Location: Less than 1 mile southeast of the Iron Creek Campground on NF-76 on the bank of the Iron Creek river. Amenities: none. Steep entrance. Size: Truck campers, vans, cars only. No turnaround for trailers at the end during the winter. Small parking lot for a few cars/trucks. Number of campsites: multiple campsites nearby. Seasons: 4-season
It was actively snowing as we snaked our truck and the Vandring Snigel (our pop up truck camper) along the roads at the foothill of Mount St. Helens. As we drove into the National Forest, we passed two trucks coming out. One was a police officer who gave us more specific instructions on how to find the dispersed campsite. We passed the Iron Creek Campground and took a left at the crossroads. A few hundred feet down the road we saw another truck setting up camp in a dispersed campsite near the river. We crossed the bridge and then make a hard left into the next dispersed campsite.
We just added a Life PO4 battery to the Snigel, and we’re happy to report back that it was really great to have heat and electricity for 1 night! Even though the snow kept falling, we were comfy and cozy all night long. (We’ll be adding a few more batteries so that we can stay off the grid longer.)
Date: Jan 16-17, 2021 Activity: boondocking, hot springs Location: Snively Hot Springs in Oregon
We finally got to our first free outdoor hot springs! We first drove into the main drive and noticed a sign that definitely was trying to say “day use only.” So we drove back up the road a hot minute and backed into a prime piece of real estate on BLM land. It was a 5 minute walk down to the hot springs from there. We met people who had parked their campers further down the canyon road, so there seems to be plenty of options for camping nearby. Another family we met at the hot springs were staying at a nearby Airbnb. There is a pit toilet that is very dirty and may or may not have toilet paper or hand sanitizing options. At this time of year (January 2021) the water was low and there were three different pools of warm/hot water. The bottom is rocky. The temperature is controlled by a stream that flows into the largest pool and can be altered by pilling up or taking down rocks. At one point, we got brave enough to hop over the short rock wall and into the freezing mountain stream. The rocks on the cold side of the wall were mossy and slippery and the water is shallow and extremely cold.
TIPS And tricks
We quickly learned our own rules for the best hot spring experience: wear a swimsuit, bathrobe and sandals down to the water and pack a bag with a towel and a cool drink.
If we had spent more time at the hot springs, we would have hiked up the canyon walls. As it was, we saw people climbing the steep hills as we sat steaming up in the hot springs.
Date: Jan 15, 2021 Activity: boondocking Location: Quesna County Park in Morrow County, Oregon
Our first boondocking experience! We drove into the large gravel parking lot on the Columbia River close to midnight and so we did our best to be quiet and polite toward the two other campers as we drove into the corner farthest away from them. We popped up our camper and crawled into our new bed. A few hours later – and routinely every hour after that – we kept hearing trucks pulling into the parking lot near us. When we woke up and stepped outside in the morning, we were surprised to see a bunch of trucks with empty boat trailers parked in a line next to us. Apparently we parked right next to a boat launch! And apparently people in Oregon still take boats out in the winter. It’s duck hunting season!
On the second day of our epic Timberline Trail backpacking trip of 2020, Beck started unexpectedly menstruating. It was a fast lesson in how to continue being a functioning female while leading a pack in the wilderness.
At home and in modern life, you can easily use tampons and pads and discard them after every use. In the backcountry, it is not that simple. I use a flexible, reusable cup called a Diva Cup and reusable cloth pads. There are many other kinds of reusable cups.
How to use a menstrual cup
The menstrual cups work by collecting the flow. You insert the cup and then remove it hours later to empty the contents out. Some people can leave it in up to 12 hours at a time.
Just like other human waste products, dig a hole at least 6 inches deep. Clean your hands and then empty the cup into the hole. Wipe the inside of the cup using toilet paper, and then reinsert. Use a biodegradable wet wipe to clean the outside of your body. Then wash your hands again once you are done.
There are many kinds of cloth pads as well such as Glad Rags. When you use a cloth pad, make sure you change out the pad at least one time per day and wash with a biodegradable wet wipe a few times per day. You should only need 2-3 pads no matter how many days you will be backpacking. Clean the used pads in a washbasin, bowl, or pot with biodegradable soap and hot water and then hang on your backpack so that it dries in the sun. (Obviously this doesn’t work if you are stuck in the rain!)