2020. Where does one even begin to describe it?
The year 2020 will inevitably go down in history books read in schools by future generations. There is no doubt that the COVID19 global pandemic has changed our world forever. 2020 was a lot of different things to each individual—some good, some bad, and some botched cocktail of both with a dash of everything in between. Amidst the devastation to communities, industries, and economies caused by the COVID19 pandemic came a time in our lives where we were all forced to slow down. In a world that normally offers so much freedom, flexibility and opportunity to simply exist as one chooses, we were all forced to come to terms with various restrictions that obstructed our regular flow. We all had to find ways to adapt to a new way of life.
For me, I capitalized on this time by utilizing my existing love for the outdoors and happened to get lucky enough to find the adventure partner I have been looking for my entire life and we hiked like we had never hiked before! It was as though we found one another just so we could go get lost together [in the woods]. With public places and travel largely restricted, we hit the outdoors hard; although this was nothing too new to our routine as outdoor activities were already a huge part of our lives. The only difference was that we now had each other to share in these passions and we certainly made the most of it. Many others followed suit whether discovering the Great Outdoors, as it tends to be called, for the first time, or continuing to grow an existing repertoire of wilderness adventure.
Here is an interesting snippet on that topic from an article on the National Park Service’s website (https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/02-25-21-national-parks-hosted-237-million-visitors-in-2020.htm):
“Outdoor experiences provided refuge from the pandemic for 237 million visitors to America’s national parks in 2020. The number represents a 28% decrease from the previous year due largely to temporary park closures and restrictions implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Although overall visitation dropped, a number of parks experienced record crowds and welcomed new visitors. Trails, overlooks and open spaces provided safe ways for visitors to recreate responsibly, get some fresh air and stay active. “This past year has reminded us how important national parks and public lands are to overall wellbeing,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “Throughout the country, national parks provided close-to-home opportunities for people to spend much needed time outdoors for their physical and psychological health.””
On that note, keep reading for the highlight reel of our favorite hiking and backpacking adventures of 2020!
Let’s begin with travels in our backyard: Idaho. From Reno to California to Idaho, Idaho is the one that has stolen my heart. It is a true gem and offers more uncharted wilderness than I have ever experienced before. The landscape is mountainous and grand; green and lush; and offers the splendor of all four seasons. After spending about one year in the northern Idaho region on a work assignment, I fell completely in love…in more ways than one. Number one on the list for Idaho is Scotchman Peak.
Scotchman Peak – Charles & Andrea Recorded Statistics (Route recorded using the AllTrails application record feature):
· Distance: 8.5 miles
· Elevation Gain: 3,658 ft
· Route Type: Out & Back
The Scotchman Peak trailhead is located about one hour southeast of Sandpoint, Idaho—a very inviting, mountain town nestled on the banks of Lake Pend Oreille. At the time this was the greatest elevation gain Charles and I had ever done over such a short distance of about 3.3 miles. So, it was a bit of a climb. We strategically scheduled this hike toward the end of our hiking season, which began in early May of 2020, with the assumption we would be in ready-shape for this gain. It’s safe to say we crushed it. The trail is well trodden and for good reason—the views of Lake Pend Oreille and the valley below are stunning. We were lucky enough to catch these views on the way up until we got high enough to cross into the fog layer that seemed to exist only above and around our summit destination. The sunny, blue skies that welcomed us at the trailhead transformed into a gray, cloudy winter with enough elevation gained. Green trees turned white and the breeze that cooled us at lower elevations turned to an icy wind that chilled us to the bone as we neared and then reached the top. The only one prepared for this turn of events was our trusty traveler, Lola. She happily indulged in this early taste of winter.
Next up…Montana! Thankfully, the western Montana border is a quick drive from where we live in Idaho because it is home to some gorgeous scenery and amazing hiking trails. Our favorite was our overnight backpacking trip on Bear Lake Trail to Baree Lakes Trail Loop in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness.
Bear Lake Trail to Baree Lakes Trail Loop – Charles & Andrea Recorded Statistics (Route recorded using the AllTrails application record feature):
· Distance: 16 miles
· Elevation Gain: 3,000 ft
· Route Type: Loop
*Note the main trail is 9.4 miles and 2,729 ft gain per AllTrails. Stats above reflect our added backcountry adventures.
This trek will always be a special one for us as it was our first overnight backpacking trip together. We weren’t officially dating at the time, but if we didn’t know that was on the horizon beforehand, there was no denying it after this trip. The Cabinet Mountains are a part of the Rocky Mountains that span northwest Montana and the Idaho Panhandle. Their southern tip lies near Thompson Falls, MT from which they continue on up north into Canada. This is a fun story—Charles and Lola hiked in one day before I did. Without knowing what kind of cell service would be available—with the hope always being there is none—we went old school and picked a place and time to meet (Baree Lake at 10:00am) on the day I hiked in and apparently trusted each other enough to execute this plan. I arrived at Baree about 30 minutes early and posted up by the water’s edge to read until Charles arrived. 10:00am came and went—no sign of Lola or Charles. I stayed calm until 11:00am rolled around and they still were nowhere to be seen. I began imagining all of the horrible things that could have happened and so packed my bag in a hurry and started along the trail in the direction he would be coming from. Not fifteen minutes later did we run right into each other. Crisis averted.
We spent the day fishing and relaxing—relaxing aside from the three separate occasions that I snagged and consequently lost Charles’s fishing lures. Remember I said we weren’t dating yet, so I had no idea how this might affect my chances. Apparently, he didn’t mind.
That evening, we hiked up the ridgeline Charles had hiked in from to get back to where he set up camp. We stopped along the way to take photos, of course, and also to find an epic spot to have dinner and watch the sunset. We found the perfect place at the top of the peak looking out at the vast valley and mountainous terrain below. [Vegetarian] Chili was on the menu—our chosen luxury camp meal item. It may have been dinner from a can, but you couldn’t beat the Michelin star view.
Our backpacking trips didn’t stop there—later that summer we made our way to Mount Hood in Oregon and to Zion National Park in Utah in the fall. I believe our Zion trip deserves its own blog post, so I’ll save that adventure saga for another time. So…Mount Hood comin’ at ya!
Badger Lake Trail – Charles & Andrea Recorded Statistics (Route recorded using the AllTrails application record feature):
· Distance: 26.0 miles
· Elevation Gain: 5,355 ft
· Route Type: Out & Back
*Note the main trail is 11.2 miles and 2,755 ft gain per AllTrails. Stats above reflect our added backcountry adventures.
Mount Hood is Oregon’s highest peak sitting at 11,240 ft. Fun fact about Mount Hood: it is a stratovolcano that, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), has erupted episodically for about 500,000 years and hosted two major eruptive periods during the past 1,500 years.
After enjoying some time down at sea level along the Oregon coast, Charles and I, naturally, made our way to the mountains to ensure our lungs didn’t get too complacent. The start of the Badger Lake Trail made sure our respiratory system kicked right back into gear—2,000 ft of elevation gain in the first few miles of pure switchback action with the full weight of our packs. It was a nice downhill drop to the lake from there. In all honestly, Badger Lake was a disappointment. Water levels are manually controlled via sluice gate dam and the lake had been drained down to a level that exposed barren, sandy banks littered with driftwood that gave the perimeter a cluttered appearance and dark sands that made the basin look…dirty, for lack of a better word. Furthermore, upon arrival at the campground we learned that the lake is accessible by vehicle, which tends to draw a different kind of crowd out into nature than those on foot. One couple we ran into while hiking shared with us a horror story about camping at Badger Lake during a previous backpacking trek in which a boisterous bachelor party entourage showed up with loud music and beer—basically, our worst nightmare while out in nature. Thankfully, we were the only campers at Badger Lake during our time there. We made up for the lack of beauty at Badger during a day hike up to Badger Peak. Our first stop along the way was Jean Lake—the kind of alpine lake we aim for and where we realized we should have made camp. We made lunch by the mountain stream that fed Jean Lake, took a dip and swam in the cold water and tip-toed through the swarms of frogs. Yes, you read that correctly—frogs. Upon arrival at Jean Lake, we noticed a lot of activity at ground level. We quickly realized that the ground was covered—and I mean literally covered—with small frogs. It was like a mass hatching had occurred. We could barely take a step without fear of crushing at least five frogs under our feet. It was unlike anything we had ever seen before.
We said goodbye to Jean Lake and to our million new froggy friends and then made our way up to Badger Peak. The real viewpoint was along the ridgeline just past the peak. At this point we had forgotten all disappointment over the scenery at Badger because this view made up for it all. Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mt. Adams could be seen from this spot and the sunset was a dream.
All in all, 2020 proved to be a fruitful year for us; full of adventure, memories, beauty, and life. These special experiences gave us the fuel we needed to get through 2020 together and look ahead with enhanced goals for the hiking season to follow. We ended 2020 with a total of 227 miles and 54,285 feet of total elevation gain under our belts. Our goal for 2021 is to hike a total of 250 miles and gain 60,000 ft of elevation before the year’s end. Stay tuned for more adventure posts about our journeys so far for this year and other good reads to come!
For the love of adventure,
Hey, readers! We hope you enjoyed journeying through our adventure log of 2020. How did you cope with the difficulties of the pandemic in 2020? Did nature play a part? We would love to hear about it! If you’d like to share, leave us a comment below!
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