 Hood River Hotel (from $99), located downtown, got a retro-chic face-lift in 2017 from the team behind Portland’s swanky Jupiter Hotel. Exclusive perks include the 420 in the Gorge package, a partnership with neighboring cannabis dispensary Gorge Greenery, and an in-house outpost of Portland’s popular Scandinavian-brunch restaurant Broder Øst. Across the river, the Society Hotel Bingen is a transformed 80-year-old schoolhouse. It now boasts a thrifty outdoor clubhouse with communal bunk rooms ($45) and a small settlement of cabins (from $159) encircling a sprawling spa and bathhouse. Warm and cold pools, a sauna, a fresh-juice café, and an underground meditation room known as the Sanctuary are free to guests.

For a more agrarian experience, Sakura Ridge (from $225), just seven miles south of Hood River, is a luxurious farm stay with five rooms, 30 acres of pear and apple orchards, 20 beehives, grazing sheep, and perfect mountain views. Those wanting to car-camp close to Hood River can pitch a tent near the Columbia at Viento State Park (from $17), eight miles west of town, or right along Hood River’s namesake at Tucker Park ($25), six miles south. 

What to Do While You’re There

Hood, OR(Photo: GarysFRP/iStock)

Wind Sports

There’s a reason Hood River hosts the Association of Wind and Water Sports Industries’ Board Sports Expo every year and is the home base of some of the biggest names in wind sports—it’s the ideal place to be hauled across the water by nothing but a stiff breeze. For those still mystified by the wind-sports industry, here’s a brief history: the 1990s were all about windsurfing, the early 2000s saw the advent of kiteboarding, and kite and wind foiling kicked off in the 2010s, allowing riders to levitate above the water at faster speeds than were previously possible due to a finlike hydrofoil jutting beneath the board. You’ll find every permutation of wind sports still thriving in Hood River today, but wing foiling (utilizing an inflatable, handheld detached “wing”) is the current industry darling. 

For plucky first-timers, Big Winds, one of five outfitters perched on the edge of the Columbia, offers lessons (from $49) in nearly every iteration of the niche sport that you can imagine, from mellow stand-up paddleboarding to cutting-edge wing foiling. Those starting out will likely practice inside “the hook” just off the main promenade. Veterans packing their own gear will quickly discover that the best wind isn’t directly in front of Hood River but four miles west on the Washington side at the Hatchery. For a detailed lay of the land, check in with any of the rental shops, outfitters, and guides lined along the waterfront. 

Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking

A massive confluence of designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, from the Salmon to the Klickitat, flows through this section of Oregon and Washington. Several outfitters operate out of White Salmon, one mile north of Hood River. A local favorite, Wet Planet, offers trips in both states, including a full-day Class III–IV roller-coaster rafting adventure for kids and adults on the White Salmon River (from $140) that ends with a 12-foot nose dive down Husum Falls.

Hiking

Hood River is a short distance from dozens of view-gifting gorge hikes. Catherine Creek, a two-mile loop, is an easy option across the river and excellent for wildflower spotting in the spring, while the 12.2-mile round-trip Mount Defiance and 2.6-mile Mitchell Point routes are both heart-pumping straight shots up to dramatic cliff panoramas. Driving westward back toward Portland gives you access to the famed waterfall corridor (though be aware of possible trail closures), from the much Instagrammed Multnomah Falls to Oneonta’s narrow, one-mile basalt wade, both of which have trailheads just off the highway. 

In summer, the entirety of Mount Hood’s alpine trail system is open. The mountain’s east-side treks are most accessible from Hood River. Elk Meadows, a six-mile round trip hike, gains up to 5,120 feet in elevation and takes you through an old-growth Douglas fir forest and across glacial streams right up to Hood’s craggy face, which looms over an aster- and parnassus-strewn meadow. For a shorter, year-round jaunt only 30 minutes from Hood River, hike the 3.4-mile out-and-back Tamanawas Falls, a wide cascade that flows from Cold Spring Creek over a 110-foot lava cliff. The backpacking possibilities in this national forest are endless, from an 8.5-mile round-trip day hike to Bald Butte to the bucket-list Timberline Trail, a 40-mile, round-the-mountain loop offering jaw-dropping scenery in all directions.

Mountain Biking

Blame the occasional windless day for the city’s endemic mountain-biking scene. “In the old days when there was no wind, we would just hang out in the parking lot and not know what to do,” explains Tim Mixon, president of Hood River Area Trail Stewards, a volunteer-based organization responsible for building and tending to many of the area’s mountain-bike trail networks. “As trail building and bike design have kind of merged to where 50-year-old guys like me can go ride with 20-year-olds, it’s just exploded around here.” 

Post Canyon, a nearly 40-mile network of trails with up to 3,400 feet of vertical descent from the Seven Streams staging area to the berm-filled segment of Borderline, is the holy grail of mountain biking in Hood River. From spring through fall, riders of all skill levels and styles can explore routes that range from labyrinthine cross-country trails (Spaghetti Factory) to precipitous downhill sections (Dirt Surfer). Sixteen miles south of Hood River sits 44 Trails, the largest network of singletrack in the region, and just across the river in Washington are the wide-open, boulder-strewn Syncline Trail system and the wildflower-abundant Nestor Peak ride (a 12-mile out-and-back). Hood River Mountain Bike Adventures hosts tours (from $100) led by guides with encyclopedic intel of the area, while a tune-up at Dirty Finger Bikes downtown is a great excuse for a breakfast-burrito break at neighboring Kickstand Coffee.

Skiing and Snowboarding

There are three main players on Mount Hood when it comes to downhill snow sports, each with its strengths and flaws. Timberline Lodge, a wood and iron fortress, is the only ski-in, ski-out resort on the mountain. It’s also known by out-of-town visitors as the filming location for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. At 8,540 feet, Timberline is the highest serviced ski area in the region and nearly guaranteed to be snow covered year-round ($72 for a day pass). Closest to Portland on Route 26, Skibowl is prized for being both steep and cheap. Runs are comparatively short, but with the largest collection of black diamonds in the state and 34 floodlit night runs, it’s a steal at $53 for an adult day pass. 

Finally, on the southeastern side of the mountain, Mount Hood Meadows (from $82 for a day pass) is a Goliath best suited for those with a “bigger is better” mentality. It features 2,150 skiable acres, six high-speed quads, a three-mile-long run, and 2,777 feet of vertical drop. Be prepared for regularly icy conditions. Those who have little ones in tow can opt for smaller runs and smaller crowds at either Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, on the north side of the mountain, or Summit Ski Area, right inside Government Camp, which is a glorified bunny hill and the second-oldest continuously operating ski area in the country. 

The Best Places to Eat and Drink in Hood River 

Hood, OR(Photo: Courtesy Hiyu Wine Farm)

Between top-notch access to produce, a serious wine scene, and influence from Portland’s scrappy, forward-thinking chefs, Hood River has become a veritable dining destination. The aforementioned Broder Øst, located in the Hood River Hotel, offers up photogenic Swedish hash, cardamom-scented fika pastries, and Norwegian potato crepes without the lines you’ll find at its Portland outposts. Then there’s Celilo, an Italian eatery with hyper-local leanings, and Solstice, a wood-fired pizzeria, two longtime stalwarts with heavily seasonal influences. 

Hood River is a heavyweight beer city in an already beer-obsessed state, with breweries like O.G. Full Sail Brewing, established in 1987 and known for its amber ale, and pFriem Family Brewers, a modern titan of craft beer that’s won nearly every industry award and accolade. Ferment Brewing Company, which opened in 2018 a few doors down, serves IPAs and Czech lagers alongside kombucha brewed with sencha, Assam, and oolong teas. 

Five miles southwest of Hood River, Hiyu Wine Farm has made a name for itself in recent years as one of the most exciting, high-end wine-tasting experiences in the Pacific Northwest. Nate Ready, a former sommelier for Napa’s French Laundry, grows 80 different grape varietals on his 30-acre biodynamic vineyard that’s maintained only by grazing pigs, cows, and chickens. It all comes together in a tasting room where funky, raw vintages meet piperade-coated house sausages.

In the town of White Salmon, the White Salmon Baking Company is known for its chewy, tangy loaves exclusively made with flour from small-scale Pacific Northwest mills in its custom-built wood oven. Poppy spelt and fig-barley bread make for exceptional sandwiches, toasts, and tartines, while an onslaught of pastries from croissants to polenta cake take full advantage of the region’s glut of fresh berries and stone fruits. 

If You Have Time for a Detour

Hood, OR(Photo: ChrisBoswell/iStock)

If you’re vehement about avoiding crowds or in search of wild, alpine wilderness sans ski lifts, the Mount Adams Recreation Area, just an hour north of Hood River in Washington, is home to one of the more magnificent glaciated peaks in the Pacific Northwest. The second-tallest mountain in the state at 12,281 feet, Mount Adams sits a good distance from both Portland and Seattle, making it relatively secluded, even in the summertime. Make your base camp Takhlakh Lake, a 53-site campground (from $18) whose swimming hole often acts as a pristine mirror for Adams, looming just seven miles away. For a quick, up-close encounter with the peak, hike the steep, 2.6-mile round-trip Sleeping Beauty, which winds around a tight, rocky spire to an old fire-lookout-tower platform.

For backpackers, instead of attempting the five-day circumnavigation that combines the Round the Mountain, Pacific Crest, and Highline Trails (not to mention a treacherous bushwhack and glacier traverse), opt for Foggy Flat, an easy overnight trip with many of the longer route’s best qualities. This ten-miler along the mountain’s north face offers stunning sights (and wildflowers in July and August) as you ascend up to Foggy Flat, a grassy expanse perched below Lyman Glacier. Mountaineers flock to Mount Adams’s South Climb, a nontechnical 12-mile round-trip assault. From May to September, most climbers make their summit attempt over two days, stopping at the relatively flat, boulder-strewn Lunch Counter on the first night. The final two-mile leg up to the summit affords incredible views of Washington’s five volcanoes.

How to Be a Conscious Visitor 

Hood, OR(Photo: AROTECH/iStock)

For anyone who didn’t experience the emotional and environmental devastation of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, Rachel Pawlitz, the Forest Service public-affairs officer for the Columbia River Gorge, likes to remind visitors that despite the region’s reputation as soggy and moss covered, summers are “inherently quite dry, starting in late June.” The baseline is, “if you don’t need a fire in the summer, don’t set one,” says Pawlitz. If you do happen to encounter early signs of forest fire and have cell-phone reception, call 911 and report the fire, she says. “If it’s already been reported, authorities might be able to give you more information on where to go next,” she adds. “It’s important to hike with a map and compass so you can look for an alternative route that can get you back to your car.” For more local safety tips, visit Friends of the Columbia Gorge

Read more: outsideonline.com

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