A Day in the Life of a Trail Coordinator

I would say at least a third of my time as the Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator is spent in eastern Oregon. Much of what I’m trying to accomplish on the ODT revolves around creating a trail culture in the small desert communities of Oregon’s dry side, and also working within those communities to see how the ODT can meet their recreation needs, or perhaps identify other recreation opportunities in those areas.

Wednesday morning I woke at 6am, sipped at several cups of hot black coffee, and packed for a few days on the road. I loaded up the 1994 Jeep Cherokee (one of the only ONDA rigs with studded tires) and by 7am was pulling away from the house. The highway south towards La Pine was busy with morning commuter traffic, and as the miles sped by and the elevation slightly increased, the snow started to blanket the forest with white. We’ve had a very mild winter this year, but the snow and rain have started to fall this March, providing some much needed moisture in the desert.

Just south of the small forested town of La Pine, I made a left turn onto highway 31, one of the few paved roads that heads south east. If you keep following this road, eventually it will dump you out in Reno, NV, but before that some of the iconic scenes of the desert appear: Fort Rock (where 10,000 year old sagebrush slippers were found in a cave in 1938), Hagar Mountain (a pointy iconic mountain with a fire tower lookout you can rent), Summer Lake and Winter Rim (words can’t do this area justice, just EPIC) and the popular Summer Lake Hotsprings, the town of Paisley (a charming little town at the base of the massive Fremont National Forest) and Abert Rim (one of the largest fault block mountains in the country, a 30 mile long fault that rises 2,500’ above the highway below). I turned before the highway reached the tall town of Lakeview (Oregon’s highest elevation city) and took road 140 towards Adel, a spot on the map not many will pass.

The goal of this trip was to check in with some of the small communities that provide services to hikers in Adel and Plush, meet with a new trail angel in Plush who wants to help out hikers, hike a potential alternate route into the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge from the base of Hart Mountain, soak in the Hart Mountain Hotsprings, head to Lakeview for to give a presentation about the Oregon Desert Trail to the Lakeview Chapter of the American Association of University Women, and then head back to Summer Lake the next day for a meeting with another potential trail angel who wants to help with water caching in one of the drier sections of the ODT.

A lot of driving, yes, but of the many trips I’ve made to this part of Oregon in the past 2.5 years, I never get tired of the drive. After leaving the last bits of forest behind on Wednesday morning, the snow became deeper and highlighted all the ruffles of sagebrush that carpeted the landscape, and BOOM made the ridges and faults of Winter Rim and Abert Rim just explode with beauty. Before I got that far though, outside of Silver Lake I had to slow for a group of cows being ushered down the highway by four cowboys moving their stock to some spring grazing grounds (probably). Ranching is still one of the dominate industries in south east Oregon, although I think recreation will continue to help diversify the economy out here.

When I turned off on the road to Adel, I started to look at my phone for reception. I needed to call in for a conference call for a new organization I was a part of, an organization of conservation, recreation, and outdoor industry folks intent on advocating for more funding and protection of our landscape. Although the remoteness of this part of Oregon is real, there is an awful lot of cell phone reception out here (Verizon!). I passed the Warner Ski Area, but the lift wasn’t running today. I don’t think they’ve had enough snow to open more than a few days this year. The road followed Deep Creek, a waterway Kirk and I have had our eyes on for a few years; just a few miles before Adel the creek plunges over a 20’ tumble of boulders in a waterfall that Kirk is itching to run in his kayak.

I found my sweet spot for the cell phone, and noted the pull-off on the road. I would return after my lunch in Plush for my phone call. On to the Hart Mountain Store. This little oasis is an important stop on the Oregon Desert Trail. The route essentially goes through town, and has almost everything a hiker would need…all in one place. The store can be your resupply (if you aren’t picky), restaurant, bar, post office, gas station, and community gathering place. When I hiked through in 2016 I spent the better part of a day here eating a massive double bacon cheeseburger, drinking a few beers, and reading a book I grabbed from their take-one-leave-one shelf before heading off to the cozy tiny house a local couple rents out (Hart Mountain Cabin). Plush is also close to a hot spot for the Oregon Sunstone, a orangish/pinkish stone that features in many pieces of local jewelry. In the store you can buy some of the sunstone creations, in addition to a variety of other random and interesting items.

I ordered the French Dip, and Joelle, my trail angel to be, the chilli mac. Joelle was volunteering nights this week to help the refuge trap and monitor sage grouse, our iconic “canary in the coalmine” bird that indicates the health of the Sagebrush Steppe landscape. As a biologist her previous work was primarily among shore-birds, but she was enjoying this new drier landscape and the different life found within.

After lunch I left Dave (owner of the Hart Mountain Store) with a few more ODT brochures for the store counter, and a fresh copy of the Town Guide.

I jumped back in the Jeep and headed back towards the pull-out near Adel for my conference call (Plush is one of the only communities out here with absolutely no cell phone reception. Which is quite refreshing I must say!). Ah technology. Many of the folks were calling in from Portland, some from Bend, and others, I’m not sure where. We talked policy, the new Oregon Office of Outdoor Recreation, future events, and so forth.

About two hours later I drove up to the Adel store to fill up the tank with gas. Cody, the new owners’ son, poured me one of the Oregon IPAs they had on tap, and I caught up on a little laptop work and ate a few tater-tots. I also gave him a copy of the Town Guide; his parents had purchased the store last fall and soon after I had stopped in to say hello, and explained they were now an ODT trail town. The family had moved down from Redmond (near Bend) and were enjoying the quieter pace of life in the Oregon Outback. I had updated the information on the store, and wanted to leave them with a copy of the guide.

Then back to the car. I had my sights set on camping at the Hart Mountain Hot Springs, a free campground deep in the Hart Mountain Refuge, but the snow had been falling, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to drive into the spot. The hot springs are on top of Hart Mountain, another large fault block mountain, and Plush and Adel sit in the valley below. I drove up the long grade to the refuge Headquarters almost 2,000’ above the valley. The snow was falling heavily and I couldn’t see any car tracks ahead of me. At the headquarters I would turn off onto a smaller road for another 5 miles to the campground, but after looking at the large flakes falling heavily from the sky, decided not to go. While I knew I could get in there, and the forecast only said about an inch of snow was expected…the snow doesn’t always obey the forecast, and I decided to head to a campground at the base of the mountain instead. No soaking for me this time, but I’ve enjoyed the steaming waters before.

Hart Mountain blanketed in clouds…the view from Adel.

I pulled into the quiet site just before dark to park and get all cozy in the back of the jeep. I brought my -20 degree sleeping bag, paco pad (4” inflatable foam pad Kirk and I use for river trips), and down pillow. Roughing it? Not really! I read for a few hours before turning off my headlamp for the night. There were no lights in any direction, and if it hadn’t been snowing, I would have been able to see the stars brighter than many places in the country.


Reddit AMA next Tuesday

For those who Reddit, I’ll be doing an AMA on the ultralight subreddit next Tuesday, 12pm eastern time, 9am pacific.

AMA stands for Ask Me Anything, and for a few hours I’ll be online answering any questions that come up!

Oh, and I started a new Instagram account for the Oregon Desert Trail.

Hope you all are planning some good adventures this year…

I’m old. Part 2: Arizona Trail 2009

So I also uploaded this 25 minute video about my hike of the Arizona Trail.

This hike came after I had moved to Bend and had worked leading wilderness therapy trips for over a year already. This hike was my first route, as much of the AZT back then was dirt roads, some pavement, and some unmarked wondering. It was fairly well signed though, and in fact became a National Scenic Trail when I was hiking. When I got to Orcale and picked up a copy of the local paper I saw Obama had designated the Arizona Trail that week. Now, I’m not one for omens, but I thought that led to a nice theme for the hike.

Although I hiked alone most of the time, I was joined at the start by my bestie, NEMO. NEMO and I met on the PCT in 2006 and became fast friends. We’ve hiked together a few times since, and are currently planning something for this summer (!!!!!!!!!) I had made friends with a couple from Tuscon the summer before when I dispensed some trail magic on the PCT near Bend, and wouldn’t you know it, Slo-Ride and Shanke-n-bake had already hiked the Arizona Trail.

NEMO and I launched from Mexico with their help and crossed paths with a few other hikers out that year (Snappy & Puff Puff – and dog Buckaroo, Roni from Israel, and Mother Natures Son). But after the first week when NEMO had to go home, I wanted my solitude so took off for parts unknown (to me).

Here is my journal.

This is much more contemplative video, and a bit slow at times, but for 25 minutes, it might be better than scrolling through the dregs of whatever feed is near by. Maybe?

Lots of trail friends and new friends made on this trip, and illustrates one of the things I love most about hiking long trails: meeting awesome people.

Northbound Arizona Trail thru hike Spring 2009 from Renee Patrick on Vimeo.

A trip down memory lane: a Colorado Trail thru-hike

I’ve always made little videos and compilations of the hikes and adventures I’ve had over the years. As a result I have a you tube channel, vimeo channel, and lots of stuff on DVD…do you remember DVDs? Those disk-like things on which you would burn a video…maybe half an hour to an hour of photos, videos, and music…


People really made videos that long?

Yep. We did. My PCT video is 45 minutes, this Colorado Trail one is about 30, my Arizona Trail one is maybe 40? It seems these days hikers make 3-5 minute videos because no one has the attention span to watch longer…myself included.

But, I dug into some of the old DVDs I made of hikes, and am going to start uploading some of them.

This little trip down memory lane was over 10 years ago when I hiked northbound from Durango to Denver in the fall of 2007. I had moved to Durango in February that year to go through a crew leader development training program, an Americorps gig run by the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC). I spent months cutting trees, building large log and rock retaining walls, and fixing damaged trail in places like Mesa Verde, Canyon of the Ancients,the Great Sand Dunes, and the San Juan Mountains.

It was the only logical next step to hike the 500-mile Colorado Trail when our work for the year finished. That put me at a mid-August departure from Durango. The timing was great. The weather held out and I thought I was going to die only once when I camped on the divide and over 12,000′ near Stony Pass. That night a lightning storm moved in and I was very exposed. I didn’t sleep a wink, but when I woke and hiked a few miles to Stony Pass, I met some of my SCC crew friends working on the Continental Divide Trail. Woop! (I would return 8 years later to hike the CDT).

Most of the time I felt like the only person left on earth.

I loved hiking alone after months of people around ALL THE TIME. I was strong after a summer of moving dirt and rocks, and it was very empowering to spend that time in the incredible landscape of Colorado. I climbed a few 14ers, read a couple of books, and got giardia only once.

I was tired towards the end and looking forward to the next thing…which happened to be moving to Bend to lead wilderness therapy trips.

I kept a daily journal here.

This video also has the soundtrack my 2007. Enjoy!

Solo Northbound Fall Colorado Trail Thru-hike 2007 from Renee Patrick on Vimeo.


A busy year ahead

Welp, we’re almost a month into 2018 and the pace of all the good things continues.

I like the pace of life in Oregon’s high desert

I’m over two years into my job to establish the Oregon Desert Trail, and it’s still incredible to me that I am in a position to use all my hiking experiences in this job, and am seeing results.

It will be another busy year of presentations around the state, leading trail maintenance trips, and helping hikers get out on the trail.

Interested in joining me on one of the trips? Here are the 5 outings I’ll be leading this year. Registration opens for these and almost 30 other ONDA stewardship trips on February 19 here.

Badlands Wilderness Trail Work June 1-3
Celebrate National Trails Day on June 2 with trail maintenance in one of the newest Wilderness areas in Oregon, and the start of the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail.

Fremont National Recreation Trail Work June 21-24
Enjoy views for miles on this trail maintenance project up and over Morgan Butte on the Fremont National Recreation Trail and Oregon Desert Trail.

Big Indian Gorge Steens Trail Work August 2-6
Steens Mountain sets the stunning backdrop for this trail maintenance project in the glaciated landscape of Big Indian Gorge along the Oregon Desert Trail.

Nye Steens Trail Work August 23-27
Want to work on a steep exposed amazing section of trail that drops over 1,000′ into the Little Blitzen Gorge along an Oregon Desert Trail alternate? This trip is for you.

Little Blitzen Gorge Steens Trail Work September 6-10
Join in this trail work trip in the glaciated canyon of Little Blitzen Gorge along an Oregon Desert Trail Alternate.

And if you are in western Oregon, join me at one of my presentations next week:

Eugene, Tuesday 1/30 @ REI 7pm

Portland, Wednesday 1/31 @ Mountain Shop @ 7pm

Hood River, Thursday 2/1 @ pFriem Brewery @ 6pm


I started something new…well, not exactly new.

I began screen printing about 7 years ago, designing images, making screens in my boyfriend’s bathroom, and printing on recycled clothing. I originally designed about 10 different bike images and would upcycle thrift store clothing and sell them at bike events around Bend.

That experience led me to start the business Hikertrash with another long distance hiker, Brian Frankle.

We ran that for three years, and just sold it this spring to another hiker in town who is taking it to new levels…but I’m still designing. Here are a few new images for the Hike Like a Girl series coming out soon:

All this is to say, I’m still having fun with design and the things I love, hiking and biking. SO….

I started a store on Zazzle, an online store that will put my logos on cool things and do all the shipping and fulfillment for me. So I’m bringing my bike designs back to life!

You can shop in my new store here.

Here are a few items you can find there…take a look!


Arctic Refuge Drilling, we can stop it!

I wrote about the Arctic Refuge Drilling issue in my last post, and even though the budget resolution that would open up this sensitive area up to drilling passed both the house and senate, there is still time. Action items below! Please make a call today.

Read more below from the Conservation Alliance:

Congress Votes in Favor of Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, But the Fight is Not Over
The battle to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling continues.

Two weeks ago, the Senate took the first step toward opening the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling by voting against an amendment to remove Arctic drilling from its budget resolution, then narrowly passing that resolution. Less than a week later, on Thursday, Oct 26th, the House adopted the Senate’s budget resolution in a 216-212 vote.

The good news? We have successfully fought this battle before. In 2005, the Arctic Refuge faced a similar threat. Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, and the White House, and all wanted to open the Arctic Refuge to oil development.  Republican leadership used the same convoluted budget process they are using today to advance Arctic drilling.  The Senate and the House voted then to drill the Arctic Refuge using the same sequence of votes in 2005 as they did earlier this month, but Arctic Refuge supporters remained steadfast. At the 11th hour, the cultural significance and unmatched beauty of the Arctic Refuge ultimately prevailed, and Arctic drilling was struck from the 2005 budget.

Read more on our blog.

ACTION ALERT:  Take Action to Protect the Arctic Refuge
Each step in the budget process requires our community’s attention. Now that Congress has passed a budget resolution, the next stage in the process is called reconciliation. Reconciliation is the part in the process where we will see actual legislation that would open the Arctic Refuge to drilling. This Thursday, November 2nd, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing to discuss potential oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge (as instructed by the resolution).

It’s important our elected officials understand how you feel about opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Below are four important actions you can take today to join the fight to protect the Arctic Refuge:

  1. Call or tweet Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (202-224-6665 / @lisamurkowski) and Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan (202-224-3004 / @SenDanSullivan) and tell them that you do not agree with drilling in the Refuge and that the fast-tracked budget process is an unethical method to use on such an important topic.
  2. Call or tweet Maine Senator Susan Collins (202-224-2523 / @SenatorCollins) and thank her for voting in support of the Arctic Refuge in the Budget Resolution process.
  3. Call or tweet Arizona Senator John McCain (202-224-2235 / @SenJohnMcCain) and ask him to help the public understand his reasons for voting down the amendment that would have kept the Arctic Refuge out of the budget process.
  4. Call or tweet your representative and ask them to tell GOP leadership to keep #ArcticRefuge drilling out of the tax bill. #NoArcticRider #ProtectTheArctic

Post Hike Rejuvination

Yes I was bummed that I wasn’t able to finish the Tahoe Rim Trail a few weeks ago, but the following 5 days provided such a boost of inspiration that I was able to quickly move past that disappointment and get over myself. There are so many more important things to spend time worrying about than my gimpy feet. (Update: my right shin is still sore, and after a visit to a podiatrist learned that my left foot has structural issues and I’ll be wearing a custom orthotic to mitigate that kind of pain again!)

I was immersed in the Patagonia Tools Conference. If you aren’t aware, the clothing company Patagonia has extremely strong environmental roots and ethics, and has been providing grants to nonprofits involved in a variety of conservation issues for years. This is a company that puts their money to good work, and if you pay more for your puffy, it’s probably because it’s sustainably sourced, fair trade, and a portion of the profits supports some local organization in your community. This year they granted over 800 different organziations funds to support their campaigns, and 80 of us showed up on the shores of Fallen Leaf Lake to learn some best practicies from professionals in the field.

Everything was covered from campaign strategy to communication tactics, fundraising to lobbying, and we dove in to the nitty gritty of how to be effective in challenging times like these. What I came away with was a renewed sense that we CAN make a difference no matter what is going on at the federal level…in fact some of the most successful environmental work is done locally.

I also walked away awed at the work being done around the country by those in the room with me.

One particularly moving plea for help came from Bernadette Demientieff of the Gwich’in Nation in the Artic Circle. Patagonia made a film about the threats to this region of the world and the people who have called it home for many thousands of years.

Here’s a bit more: https://www.adn.com/politics/2017/10/05/u-s-house-passes-budget-bill-that-provides-option-for-opening-anwr-to-drilling/

A bill is due to hit the Senate floor in the coming weeks, after the Senate returns from a weeklong recess on Oct. 16.

I’m not really thinking about my feet anymore…and this is just one issue out there, what’s happening in your neighborhood?

Day 8 – 1.5 miles…backwards.

I woke, made my coffee, ate my instant apple  cinnamon oatmeal, popped a healthy handful of vitamin I, and faced the trail. I willed my left foot to feel no pain, but my powers of persuasion were lacking. The 12+ hours off my feet had no impact on the pain level in the bottom of my left foot.

I only stumbled a few minutes up the trail before I faced reality. This was not working. There is acceptable pain, and unacceptable pain. And this pain was unknown and acute, so unacceptable.

I felt failure throbbing in my foot, and turned around. When I told myself a few days ago that I would get back on the trail and see how things went, and keep my options open if my leg wasn’t feeling better, I guess I never expected I wouldn’t feel better.

Is this 40? Is this getting old? Or have I been lucky with my feet thus far?

Not. Happy.

I made my way back to the trailhead and stuck out my thumb once again. And the ride that stopped definitely helped pull me out of my pity party. Dave and his dog Ra picked me up. On the short ride down I learned he had been an outward bound instructor for years and had even worked in wilderness therapy like me too. We talked shop and he even treated me to breakfast. I’ll tell you, when I trust that the world will provide and is full of kind and generous people, that’s exactly what I find. Attitude is everything. And so that’s when I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I’m still in an amazingly beautiful place, have a few days off before my conference, and should enjoy what I do have.

So I got the car, picked up some fruit and veg at the store, and found a hotel room to put my feet up and chill.

I ended up watching too much TV, man TV sucks. It’s so full of emptyness.

But I did a good job of not walking, and tomorrow I’ll play tourist in Tahoe.