Winter is a great time to dream and scheme about summertime adventures. Over the past several years, some friends and I have gone on over a dozen of what I call ‘Burrito Night Hikes’ around Portland, OR. Here’s how they work:
- Go mid-week, leaving by ~6pm and getting back in time for work the next day (maybe an hour late to avoid traffic). Friday and Saturday nights work fine too, although there’s usually more company on the trail.
- Hike at the most stunning times of day with almost no one else around – on trails that are typically teeming with dayhikers.
- Sleep out under the stars, wherever along the trail you like.
- Carry just a light weight day pack and eat a yummy dinner at your selected spot. No cooking required!
- Leave town within half an hour of deciding to Get-out-of-Dodge.
Either as a solitary retreat or as an opportunity to re-connect with a close friend, these trips have been a wonderful way to slip in a mid-week nature fix plus some exercise when the days get long and the weather forecast is rain-free.
I try and select destinations with relatively short drives to the trailhead, beautiful sleeping spots, and hiking distances of no more than a couple hours each way. Since I leave no more trace than a dayhiker, I haven’t spent time figuring out if it’s technically legal to sleep out under the stars at each location. I’ll leave that to someone else. In the meantime, I just go.
- Although virtually no planning is required, it’s always advisable to tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll get back
- Make it easy on yourself. Check the forecast and go when there’s no chance of precipitation
- Bring basic safety gear, including water, flashlight, warm clothes, and bug protection (especially important early in the season)
- For sleeping, I usually just bring a sleeping pad and light sleeping bag
- Hike trails you’re familiar with
- I call them “Burrito Night Hikes” because I started off just grabbing a burrito on my way out of town from a local taqueria. Since then, I’ve strayed into other easy-to-grab meals like New Seasons sandwiches and fruit/bagel for breakfast the next morning.
- Bring a parking pass (ie. NW Forest Pass) if you’ll need it because ranger stations are unlikely to be open to buy permits en-route
- Only attempt trips within your comfort and experience level. Consider going with a friend initially if you don’t have prior experience with solo backpacking.
Looking for ideas? Here are some past Burrito Night Hike destinations. Future posts will contain trip pointers, reviews, and photos:
- Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge (Eli solo)
- Past Angel’s Rest in the Columbia River Gorge (Eli solo)
- Upper Salmon-River Trail near Zigzag, OR (Eli solo: June 27, 2013)
- Silver Star Mountain in SW Washington (Eli and Ted L.)
- McNeal Point on Mt. Hood (Eli solo: Sept. 28-29, 2012)
- Mt. Tabor in Portland, OR (Eli solo)
- Devil’s Peak outside of Zig Zag (Eli solo and w/ others)
- Cape Horn in SW Washington (Eli and Jim W)
- Table Rock in Clackamas County (Jim W. solo)
- Hunchback Mountain (Jim W. solo)
- Grassy Knoll on the WA side of the Columbia River Gorge (Eli, Jim W., Jim L.)
- Lookout Mountain in the Badger Creek Wilderness just east of Mt. Hood (Eli solo, w/ others)
- Benson Plateau in the Columbia Gorge via the Ruckle Creek Trail (Eli solo)
Special thanks to Jim Waigand for dreaming up and taking the lead on several of these trips.
Got your own suggestions? Post a comment below!