Latest Posts

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

Hobbit Trail, Oregon is a quick and easy-moderate 1/2 mile hike to Hobbit Beach. The trail is accessible from Hobbit Trailhead, located right along highway 101 – about 12.5 miles north of Florence, Oregon.

Hobbit Trailhead, Oregon

There’s a small parking area on the east side of the highway, but the trail starts on the west side. Use extreme caution when crossing the road – folks like to drive fast! There are no restrooms or potable water. We also didn’t notice any fee requirement.

Hobbit Trailhead, Oregon

Hobbit Trailhead, Oregon

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

My husband, Nat, and I arrived at the trailhead around 11:15am on Saturday, December 1. We parked and then crossed the highway to meet up with Hobbit Trailhead. The weather was cloudy with occasional sun breaks and a slight chill to the air.

There are two trails that branch off in opposite directions – Hobbit Trail to the right (north) and Heceta Head Trail to the left (south).

Hobbit Trailhead, Oregon

For this post I will focus on our hike along Hobbit Trail to Hobbit Beach. However, stay tuned for an upcoming post about our trek along Heceta Head Trail to Heceta Lighthouse. :]

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

The Forest

The surrounding dense coastal forest is lush, green, and – depending on the season – glistens in the light. The thick underbrush surrounds and in some areas almost covers the path.

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

The moss-covered trees and vegetation are a sight to see. Keep an eye out for large old-growth trees farther off the trail in the distance.

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

Some areas have built-in wooden steps to secure the structural integrity of the trail and make it more accessible. Certainly easier to climb compared to a muddy slope during the rainy season.

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

The sun peeked out from behind the clouds and filtered through the tree canopy. The lighting was beautiful.

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

Eventually the trail opens up as it descends out of the forest and closer to the beach. The trail splits into two directions and connects again at the bottom of the slope. It’s also so open in this area that you can see both paths and where they lead.

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

At the bottom of the hill there’s a lot of underbrush that forms a small tunnel. There are more wooden steps that take you down under the foliage.

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

This is one of my favorite spots on Hobbit Trail. I could hang out in here forever and inspect every little plant, shell, and rock. This is looking back the way we came. The beach is just beyond this area.

Hobbit Trail, Oregon

Hobbit Beach

We arrived at Hobbit Beach around 11:25am – just a short 10 minute hike.

Hobbit Beach, Oregon

If you decide to explore along the shoreline, take note of the location number 93 to find Hobbit Trail again.

Hobbit Beach, Oregon

The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It made for beautiful lighting and great views. Though, I imagine this hike would be just as lovely on a rainy day.

Hobbit Beach, Oregon

 

Overview

Hobbit Trail is an easy-moderate 1/2 mile hike through a dense, lush coastal forest to Hobbit Beach. I would consider the trail easy-moderate due to a few areas with steeper slopes. Otherwise it makes for a perfect family-friendly hike to a great spot on the beautiful Oregon coast.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes, Oregon is a set of 3 lakes located about 70 miles southeast of Eugene – about 69 miles southwest of Bend – in the Deschutes National Forest. It’s a popular hiking, fishing, and backpacking destination nestled in a dense, beautiful sub-alpine forest.

The trailhead is off of highway 58 – after turning off the road, it’s just right of a large sand shed tucked behind the tree line. It’s actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which is another reason for its popularity. The parking lot is large with one pit toilet but no potable water. You can read more about the trailhead here.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

My husband Nat (below middle), brother Oliver (below left), and I arrived at Rosary Lakes Trailhead around 10:30 am on Saturday, September 29. The weather was sunny with mostly blue skies and a few scattered clouds. It was forecasted to rain later in the evening / early Sunday morning, so we were prepared.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Oliver accidentally locked his keys in his car – with his gear still inside! Thankfully he had a spare key stashed away for emergencies.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Finally we shouldered our packs and hit the trail!

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes Trail

The trail starts off at a slight incline covered by tall trees with baby trees scattered throughout. We could hear traffic noise from highway 58, especially at first, but the farther we hiked the less we heard.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

After about a 1/4 mile you’ll reach an intersection and a sign posted to a tree. The sign says 3 miles to the right for Rosary Lakes. We estimate this is the distance to the first lake. However, there’s a sign up ahead that states 3 1/2 miles – this is about the distance to the third lake. The sign at the trailhead states 3 miles, too. A bit confusing!

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

You will notice small blue signs posted to trees every couple hundred feet. Those mark the trail for cross-country skiers who come through here during the winter when the snow falls.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Soon after we reached the next sign.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

The trail was quite dusty – my black shoes and leggings were covered in a layer of dirt.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Most of the trees are tall with few low-hanging branches, creating an open forest. In some areas the underbrush is thin and dry.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

The sun filtered through the thick tree canopy – it made for beautiful lighting.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

In other areas the forest is more lush and you can see the new growth.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

The trail continues to climb a very gradual incline away from highway 58. By the time we were close to the first Rosary Lake, the traffic noise had dissipated. (Except for the occasional plane.)

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes | Lower

Finally we reached the first lake. We could clearly see the first signs of fall with the small colorful trees sprinkled around the water’s edge.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

The trail hugs the southern and eastern sides of the lake as it heads toward middle Rosary Lake. We decided to carry on to the next one. Watch your step over the small rock field!

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

There are many great options for campsites right along the trail. The forest is very open in this area, so there are plenty of spots to set up camp.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

There are also many good fishing spots just off the trail. Much of the terrain bordering the lake is flat and wide with plenty of beached logs to recline.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes | Middle

A short 1/4 mile will get you to middle Rosary Lake. We had planned to set up camp on the opposite shoreline in the photo below, but we noticed folks had already snagged it.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

You’ll have a great view of the large butte across the lake. More on that later. :]

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

We continued on yet again. By the time you leave the second lake you can already see the third lake between the tall thin trees. The surrounding area is still open with little underbrush.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes | Upper

Soon after we arrived at upper Rosary Lake. Each lake is smaller than the last.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

The trail continues to curve around the eastern side of the third lake until it breaks away on the northern side.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

We settled on a little spot tucked between the trees – we followed a small side trail off the main Rosary Lakes Trail.

The Butte

Once we set up camp, brewed some hot beverages, and munched on some snacks, we decided to venture to the top of the butte. Yes, the butte pictured above. Apparently Nat and Oliver conquered this trek several years ago and suggested we all hike up there.

I just want to note that there is no marked trail up to the butte – we just bushwhacked our way up toward the top. So please use your best judgement and exercise caution. It’s slippery and steep!

We climbed and scrambled until we finally made it to a plateau. The views were beautiful of middle (right) and upper Rosary Lakes.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Here’s a closeup of the upper lake. The weather was perfectly clear.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

We decided to continue on and climb father up the butte. Eventually we made it to another plateau where we finally stopped and soaked in the stunning panoramic view of Rosary Lakes. We could see all 3 lakes (the upper lake is peeking through the trees on the left).

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

If you look past the lower lake beyond the tree line, you’ll see Odell Lake.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

There were tiny wild succulents tucked between rocks, scattered alongside the butte.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

After a while we clambered down the butte and headed back to camp.

The Afternoon & Evening

The boys enjoyed some fishing while I explored and took photos. A lot of branches and dead logs strewed the shore.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

The fall colors were a gorgeous contrast against the blue water and green bushy forest.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

We eventually made our way back to camp where we relaxed, cooked dinner, and enjoyed the view of upper Rosary Lake. There were a few ominous clouds hovering over the lake.

Once the sun ducked behind the trees it became a bit too chilly for me, so I decided to crawl into the tent while the boys continued to chat in the dark.

The Big Storm

Not long after retreating to the tent lightning lit up the entire night sky. Following were huge claps of thunder – deep pounding thunder that you could feel in your chest. This thunderstorm was close – very close – and moving right over top of us.

Finally the rain kicked in. And then the hail – huge chunks of it! I recorded the sound of the hail pelting the rain guard while snuggled in the tent. You can hear Oliver and Nat chatting just outside.

This was the size of the hail! Ok, I’m sure it’s nothing compared to a midwest or east-coast storm, but it surprised us Oregonians. ;]

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Eventually the storm passed and we all tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.

The Next Morning

It was difficult to tell if it was still sprinkling or if the water collected in the tree canopy was dripping down. We bundled up as we crawled out of our tents and quickly brewed some hot drinks to savor.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Our tents were covered in water but thankfully we packed all of our rain gear and covers.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

The lake looked eerie yet beautiful with the dark clouds covering the sky.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Once we ate breakfast and filtered water, we packed up our wet gear and started our 3 1/2-mile hike back to the car.

The rain settled the dust on the trail and made the underbrush glisten.

Rosary Lakes, Oregon

Before we knew it we were back at the trailhead. We packed up our cars and headed home.

Overview

I would consider Rosary Lakes Trail easy-moderate with its quick 3-mile hike to the first lake and gradual incline. The path is clear from most debris and is easy to see. During the warmer months the path seems to become a bit dusty, but it’s only a minor inconvenience.

Rosary Lakes makes for a family-friendly day hike or fishing trip as well as a great backpacking destination. There are plenty of flat, open spots to set up chairs or make camp. This area of the Deschutes National Forest is beautiful and great to visit any time of the year. Just note that there will be snow during the winter months, so bring your skis!

Backpacking Kitchen Gear

Imagine hiking for miles carrying 25+ lbs of gear on your back. Maybe throw in some steep inclines and uneven terrain. When you finally decide on a campsite and start to unpack, most likely your first thought is going to be food. For me, I’m thinking of food while still on the trail! (Hip belt pockets = snack stash.) What all do you need to prep and cook your well-deserved meal? Or how about a steaming cup of coffee or tea? This list of backpacking kitchen gear will ensure hot food and beverages as well as a lightweight backpacking experience.

The feature to look for in backpacking kitchen gear is collapsible. Can it fold down to a small, easy-to-pack size? That will create a manageable camp kitchen. It will also allow you to nest items into other items to achieve a compact packing system.

Backpacking Kitchen Gear

Backpacking Kitchen Gear

The Essentials

Compact burner

There are many different brands, shapes, and sizes. Really it’s up to personal preference. My husband, Nat, and I use the Snow Peak Giga Power Stove with Auto Start* and so far it’s held up well after many backpacking trips. My older brother, Oliver, has the same one and agrees it’s a good compact burner. It folds up and comes with its own case for easy storage. Nat keeps the burner in one of our titanium pots.

Fuel + extra fuel

Fuel is required to properly operate a compact burner – you twist them onto the bottom. They’re available in small canisters usually at around 230 grams or 100 grams. Just make sure to purchase the recommended fuel type and canister size for your specific burner. For our burner we like Jetboil Jetpower* fuel the best – it even comes with a cap to protect the nozzle. We also like to bring a spare – so 2 total – just in case one is defective and doesn’t properly seal. Perhaps this is unnecessary, but we have encountered a few bad canisters and now always bring backup.

Pot with handle

If you plan to cook hot meals, such as freeze-dried food, you’ll want to invest in a sturdy pot. Particularly one with a handle (trust me). Titanium is a sturdy, lightweight material but quite expensive. If a titanium pot is out of the question, there are plenty of other great options such as stainless steel. My husband, Nat, and I use the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium Cookset* – we really like it. We used to just bring an old, large metal bowl with no handle, so we’re happy with the upgrade. Get creative and bring what works best for you!

Quick tip: if you have a pot with collapsable handles, such as the pot linked above, be sure to prop the handles open while cooking. This way the handles won’t heat up with the sides of the pot.

Eating utensil(s)

This doubles as a stirring device and eating utensil. You can find a variety of options from double-sided sporks to standard individual utensils. They’re also available in a variety of materials such as Tritan™ (a plastic material), stainless steel, and titanium. I personally like my double-sided Light My Fire Titanium Spork*. It’s small, lightweight, and has a serrated edge along one of the outer fork tines. Three utensils in one!

Bonus Gear

Mug

I always bring my Snow Peak titanium mug* to eat oatmeal, portioned freeze-fried meals, and ramen. I also use it to drink herbal tea. Since not everyone drinks coffee or tea I don’t consider this 100% essential for backpacking kitchen gear. However, it does help create a seamless cooking session. You can cook food in the pot (with handle!) for several people and then divvy it up in everyone’s mug. Or you can eat from your pot and enjoy a beverage from your mug.

French press, coffee filter, or tea strainer

For some the taste of coffee or tea is all the motivation they need to crawl out of the tent. (My aching hips do it for me.) ;] So why not make it just the way you like it instead of using instant coffee or tea? Or single-use bags? For many this totally works and they couldn’t care less about it. For those who cherish a freshly brewed beverage, it might behoove you to bring a lightweight French press, filter, or tea strainer. You would just need to make sure to bring ground coffee or tea leaves.

Knife

This knife would be used separately from a safety and/or first-aid knife. It would come in handy if you bring fresh fruits and veggies such as apples, avocados, carrots, etc. Nat always brings a knife and we use it to slice avocado and carrots into our ramen. It really kicks it up a notch! Typically we bring fresh produce on a shorter trip or eat it within the first day or two during a longer trip.

Pot lid

A pot lid will simply help water boil faster as well as keep bugs and debris out of your food. Our Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium Cookset* comes with a lid and we use it every time we boil water and cook. Some lids, such as ours, double as a pan.

Plate or bowl

This will come in especially handy when cooking for multiple people. Or if you just want a more manageable vessel from which to eat. You can cook in your pot, enjoy a beverage in your mug, and eat from your plate or bowl. There are so many styles, materials, and sizes available in store and online. Some are even collapsible for easy storage. I personally don’t bring a plate or bowl and instead use my mug. I can definitely see where they are nice to have, though!

Small hand towel

There’s something so magical about having a hand towel to dry cold, wet hands after rinsing dirty dishes. Or just drying wet dishes. Or, who am I kidding, for scrubbing off dried-on food from your last meal. All you need is one small, lightweight hand towel to get you through – washcloths work great as well. I packed a washcloth for our 3-night backpacking trip at Waldo Lake, Oregon and it was perfect. As long as you lay it flat or hang it up to dry – maybe shake it out a few times – your hand towel will have your back. You’ll want to keep this hand towel separate from the one you use for personal hygiene.

Overview

I hope this list of backpacking kitchen gear aids you in prepping for your trip. It can be overwhelming to decide what to bring and what to leave at home. Use this guide as a starting point to research and learn what works best for you. In my opinion one of the most satisfying parts of backpacking is cooking and enjoying a well-deserved meal.

Are you looking for more tips and advice about what to bring backpacking? Check out my other outdoor guides!

this is not an affiliate link – I’m not compensated in any way – and all opinions and recommendations are my own

Helinox Chair Zero Review

The Helinox Chair Zero retails online and in stores for $119.95. My husband and I each received one as a wedding gift and are so grateful for such generosity and kindness! They were purchased from REI but can be found in other stores, too.

This chair is great for backpacking as well as hikes, concerts, and many other outdoor excursions. The Helinox Chair Zero is available in two colors – black and grey melon. Our chairs are both in the color black (the metal frame is light blue).

Helinox Chair Zero

Quick note: this review is not sponsored – I’m not compensated in any way – and all opinions and recommendations are my own.

Helinox Chair Zero

Pros

Very lightweight

This chair weighs in at 1 pound. It’s effortless to carry around while set up – I can even balance it on one hand! When I strap it to the outside of my pack I barely notice a difference in weight. For me it’s worth the 1 pound to bring this chair along on backpacking trips.

Strong and secure

The aluminum frame is hollow and lightweight yet strong. This backpacking chair can withstand 265 pounds despite its small size. I can completely relax and trust I won’t break it. The seat is one piece of ripstop (tear resistant) polyester fabric with reinforced corners.

Helinox Chair Zero

Easy and quick to assemble and break down

It takes me less than 30 seconds to assemble the Helinox Chair Zero and even quicker to take it apart. There are elastic cords inside the aluminum poles that help snap the frame into place. The seat has a small pocket on each corner to secure over the frame. (This part may cause some difficulty – see the last con below). It comes with a thick rubber band to keep the poles together for easy packing.

Helinox Chair Zero

Packs down small

This camp chair packs down to the size of a large water bottle – about 13.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches. (The photo below compares it to my 20oz Hydro Flask). It will fit in most day backpacks, large pockets, or simply strapped to the outside. I tuck mine behind the clasp of my outside mesh pocket on my Osprey Aura AG 50 Pack.

Helinox Chair Zero

Nice, comfy alternative to a log, rock, etc.

I’ve backpacked many times without a chair and don’t mind sitting on logs, rocks, and even the ground. However, there’s something so sweet about sitting on a smooth, raised surface after a long day of hiking. The sloped back of the Helinox Chair Zero allows for a comfortable reclined sitting position. My older brother Oliver – who doesn’t even bring a deflatable pillow – steals my chair the moment I get up. My husband, Nat (below), does the same thing!

Helinox Chair Zero

Cons

Easy to tip over

If the ground is too soft or uneven, the chair will most likely tip forward or backward. During these circumstances I will stick my legs out or sit up and lean forward to balance it out. Otherwise I’ll pick up and find more stable ground.

Helinox Chair Zero

Sinks into soft ground

Sand, mud, and other soft ground will devour the aluminum legs like quicksand. To remedy this, you can purchase the Helinox Chair Groundsheet separately for $29.95. It creates more surface area and evenly distributes the weight. I’ve never bothered and just let myself sink in. The Helinox Chair Zero sits about 11 inches off the ground, so any sinkage that occurs will have you sitting close to the ground.

Back frame a bit narrow

My shoulders are narrow enough to tuck my arms inside the back frame. It’s a snug, cozy fit but doesn’t bother me. Those with broader shoulders, like Nat, might find the back part uncomfortable. The narrow width may force your arms to spill over the sides.

Helinox Chair Zero

Helinox Chair Zero

Last corner difficult to stretch over pole

This is a minor inconvenience but worth mentioning in my opinion. By the time the fourth corner comes around, the seat is quite taut and difficult to stretch over the last pole. At first I worried I was going to break or rip something. Everything was just fine, though. The included instructions state that it’s easier to turn the chair upside down and I agree that it does help.

Overview

For me personally the pros outweigh the cons for the Helinox Chair Zero. It’s lightweight, comfy, and strong. Just make sure to use a bit more force when inserting the last pole and be careful about placing the chair. Keep in mind the more narrow back for those with wide shoulders. Overall in my opinion it’s a great lightweight option for a comfortable resting spot while in the great outdoors.

Helinox Chair Zero

Researching and deciding on new gear is intimidating! Trust me, I get it. I spend hours (days) looking into a product before I purchase. So I hope this review aids you in your search. Feel free to leave me a comment below or contact me with any questions. :]

this is not an affiliate link – I’m not compensated in any way – and all opinions and recommendations are my own

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake, Oregon is located about 77.5 miles east of Roseburg in the Umpqua National Forest. This Fish Lake isn’t to be confused with another Fish Lake that’s located south near Lake of the Woods.

The roads leading up to Fish Lake can get a bit confusing. Just make sure to bring or study directions and pay attention to the signage. You can find directions to the trailhead here and find more information about Fish Lake Trail here.

Fish Lake, Oregon

There are two trails that lead to the lake. Fish Lake Trail is the longer route at about 4 miles one way. Beaver Swamp Trail is a quick 1/2 mile and perfect for day fishing trips. The two trails intersect at around 1 mile from the lake. You can find a comprehensive map here. (Click on the middle icon in the top right corner and select “Topographic” for a detailed view.)

Nat and I decided to backpack in and out via Fish Lake Trail. The trailhead is on the right side of the road across from a parking area. There’s a picnic table, fire pit, and hitching posts but no restrooms or potable water. The USDA Forest Service states on their website that there’s no fee but we brought our forest pass just in case.

Fish Lake Trail

We arrived at Fish Lake Trailhead around 11 am on Saturday, June 16. We were the only ones there – this trail is less traveled in general but especially compared to Beaver Swamp Trail.

Fish Lake, Oregon

The mosquitoes were swarming us in the parking area but dissipated once we hit the trail. We still lathered ourselves with bug spray in hopes to avoid other creepy crawlies, such as ticks.

Fish Lake, Oregon

The forest is open and bright with a lot of encroaching underbrush. The path is narrow throughout most of the hike.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake Creek meanders along the trail – there are plenty of spots to view the water.

Periodically the trail dips down and passes through a low, rocky brook that trickles into the creek.

Some parts of the trail are maintained and trimmed, while other areas are overgrown. We assume it’s due to the fact that this trail isn’t well traveled.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake, Oregon

This part of the Umpqua National Forest reminds us of Badger Creek Trail, Oregon. It has the same open tree canopy and rocky, low underbrush in addition to forested stretches.

Soon after we dipped back into the tree canopy and met up with a small wooden bridge.

Fish Lake, Oregon

The trail begins to climb out of the cover of the forest and eventually up to a rocky cliffside.

Fish Lake, Oregon

It was great to see all of the tiny trees growing strong within the burned area.

Fish Lake, Oregon

The views are beautiful throughout this part of the trail.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Bushy flowers scattered among the underbrush in the exposed parts of the trail.

Fish Lake, Oregon

We eventually hiked around Beaver Swamp located far down below the trail.

Fish Lake, Oregon

After a while Beaver Swamp Trail intersects with Fish Lake Trail from the left.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake

We saw an old wood sign leaning against a tree before we finally arrived at Fish Lake!

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake, Oregon

The trail hugs the western, northern, and eastern sides of Fish Lake and then drops south toward other smaller lakes.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake is beautiful and clear – a bit too chilly to wade in, though. At least when we were there in mid June.

Setting up camp

We decided to look for a campsite along the northern edge a ways off the trail. The underbrush thickened up in this area but we managed to spot a side trail that leads to the site.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Our campsite was private, covered, and had perfect spaces to set up our tent. It was clearly previously occupied with a fire pit, sitting logs, and unfortunately trash. We picked up as much as we could and set it aside to pack it out.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake, Oregon

After setting up camp we explored Fish Lake and the surrounding forest. We climbed up a steep hillside adjacent to our campsite and discovered some odd structures.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Fish Lake, Oregon

The evening

As we climbed into our tent to settle into our sleeping bags, Nat asked me to check his back for ticks. He explained there was a slight pain on his back and he was worried it was a tick. He lifted up his shirt and I thoroughly examined his back. Nope, I didn’t see anything. While we were at it, I asked Nat to check me for ticks, too.

I lifted up the front of my shirt, looked down, and what did I see? Oh, just a small pine needle – no big deal. I didn’t see anything else out of the ordinary. However, I could sense Nat’s eyes widen without even looking over as he tells me I have one. I HAVE ONE?! My first bite. Chaos ensued.

Long story short, Nat successfully pulled the tick out for me. He also found another baby tick crawling over my shoulder and plucked it off. In our panic, we both stripped naked and thoroughly checked each other for any other ticks. I found one on Nat hiding on his back just below his belt line and pulled it out. To cap the night we scrutinized everything in the tent to ensure there were no more ticks. It was a late night and we didn’t sleep all too well, but now I can look back and laugh (kind of). ;]

The next morning

Thankfully we were able to sleep in to make up for a restless night. We boiled water for tea and coffee and cooked breakfast.

Fish Lake, Oregon

As I was sipping on my green tea, I noticed a small bug slowly crawling up my pant leg. It was a tick. A tick had crawled up my pant leg in the campsite. Crazy!

After a while we packed up camp and filtered water for our hike out. Nat and I tucked in our shirts and sported long-sleeve shirts despite the heat to protect against ticks. We again lathered ourselves in bug spray, said our farewells, and then hit the trail.

I decided to wear my light gray leggings this time so I could watch for ticks. I kid you not – I counted 4 ticks that latched onto my legs throughout the entire hike out. Once we arrived back at the car we thoroughly checked each other for ticks. Unfortunately I found one more on Nat’s upper back and promptly removed it. Somehow I made it out unscathed.

Overview

Fish Lake makes for a great backpacking trip with the established campsites and lovely forest to explore. Plus there’s the lake to enjoy, of course, too! I would consider Fish Lake Trail to be intermediate due to the amount of debris and overgrowth as well as elevation change. Beaver Swamp Trail is perfect for shorter day hikes and fishing trips.

Although we encountered many ticks, Fish Lake is such a beautiful area and somewhere I would love to visit again.

Fish Lake, Oregon

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Gordon Lakes, Oregon is located about 79 miles northeast of Eugene within the Willamette National Forest. As the name suggests, there are two adjacent lakes with a small creek that flows from the upper lake to the lower.

There are two trailheads that lead to the lakes – Gordon Lakes Trailhead West and East. The west trailhead is about 7.5 miles while the east trailhead is about a 1/2 mile. So if you just want to explore or fish Gordon Lakes, I’d recommend the east trailhead. The west trailhead is perfect for a longer day hike or backpacking trip.

Highway 20 along the South Santiam River provides access to both trailheads. You can read more about each trailhead and Gordon Lakes Trail #3386 here.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

The road up to the west trailhead is gravel and a bit windy with some pot holes. The gravel appeared to be somewhat new, so there was a pile in the center of the road that caused my poor Honda to occasionally bottom out.

Nat and I arrived at the west trailhead around 10:45 am on Saturday, May 19. My brother Oliver met us there. Keep an eye out for signs that point toward the trailhead. There’s ample space for parking but no potable water, restrooms, or any posted information about the trail. Make sure to bring along your forest pass!

Hiking Gordon Lakes Trailhead West

The trail starts off wide at a slight incline and a bit hidden between the underbrush.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

It actually used to be an old logging road but has since grown over.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

The forest is open and bright with a lot of tall, thin trees.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Eventually the trail weaves into a thicker forest where the true elevation gain begins.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

The fog settled in around the trees as we continued to climb.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Soon the tree canopy opens up with a great view of the surrounding forest below. However, due to the fog and steep trail, I didn’t stop to take any pictures. :]

After a while we reached a road – the trail continues on the other side.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

There is very little underbrush and the trees are thinner in this area.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

A little ways farther you’ll cross another road – again the trail continues on the other side.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

We saw a few patches of snow in shady areas including some parts of the trail.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Soon after we caught our first glimpse of Gordon Meadows.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

There are several signs that point you toward Gordon Lakes and others that mark trail splits.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

The trail starts to even out, the forest opens up, and the underbrush becomes sparse.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

We followed a sign for Gordon Meadows Admin Trail.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Finally we met up with Gordon Meadows where we stopped for lunch. The view was amazing.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Gordon Meadows, Oregon

The forest becomes a bit thicker as you continue along the trail. At one point there’s a large fallen tree that hugs the right side of the trail. The trail is faint in this area and almost tricked us!

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

There are several small creeks to cross along the trail. Most have fallen trees to prevent wet, muddy boots.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

We reached another split in the trail and followed the sign. Shortly after we arrived at Gordon Lakes.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Gordon Lakes

The trail we followed takes you past upper Gordon Lake with a split leading down to the lower lake. We continued down to the lower Gordon Lake. There’s a large open area with a fire pit and sitting logs alongside the water. We considered this spot but ultimately decided it was a bit exposed and windy.

Then we hiked back up the trail, crossed the river connecting the two lakes, and found another spot down by lower Gordon Lake. We brewed some coffee and tea and relaxed for a bit. After a little while we realized we were still exposed to the wind, so we shouldered our packs and hiked up the hill toward upper Gordon Lake.

We finally settled on a spot off the east trail several hundred feet away from the water. There’s a fire pit and even ground for pitching tents – plus not as windy! Upper Gordon Lake is beautiful and serene.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

The Next Morning + Hike Out

It was a chilly, cloudy morning and the fog touched the tops of the trees. Before we hiked out we walked to the west side of the upper lake to get a different viewpoint. There were still patches of snow surrounding the shore.

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

On our hike out the clouds cleared and we had an amazing view. The picture I missed on the way up. :]

Gordon Lakes, Oregon

Overview

Gordon Lakes is a great destination for a day hike or backpacking trip in late spring to late fall. I would consider the west trail to be intermediate due to its high elevation change and occasional debris. It also offers a longer hike and stunning views of the surrounding forest. The east trail is family friendly and perfect for day fishing trips. There’s so much to explore at Gordon Lakes!

William M. Tugman State Park, Oregon

I remember camping numerous times at William M. Tugman State Park with my family growing up. Most of the time we rented a yurt, but sometimes we set up a tent or parked the trailer (when we had one). This state park quickly became one of my favorite campgrounds – and still is to this day.

William M. Tugman State Park is located 17.3 miles north of Coos Bay, Oregon – 10.6 miles south of Reedsport. The entrance to the park is right off of highway 101 on the east side of the road. Eel Lake sits adjacent to the campground – great for kayaking, swimming, and fishing. There’s also a trail that hugs the perimeter of the lake but doesn’t go all the way around. You can read more about the park and reserve a campsite here.

William M. Tugman State Park

This state park boasts 93 campsites with electrical and water, 16 yurts – 8 that are pet friendly – as well as hot showers and flushing toilets. All of the roads, parking spots, and pathways are paved.

William M. Tugman State Park

William M. Tugman State Park

The thick shrubbery and tall trees provide a nice barrier between sites for a more private experience. I spotted several rhododendrons, too.

William M. Tugman State Park

William M. Tugman State Park

The campsite

My parents rented a yurt for 3 nights over Mother’s Day weekend from Friday to Monday. Not only was the 13th Mother’s Day but also my parents’ anniversary and brother Oliver’s birthday. It was the perfect weekend to celebrate!

My husband, Nat, and I live in Coos Bay, so it was a quick drive up to the campground. We arrived at around 6:30 pm on Friday – we decided to stay just 2 nights. Later in the evening Oliver showed up. He also planned to stay 2 nights. We all sat around the camp fire and enjoyed each other’s company for the rest of the evening.

William M. Tugman State Park

The yurt

The yurts are large and well maintained. Each one has stairs or a ramp leading up to a covered deck. There’s a small bench on one side – this is where my parents always store food totes. The other side is open where they set up a small folding table for making coffee and tea.

William M. Tugman State Park

William M. Tugman State Park

They sleep 5 comfortably – 2 people on the pullout sofa, 2 on the bottom bunk, and 1 on the top bunk. My parents reserved one of the pet-friendly yurts so their Boston terrier, Henry, could join us inside. There’s also a small table, a few chairs, and an electric heater.

William M. Tugman State Park

William M. Tugman State Park

Eel Lake | kayaking & fishing

On Saturday morning Nat, Oliver, and my dad went out on Eel Lake to go kayaking and fishing. Nat and I brought our bright green Emotion Guster kayaks atop my Honda Civic Hybrid. It may go (extremely) slow uphill, but it still powers through!

William M. Tugman State Park

While the boys fished and explored the lake via kayaks, my mom and I decided to hang back at camp. We talked, knitted, and snuggled Henry. He always loves to cuddle, but being outdoors calls for extra blankets.

William M. Tugman State Park

William M. Tugman State Park

Later in the day my mom and I packed up our camp chairs and walked down to Eel Lake. We sat down in the grass under a large tree where we enjoyed the beautiful view. The sun was shining and the sky was bright blue. We even saw a little family of geese waddle by.

William M. Tugman State Park

After a while the wind was a bit too much for us and we decided to pack up our chairs and head back to camp. Henry was getting cold, too!

Later that evening the boys finally came back and had some stories to tell. My dad accidentally fell in the lake, and Oliver and my dad got sunburned. At least they caught a few fish and had fun exploring Eel Lake!

The wind died down as the evening rolled in. My dad chopped some kindling and started a fire to cook dinner. We ate, talked, and huddled around the campfire. Eventually we grew tired and called it a night.

William M. Tugman State Park

On Sunday morning the boys fished on the dock while I kayaked by myself around Eel Lake. They caught quite a few fish – more than they did while in the kayaks!

Later that afternoon we packed our gear, loaded the kayaks, and headed back home. My parents still had one more night to enjoy.

Overview

William M. Tugman State Park makes for a great family-friendly getaway. The park is kept clean and has a lot of amenities to satisfy most needs. Eel Lake provides hours of entertainment for everyone – you can fish, kayak, paddle board, swim, and even hike alongside the lake.

The campground is also easily accessible being just off of highway 101 along the southern Oregon coast. Though sometimes the traffic noise can be a bit bothersome, I usually forget about it after a while. The abundance of plants and trees create a nice barrier.

I loved camping at William M. Tugman State Park as a little girl and it still holds a special place in my heart.

Women’s REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

The women’s REI rhyolite rain jacket retails at $189 but sometimes goes on sale. You can find it online* and in stores – just make sure to check that it’s available at your preferred location. This rain jacket is available in 7 colors and in sizes XS to XL.

I purchased the women’s REI rhyolite rain jacket on sale in February 2018 for $70.37 – score! I chose the color black so it blends in with the rest of my wardrobe. For size I went with medium, although I usually wear small in most tops. I wanted enough room to wear multiple layers underneath.

Women's REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

Quick note: this review is not sponsored – I’m not compensated in any way – and all opinions and recommendations are my own.

Women’s REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket

Pros

• Waterproof

This was the driving factor for my next rain jacket. If it didn’t state that it was waterproof, then it was a no go. Water resistant wasn’t good enough – I wanted full protection from the rain. The women’s REI rhyolite rain jacket has 3-layer waterproof fabric that actually works – really well, in fact. This jacket keeps me completely dry during coastal downpours. The water beads on the surface and doesn’t soak through. A+ in my book!

• Windproof

It’s wind proof up to 60 mph, but I hope to never have to test its limits! I’ve only been out in breezy coastal conditions and appreciated the extra barrier. This rain jacket provides a nice layer of warmth without trapping moisture inside or overheating.

Women's REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

• Lightweight

I didn’t realize how heavy my old rain jacket was until I put on the women’s REI rhyolite rain jacket. My jacket’s weight was never a concern of mine, but now I can feel the difference! This rain jacket weighs in at 11 oz compared to my old one at 17 oz. Every little bit helps!

• High hand pockets

This initially wasn’t on my must-have list when searching for a rain jacket, but it certainly is now. The pockets are high enough on this jacket to allow a hip belt to sit comfortably. So no more bulky zippers underneath or inaccessible pockets.

Women's REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

• Pockets double as vents

The hand pockets are constructed with mesh material, allowing them to function as vents. It lets heat out and keeps you comfortable while on the move. This is convenient if you’re backpacking and don’t want to take off your pack just to peel your jacket. Or if it’s raining while you’re exerting energy and need to stay dry but also cool off.

• Hood stays up

I love the fact that the hood on this jacket actually stays in place! There’s a cord located at the back – not on the sides – to achieve a snug fit. Even when I don’t cinch the cord, the hood does a great job of staying put. It has a rigid panel at the front center that prevents the wind from blowing it off.

Women's REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

• Smooth, sealed zippers

This was another requirement for my next rain jacket. Zippers quickly become a weak spot unless sealed properly. Zipper teeth are permeable, so if maximum protection is high on your list, you’ll want to check for sealed zippers. They’re easy to spot – sealed zippers have a smooth, flexible material over the teeth. This rain jacket has sealed zippers that are easy to open and close.

• Nice color selection

The women’s REI rhyolite rain jacket comes in 7 different colors from dark neutrals to bright colors. Although it doesn’t contribute to the quality of the jacket, I thought it was still worth mentioning. :] I always appreciate when jackets, shoes, and other accessories are available in palatable colors.

Women's REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

Cons

• No interior pockets

My old rain jacket has interior pockets as well as most of my past jackets. So I was a little nervous about how this jacket would work for me. Honestly, I haven’t experienced a moment where I wished I had interior pockets. The hand pockets are spacious but don’t provide protection from the rain if you open them for ventilation. Too much gear in the hand pockets may also obstruct air flow, rendering the core vents nonfunctional.

• Noisy

Most rain jackets are at least somewhat noisy. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. However, I noticed that this jacket does have a louder crinkling sound. I’ve become used to it and it has never bothered me. No one has commented on the sound, either.

• Sleeves run long

Although I ordered a size up, the sleeves still seem a bit long especially when compared to my other jackets. The sleeves touch my knuckles, but I actually like when sleeves go passed by wrists. Plus, there are hook-and-loop fasteners to secure each sleeve at the wrist if needed.

Women's REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

Overview

The women’s REI rhyolite rain jacket makes a great addition to your outdoor gear. It’s comfortable, dependable, and classic. Not only does this jacket provide protection from the rain but the wind as well. The lack of interior pockets may be a deal breaker for some, but in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons.

Women's REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket Review

Researching and deciding on new gear is intimidating! Trust me, I get it. I spend hours (days) looking into a product before I purchase. So I hope this review aids you in your search. Feel free to leave me a comment below or contact me with any questions. :]

this is not an affiliate link – I’m not compensated in any way – and all opinions and recommendations are my own

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon makes for a beautiful, varied hike through a temperate rainforest filled with large old-growth trees. The trailhead is located about 54 miles west of Eugene – about 31 miles northeast of Reedsport – within the Siuslaw National Forest. I recommend bringing directions or studying them beforehand. You can find directions from Eugene as well as Reedsport here.

The popular Kentucky Falls Trail is connected to North Fork Smith Trail. So you can reach Kentucky Falls by starting at either trailhead. Though, it will take longer starting from North Fork Smith Trailhead. It’s about 8.5 miles total from one end to the other. Here’s a map of the trail system, although be warned – we noticed it was a bit inaccurate. Compared to other maps, though, it’s the most accurate in our opinion.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail

My husband, Nat (below center), brother, Oliver (below left), and I arrived at the trailhead around 11 am on March 31. We originally planned for 10 am at Kentucky Falls Trailhead to then carpool down to North Fork Smith Trailhead so we could hike all the way through. However, we couldn’t make it due to snow. So we waited for Oliver to realize we couldn’t reach Kentucky Falls Trailhead (he had no trouble with his Jeep). Eventually he figured it out (spotty cell service) and we all made our way down to North Fork Smith Trailhead.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

The parking lot is decently sized with plenty of space to turn around. There are no restrooms or potable water. We also didn’t see any indication of a fee or pass requirement, but we still came prepared with our forest pass.

North Fork Smith Trailhead, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail is intermediate-difficult with its dangerous conditions and elevation change. There are holes from mountain beavers, steep muddy areas, narrow spots overlooking deep canyons, as well as large logs and debris blocking the trail. Just use caution when traversing these parts of the trail.

Also be aware of several splits in the trail. A printed map will come in super handy for navigating these intersections.

Hiking North Fork Smith Trail

The trail starts off level and weaves into a lush, green forest.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

You’ll eventually reach the first split in the trail – left for a short loop and right between a large cut log to continue on North Fork Smith Trail. The split is just after a long wooden bridge.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

We accidentally hiked a ways along the loop before Nat noticed our mistake. You can see the split in the photo below – Nat and Oliver are standing next to the cut log.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

I spotted this cute snake hiding in the low underbrush – thank goodness I watched my step!

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

We crossed a lot of small wooden bridges over mossy creeks.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

Some areas of the forest are open, while other areas are more forested and dense.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

Moss-covered old-growth trees drooped over the path.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

There were a lot of fallen branches and trees on the trail. One large tree in particular gave us a workout. We clambered down the canyon and then up and over the log – packs had to come off.

After a while you’ll reach the first of two large cedar bridges that cross North Fork Smith River.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

The trees are truly amazing – this was down alongside the river.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

In addition to the fallen trees, we encountered a lot of elevation change and switchbacks. There’s also a steep incline down to the river and back up again at both cedar bridges.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

Eventually we reached the second large cedar bridge.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

After a ways we arrived at another split in the trail. The photo below is looking back the way we came (trail on the right). One way goes up while the other way goes forward alongside the river. Both trails will meet up again. We decided to continue forward.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

The trail becomes faint and covered by large ferns.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

Setting up Camp

We decided to hike off the trail toward the river to set up camp between the trees.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

Our campsite was right alongside the river – perfect for filtering water. We only had to hike up a couple hundred feet to reach the bank.

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

Kentucky Falls

Once we had a chance to set up camp and relax, we set out for Kentucky Falls. It was only a few more miles from our campsite.

We continued along the trail and soon met up with the other trail from the previous split. After a ways farther we reached another intersection with signs that point to Kentucky Falls and North Fork Smith Trail.

Finally we arrived at Kentucky Falls and soaked in its grandeur. We enjoyed the refreshing mist floating off of the waterfalls.

Kentucky Falls, Oregon

Kentucky Falls, Oregon

After a while we made our way back to camp where we cooked dinner and relaxed until going to bed.

The Next Morning

Nat and I woke up early with a hunger for a hot cup of coffee. You can clearly see who’s the morning person and who’s not. ;]

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

North Fork Smith Trail, Oregon

It sprinkled at about 8 am but didn’t last very long. The weather was fair for the rest of the morning and for our hike out.

Overview

North Fork Smith Trail is a great hiking and backpacking destination. It’s not the most family friendly with the amount of debris, uneven terrain, and elevation change. However, the loop at the beginning is a quick and easy hike. There’s also the option to hike in as far as you can go, and then simply turn around.

The forest is beautiful and lush and the trees are majestic. North Fork Smith Trail offers a challenging yet rewarding experience. We plan to backpack out there again and hope to hike all the way through!