trip reports

October 4, 2019

Salmon River Canyon backpack

Two nights of magical backpacking in a wet forest full of mushrooms and trees dripping with lichens.

Day 1

5 miles with 1,180 ft gain + 400 ft loss

I’ve hiked along the Salmon River Trail to the canyon viewpoint on day hikes about 10 times, but I’d never continued beyond it. For my first backpacking trip here, a friend and I hiked in to the campsites at Goat Creek, about a mile beyond the canyon viewpoint.

The day before this trip, the forecast called for light rain in the morning to end by 11am. By the time we left on this trip, however, the forecast changed dramatically, with a 90% chance of rain all day.

It rained all day. And I found out that my waterproof trail running shoes are not waterproof. Otherwise, we were well prepared for the rain with waterproof pack covers, rain jackets and rain pants, plus we brought a tarp for setting up a camp kitchen.

When we reached Goat Creek, we could see empty campsites on the other side of the creek. Unlike several of the tributary streams we crossed on the hike in, Goat Creek still had a good water flow. Just after the creek, the trail rises and the side trails to the campsites plunge steeply down the hillside, looking more like slides than trails. There are three camp areas, but all are close together and don’t have much privacy between them. Luckily, no one was camped here so we had our pick of sites.

After pitching our tents, we set up a tarp that we could sit under and cook our meals while staying out of the rain. In October, it gets dark early so hiker midnight for us was close to 7pm. The overnight low was about 38 degrees, and with heavy humidity hanging in the air, it felt cold and damp.

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

our campsite

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

view of Goat Creek from our campsite

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

we didn’t get a chance to make use of the fire ring…

For cold weather backpacking, I bring two quilts (one 10 degree quilt + one 15 degree quilt) that I nest together. I’m not sure what the combined temperature rating would be, but together they are extremely warm. I use my Moment DW tent with the solid inner on cold weather trips, leaving the Aeon Li for summer trips when going ultralight is important.

cold weather sleep setup for backpacking

using two quilts to stay warm overnight

 

Day 2

5.5 miles with 1,100 ft gain

It was cold and dark in the morning. While having breakfast, we watched the sun shine through small openings in the forest above us. Ready to soak in some warmth, we decided to hike back 1/2 mile to a viewpoint that I hadn’t expected to see on the trail. On the way there and back, we passed through a “tinsel forest” with lichens dripping from every branch. Fall color on vine maples contrasted sharply with the dark wet bark on the trees.

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

“surprise” viewpoint

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

watching the trees light up as the sun moves in and out of the clouds

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

entering the “lichen forest”

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

lichens looking like Christmas tree tinsel

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

lichens dripping from every branch

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

contrasting colors: the dark bark and the orange leaves

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

vine maples with fall color

 

For our day hike, we planned to hike along the Salmon River Trail for a 10-12 mile hike. However, when we reached the wide flat expanse of slippery basalt at Kinzel Creek, we decided to turn around and hike up the Kinzel Lake trail instead. The forest was full of mushrooms of all types everywhere we looked. Tiny orange mushrooms at the base of old growth Douglas firs, little white bell-capped shrooms, bright orange Lobster mushrooms… and a few super creepy bleeding shrooms.

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

lobster mushrooms emerging out of the ground

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

tiny little orange mushrooms at the base of old growth Douglas firs

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

typical forest scene on the Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

tiny white bell-capped shrooms…

 

The Kinzel Lake trail is steep… climbing about 1,000 foot per mile. Since we had a late start to our day, we didn’t go all the way to the lake. The higher we hiked, the lighter the forest felt. We realized that our camp at Goat Creek was indeed a dark and cold location compared to other areas here.

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

Kinzel Lake trail junction

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

hiking up the steep Kinzel Lake trail

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

the forest was open and letting in more light on the Kinzel Lake trail

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

Kinzel Lake trail

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

creepy bleeding mushroom

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

blocky basalt

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

continuing on the Kinzel Lake trail

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

view of the Salmon River Canyon

At 4:20am that night, we heard someone let out a long, strange yell/scream sound that was kinda freaky. There were no other camp areas within 1-1/2 miles from where we were. We never did find out what that was about.

Day 3

5 miles with 1,180 ft loss + 400 ft gain

We took our time in the morning before packing up for the hike out. I brought a tripod for my camera so we set it up and practiced doing jump shots. : )

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

jumping for joy at camp

 

Unfortunately, I began the hike out by falling backwards and dropping my camera in Goat Creek. This is the last photo my camera took:

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

Goat Creek

 

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