Take Aways From The Eagle Cap Wilderness

September 20, 2018 § Leave a comment


This was the fourth week long adventure over the last 6 years that I have cajoled my friends into following me into some kind of wilderness adventure. What qualifies ME to lead adventures like this? One could easily argue “Very little”. From the standpoint of the Grand Canyon, at least there I had been on some of the trails, and was familiar with the conditions that time of year, but when it came to the High Uintas in Utah, Banff in Alberta, and most recently the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Oregon, I hadn’t ever been to any of these places before, and here people were following me into the back-country with nothing but a map and my electronic devices.

Since the earliest days of my cognizance, I recall driving around with my Dad. On many of these drives, I couldn’t say we ever followed the same route, but there were many common destinations all over Northern Jersey, and I always paid attention to what was flying by out the window. I kept to myself, eyes wide open. When something familiar went by I looked for more familiarities, to further cement intersections, and other landmarks in my memory. Later when I explored on my bicycle I came across some of these places, and they were “familiar” to me. When I started driving, then my range extended, and I was surprised at how “familiar” a lot of North Jersey was to me. I knew may way around.

I found my way across the country on a bicycle in 1981, and while on that trip, I stopped in the very town where my future wife was from. I didn’t know it at the time, but when we drove through the same railroad overpass, I said “I have been here before, and in fact, we stopped at the Sheetz just up the road”.

What’s the point? I have a good sense of direction, and a memory for directional details. So, when I start to plan an adventure I pore over the maps and the trails and study them for details like, distance, water locations, passes, elevation gain/loss etc, and I try to organize routes that an entire group can do. In past years, those distances were never more than 6-8 miles, however this last adventure had a 10-12, and a 12-14 mile day. I didn’t plan those, but based on our new group size, we made modifications along the way and collectively decided to push on.

While I may lack a level of organization in many aspects of my life, when it comes to planning out a trip like this, I seem to be able to pull it all together. Pick a place to go, and research what time of the year is the best time to go. That last statement is actually a loaded statement, because the best time to go depends on what it is that is desired. For me, and my friends, NO MOSQUITOES. That means finding a time of year where daily highs are in the mid 50’s and nightly lows drop into the 30’s. At those temperatures, mosquito larvae cannot hatch. Personally, I would rather be cold, and put on layers, than be hot, and have no more layers to shed. So, for us, it is colder, Autumn/Spring temperatures. With this time frame in hand, the chance of frozen precipitation is real, and in the past, has been experienced. Every trip.

Place picked, dates established, the core group alerted, the number involved is usually high and involves people I call the core. These are people who I have been hiking with for 20-30 years. People like Larry Butler, Greg May, Jim Kirby, Mike Barris, and my Brother-in-law Walt Everetts. Add to that others who have joined in the fun, Andy Shoneman, Larry’s son Drew. Right there you have seven, which even in National Park locales is considered a large group. I had eleven interested in this trip until 6 weeks ago.

With the group committed there isn’t much to do until it’s time to order plane tickets. That really established who is going. After that, then we plan the food. On these trips, we try to keep food simple. Dinner, and Breakfast is water-based solutions only. What does that mean? Mountain House, Alpine Aire, Backpacker Pantry, Food 2 Go make a variety of dehydrated meals. What is a dehydrated meal you ask? Well, almost anything, but the main characteristic is it requires boiling water, 1.5 to 2.2.5 cups, and then a rest period that is elevation dependent. The directions are written for 5K feet, so any higher, you add time, lower you subtract time. That is because the actual temperature of the boiled water is different.

Breakfast is user’s choice from oatmeal (Quick Oats) dried fruits, granola, sugar, milk powder and anything else to throw in. Coffee, Tea, Cocoa for drinks, and breakfast is quick.

Lunch, that is where I need improvement. I always said, bring a snack to share. I will make energy bars, and perhaps, some kind or variety of Jerky. Beyond that, be creative and be prepared to share. My energy bars start from this recipe. I usually add more dried fruits, candied pecans, and once I spread the chocolate, I sprinkle sea salt over the finished product.

That leaves only two other areas: Scotch, and Water, which is a drink, but in this case is two separate considerations. Scotch. I have determined that when it comes to alcohol in the back-country, that has to be hoofed in, the enjoyment-to-weight ratio of Scotch far exceeds that of Pat’s Backcountry beers, and only one can go, so Scotch it is. That other and last component, water, well that is subjective. Me, I am a camel, and while I should drink more, I usually do not, but I get away with far less water than most. Research on this trip showed many stream crossings, so why carry 2 liters of water, when you can carry one, and simply stop to refill, when you run out?

The last of the group items to consider is “How many of the following items does your group need, and who will carry them?”.

  • Steri-Pen or Water Filter treatment device
  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • boiling pot
  • First Aide
  • Tent
  • Tarp

For six people two Steri-Pens with a manual filter backup.

For six people 3 burners. 3 for dinner, 2 for breakfast is sufficient or .5 stoves per person dinner, and .333 stoves per person breakfast.

You need as many boil pots as you have stoves.

Probably one serious First Aide kit, but really this is open to debate. We had two or three.

Tents are personal, so those that have lightweight single person, will bring them, and then it is up to what is left. Stay away from 3 person tents.

A tarp is optional. I like them for sleeping, but they satisfy another need which is protection from dew. Gear placed under a tarp will be drier than if placed out in the open.

Take Aways

Having completed this adventure here are the take aways:

  • Six people burned through 3 1 pound fuel canisters in 6 days which equates to 1/2 pound per person per six days. Take Away? We could have brought 8 1/2 pound cans, and saved weight.
  • Creme Brulet is the dessert of choice.  Not only that, the key take away is this. Make it first. Before anything else, follow directions, and simply let it sit out all night until you are ready for dessert. You will find the most custardly, sweetest tasting dessert on the market.
  • Salmon or Tuna lunch packs with a cheese stick and a 6″ wrap make for a very tasty lunch, and not too filling.
  • Guest Scotch – When figuring out Scotch requirements factor in 1 bottle for guest invites. If no guests, “Win!”, if guests “Win Still”. You have made a friend
  • Duct Tape – Nothing, and I mean nothing, solves more ills than duct tape. Be sure to wrap it around you poles, then it is maintained, and easy to dispense. It solves a multitude of sins.
  • Dinners – Rather than me simply going through the menus, and selecting meals and ordering N number of each meal, in the future, point people to the REI website, and have them choose their meals, and send their choices to me. I will order, and we pickup at a local store.
  • Breakfast – I think it is time to consider making one of the Friday routines, before leaving into the wilderness, the task of assembling individual breakfast proportions.

Beyond that, the weight of each person’s pack is up to them. More clothes? More weight. Personally this was the lightest I have been, and I could have been more light. One pair of socks I never touched. Two back up SS base layers, never touched. Convertable hat never touched.


  • 2.8 oz. Sea to Summit pillow
  • Sea to Summit Sleeping Bag liner.

I will refer back to this posting when it comes down to planning the final stages of the next adventure. Where is that you ask? Perhaps the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado.

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