Having grown up in Central Oregon, I'm no stranger to Smith Rock State Park. My family used to spend weekends hiking the trails and watching rock climbers defy gravity on the massive basalt walls. I didn't get into rock climbing until college, and it's a shame that Smith was in my backyard and I never took advantage!
When I moved back to Oregon, I knew I'd spend quite a bit of time at Smith Rock, and the campground did not disappoint! We spend a lot of time in dispersed camping on Forest Service roads, so the amenities at Smith rocked!
Tents are pitched at the Bivouac, an area about 50-100ft away from where you park. If you get there early enough, sites along the fence posts offer incredible views of the Crooked River and basalt monoliths. However, there are plenty of places to pitch your tent, and even some good trees for hanging a hammock.
In the center of parking, there are a bunch of picnic tables for the communal eating area. You're not allowed to cook food at the Bivouac, so all meals must be made in the center of the parking lot (I assume this is to mitigate fire hazards). The bathrooms are unbelievably clean and you can take a shower for $2. Alongside the outer wall of the bathrooms, there's a giant sink and dish washing area.
Costs have gone up since I first visited the Bivouac, and are now $8/person/night. Not bad, considering most other parks in Oregon are upwards of $20/night. Parking at the trailhead requires a $5 fee, which is included in your camp fee. Plus, if you have a Parks Pass or Northwest Forest pass, the fee is already covered.
There are only two downsides: 1) No fires allowed, so in turn, no s'mores. 2) Super popular and no reservations. I recommend going early to nab a spot. Arriving too late on a Friday in the summer is an almost guarantee the campground will be full.
5/5 would absolutely recommend!
Renogy Portable Solar Panel Review
It was SUCH a treat to have power at our campsite! I normally let my phone battery drain and wait until I'm home to charge it again. It's nice being completely disconnected, but I like having my phone to keep track of time and to take pictures. With the portable solar panel I was able to do that!
There are a few things to know about the solar panel: it doesn't have a power bank, so whatever energy it gathers from the sun it can't store. You can purchase an attachment from Renogy (a portable power bank) to store the energy as you collect, but otherwise you can plug in your phone's USB cord, set the panel up in direct sunlight, and your device will begin to charge!
When we were at Smith it was 70 degrees and sunny (perfect for climbing!), and with the panel in direct sunlight, I charged my phone completely in less than two hours. The panel comes with two carabiners so you can easily attach it to a pack and charge while you're hiking. It's also scratch and water resistant so you don't have to worry about dirtying it up at camp or on your hike. This seems like a perfect addition to backpacking gear as well so you can keep your devices charged without taking up a lot of space.
5/5 would definitely recommend this product to anyone who camps!
Off Kiwanis Road in Mt. Hood National Forest there are roughly 8-10 free pullouts. On the south side of the road, the pullouts are alongside a peaceful little creek. By the time we got there (around 5pm on the 4th of July), there was only one site left on the north side of the road, but it was lovely. The fire ring was set about 100 feet back, so we carted our camp chairs from the van to the fire pit.
There seems to be an old fire road that goes through this campsite, so hiking (or trail running) is completely doable from camp. We stayed here for about 14 hours (midweek trip!), and it was literally the perfect escape. The Zig Zag river flows behind the campsite as well, which our pup Nala was pleased about.
If you're pitching a tent in this particular site, there's not much for even ground, but where there's a will, there's a way. Plenty of trees to hang hammocks from, and minimal traffic.
RANGER REVIEW: humangear GoToob+, Flexibowl, GoBites (Uno & Trio) (5 Stars!)
A few years ago I purchased a few original GoToobs from humangear at REI and absolutely love them. I used them for shampoo and conditioner while traveling and camping and they work like a charm. No spills, easily refillable, and super easy to clean. The GoToob+ ups the ante. It continues to shine in the ways the original GoToob did, but now has an additional (patent pending) LoopLock that ensures no spills no matter what. With a wider mouth, the GoToob+ is even easier to fill, and the added contour on the bottom keeps it steady while adding contents. We made our Pad Thai sauce ahead of time and stored it in the 3oz Toob and were able to squeeze out the very last drops for a tasty dinner.
According to humangear, "FlexiBowl is the packable, stuffable, foldable bowl for eating on the go." The FDA food safe silicone bowl is sturdy enough to hold dinner, and smooth enough to clean out residue with the sweep of a paper towel. At the crease, you can fold the bowl down to make a wider opening. With the crease up, you can prevent spills if the bowl tips. I loved how compact the bowl is. I threw it in my backpack and didn't have to worry about it taking up a lot of space or breaking when I dropped my pack mid-hike.
humangear is reinventing the spork with their three GoBites options: uno, duo, and trio. For backpacking trips, I'd recommend the Uno. On one end of the Uno is a spoon and the other, a fork. The fork had a nice bowl-like curvature to it to easily grab and hold your food. If you're less concerned about ounces, the Duo is a great option for backpacking as well–the spoon and fork can be used as one unit or two. Simply snap the two together to make a longer, telescoping-like contraption. Perfect for eating Mountain House meals!
Lastly, I'd recommend the Trio for car camping, or taking in your lunch to work. The trio comes with it's own case and provides a spoon, fork, knife, bottle opener, and toothpick. They're all super sturdy, and I loved how all the pieces fit together perfectly in the carrying case.
We were sent the 14cc GoTubb which we used to storing spices. You can open the tubs by squeezing the sides, so they're super easy to open with one hand. Since they require a squeeze to open, they won't accidentally lose their lids while you're traveling from point a to point b. We fit the perfect amount of minced garlic and ginger in the two GoTubbs.
Overall, the humangear we tested was top notch. I love that they're made from silicone which is good for the environment, easy to clean, and not chemically harmful! I think they're the best silicone travel bottles on the market.
CAMPGROUND REVIEW (Words from Megan, Photos from Coby!)
My husband and I decided to come to Leavenworth for a long weekend of bouldering in both Icicle and Tumwater canyons. We came relatively early on Friday, but finding a spot still proved to be difficult. You can't reserve campsites at Bridge Creek ahead of time (aside from the massive 75+ group camp), so we had our fingers crossed to find a site that would have a firepit, picnic table, and a nice landscape!
We got pretty lucky. After doing a lap through the Eight Mile Campground (which was PACKED), we rumbled down the long dirt road to Bridge Creek Campground. The first site was available, so Coby parked the Escape Campervan, and I went up to the kiosk to pay for the night.
6 campsites are located at Bridge Creek which makes it private, secluded, and quiet. Our site was right by the water which was great for our Border Collie Nala to cool off in (it was 80+ degrees that weekend). We had neighbors right next door, but a downed tree made the camp boundaries pretty clear. There's a pit toilet which the camp host keeps impeccably clean, and there was plenty of hand sanitizer in the dispenser.
The sites were $19 per night–pretty standard. If we planned to stay in Leavenworth another night we would have been lucky to stay here! Climbing is scattered along Icicle Canyon and easily accessible from the campground.
It's worth mentioning that while we were there (May 11-12), there was a flood warning for the dam at the top of the canyon. A warning sign was posted at the information kiosk letting campers know that they're in the flood zone, and to be prepared to move to higher ground. This made us uneasy, but figured if it were truly a concern, they would have evacuated the canyon.
As an employee of The Dyrt, I get to test out some pretty rad gear from time to time. The Escape Campervan takes the cake. We decided to rent a campervan out of the Seattle Depot early on Friday morning. When we drove into the lot, Boba, our home for the weekend, was all polished up and ready for adventure.
I don't have enough good things to say about my time in the Escape Campervan. For starters, the unique, artist-painted vans are a joy to look at. I felt proud driving through the outskirts of Seattle and into Leavenworth with a piece of art on display. And it's so easy to drive. I was nervous–I typically drive a Toyota Prius which is substantially smaller than a Ford Transit-150. However, driving the van was easy, and the backup camera made maneuvering a relative breeze (aside from tight parking lots, I imagine, which we avoided).
Inside, the campervan boasts about 40 square feet of space. There are hidden storage compartments beneath the table, and under the bed once converted. Also, behind the dining area there are two compartments for additional storage, as well as storage above. We put items in the compartments that we didn't need often, like climbing gear once we moved on from Leavenworth.
Shifting the dining room area into the bed was easier than expected and takes about two minutes from start to finish–meaning linens on, pillows set up, and gear stowed away. There's also plenty of headspace when you're sitting in the dining room. Coby and I were able to eat meals comfortably, and play cards without feeling cramped.
The kitchen is organized towards the rear of the vehicle. The two back doors hinge open (and can lock into place if it's windy), and the stove is velcroed to a sliding shelf so it's easy to access, use, and put away. If you want to cook dinner at the campsite instead of in the van, simply move the stove to the picnic area and create your campfire gourmet meal.
In the kitchen, everything has a place. There's a bin for pots and pans, a tray for utensils, a cubby for propane, and plenty of space for grocery bags full of food (and in our case, La Croix). Above the cubby with utensils, there's a hand pump sink which takes quite a few pumps to get working, but helps to conserve water. The gray water immediately runs out the drain, and if you're in a place where it's kosher, can run out onto the ground. Otherwise, a cap sits on the tube so you can hold the water and drain when you're in an area where it's allowed.
My favorite part of the van setup is the Dometic drawer fridge. Normally, Coby and I don't take anything to the campground that requires refrigeration because our 20-year-old cooler is essentially useless. But with the Dometic fridge we could bring cheese for our baked potatoes, AND keep our La Croix cold, which, for Coby, was a pretty big deal.
We also rented the additional pop-up tent which was SO FUN to use. We liked how easy it was to set up (unlatch the two side latches and lift), and sleeping on top of the car felt like the penthouse suite! The sides of the pop-up are mesh, so we had a lovely cross-breeze as we slept. My only concern would be for taller people. Coby is about 5'9" and was end to end in the popup tent.
We would 110% recommend renting an Escape Campervan. They're easy to drive, and they've literally thought of everything, from the camp chairs to the coffee french press to the fridge space. It felt like a dream trip, and we definitely didn't take it for granted!
The best part about living in Salt Lake City is that you can have brunch at Ruth's Diner at 8am, pack up your car around 10am, leave for the trail by 11am, and be on the trail by 11:30am.
This is exactly what my husband and I did when we decided to take a last minute backpacking trip to Lake Desolation. The trailhead begins at the Mill D parking lot in Big Cottonwood Canyon. From here, hikers can access three hiking trails: Reynold's Peak, Desolation Lake, and Dog Lake.
Starting out on the Mill D trail, both Fir and Spruce trees provide shade for the first mile. Once it levels out a bit, the trail follows Mill D North Fork creek until the Dog Lake/Lake Desolation junction. Lake Desolation trail weaves through an Aspen grove and along a meadow, which, if you're lucky, is a popular place to spot moose, deer, and other wildlife.
Once we got to the lake, we had the entire place to ourselves. Even if you went in the middle of summer, there are enough open, flat areas surrounding the lake to setup camp.
We lit a fire, drank some whiskey, and kept our eyes out for shooting stars.
We set out before dawn the next morning to catch the sunrise from Square Top Peak. If you continue along the Lake Desolation trail to the northeast, it joins the Wasatch Crest which leads to stunning views of the Wasatch Range.
10/10 would recommend!