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Should I be Worried about Cougars?

On September 11, 2018, a woman name Diana Bober was found dead near the small town of Zigzag, Oregon in the Mt. Hood National Forest.  Initial findings indicated the Diana was killed by a cougar while hiking on a nearby trail.  This is the first ever documented fatal cougar attack in the history of the state of Oregon.

On May 19, 2017, two men were attacked by a cougar near North Bend in the state of Washington while out on a mountain bike ride.  One of the men survived –  the other was killed. This was the first documented fatal cougar attack in Washington since 1924.

In general, cougar attacks are rare.  Statistically, you are much, much, much more likely to get struck by lightning than attacked by a cougar.  But Cougars are scary and news of fatal attacks are headliner stories.  So should you be scared to go and enjoy the outdoors? Short answer: No.  Long Answer: No, not at all.

Cougars are out there.  So are bears, wolves, elk, rattlesnakes, coyotes and the most dangerous of all – humans.  Ya, it is scary to think you could get attacked by a cougar – but it is much more likely that you will die from hypothermia after getting lost in the woods.  If the news of all the hikers that have died after getting lost in Oregon in recent history hasn’t kept you from enjoying the outdoors then neither should the presence of cougars.

That being said, this is a good reminder to start being more aware of your surroundings and carrying devices that can help protect you in the event you do run into trouble.  If you don’t possess or aren’t proficient with a proper calibre firearm then Bear Spray can work great in defending yourself against larger predators.  It is always a good rule of thumb to never hike alone – especially on less frequented trails and wilderness areas.

Here is a good resource to review outlining the dos and don’ts of cougars in Oregon. Living with Cougars

Bear Spray as a Defense Against Cougars

Looking for a good bear spray to use as a defense when hiking or camping? Check out the Frontiersman Bear spray below or click here to view more details.  Note:  Be sure to get the one with the holster for quick access when hiking.  Cause if you can’t get to it when you need it…. what’s the point?

FRONTIERSMAN Bear Spray with Chest or Belt Holster- Easy Access, Max Strength – 7.9 oz – Impressive 30-Foot Range

MAXIMUM STOPPING POWER - Maximum strength (2.0% major capsaicinoids) allowed by EPA and Health Canada - strength guaranteed by SABRE in-house HPLC lab eliminating the 30% failures experienced by other brands (Univ of Utah study)
GREATER PROTECTION AT A SAFE DISTANCE - 30-foot/9 m range (7.9 oz) with large barrier (up to 45 grams per second) for optimal protection. Make sure you include Frontiersman Bear Spray as a standard part of your load out.
MAXIMUM COVERAGE - Rapidly delivers a heavy fog of spray for added defense. Accuracy and efficiency is improved helping you and your party stay safe.

Additional images:

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Price: $24.53

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Mt Hood National Forest Fire Ban

Effective immediately fires are prohibited within Mt. Hood National Forest.  Unlike most fire restrictions this one includes fires within developed campgrounds.  Other restrictions include the following:

  • No campfires, stove fires, charcoal or pellet fires in developed or dispersed campgrounds
  • No smoking
  • No chainsaw usage
  • No motorcycles, ATVs or OHVs on National Forest trail systems
  • No discharging of firearms including target shooting.
  • No driving off Forest Road Systems

The full Public Restrictions brief can be found here:

Siuslaw National Forest Campground Closures

Due to an unusually wet winter, many campgrounds in the Pacific Northwest are having delayed openings as operators find water related damages and hazards. The Siuslaw National Forest is one of those areas with 5 campground closures as of June 22, 2017.  Most of these closures are near the coastal camping areas thanks to swollen rivers encroaching on day use areas and access roads.

The following campgrounds and use areas are currently closed until further notice:

Also be aware that many of the ATV trails and roads in the area are flooded and impassable.  For more details visit the Siuslaw National Forest Alerts and Notices page. 

Cultus Lake Campground Closure

Update 6/16/17: The Forest Service has reversed its decision to close Cultus Lake Campground and it now appears that camping will proceed as normal.

In a move that is causing all sorts of inconveniences for campers and at least one business owner, the Deschutes National Forest has issued an immediate closure order on the Cultus Lake Campground, Day use Area, and Boat Ramp.  Citing dangerous trees, the Forest Service has opted to close the majority of the lakeside resort area to summer campers in a last minute move that is sure to infuriate many whom had long standing vacation plans at the lake.

What is confusing about the whole situation, is that out of nowhere the Forest Service has suddenly identified “460” trees that pose a hazard to public safety.  So between now and last September, 460 trees miraculously became a potential threat to visitors.  And nevermind that fact that they have had over 8 months to create a plan to deal with these problematic trees.

So why not remove the trees? Please see Exhibit A: The Spotted Owl.  No joke, you can’t make this stuff up.  The Spotted Owl might use some of these trees as part of its breeding habitat so the Forest Service states that they must wait until the breeding season is over, which is conveniently at the very end of camping season in September.

Now we are all for protecting wildlife her at Muddy Camper, but this all smells a little fishy to us.  The whole “Spotted Owl” argument is just lazy on the Forest Service’s part.  If they want to close the area for safety concerns, just admit that they screwed up and campers have been camping under dangerous trees for years and they just now realized it.  Admit that they lack the resources to remove these trees and don’t blame it on some breeding season of one of North America’s most elusive creatures.

The whole thing stinks.  Makes you wonder if the owners of Cultus Lake Resort pissed off the wrong person somewhere along the line.  Anyways, the main takeaway is that due to the incompetence on the Deschutes National Forest and a phantom bird, your summer vacation plans at Cultus Lake are now as non-existent as the Spotted Owl.

To keep up with developments on this situation check out the Cultus Lake Resort Facebook Page. 

Here is the official Cultus Lake Page from the Deschutes National Forest Service.

Elk Cove Hike

If you have ever hiked the 40 mile long Timberline Trail that circumnavigates Mt. Hood then you are familiar with the beautiful meadows of Elk Cove on the north side of the mountain.  Elk Cove is tucked away in a remote area of Mt. Hood far from any roads, ski areas or cabins and it is this seclusion that gives it its charm.  There are several ways to get to Elk Cove but for this hike we approached it from the Elk Cove trailhead near Laurence Lake just outside of Parkdale.

Finding the Elk Cove Trailhead

The Elk Cove Trailhead is located just a short drive from the Kinnikinnick  Campground at Laurence Lake, roughly 40 minutes from the town of Hood River.  If you are driving from Portland you can either go over Mt. Hood using HWY 26 to HWY 35 or you can take the quicker route through The Gorge using HWY 84.  When you get to Laurence Lake you will want to enter the Kinnikinnick campground and look for a dirt road the heads off to the left just across from the main parking area.  Follow this road up about 3-5 minutes until you can turn left into an immediate parking area for the trailhead.  As always do not leave valuables in your vehicle and be sure to fill out a wilderness permit at the trailhead kiosk.

Elk Cove Trail Hike

The Elk Cove Trail hike is not a beginner hike.  While it is a moderate hike coming in at roughly 10 miles round trip it has a significant elevation gain and lacks shade for most of the hike due to the recent Dollar Lake fire of 2012.  The hike follows a ridge line for the majority of the time and because of this there is no water access after the trailhead until you are nearly at Elk Cove.

Trail TurnoffStarting from the Elk Cove Trailhead you will immediately cross a footbridge at Pinnacle Creek and then follow an old logging road for about a mile.  The road does a long single switchback and soon runs into a log that has fallen across the road.  At this point you will find the actual trail peeling off to the left and up the ridge.

The trail will soon cross into the burnt forest from the 2012 Dollar Lake fire and stays on the ridge line for about 3 miles.  The climb is long and gradual and in the heat of the day, especially during the summer, it will start to take its toll.  Soon, you will come to an excellent viewpoint call the Coe Overlook that will give you your first good glimpse of Mt. Hood and the canyon below.  Take some photos here and if you can find shade take a short break.

After Coe Overlook you will finally get back into a more wooded area that did not fall victim to the Dollar Lake fire.  The brush gets thick and at points you may have to climb downed trees.  Keep your eyes out here for Huckleberries in late July and August.  Eventually, you will come to your second creek crossing at Cove Creek.  There is no foot bridge here however this crossing is fairly easy.  If you aren’t ready for more water here that is OK as there is more opportunity to fill bottles at Elk Cove.

Keep on hiking up and soon you will start passing small campsites as you near the Timberline Trail.  If you are going to spend the night in Elk Cove you will want to keep heading up the mountain rather than camp at these lower sites.  Keep on hiking until you get to your very first trail junction at the Timberline trail.  Taking a left will take you towards the famous Cloud Cap Inn however to get to Elk Cove you will want to go right.  There are also signs at the trail junction indicating which direction is Elk Cove.

Not far from the junction – maybe 50 yards – you will cross cove creek again and see another campsite on right after crossing the creek.  To really experience Elk Cove keep hiking a short distance past Cove Creek until the trail starts heading up toward the mountain.  You will be greeted with a lush meadow and right before the trail starts to do switchbacks on its journey towards Dollar Lake you will want to follow a footpath that parallels Cove Creek up the meadow.  Soon the path will dissipate and you will find your self in the middle of Elk Cove.

Overnight in Elk Cove

elk-cove-sid-tentIf you are looking to spend the night in Elk Cove it may be easiest to claim one of the campsites you see as you come into the area.  The further up the meadow you travel the more difficult it becomes to find a flat place to pitch a tent.  Keep in mind the terrain here is very sensitive and it would be wise to stick with an area that has already been designated as a campsite.  During the summer months you can expect quite a few other campers here as the Timberline Trail passes right through the area.

Scrambling to Coe Glacier

If you are looking for a side trip from Elk Cove you can make your way up to the foot of Coe Glacier – roughly 1000 vertical ft climb.  There is no trail up here and you can expect a hand over foot scramble across very loose rock.  This is NOT an easy climb and there is quite a bit of exposure.  If you do make it, though, the views of Coe Glaicer are well worth it.


Here is a GPS track of the descent from Coe Glacier to Elk Cove.

Tips and Suggestions

When I did this hike it was on a 90 degree day in August and I had my dog with me.  BAD IDEA.  The lack of shade and water on this hike makes it extremely difficult for our furry four legged little friends.  I actually ended up carrying the dog out as she had completely over-heated and couldn’t continue.  Bring lots of water, sunblock and energy bars for this hike.  A water purifier or tablets is also suggested so you can refill your bottles up on the meadow.

Photos of Elk Cove Hike

Willamete National Forest Campground Fee Increases

The Willamette National Forest is considering fee increases for camping, cabin and day use areas starting in 2017.  The fee increases are long due and the area has not seen an increase in over 8 years. What’s more, there has been a massive surge in outdoor recreation over the last few years which has put an increased strain on our parks systems in Oregon. Anyone who has gone camping during the summer months knows the challenge of finding a vacant campground on a Friday night without reservations. Simple supply and demand suggests the ranger districts and the BLM should raise their rates considerably.

The below graphic shows the proposed rate increases by the Willamette National Forest for specific locations.



Click here to learn more about the Willamette National Forest Fee increases.

The below graphics show the proposed rates increases by the BLM.



Click here to learn more about the BLM fee increases.

What do you think about fee increases?

Elk Meadows Hike

Elk Meadows on the southeast side of Mt. Hood is one of the most quintessential hikes in the northwest region.  It is relatively easy to get to, has moderate crowds and delivers almost everything the average hiker could want including mountain streams, flowery meadows and glacial views.  The 6.5 mile hike is easy to do for even novice hikers and there are many different options for those more advanced hikers looking to add on a little something extra.

Getting to the Elk Meadows Trailhead

The Elk Meadows trailhead is located off highway 35 roughly 20 minutes east of Government Camp at the base of the Mt. Hood Meadows Hood River Meadows parking lot.  As you pull off highway 35 you will want to stay to the left and drive up the Mt. Hood Meadows road roughly 300 yards until you notice a parking area on your right.  This is the trailhead for Elk Meadows and it is important to note that you will need to either have a day pass or Northwest Forest pass to park here.


The Elk Meadows Hike

elk-meadows-hike (16)Once you get your bearings and find the beginning to the trail you will start hiking in a northeast direction through a nice forested area.  This section is relatively flat and easy to get through and you will pass a few trails that head off toward your left.  Be sure to stay on the main trail and you will soon come to the Clark Creek crossing.


At Clark Creek there is a kiosk where you will need to fill out a free wilderness permit which indicates the number of people in your party, destination, return date, etc. There should be pencils in the box and you will want to attach the permit to your backpack or somewhere else where it is easily visible.  Cross the bridge at Clark Creek and keep working your way up the trail until you get to Newton Creek.

Newton Creek does not have a bridge and you will have to get creative in finding a place to cross over to the other side.  As soon as the trail gets to Newton Creek you will want to stop for a minute and look directly across to the other side and try and find where the trail continues up the hill.  This is pretty important as you could find yourself trekking a ways up or down the creek to try and find a safe place to cross and once you are on the other side it will be very hard to find where the trail picks up again.  Look for stacked rocks indicating a trail marker.  Once you find the trail make your way across the creek.  If you are wearing a backpack it is ALWAYS good practice to unhook your chest straps when crossing water.  If you fall in your pack can act as a weight and trap you in even shallow water and drown you.  Being able to quickly remove your pack is critical and unhooking straps is a great habit to form.

Once you safely make it across Newton Creek you will begin the difficult section of the hike and begin an ascent which takes you up roughly 600 vertical ft.  There are switch backs here and towards the top be sure to look across Newton Canyon over towards Mt. Hood Meadows ski area.  For you skiers the cliffs you see are God’s Wall and Private Reserve.

Continue up the hill until the trail levels out.  You are almost there.  As you hike you will come across a few junctions which lead left up Gnarl Ridge and right towards Elk Mountain. If you have a map you can add more onto your hike here by looping up Gnarl Ridge or even looping up Elk Mountain and back down to Elk Meadows.  To get to Elk Meadows just stay on the trail and head straight until you get to a Y junction with the option to cirlce around Elk Meadows to the left or right.  Pick a direction and you will soon see Elk Meadows.

As you hike around the meadows you will see some trails leading into the actual meadow.  Here you can find nice views of Mt. Hood and you will even stumble upon a old shelter.  There are some campsites here however it is good to note that campfires are not allowed near the meadows.  Enjoy the meadows and continue around the loop until you get back to the trail you came in one.

Elk Meadows Hiking Tips

The hike is pretty straightforward however it is always good to have a general map of the area you are going in case you get lost.  Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks and wear proper hiking shoes.  Most of this hike is forested however you will still want to wear sunscreen as the elevation exposes you to stronger rays.  The Newton Creek crossing can be tricky but if you see people heading out as you hike in stop them and ask where a good crossing is.  This will save you time scrambling up and down the creek trying to find a way across.

Perseid Meteor Shower Expected to Deliver

The Pereseid Meteor Shower pays earth a visit every year and usually puts on a good show however this year is different.  This year the Swift-Tuttle comet is expected to put on a show of double what it does on a normal year.  A normal Perseid Meteor shower usually offers around 60 to 100 visible meteors per hour however this year viewers can expect to see up to 200 meteors an hour during peak times.

The ideal time to check out this incredible display of light is the night of August 11th (this Thursday) through August 12th.  That doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the meteor shower on another night though.  It just means the best time for viewing is Thursday night.  You may have already seen some meteors in the sky as the Perseid passes by earth from roughly July 17th to August 24th.  So keep your eyes looking up at night and try and get away from those bright city lights!

Click here to learn more about the Perseid Meteor Shower.

NASA also tends to know a few things about stars and the Perseid Meteor Shower in Particular.

In Portland OMSI is having a viewing party Friday night.

Brookings has a viewing party at Alfred A. Loeb State Park.

Can’t make it to a good spot to view the shower or too scared of the dark? That’s cool. You can watch the live stream of the Meteor shower here:



Sahale Falls Hike

Sahale Falls is a lesser known waterfall on the SE side of Mt. Hood that plunges over 60 feet on the East Fork of the Hood River.  The waterfall is often hiked to as part of a loop hike in conjunction with the nearby Umbrella Falls.  Both waterfalls are easy to access during the summer from the Mt. Hood Meadows parking lots and on days in which the gates are open you can even drive to Sahale Falls. If you are reading this though, you are probably not interested in driving to a waterfall.

sahale-falls-aloneWhen we hiked to Sahale Falls we started from the Elk Meadows Trailhead located just before the Mt. Hood Meadows Hood River Meadows (HRM) parking lot.  If you head into the HRM parking lot you will not miss the trailhead parking area on the left hand side right before you enter the lot.  Note that a Northwest Forest Pass or day fee is required to park here.

You can find the start of the trail to Sahala Falls on the opposite side of the road from the Elk Meadows Trailhead.  You will see a wood sign that says it is a half mile to Sahale Falls however it is really more like 3/4 of a mile if you stay on the trail the whole time.  As you start hiking you will cross a meadow which is really a cross country ski trail and then soon dip down to cross a small creek.  Continue on the trail until you soon hit a paved road.

From the paved road you have two options.  You can take the paved road all the way until you come to a bridge that crosses the East Fork Hood River and delivers nice views of Sahale Falls or you can cross the road and find the trail that picks up on the other side.  Hint: look toward your right to find the trail.  We chose to take the trail.

dog-swimming-sahale-fallsKeep hiking on the trail for awhile as you pass through the forest and gradually go uphill.  After about a half mile keep your eyes peeled for a trail that heads left downhill towards Sahale Falls.  There is another wood sign here indicating that this trail goes to the waterfall.

Here you will want to exercise EXTREME caution.  The “trail” down to Sahale Falls is more like a steep and loose scramble above cliffs that uses exposed roots as hand holds.  If you fall here you will almost certainly be injured and could probably die in extreme cases.  So if you are not comfortable scrambling down loose rock do not proceed.  You have been warned.

For those of you brave enough to scramble down the hill you will be rewarded with up close and personal views of Sahale Falls and access to a swimming hole.  Take a seat and enjoy the cool breeze from the falls or risk hypothermia and take swim in the freshly melted snow runoff.  Seriously, this water is cold.  Our pup Sidney wasn’t deterred though and promptly jumped in to cool off.sahale-falls-viewing

To return to the trailhead we chose to make a sort of loop out of the trek and walk down to the road/bridge and take the road back. To this you will scramble back up the hill and then before you get back to the trail you came in on follow a footpath to the right towards the road.  This is yet another scramble but not nearly as exposed as the trail to the falls.  From the road enjoy another view of Sahale Falls then follow it back in the same direction you came until you meet up with the trail again on the right.

sahale-falls-brigdeThe Sahale Falls hike we describe here is very short and most people will probably want to do more of a hike when here.  You can easily continue up the trail past Sahale Falls to visit Umbrella Falls and even make a loop of it.

Blue Top Fire Closes McKenzie River Trail

Blue Pool Swimming Hole

An active fire burning in the Willamette National Forest near Blue Pool (Tamolitch Falls) has resulted in closures in the popular hiking and biking area.  The McKenzie River trail will be closed between Ice Cap Creek Campground and Trail Bridge Campground.  As stated this is the section of the trail the provides access to Blue Pool.

The Blue Top fire is currently more than 80% contained and no longer a threat, however damage from the fire poses a risk to public access areas and the McKenzie River trail will not be opened until deemed safe.

You can find out more on this closure and the Blue Top Fire here or by calling (541)822-3381.