Any Time in the Woods is a Good Time

Any Time in the Woods is a Good Time

This past weekend my wife and I decided to take advantage of a bit of her vacation time to head over to Eastern Oregon where I have both a deer and elk tag in the upcoming rifle season.

It was a bit of a drive, 5 hours to be exact, but it looked like a good weather window to get a little scouting in. We made the drive over on Friday and our first stop was the small (almost ghost) town of Union for a stay at the historic Union Hotel.

Built in 1921, the hotel was "renovated" not too long ago and features 15 themed rooms with various amenities. I put renovated in quotes because it seems like the owners did the bare minimum to get the place operable so guests could stay. It's not terrible, but it could certainly be a lot better.

We stayed in the Signature Room which features a small sitting area with a loveseat, table, and a couple chairs, the main bedroom with a queen bed, and a bathroom with an old school clawfoot tub. 

There is a window A/C unit that was either on full blast or unplugged, and it certainly kept the room nice and cold in the summer heat.

The staff was friendly enough, though somewhat absent. I think the only time I ever saw someone at the front desk was the 2 minutes we walked in upon arrival and checked in.

There is supposedly a restaurant, but it wasn't clear if it was open and serving food and we didn't ask.

Instead, we ended up getting relatively mediocre pizza for dinner from one of the very few open restaurants in town. The next morning we got breakfast from the small diner across the street. It too was mediocre, but the staff was friendly at least. The owner is selling the restaurant... land, building, equipment, and even a food truck trailer included for $229,000 if anyone is interested in a business opportunity.

It seemed like pretty much everything was for sale in Union and most people were trying to leave. 

According to the census, there has never been much more than 2000 people living in Union and there doesn't seem to be much going on in town. It's unfortunate, as there are a lot of cool buildings, a very nice city park, and Catherine Creek runs through the town providing some nice ambiance.

Overall, I'd give our stay in Union a 5.5 out of 10.

Saturday afternoon we headed out into national forest in the area and eventually made it to where we would camp for the night.

We spent the afternoon prepping our packs for the 5 mile hike into the area I was hoping to scout. We divided up the tent, stakes, sleeping pads, and cooking gear, while I took on the food in addition to my camera gear and spotting scope.

I decided to take both of my camera bodies just in case we had some good light and I could get in some landscape photography, and the additional weight would help me simulate my hunting pack weight on the hike in. That way, I'd have a decent idea if I could physically do the hike with all my hunting gear.

It was a 5 mile hike with over 2000 feet of vertical gain after all. Not necessarily the easiest for the shape I'm in.

After a quick dinner provided by Backpackers Pantry (Rocio rated her 3 Cheese Macaroni an 8/10 and I rated the Pad Thai a 9.5/10), we headed up into the rooftop tent for a good night's sleep. We absolutely love the Exped Megamat Duo sleeping pad that we use in the rooftop tent... best camping sleep ever and worth every penny!

We woke up the next morning bright and early at 6am, had some coffee and light breakfast and then packed up camp. We ended up getting on trail about 8:30am or so after the lazy start to the morning.

While the trail does have over 2000 feet elevation gain, it's a pretty steady incline over the entire 5 mile distance so it doesn't feel terribly steep. Still, with heavy packs and both of us not being in the best cardio shape, we did feel it and kept a pretty leisurely 1 mile per hour pace.

About a mile in, we came across a group of 4-5 does right off the trail. We got within about 20 yards or so before they finally decided to mosey on over the nearby ridge line. Unfortunately, it was also about this time that Rocio let me know her pack was really uncomfortable and hurting her back.

After some discussion, we decided today wasn't going to be the day to push through that for another 4 miles. After all, it was actually our first overnight backpacking trip and while it was only going to be 5 miles deep, we didn't want to end up pushing out luck.

In hindsight, and in looking at some pictures, it was pretty clear that her pack was sitting way too low and the weight was causing the pack frame to push into her upper back instead of the weight riding comfortably on her hips. 

Rookie mistake.

Hopefully I didn't scare her totally away from trying again sometime.

We made the mile hike back to the car and decided to head home. While it was a bit disappointing to not make it back to the area I wanted to scout, I'm thankful that I got to have a nice camp and a fun weekend with the wife.

Any time out in the woods is a good time.

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Here are some products we used or would recommend for this type of adventure!