8 Ways to Avoid Camp Clueless

No one likes looking like a clueless tenderfoot. But there are at least three sure-fire ways to peg yourself as a Mount Rainier Rookie, right off the bat. They include clothing, cosmetics, and camp robbers.


Attire is often a Rainier Rookie/Camp Clueless dead giveaway. Rookies dress like the weather in one part of the park is standard throughout. Not! It may 75 degrees at Ohanapecosh, where blue puffs of benign breezes muss hemlock hair. But Ohana’s elevation is 1,870 feet–significantly lower than most of the park. In fact, Ohana is where “clueless rookies” are lured into donning shorts, sandals and tank tops for a day trip through the park. A thirty minute drive up the serpentine coils of Stevens Canyon Road to Reflection Lakes, and those duds aren’t quite as chic as they were 3,000 feet ago.

Lose the Cosmetics

While we’re on the topic – sort of – you can often tell a female Rainier Rookie by the amount of time she spends primping in front of a mirror.  Trying to blow dry sleeping-bag hair. Crumpling into a crying jag when the mascara runs out.

Ladies, do yourself a favor.  When you hit the trails or the campground, leave the make-up at home. Because when it comes to make-up, mountains and hitting the trail, no body cares. Cosmetic-lessness isn’t a leading cause of death far as I know.  So relax.

Don’t Fall for Camp Robbers

Another sure-fire way to peg a Rainier Rookie is watching them with “camp robbers.”  Plump, dark-beaked and gray-feathered, these brazen bandits will make off with your entire campsite if you let them, hence their ubiquitous nickname.

Rainier Rookies toss bread crumbs or lunch leftovers to “the pretty gray birds” without a second thought (We see this all the time at Narada Falls, Reflection Lakes, or Paradise.) The next thing you know, every gray jay on the planet swoops out of the trees, dive bombing the hapless picnickers like a squadron of B-24s.  It’s a scene right out of Hitchcock.  The same goes for chipmunks, squirrels, deer, foxes, and… you name it!

Did I say three ways to peg yourself as a Rainier Rookie? Belay that. Here’s a fourth: Tearing into the campground hours after sundown and trying to pitch a tent for the first time in the dead of night. If nothing else screams “rookie,” that’ll do it.

Here are 8 Ways to Avoid Rainier Rookie-dom:

  • Read the National Park Service brochure distributed by the friendly NPS rangers at each entrance gate.
  • Invest in a good map.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Check the daily weather report. (Visitor centers at Ohanapecosh, Paradise and Sunrise typically have them posted on white boards.)
  • Bring a jacket – even if it’s 75 degrees at Ohanapecosh. You can always peel it off later if the day heats up for more than twenty minutes.
  • Be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat, but leave the make-up at home.
  • Don’t Feed The Animals – no matter how cute or cajoling.
  • Practice pitching your tent before you arrive at the campground. And make sure to bring a battery-powered light source.


What would you add?


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Black Diamonds and Saving Private Highin’


There I was. Chugging down-trail from a postcard-perfect afternoon at Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground at Mount Rainier. We switchbacked through old growth forests and high country meadows marinaded in wildflowers and fall finery. Lunched at the back country patrol cabin. Squished another mile or so to Mirror Lake (below), which is as stunning as it sounds on a clear September afternoon.

Then it was time to hike back to the trailhead at Kautz Creek. All downhill. About 3,000 feet. And my knees went on strike.

Yea, verily. There’s nothing like a postcard perfect, multi-mile hike up the Ridge From Hell to make you appreciate your knees. Especially on the downhill.  I was chugging along with the alacrity of a gimpy snail. My brain kept saying, “C’mon! Get a move on! We’re burning daylight!” My knees responded, “Are you nuts?!”

Hours later, I hobbled into the parking lot opposite Kautz Creek, whining like a World Class Wuss: “I can’t do this anymore. My knees are shot. No more climbing.”

This was Day 2 of a week-long hiking trip at Mount Rainier National Park.

Note to self: It’s not the climbing that kicks you. It’s the descent. Other note to self: If you can’t climb/handle uphill trails at Mount Rainier, your hiking options inside the park are almost nil.

“Well, we’ll have to do something about that,” replied Hiker Dude, slipping me a post-trail pick-me-up. Ghirardelli’s raspberry white chocolate will cure just about anything. In fact, I felt better immediately. My knees, not so much.

The next morning, quick like a bunny, Hiker Dude and I high-tailed it over to Whittaker Mountaineering Store in Ashford in search of some high quality trekking poles. (This place has everything outdoor-ish. Just sayin’.)

We coughed up about $200 for two pairs of Black Diamond Pro Shock Trekking Poles.  Lightweight, adjustable and built to last, Black Diamond trekking poles are reputedly “the best on the market.” Built with high quality craftsmanship and “extremely high standards,” Black Diamonds have an excellent patent-pending anti-shock system. Using these poles, the stress reduction on my knees was huge on descents out of Panorama Point, Mazama Ridge, Pinnacle Saddle, and to Louise Lake. These trekking poles saved our ‘private highin.’ In fact, I would not have been able to continue hiking without them.


My knees are now kicking my brain for not investing sooner in a pair of high quality, sturdy trekking poles. But better late than never. I highly recommend you do likewise.

By the way, when it comes to trekking poles, you get what you pay for. Don’t settle for cheapies. Cough it up. Your knees will thank you. Mine sure do!


Happy trails!

What You Need to Know Before Tackling the Trail to Silver Falls

posted in: Mount Rainier, Trail Tips | 0

The Silver Falls Loop is one of the most popular trails at Mount Rainier National Park. About three miles round trip, the trail meanders through a spectacular old growth forest on the east side of the Mountain to one of the park’s most impressive gushers. There’s some up and down, but the inclines are neither steep nor sustained, making this is a great choice for the whole family.

Extra bonus: The Silver Falls trailhead is at Ohanapecosh, which is much lower in elevation than sister hiking sites at Paradise, Sunrise, or Longmire. Thus, this pleasant loop trail is among the first to melt out in the spring. 

But not this year. We hiked this trail on April 16. It’s still wearing snow pajamas. However, the loop is accessible as long as you’re properly outfitted and don’t mind a three mile hike to an alternate trail head off Highway 123.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to tackle the Silver Falls Trail in the next few weeks before the spring thaw takes hold:

Highway 123 and the park gate are both closed at the gate.

You can still access the park. You just have to walk in. Park at the gate at the small clearing on the left shoulder. Come around the gate on foot. Head north to the Ohanapecosh Campground. It’s about a mile and a half from the park boundary.

You’ll have the road pretty much to yourself. It’s closed to vehicular traffic. Scheduled to open on May 19, depending on weather.

In season, you can begin the Silver Falls trail from three locations: Behind the Ohana Visitor Center, at the park amphitheater (across the bridge), or by hiking down trail from the Grove of the Patriarchs. Not so now unless you bring snowshoes. All of these accesses remain under snow.

Continue on the road about three miles or so until you come to a small sign on the left shoulder saying “Silver Falls 0.3.” If you hit the sign for Stevens Canyon Entrance, you’ve gone too far.

Take the trail at the sign. Head down, toward the river. Turn right (north) at the first junction. There’ll be a sign.

The trail is snow free here. It remains so until just before you approach the descent to the bridge crossing the Ohanapecosh River. 

Beware the mudslide just above the falls, before crossing the bridge. It’s passable, but be careful.

The overlook at the falls is snow-free. You’ll hit snow again if you head up trail to the Grove of the Patriarchs. We turned back after about half a mile.

If you opt to hike down to the Ohana campground, be advised that about two-thirds of the trail is under snow, past Laughingwater Creek. It’s easy to get lost if you’re not familiar with the territory. Also, the snow is soft.  If you’re wearing boots, it’s easy to punch through. Snowshoes preferred.

If you’re not into snowshoeing, you may want to wait a few more weeks to tackle this trail. It’s worth the wait!

Happy trails!

Help for the Hungry Hiker

posted in: Camping, Recipes | 0


You’ve spent all day out in the Great Outdoors, racking up some serious trail miles. Chugging into camp around dinnertime, you’re hungry as a bear coming out of hibernation. The last thing you want to do is cook. The nearest Golden Arches is about a year away. So, what’s a tired, hungry hiker to do to fuel up for tomorrow’s trail adventure?

Short answer: Plan ahead. With a little advance planning and some simple prep work, you can have a hearty meal on the table without even breaking into the Correllware. Check out Grandma Peggy’s Campfire Stew.

This is a make-ahead recipe that freezes and stores well. All you have to do is follow the recipe below. Let it cool. Then vacuum seal in individual serving sized pouches. Toss in the freezer. Stash in your cooler en route to your next hiking adventure and campsite. When you’re ready for dinner, simply heat a pot of boiling water, toss in the sealed pouch and allow to heat. It should be ready in 15 – 20 minutes, depending on how hot your water is and how hot you like your dinner. Serve in bowls with cornbread or muffins and you’ve got a hearty, no-fuss meal. (Some people consider this a thick soup. So you might want to bring some spoons.)

Here’s the recipe:

Grandma Peggy’s Campfire Stew (Soup)

¼ lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can (1 lb.) tomatoes

2 cans (1 lb. each) red kidney beans, drained

1 can (12 oz.) kernel corn, drained

1 can (3 oz.) broiled sliced mushroom, with broth

1 can (10-1/2 oz.) mushroom gravy

2 Tbsp. Chili powder (or to taste)

½ lb. Sharp cheddar cheese, grated

12 frankfurters


Fry bacon, drain on absorbent paper.  Reserve.  Cook onion in 2 Tbsp. of drippings until golden brown.  Add next six ingredients.  Bring to boiling.  Lower heat.  Add cheese, stir until cheese melts.  Cut frankfurters in one-inch slices.  Add with bacon bits.  Bring to serving temperature.  Serve immediately or put into vacuum jar or pouches for freezing.



Photo credit – Public Domain


How to Make a Perfect Trail Mix Add-In

posted in: Hiking 101, Trail Tips | 0

If you’re looking to add flavor and “oomph” to your time on the trail, bananas are a great choice as a hiking snack. Why? Well, among other things, bananas are a great source of vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin, and copper. Bananas are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They’re also a great add-in to trail mix.

Unfortunately, bananas are difficult to cart around in a backpack. They’re oddly shaped and bulky. They bruise easily, resulting in banana mush. These problems can be solved if you dry bananas by slicing them and slow baking them in an oven to create banana chips. (I recommend this over using a dehydrator, which tends to crank out mini hockey pucks.)

Here’s how we do it:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees
  2. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray
  3. Slice a banana in thin slices, about one-quarter of an inch thick
  4. Dip slices in lemon juice and place on baking sheet (very important step or you’ll wind up with little black hockey pucks)
  5.  Bake, turning over once or twice, until banana slices are golden brown and crispy. About 8 hours.
  6. Remove from oven. Cool and add to your favorite homemade trail mix.

That’s it! Ovens and wattage vary, so be sure to check your banana slices often so they don’t overbake.


For more, see: Cheapskate Guide to Terrific Trail Mix.

What’s your favorite add-in? Share in the Comments section.


Happy trails!



Photo credit

The Best Campground at Mount Rainier?

posted in: Camping, Mount Rainier | 0

Your luggage is packed. You’ve got enough camping gear to choke a mule. Your feet can’t wait to hit those Mount Rainier trails.  But you haven’t quite decided on where you want to set up camp. Which Rainier campground is best?


That depends. Mount Rainier National Park offers three auto campgrounds – Ohanapecosh, White River, and Cougar Rock. So “best” is pretty subjective. But if you prefer rustic, peace and quiet, a beautiful setting on a rushing river surrounded by an incredible old-growth forest, check out Ohanapecosh. Been camping there for years. In fact, Ohanapecosh is our favorite campground at Mount Rainier National Park. Hands down.


Perched on the southeast flank of the park, Ohanapecosh is roughly twenty minutes and eleven miles up the road from the quaint mountain burgh of Packwood. It’s about three 3 miles north of the park boundary on highway 123. The campground inclues several loops, though only a few are open during the off-season. (A Loop is our favorite.)


The Ohanapecosh campground is rustic. It has flush toilets but no hot water. No showers. The road through the campground has been recently re-paved. A nice place for bicycling or walking with the fam. Each camp site has a picnic table and a fire grate.


The sprawling, 188-site Ohanapecosh  campground at Mount Rainer often gives first-time visitors the impression that they’ve fallen into a vast vat of verdure.  Lichen leaks from boughs and bower.  Giant conifers litter the forest floor like fallen behemoths.  Sunshine skips across so many shades of emerald that the landscape looks like Oz, especially near Silver Falls.


One of the park’s most popular trails, the Silver Falls Loop is a pleasant three-mile walk from the Ohanapecosh campground to a thundering gusher.  It’s one of the first trails to melt out in the spring and is a favorite for families, seniors, youngsters, and pretty much anyone who’s vertical and breathing. It’s an easy hike to and from Ohanapecosh and a great introduction to the treasures and timelessness of an old-growth forest.


Tip: If you’re tent camping, be sure to select a campsite that’s fairly level rather than one in a divot or a downhill slant. If you don’t, you’re liable to wind up in a floating mattress if it rains during the night.


Ohanapecosh is usually open from late May to late September/early October, depending on weather. $20 a night. Reservations required during peak season. Otherwise, it’s first come, first-served.


Other tip: Avoid peak season (late summer through Labor Day) if you can, especially if you’re allergic to uber crowds. Every site in the campground will be packed during this time frame. Ditto any summer weekend when the forecast is for clear skies and sunshine. If you want to avoid crowds and soak up some solitude while decent weather is still likely, the best time visit Ohana is after Labor Day or during the week (don’t tell anyone).

For more information, click on Mount Rainier Campgrounds or call: (360) 569-2211.

Is It a Hike or a Walk? 10+ Key Differences

posted in: Hiking 101 | 0

Are you hiking or walking? Are the terms interchangeable? If not, what’s the difference?


That depends on who you ask. Here’s my short list of 10+ differences between a walk and a hike:


It’s a Walk IF:

  • The trail is paved. Asphalt, cement, sidewalk, boardwalk.
  • The trail is two miles or less. This distance is a good leg-stretcher. A nice warm-up. But it’s not quite a “hike.”
  • Covering the round trip mileage takes an hour or less.
  • It’s in the city. Part of the “concrete jungle.”
  • The trail is all or mostly level.


It’s a Hike IF:

  • It’s at least two miles.
  • It’s an unpaved trail.
  • The round-trip takes a couple hours or more.
  • It’s out in the boonies. The wilderness. Lots of fresh air. Plenty of flora and fauna, solitude and minimal crowds.
  • You have to expend some serious effort to get there and back.
  • The terrain may be rough and includes both uphill and downhill.


Both walking and hiking have their attractions. Walks are typically easier. Shorter. More laid back. A walk is synonymous with a stroll. Meander. Amble. Saunter. A walk generally requires little to no specialized gear or equipment. A sturdy pair of shoes, a broad-brimmed hat, a map and a water bottle and you’re good to go.


A hike, on the other hand, is typically longer, more rigorous and more challenging. A hike requires a little more preparation. Like an early start. Carrying the Ten Essentials. Investing in a good pair or trekking poles. Being prepared for an overnight stay in the elements if you have to. First Aid basics. Knowing what to do and what not to do if you meet a bear or a cougar on the trail.


Both walking and hiking are fun, with significant health and mental benefits. What would you add?


Happy trails!

5 Top Early Season Trails at Mount Rainier

posted in: Mount Rainier | 0

You’re not into snow shoeing. Hip-dip snow makes you break out in hives. But you’re still rarin’ to hit the trails at Mount Rainier National Park.

Given the amount of snow that’s been dumped on the Mountain this winter, you may have to wait awhile if you’re waiting for Panorama Point or Dege Peak to melt out.

Not to fret. If your favorite trails at Paradise or Sunrise are still frozen solid, there are other possibilities.* Provided you check on current trail and weather conditions and are properly prepared, you have two early season options: Longmire or Ohanapecosh.

Here are five great lower elevation trails that melt out a little sooner than the rest. Again, be sure to check road, trail and weather conditions before you head out.


  1. Trail of the Shadows

This interpretive trail of about .7 miles starts right across the street from National Park Inn. Mostly level, with a net elevation gain of about 55 feet. The trail head elevation is at 2,760 feet. You can hike the entire loop in about 30 minutes. This interpretive trail is a great introduction to Mount Rainier’s rich history as well as a nice option for families with young children.

Best season is June to November, but this trail is accessible much of the year except when snow levels drop below 2,750 feet. The Rampart Ridge Trail connects on the west side of this loop.

Getting There:

Take Highway 706 to the park’s Nisqually entrance. Continue about six miles to Longmire.  Park in the lot at Longmire’s National Park Inn. You can’t miss it. The trail begins directly across the street from the Inn.

2. Rampart Ridge

The Rampart Ridge trail is relatively short but steep, particularly if you hike clockwise. It begins at the Trail of the Shadows, across the street from National Park Inn.

At 4.6 miles RT, this “moderate” trail isn’t for the faint-hearted. But the scenery includes waterfalls, a thick forest and wildflowers in season. You can take a short spur trail just below the ridge to the Longmire Viewpoint for a jaw-dropping look at Longmire and park headquarters. Keep going to the top of the ridge. The views here are also tremendous.

If hiking counter-clockwise, the Mountain is at your back. The trail is steeper in this direction, but the climb is shorter than the clockwise option. When you near the ridge, there’s an option for heading down to Pyramid Creek Camp. Part of the Wonderland Trail, this section takes you dowwwwwn to Pyramid Creek and a rocky canyon with show-stopping views of Mount Rainier. If you have the time, it’s worth the extra effort. (Pyramid Peak is one of the highest free-standing points on the south side of the park.) Just be advised that the hike out is all uphill – about 500 feet up.

The Rampart Ridge hike has an elevation gain of 1,339 feet. It’s high point is 5,870 feet. The trail usually melts out in June. RT hiking time is about 2.5 – 3.0 hours. We take our time and take longer.

You may want to pass on this one if you have creaky knees or are allergic to switchbacks. But it’s a great option if Panorama Point or Dege Peak are still snowed under or otherwise inaccessible.

Getting There

If you find your way to National Park Inn at Longmire, you’re halfway home. The trail begins on the Trail of the Shadows (see above), directly across from the Inn. You can walk that loop clockwise one-fourth of a mile to the Rampart Ridge trailhead. Or you can continue past the Inn to a paved turnout/lot on the Longmire-Paradise Road. It’s on the right. Cross the street and you’ll find a signed trail head. This is the best option if you want to hike counter-clockwise (recommended).

3. Carter Falls

Mazama Ridge and the Alta Vista Trails at Paradise are still buried under snow. Stevens Canyon Road is still closed. Where can you hike on the park’s southwest side? If a few weeks of warm weather have put in an appearance, check out Carter and Madcap Falls.

Cross the chocolate-milk Nisqually River.  Follow an old service road until it ends at about .4 miles. The path dips slightly and then starts climbing as Eagle Peak parades into view. The jagged peaks of the Tatoosh Mountains loom over your shoulder like the giant teeth of a primordial dinosaur.

You can hear Carter Falls before you see it, at about 3.3 miles. This sudsing 55-foot falls is the last of the multitude of waterfalls cascading along the river. It’s named for Henry Carter, a guide who reportedly built the first trail to Paradise Valley.

Madcap Falls is a short walk – about .3 miles – up the trail. Paradise River Camp is just beyond.

Getting There

From the park’s Nisqually entrance on Highway SR 706, continue six miles to Longmire and another 2.25 miles up the Longmire-Paradise road to the wide shoulder on the right-hand side. It’s just below Cougar Rock Campground. Park on the right side of the road near the river. The trail begins after you cross a foot log across the Nisqually River.

Also see: Longmire Winter Trails and Activities


4. Silver Falls Loop Trail

One of the park’s easier trails, the Silver Falls Loop is a pleasant three mile walk to one of the park’s most impressive gushers. It’s one of the first trails to melt out in the spring and is probably “the” quintessential “Mount Rainier hike.” It’s certainly one of the most well-known. In fact, this trail is one of the first Northwest hiking memories still accessible in the cluttered hard drive of this author’s brain. I vaguely recall chugging over Ohana’s red earth as a preschooler, marching to the Falls with Mom and my brothers. Tired feet notwithstanding, I remember returning with a proud sense of accomplishment tinged with awe. More than five decades later, not much has changed.

Located on the southeast side of the park, Silver Falls is also a favorite for families, seniors, youngsters, and pretty much anyone who’s vertical and breathing.  It’s an easy hike to and from Ohanapecosh and a great introduction to the treasures and timelessness of an old-growth forest. You can start either behind the Ohana Visitor Center or near the Amphitheatre across the Ohana Campground bridge.

You can’t see the Mountain from here. But if you continue north to the Eastside Trail junction, you’ll cross sudsing Laughingwater Creek and trek toward the Grove of the Patriarchs and some Really Big Trees.

Getting there: Drive US 12 about 8 miles east of Packwood to the junction with SR 123. Turn north onto SR 123 and continue to the park gate. You’ll have to park outside the gate during the winter season, November 1 – May 1. Hoof it up SR 123 until you get to Ohanapecosh. You can either chug through the Ohana Campground and pick up the trail behind the visitor center, or continue up SR 123 until you reach a trail head sign. It’ll be on the left. Keep a sharp eye out.

5. Grove of the Patriarchs

They say there’s no such thing as a boring trail at Mount Rainier National Park. Take the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, a 1.3 mile loop with a 100-foot elevation gain. With a high point at  about 2,200 feet, this easy walk winds along the aquamarine waters of the Ohanapecosh River, ending in a splendid loop of soaring conifers that unhinge any jaw. Think Emerald City. Times ten.

You cross the Ohanapecosh over a suspension bridge just prior to entering the grove, which is on an island. Go one at a time. If you have an aversion to crossing a rickety, swaying suspension bridge, then dash across lickety-split. On second thought, belay that. Running will just make the bridge bounce more. So take deep breaths, hold tight and take your time. I’ve crossed that sucker like a zillion times. So far, so good.

The Grove of the Patriarchs is one of the easiest and most crowded trails in the entire park. You can complete the loop in under an hour, but a hike through this “green cathedral” is worth much more. You can combine this hike with the Silver Falls hike mentioned earlier.

While bathrooms, a drinking fountain and a picnic table or two are located at the parking lot, water isn’t turned on during the off-season. That’s sometimes good to know. You’re welcome.

Getting There

The trail is located just past the Stevens Canyon Entrance on SR 123. But SR 123 is closed to vehicular traffic this time of year. You have to walk up the road from the gate, as noted previously. If you opt for this trail as a solo jaunt rather than an extension of the Silver Falls Trail, you can walk up the road to the entrance and continue east to a parking area on the right side of the road. The trail head is on your right. It’s well signed.

Plan Your Visit to Mount Rainier:

All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park. All vehicles, including 4WD and AWD vehicles, must carry tire chains in the park during the winter season (November 1 – May 1) and be prepared to use them when tire chain requirements are posted. Note that weather conditions can change quickly.

The gate at Longmire on the road to Paradise closes nightly. The road may close at any time, or may not open during the day, depending on conditions. Check Twitter for gate status and other updates (account not required to view).

Additional tips for winter travel at Mount Rainier. Also see: Tire chain info.


*The Mount Rainier National Park web site says, “Check back for summer 2017 trail reports. See above for Winter Trail Reports.” Check the Northwest Avalanche Center Report and the Mount Rainier Recreational Weather Report before heading out. Avalanche assessment and route-finding skills are needed for many winter activities in the park. Call and speak to a ranger for more information between 9:00 am and 4:30 pm at 360-569-6575.

If the snow’s still too deep, return to these trails during the summer if you’re able. They’re all worth the effort.

Southwest Washington’s ‘Secret’ River Trail

posted in: Washington Coast | 0

Looking for a quiet trail that’s one of southwest Washington’s best kept secrets? Have I got a deal for you!

Lace up those boots and explore an old pioneer cemetery atop a lonely, green-garbed hillside hugging the Johns River Wildlife Area in Grays Harbor.

Hiker Dude and I take Hiker Dog on this trail frequently. But it’s kind of a secret. We rarely meet another sole (that’s not a typo). The site is quiet and almost always deserted. It winds around a slough and through thick forest for about 1.6 miles. You eventually reach a pioneer cemetery, the old Markham Cemetery, at the crest of a knoll.

Starting out from the gravel parking lot off of Highway 105, the trail is lined with alders and evergreens. The river is on your right. The trail is wide and well-shaded. You’ll find a weather-beaten bench on the left side of the trail at roughly a mile in.

There’s a greenish truck bridge just past the bench. Cross it and start climbing. The trail levels out as you approach a clear cut area. It winds past this area and loops around to the right. The trail then straightens out and is fringed with soaring evergreens. Head downhill for about 250 meters. Cross a culvert with an expansive view of the Ocean Spray plant. Continue uphill.

You’ll soon reach a barely discernible sign. It used to have “Cemetery” etched on the board. That’s gone now. It’s been replaced by an orange right arrow.

Follow the arrow. The entrance to the cemetery trail looks like something out of the Amazonian rain forest. If you’re over four feet tall, you’ll have to stoop. The trail opens up a few steps later. Watch for downed logs. The cemetery’s secluded setting is peaceful and restive. If you visit during winter, when the surrounding foliage isn’t as thick, the sights above the river are terrific.

Some sources indicate that the cemetery was once part of the Fry Family homestead. Because the cemetery itself is unmarked, it’s easy to get lost. Pay attention to where you’ve been and how you’ll get back. A casual hiker can reach the site in under an hour.

Leaving the cemetery, the trail continues uphill briefly. Depending on the season, you may find evidence of bear in the area. So keep a sharp eye and a clear head.

Tip: Wear sturdy footwear and a hat. If it’s sunny, apply sunscreen and bring plenty of water. There isn’t any on the trail and you’ll need it.

Located near the Ocean Spray cranberry plant, the Johns River Wilderness Area includes two access sites nestled between Markham and Ocosta. About four miles RT, the cemetery trail is located on the east side of the river, just before the Ocean Spray plant.

The Johns River Wildlife Area is managed by The Department of Fish and Wildlife. The area covers more than 6,700 acres, managed in 15 units located near the Pacific Coast. The local portion is 12 miles southwest of Aberdeen off Highway 105.

Getting There

Access to the cemetery trail is unmarked and easy to miss. To access the site, head out of Aberdeen toward Westport on Highway 105.  The undeveloped parking area at the trail head is on the left, near the sign for Markham. It’s the next driveway past Dave’s Harbor Guns, about 10 miles from Westport. If you hit the Ocean Spray plant, you’ve gone too far. You’ll need a Discover Pass.


Cheapskate Guide to Terrific Trail Snacks

posted in: Hiking 101, Trail Tips | 0


If you plan to spend any real time on the trail, you’ll need quick and healthy snacks to keep your body going. You can also burn a serious hole in your wallet purchasing fancy, pre-packaged snack products. Cut your costs significantly by making your own snacks at home, on the cheap. It’s not that difficult and the possibilities are as endless as your creativity and ingenuity!

By “cheap,” I don’t mean “junk food” or brainless empty calories. The recipes/options here use healthy ingredients. We make them ourselves as alternatives to pricey commercial versions.

Hiker Babe’s rule of thumb for trail munchies: Snacks should be high quality, lightweight, easily stored and tasty. They should also be simple. That is, easily eaten while you’re on the go. (Hiker Dude and I rarely come to a “full stop” for lunch.)

Our favorite trail snacks include homemade trail mix, beef jerky, and chewy granola bars. Check out:

TRAIL MIX. Try for a balance of salty, sweet and sour. Some of our favorite ingredients:


  • Dried apricots (chopped)
  • Banana chips
  • Dried pineapple chunks
  • Raisins, craisins, and/or dried cherries
  • Peanuts and/or almonds
  • Mini chocolate chips or M&Ms
  • Goldfish cheddar crackers
  • Mini pretzel sticks


Put ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Pack into individual Ziploc bags, using about one cup of nuts and pretzels/crackers to about half a cup each of chocolate and fruit.  Save even more by purchasing your own dehydrator and dehydrating fruit ingredients yourself.




1-1/2 pounds thinly sliced round steak

1 bottle honey teriyaki marinade


Slice round steak into strips 3 to 4 inches long and about an inch wide. Put in large Ziploc with half a bottle of marinade. Soak at least overnight.  Remove from fridge. Lay steak strips out on paper towels. Pat dry. Transfer to a dehydrator. Let dry for 4 to 6 hours depending on how thick the strips are, or to taste. Vacuum seal. Place in freezer. Remove from freezer and toss into your backpack before heading out on your next hike. We’ve tried several different types and flavors of marinade. Honey teriyaki is our favorite. Note: You’ll need a pocketknife or small scissors to open the vacuum-sealed package. Be sure to pack one.




  • 2 cups oats
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 2½ cups mix-ins (see below)
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil or canola oil
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. water

Mix-in options:

Dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, apricots, figs, dates, etc.), sunflower seeds, peanuts or other nuts, wheat germ or flax seed, chocolate chips, etc.


  1. Line an 8×8 square pan or a 9×13 rectangular dish with aluminum foil. Spray with Pam.
  2. If desired, process ⅓ cup of the oats in a blender until finely ground.
  3. Stir dry ingredients together (oats, ground oats, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, fruits/nuts/seeds).
  4. Whisk wet ingredients together – oil, honey, peanut butter, and water.
  5. Mix wet and dry ingredients. Spread in pan. Press firmly into the corners and edges.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes, until the top starts to brown and edges are golden brown. DO NOT OVERBAKE.
  7. Cut into desire sized bars when cool.
  8. Wrap each bar separately in plastic wrap. Store in a Ziploc bag or air-tight container.

Tip 1: Microwave honey for about 20 seconds on high so it’s not stiff.

Tip #2: Spray spoon/spatula with Pam or similar product so honey or maple syrup don’t stick to utensil.

Tip 3: This is NOT an exact recipe. Feel free to adjust to taste. You can also adjust moistness. If using old-fashioned oats, for example, you’ll need more moisteners. If you use chips, they melt and hold things together a little better. If you used dried fruits like raisins, you may want to “plump” them first by soaking in boiling water for a few minutes, or they’ll become rock-hard during baking.



  • Cheese sticks
  • Beef jerky/Slim Jims
  • Packaged cheese and crackers and/or packaged peanut butter and jelly crackers
  • Oreo, Chocolate Chip, or Nutter Butter cookies (nobody’s perfect)

These options are lightweight, easily stashed in a backpack, and provide your body with both protein and carbs to help you reach that peak, waterfall, or backcountry camp site.


What are your favorite trail snacks?


Happy trails!

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