Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Staircase: Step up into the Olympic National Park

Part of the Skokomish River

           Nestled on the Southeast side of the Olympic Peninsula, the Staircase entrance to the Olympic national park is a dreamland. Easily accessible from Seattle and Olympia, yet tucked away and hidden in the Shadows of Mt. Lincoln and behind Lake Cushman, Staircase reminds us of the rugged nature in which makes up the Olympic peninsula. With a myriad of trails and a well maintained campground, staircase is a great destination for serous hikers, climbers or weekend car campers.

Staircase Ranger Station
From Olympia, Staircase is just 53 miles, but thanks to county highways and dirt roads, it takes about an hour and a half to arrive. The drive is basic, yet, once you leave Shelton and drive toward Hoodsport, you can see eagles, seals and more along the Hood Canal. In fact, in early 2012, a Gray Whale was spotted from a dock in Hoodsport. Once in Hoodsport, take the left turn after the IGA store and follow all signs to the Olympic National Park and Lake Cushman. Follow the road until it comes to the end, giving you a choice to turn left or right. If you turn right, you can access the Olympic National Forest and Mt. Ellinor, but for this trip, turn left and weave your way along a well maintained dirt road to the Staircase Ranger Station.

Once you reach the parking lot and ranger station, a number of trails will be available for you to enjoy. On the right of the Ranger Station (when facing it) is a road that will lead you to the trail which you can try and get to Wagon Wheel Lake. Wagon Wheel Lake is only 5.6 miles round trip, but on the way to the lake you gain just under 4000ft in elevation. This is a rough trip in any weather condition and should only be done by hikers who are in shape and prepared for all weather conditions. It may be sunny or warmish at Staircase, but conditions at Wagon Wheel could be treacherous. Ask the rangers for conditions before you head up!

The place where the Bridge used to be
Nothing Devilish here
For a better trail, go left from the ranger’s station and cross the bridge. This trail allows you to head toward many other trails and destinations. For less experienced hikers, head down the trail on the left after the bridge and follow the river to a rocky alcove where a bridge used to cross to form a loop. From here, walk along the river, dip your feet in snow run off and enjoy the east side of the rainforest, complete with deer, elk, salamanders and banana slugs! This trail is great for families or just a quick hike for a day trip around the entire peninsula. I recommend hiking this half a loop, and if you want the bridge to rebuilt, write your congress person and ask for more funding for basic park infrastructure! Staircase Rapids is a great area, and while it has lost its luster since it was known as "The Devil’s Staircase”, it is still a great place to spend an afternoon with friends family members and loved ones.

 If you want more of a hike, you can stay on the main trail over the bridge and head toward the Flapjack lake trail and beyond. Flapjack Lakes is an 8 mile round trip hike from the Staircase ranger station, and again, has quite a steep climb once you get off the main trail. With almost 3000 ft elevation gain in 4 miles, be prepared for a little burning in your quads. The trail is well marked and well maintained, and is a great place to spend a day and maybe camp and enjoy a sunset. Again, be prepared for any weather condition and check with the rangers for all updates on conditions and wildlife updates.

This is the Fire that Killed the Mt. Lincoln Trail...The John Wilkes Booth of trails
One hike I recommend, but is no longer on any map, is the Mt. Lincoln trail. The Mt. Lincoln Trail once was a great, popular trail, but a fire in the “Beaver” area in 1985 destroyed the trail and the park service decided not to do any upkeep in the area. While it is not well marked, and the trail disappears in places, it is a fantastic place to go, explore the Olympic Mountains and be totally alone. Listen to the birds chirp, the wind whip through the hills and reconnect with your inner explorer, all thanks to a careless camper’s fire in 1985 and a decision to let the trail get overgrown.

Hiking to Flapjack Lake
One thing you need to know about this area is that, if you want, you can walk these trails for days, taking different routes to explore all the lakes and mountains in the Olympic National Park. While roads may not really be convenient for your trip to the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic national park, a system of trails will connect you to places few people venture out to each year. From Staircase, you can literally walk anywhere, even all the way to the ocean, along the trails of the Olympic National Park.

The Staircase area of the Olympic National Park isn’t flashy or crowded like the Hoh Rainforest or Hurricane Ridge, but it does have all the aspects of the Olympic Peninsula that we know and love. It has moss laden trees, cold rivers from melted snow, jagged peaks and clean, fresh air that when inhaled, makes you remember why we have and always will connect with nature on a spiritual level. Staircase is a place nearby that you can go, explore and fall in love with nature, all in an afternoon. For tours of the area, please call us at (360) 350-8938!

Yours truly on the trail out of Staircase

Happy Hiking and see you on the trails!
Douglas Scott

Fun Facts:
-          -  Lake Cushman, WA is the fastest growing community in Mason County
      - Skokomish or “fresh water people” is a alteration of  the Twana tribe’s words “s’kaw” ( fresh water) and “mish” (people) 
          - The ONP’s Staircase Rapids used to be called “The Devil’s Staircase” because passage along the river was extremely difficult in the 1890s
              -  Hoodsport Hamburger and Ice Cream has the best milkshakes after a summer day of hiking!

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    Sometimes I just get lucky...(in photography)

                Usually I try really hard to take great pictures. I go place early and snap off hundreds, if not thousands of pictures, just to get one that will give the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula, the State of Washington, or just my backyard the justice it deserves. SO much work goes into waiting for good weather, setting up the tripod, hiking for miles and or dealing with who knows what, that rarely do I have a day where the adrenaline flows through me just because I get a chance to share a picture with you all.

              Today, I didn't try hard and yet, was able to have one aspect of photography go my way...LUCK

    Mt Rainier from Nisqually
              Looking at the weather forecast, I saw that if I was going to take pictures of the Olympic Mountains, it would be today or next week. Not wasting time, I left my house at about 2pm and went to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge just 15 minutes away. With views of Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountain Range all visible, I was eager to snap away an entire SD card. Sadly, the views were just normal and very few birds were out and about, making me think I had wasted my time. Don't get me wrong, I took pictures of the mountains, but I have been here at least a hundred other sunny days, and I wasn't seeing anything out of the ordinary, plus it was low tide so the mud flats were brown and plain...

    Tacoma Narrows and the Nisqually Mudflats
    I decided, despite the lack of things to take pictures of, I would walk to the end of the board walk and take a glance at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and see if any eagles were fishing at the water line. I got to the lookout, saw some eagles in the distance, snapped a few quick pictures and headed back.

    As I was walking back, out of the corner of my eye, I saw an immature bald eagle catch a fish. Stoked that the action was picking up, I ran to a spot where I could watch it quickly devour it's tasty salmon buddy. This is when things got fun.
    Immature Bald Eagle having enough of the Crow

    After it got done eating, a crow started to harass the eagle until the eagle had enough and went after the crow. The crow darted between trees, and apparently decided that it should fly directly at me. The eagle didn't fall for this trick, and soon, both flew within 10 feet of my perch on the boardwalk. I tried taking pictures, but they were darting and dancing around so much that all my pictures came up blurry or as sky...though I would later not care. The eagle, after feeling ti had scared the daylights out of the crow, circled above me and landed, 20 feet away, on the railing of the boardwalk.

    It was then and there that my boring day turned into the greatest eagle experience of my life. The Immature Bald Eagle sat on the railing and allowed me to inch up, over the course of 15 minutes to be no more than 8 feet away from it. I snapped off over 100 pictures, watching it groom itself, shake its head, watch me and even communicate with a few mature eagles flying over. I didn't dare switch lenses, but I did snap off pictures that, at this moment, still get my pulse pounding.

    8ft away from me!!
    Soon, the moment with the eagle ended, as a few other birders crept up and finally scared this young majestic beast away. I swear though, we connected. As the eagle landed on a stump far away, I raced back to my car and immediately went through the pictures I took. I laughed to myself as I looked at them, because for years I had teased my friends with huge lenses that I would get a good eagle picture by earning it, and sure enough...I finally did.

    Thanks for sharing a moment, Eagle Friend. Immature Bald Eagle with Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the background.
    Nisqually is great like that. You may have a slow day, but then an eagle may become your friend, or a Bittern will emerge from the brush and pose for hours. Perhaps owls will hoot, or even a flock of geese will land directly in front of never know. All I know it today I was lucky...and I loved every second of it.

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    The Olympic Peninsula Bucket List

      While the Olympic Peninsula is a vast area of land with many sight, sounds and smells, we here at Exotic Hikes thought we would help provide a list of destinations that will help you experience all of the Olympic Peninsula. With such varying diversity, the Olympic Peninsula is sure to have numerous places for you to enjoy, and while some aspects of the list may not be for you, keep in mind that this list is compiled so everyone can find a destination.

    The destinations listed below are in no particular order, so scan through them, click the links and check out which areas best fit your personality! Once you have a few places on your list, call Exotic Hikes (360)350-8938 and book a tour! Discover, enjoy and fall in love with locations!

    2)     Mt. Ellinor
    3)     Ruby Beach
    4)     Port Angeles
    9)     Port Townsend
    11)   LaPush
    18)   Port Ludlow
    26)   Murhut Falls
    29)   Heart Lake
    31)   Mt. Angeles
    63)   C-141 Peak

    This list is nowhere near complete, but if you were to do and experience all of these things on the list, you would be able to have some of the most memorable times of anyone who has ever experience the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Peninsula is so diverse that it would take your whole life to experience it, but when you are out and about, take full advantage of your day, because life is short and you need to enjoy the seconds that you have in beauty.

    We have kept the list at 75, but if you have anywhere we have missed, or you consider a must see; please add it in the comments section! 

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Top Romantic Getaways on the Olympic Peninsula

    Did you forget to get that special someone a gift today? Are you planning a weekend getaway since Tuesday is no day to show love or are you just looking for a place to be alone and take in the scenery of the Olympic peninsula with your love? No matter what your influence for reading this blog, relax, we have you covered!
    Since Valentine’s Day is here, yet again, we here at Exotic Hikes have decided to compile a list of places around the Olympic Peninsula where love will flourish just like moss in the Rain Forest.

     4: A weekend away at Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic National Park
    Sol Duc Hot Springs, thanks to Olympicnationalparks,com
                    Nothing says romantic getaway like soaking in a hot spring, miles away from any cities. Buried deep in the dense woods of the Northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc Hot Springs is a nature lover’s dream location. While the lodge itself is nothing fancy, isolation is key to this destination. 3 hours by car from Seattle, the drive is scenic, wonderful and a step back in time. Rent a room, a cabin or a suite and enjoy dips in the hot springs in between smooches and hikes. I mean, they even have massage therapists on staff, so check it out! Being located in such close proximity to some stellar hikes, this can be the jumping off point for adventures of love and hiking.  The resort also is home to the famous Sol Duc Lover’s Lane trail, so be ready for romance!

     3: Heart Lake, Sol Duc Trail Area
    Heart Lake, Thanks to Aron Hess (
                    Nothing quite says I love you like an 8 mile hike to a remote lake that is shaped like a heart, yet, they Olympic Peninsula gives you that chance. The Heart Lake Trail (8 miles one way, 3000ft elevation gain) is located out of the Sol Duc Trailhead. On this hike, you can see Elk, Water Falls, Mountain Goats and, best of all, few people. While this may be rough to hike in the winter, this trail is sure to give you and your love an adventure that you will always talk about. Pack a lunch and a bottle of your favorite drink to surprise your sweetheart at Heart Lake to make this place your special spot! Bring a tent and spend the night in the wilderness, rekindling the magic that you had when you two first met.
    For more information, ask us about our High Divide Hikes!

    2: Murhut Falls
    Murhut Falls
                    While not technically in the National park, this short trail is accessible for hikers of all skill levels. Less than 3 miles round trip, this wide trail leads to a beautiful double terraced water fall. With a short scramble down to the water, you can lay out a picnic and enjoy the power and sheer force of this intoxicating area, all while enjoying the company of your one and only. This trip is really underrated, as it is the perfect day trip from Seattle, Tacoma Olympia and even Bellingham. Located just north of Shelton, you and your love can enjoy the drive, the small towns of the Hood Canal and nature, all while holding hands in the dense canopy of the Olympic Forests.

    1: Kalaloch Lodge
                    There is no better place to rent a small cabin, cuddle up with your lover and watch waves crash on the shore day and night. Located a few hours from Olympia and just miles from the city of Forks, this is a weekend must.
    View From Kalaloch Lodge
    In good weather, you can stroll the beach, see whales, and collect shells and beachcomb, hand in hand, until you forget about everything else in the world except each other. The lodge is spacious, and even allows you to have your own, private, ocean facing cabin. In good weather, a sunset here is a timeless experience that will give you that special moment to exchange an epic, once in a lifetime kiss.
    Winter Storm at Kalaloch, thanks to
    If you are like us, you will want to watch the weather and wait for a storm to come rolling into the Olympic Peninsula to experience Kalaloch in its full glory. With heavy wind, huge waves and complete isolation, Kalaloch Lodge in a winter storm is about as romantic as you can get. Snuggle under a warm blanket and watch the storm slam itself against the shore. For the more adventurous, walk along the beach and enjoy near hurricane force winds and sideways rain to form a memory to last forever. Plus, if you go walk out in the storm, it gives you an excuse to cuddle and dry each other off!

    We hope you enjoyed our list, and we hope you go and experience one of these this weekend. Life, like love, is sometimes too short, so enjoy it while you have it! Fall in love with nature and fall back in love with your significant other, all while enjoying the majestic, beautiful Olympic Peninsula!

    Call us: (360)350-8938 for tours or check out (!

    Douglas Scott of Exotic Hikes

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    A Hidden Tragedy in the Olympic Mountain Range

    C-141 Peak from
    Mount Constance, Olympic National Park, ca. 1923
    Courtesy UW Special Collections (Image UW22290z)
                On March 20th, 1975 the weather was like any other March day in the Pacific Northwest. With a high of 47 and a low of 35, Port Angeles was having another grey, dreary day on the Olympic Peninsula. Only .02 of an inch of rain fell, a very typical amount in the rain shadow of the Olympics. In fact, the winter of 1975 had so far been a bust, but the local paper was telling residents that snow was finally on its way. Far above the city, a storm was whipping around with fierce winds and hurricane force winds, but the residents of this sleepy hamlet located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca had no idea what was going on.  With news like that, not much was going on in this small town on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula, but all that was about to change.

    Air Force C-141A Starlifter over Tacoma, n.d.
    Courtesy U. S. Air Force
                6,500 miles away a C-141 aircraft was leaving Clark AFB, in the Philippines. With a stop off in Japan to pick up a few more soldiers, this flight was a homecoming of sorts for all the troops Some were being transferred to different areas, but some we ending a long international deployment. 16 service men were onboard this flight, but the next 20hours would prove to be their last. At approximately 11:05 PM, their plane dropped off of radar and slammed into a peak located between Warrior Peak and Mt. Constance. All 16 service men were killed, though many of their bodies were not found until the snows had melted and rescue crews could go back up and search. The peak, being so isolated, and the weather being so difficult, made recovery of the bodies of this accident take nearly 3 months. The accident was due to human error, as an air traffic controller out of Seattle gave the wrong coordinates to the already exhausted flight crew. While this accident could have been avoided, it did bring a bit more attention and understanding as to just how remote and unexplored the Olympic Mountains are. Rescue crews battled weather, avalanches, landslides and pouring rain, just to locate the wreckage. It ended up taking until June 16th to locate the final bodies because of dangerous, unpredictable weather. In typical accidents at this elevation, rescue crews can be launched and find the bodies in a matter of day. Because of the rugged, unpredictable, hard to hike Olympic Mountains, it took early 2 full months.

    The nose of the plane on the Peak, Courtesy of Google
                What is now known as C-141 peak was first climbed in 1974 by P. Carney, R. LaBelle, and M. Martin. Before that time, it was just a rugged outcrop that had always been assumed was a part of Mount Constance, however, after the 1975 accident, it was reclassified as it’s own mountain and named C-141 peak. At 7,339ft it is the 15th tallest peak in the Olympic Mountain range, but it is one of the hardest to get to. With approach routes up the Lake Constance trail (Link 1 or Link 2)  just getting to a place where you can climb proves to be difficult. C-141 peak is on the list of the top 15 mountains on the Olympic Peninsula, and had it not been for an unfortunate plane crash, killing all on board, even fewer people would know of its existence. C-141 peak needs to be climbed, needs to be remembered and needs to be respected.
    Front page, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, on U.S. Air Force C-141A Starlifter crash into Mount Constance that occurred on March 20, 1975
    Courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer

               Exotic Hikes will be climbing C-141 peak this year, in hopes to document the route and climb for the first time since 1987 (according to any internet searches). If you are interested in joining us on this historic climb, please contact us today! Finally, on March 20th this year, take some time and look at the Olympic Mountains. Remember that 37 years ago, the worst accident in the Olympic National Park’s history occurred. 
    Mount Constance (center) as seen from Alki Point, January 22, 2008 photo by Daryl C. McClary
    See you on the trails, 
    Douglas Scott
    Exotic Hikes

    With thanks to

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    The American Himalayas



           The Himalayas are shrouded with a mystique as being the gateway to Shangri-La and the roof top of the world. Diverse plant life, wildlife and natural features bring millions of tourists to Kathmandu to experience the Himalayas, and everyone wants to experience the raw and awesome power of nature that they can offer. While the Himalayas are beautiful, awe-inspiring and breath-taking, one can find a place in America that is almost as diverse and able to serve as a place for a spiritual journey to connect with nature.  While the Himalayas may be the ultimate bucket list destination, the Olympic Mountains can offer you one thing that the Himalayas are getting less likely to give you: solitude.
                    Nestled in the northern most point in the continental United States, Tucked away deep within a National Park, the Olympic range juts out from the rainforest canopy, towering above everything else on the Olympic Peninsula. While it is just a few hours’ drive or ferry ride from an urban population of well over a million people, few of the masses take the time or have the passion for exploration which will take them deep in the Olympic Mountains. With hundreds of peaks about 5000ft and over 89 peaks over 6500ft (with over a 400ft of cleared prominence) climbers have a wide variety of skills sets to master in order to experience them all. Like the Himalayas, the Olympic Mountains offer little as far as infrastructure inside the area, with much trekking done up old animal trails and through weather beaten landslide and avalanche prone areas. In both the Olympic Mountains and the Himalayas, weather can change quickly and it can be weeks before you can be warm or dry. Also, bugs, flooding and natural disasters can all ruin what would normally be a good trip. While the Himalayas are world renowned, the Olympic Mountains serve as a miniature version of them, allowing for exploration, isolation and developing a deeper connection to nature while you are at either place.

                    To best appreciate the vastness of the Olympic Mountains, one needs to journey to the Kathmandu of the Olympic Peninsula.  The city which serves as a gateway is Port Angeles, Washington. Port Angeles is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a few hours ferry ride from Victoria British Columbia, Canada. With almost 20,000 people (according to the 2010 US Census), this small town acts as a Port of Entry to the United States,  to the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. Port Angeles was also established as the headquarters for the Olympic National Park, which was created in 1938. While the city itself has a few rolling hills, few parts of the town lay above a few hundred feet above sea level. Yet, following a 17 mile road to the south, you climb to over 5000ft to the Hurricane Ridge area. Random side note: Port Angeles is the birthplace of Quarterback John Elway.  

                                                                  Hurricane Ridge

    Hurricane Ridge stands at over 5000ft, (600ft higher than Kathmandu!) but is located just mere miles from sea level, showing the sheer power that was needed to create such a rugged terrain. Huge sweeping valleys dive deep along gorges of old growth forests, only to jut back up into the heavens with yet another ridge of mountain peaks. With a new, state of the art lodge, miles of trails, as well as a small ski/snowboard run(open in the winter only), Hurricane Ridge offers the entire family a great wealth of activities to do. Besides the day activities that one can do at Hurricane Ridge, it is also a great place to stand and stare at the impressive vista of the interior of the Olympic National Park. From the lodge, one can see miles in every direction, laying their eyes on peaks that otherwise may be hidden from view from everywhere else on the Olympic Peninsula. Hurricane Ridge allows the imagination to take over, giving the viewer the full force and greatness of nature.

    Hurricane ridge provides tourists with a vantage point to see what lies deep within the temperate rainforest. With views of Mt. Olympus, and numerous other peaks, Hurricane Ridge is the place to go to be inspired to explore the green, alpine jungles of the Pacific Northwest. With miles of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails (some well-groomed with the VW Bus you see above) in the winter, to summertime ridgeline trails with sweeping vistas, blooming wildflowers and an abundance of wildlife, the Hurricane Ridge area in the Olympic National Park is the rooftop to the Pacific Northwest.

    For tours of the Olympic Peninsula and Hurricane Ridge, call Exotic Hikes at (360) 350-8938 or follow us on twitter @exotichikes. Until then, see you on the trails!
    Douglas Scott
    Exotic Hikes

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Needed: A List of Recommended Hiking Equipment for the Olympic Peninsula

                    As a professional guide with hiking experience all over the world, I can tell you that the Pacific Northwest is one of the hardest places to hike in, as far as weather is concerned. It can be sunny one minute and rain for the next 3 days, even though the forecast calls for sun, or, it may snow at 3000ft even though the snow level is supposed to be 6000ft. You never know what to expect on the Olympic Peninsula, so hopefully this will help you be ready for your hike. Because of the unpredictability of the weather and trail conditions, packing a bag, heck, even choosing the right backpack can make or break a hike. In this post, we will discuss what you need to make sure your day is an enjoyable one no matter what the weather. You may find a pair of shows that are more comfortable, or a backpack that fits better with your body, but this guide should help you get started on your journey to comfort. This is intended to help you be ready without breaking the bank, so if you are looking for the top end products, this may not help. Also…remember that for the Olympic Peninsula, you need to buy everything water proof and NOT water resistant. Water resistant will NOT keep you dry in our wonderful rain forest!

    First and foremost, you need a good pair of shoes. This is tough because, like me, you may have feet that are picky and brand loyal. Typically, I would suggest some sort of Trail Runner, as the majority of hikes that one goes on are going to be able to handle trail running shoes. For this I suggest you go with a waterproof shoe, such as the North Face brand of trail runners. ( These are pretty inexpensive and will give you the support of a running shoe, with the grip and waterproofing of a hiking shoe. I suggest going to a local outdoors store before going to REI or other large stores because they will take the time to figure out what is best for your needs. You could also go with minimalist shoes, but with the amount of moisture on the trails on the Olympic Peninsula, your feet may get very, very cold quickly.

                    Boots can be tricky, and depending on comfort, you may go with any number of styles. However, 2 things are important when buying boots for the Olympic Peninsula. The first is obviously to get a waterproof pair. This isn’t because you will be walking when it rains but because many trails double as seasonal streams and you have to walk through a few inches of water. Unless you enjoy wet feet and blisters, don’t skimp on the price. Boots typically come in 2 styles. Low tops and high boots. Many hikers that I associate with like the lower shoes, as the chaffing is less on the shins than with high tops boots, which can ruin your day and maybe your zeal for hiking. It is with great excitement that I am introducing you to a new company who makes fantastic boots. Oboz, located in Bozeman Montana, is the best brand for boots. Not only are they on the cutting edge of hiking boot technology, but they are designed by a seasoned veteran of hiking shoes. In fact, I just bought the ones shown next to this paragraph and my feet have never felt more comfortable on trails, scree and snow!

    Pants and Shorts:
                    For those of you who do not know me, I always wear shorts. Even in show, you will catch me with shorts and thigh high wool socks, as I tend to dislike the feel of long pants on hikes and climbs. That being said, I do know my pants and therefore recommend Mountain Hardwear (,default,sc.html) for their selection of pants and shorts. One handy thing about them is that they have great pocket space and are warm enough, yet lightweight enough to handle changing conditions. While some styles may be expensive, you only need one pair of shorts and/or pants. Hiking is more about comfort and less about style, so don’t feel you need to rotate outfits for hikes and climbs. For winter pants, make sure they have the build in internal snow gaitor, as this will keep the snow out of your shoes. Pants and shorts should be comfortable and tight, as there is no need to be sagging out on the trails.

                    One brand stands alone as the best company to buy your jackets from and that brand is Marmot. ( One tip for buying a jacket is to stay as far away from fleece as humanly possible. Many companies will flaunt their fleece as great hiking gear, but when push comes to shove, fleece will do nothing for you in the wind or rain. To me, fleece was designed for car hikers, or people who maybe will hike a mile at a time in good weather. That is why I always look for waterproof jackets and windbreakers instead. For a good day hike top, check out Marmot’s line of “DriClime” gear. This is similar to The North Face and Eddie Bauer’s gear, but at a fraction of the price. Another quick tip is to make sure everything you get has a hood on it. While hats are nice, you need to stop moisture from dripping own your neck.

                    One might assume that this is the least important article of clothing you could wear but I beg to differ. T-shirts are not only a great way to support your favorite hiking guides (, but it is also important to get something that is breathable and sturdy. If you are scrambling over rocks you need something sturdy that will keep you warm but also not gather sweat. This is why I recommend the brand Stoic. The have a crew shirt that is by far the best under layer you can wear.

    Socks and Underwear:
                    Believe it or not, underwear is probably the most important aspect to hiking. Nothing can ruin a day quite like having a wedgie for 6 miles. For men and women, I plead with you to bypass fashion and go with a full length, breathable pair of underwear. Running tights are also a good substitute.Do not wear this for hiking....

                    Socks can be tricky, depending on what shoes you are wearing and what conditions you are going to be in for your hike. I typically bring 3 pairs of socks with me on hikes. I bring one thigh high pair of wool hiking socks. Important note here is that they should be padded. REI carries a wide variety of good quality, cheap in price socks. I also go with an ankle sock from Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent collection, as these are great at keeping my feet warm and dry, and most importantly, blister free. Finally I bring a thin pair of running socks in case the others get wet and/or the conditions call for less cushion on my feet. This is your preference, but remember to try and get socks that fit perfect, or you will end up with blisters. Blisters on hikes are more likely going to be caused from socks than from your shoes, so be wise.

                    Some people collect shoes, others collect t-shirts or shot glasses. I collect backpacks. It is with this habit that I can steer you to the best brands of day hiking backpacks and overnight backpacks. For day hikes, I recommend the brand Osprey (, as they come with not only a great amount of space, but also typically include hydration packs. This is a plus, as you then have space for water without having to pack a bulky water bottle or thermos. The Talon series is the best day pack for your money, and once you have one, you will notice quite a few other hikers will have the same backpack as you. This is one of the times where being trendy is good. The packs have a great pack support and are designed for all body types. I know this may sound weird, but if I could marry a backpack, it would be one of the Osprey backpacks.
                    For long, multiday hikes, I recommend going with the brand Gregory. While this may not be a well-known brand, they come with a lifetime guarantee and are styled to fit you perfectly. ( I have linked to my favorite pack right now, and I have had no problems with it. While you may need to buy a waterproof cover for it, this bag is sturdy, dependable and allows you to have easy access to all of its pockets.

    Wrap up:
                    With these products, you should have a base of great items to get you out and about. I will do a later post about brand of crampons, snowshoes and helmets, but for now, this should help you get out and get started for your lifelong love of hiking. What is most important about having good items and gear is that a hike should not be ruined from lack of good shoes or getting too wet. A hike should always be an adventure, and to have to be in pain from bad shoes, hike with a wedgie worse than the ones I got in elementary school or be soaked to the bone is inexcusable. The right gear can make a rainy day a cherished memory and the right gear can make a walk in the woods a story that will be passed down for generations. Hiking and climbing is about pushing your limits physically to see or feel the true force of nature, and the last thing you want is to be forced to turn around, mere miles from Shangri-La due to bad shoes. Take it from me, with the right gear, it doesn’t matter what shape you are in, or how short or far you hike, because as long as you are warm and dry, all that matters is your connection to nature.

    Hope to see you on the trails soon,

     Douglas Scott
    Exotic Hikes

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Quick link to pictures

    I will be blogging soon about the wonderful trips to Graves Creek and Hurricane Ridge that we just led, but until them, check out the links to our photo galleries.

    As always, feel free to ask questions, leave comments or share with others!

    Here is just a taste of what you will see:

    Graves creek pictures =
    Hurricane Ridge pictures=

    Until then, See you on the trails!

    Douglas Scott
    Exotic Hikes