The Westrek spring/summer backpacking program was started in the summer of 2001. Our courses offer college credit in Pacific Northwest History, Human Performance: Backpacking, and, at times, in Biology, and Teacher Education. We are organized for vigorous exercise, Christian fellowship, on-site learning, and enhancing our knowledge of Christian stewardship over God's good creation.
Columbia Gorge Backpack Trip
The Westrek trip to the Columbia Gorge was a wonderful adventure and provided the eleven hikers with beautiful scenery and grand fellowship. The participants were Kendra Crosby, Anna Cunningham, Hannah Dorr, Shannon Rensi, Chelsea Reeher, Katy Rogers, Thomas Berney, Brian Eberhardt, Brent Fahsholz, Adam Karnes, and faculty advisor-instructor John Scott.
The first part of the trip was a backpack up the famous Eagle Creek Trail to 7 ½ mile camp; a day hike attempt to summit Tanner Butte; and a return down Eagle Creek. The world class Punch Bowl, Loowit, Tunnel, and Triple Twist (our name) Falls were flush with May run off waters and were spectacular. Many other 30 to 80 foot waterfalls (some without names) were seen. The 200 foot drop viewed looking into High Bridge chasm was also exciting. Snow on north facing slopes and a rough trail prevented reaching the actual summit of Tanner Butte on Thursday’s tough 12 mile day hike, but it was exciting fording creeks and viewing old growth timber. The next day we backpacked out and moved our adventure over to the Washington side of the gorge.
On the Washington side we established our camp on Paradise Creek and did two day hikes – to Falls Creek Falls and Dog Mountain. Falls Creek Falls is a jaw-dropping 285 foot tall marvel that is one of the great waterfalls in the American West. We agreed that it needs a more dramatic name – its mundane moniker keeps more people from visit this site. Dog Mountain also delivered. One of the greatest wildflower displays imaginable adorns the upper 1000 feet of this mountain – thousands of Indian paintbrush, balsam root (they look like sunflowers) lupine, penstemon and other species cover the upper hillsides. You gain 2,800 feet on a steep trail but it is worth the effort. However, if you take this trail have a well supplied day pack. The wind was cold and intense – 40 mph + - near the summit. It was quite hot on the lower 1,000 feet when hiking down.
The 2007 Westrek backpacking endeavor was a mature group of non-complaining God- praising Christians who worked well as a team and had a fantastic time.
Utah Canyon Country
A long realized goal came true for Westrek Corban backpackers in organizing a successful trip to Utah’s canyon country in May, 2005. Those on the trip were: Daylan Arnold, Kendra Crosby, Shelby Dickman, David Door, Darren Forrest, Jon Goertz, John Guppy, Ben Ketler, April Livingston, Katy Rogers, Jessica Williams, and Assistant Prof. of History – John Scott.
The beauty of the Utah canyons surpassed our expectations. The trip was broken in to two parts. We first visited Lower Muley Twist Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park. This first trip required us to pack in all of our water. Each person was carrying from 20 to 40 pounds of water. But it was worth it. The canyon was isolated, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. Cliff walls shoot up on either side of this 12 mile long serpentine canyon from 300 to over 1,000 feet. The rock walls were white and yellow colored sandstone with dark orangeish-black fingers of desert varnish. We practically had the whole canyon to ourselves for three days. The Lord’s amazing and “very good” creation humbled us all. Capitol Reef is still an out of the way place in contrast to the second part of our trip - Zion National Park.
Zion is a world-class park and people from all over the planet come to see the majestic rock walls. That being the case, we went to the least visited corner of the park, the Kolob Canyons and hiked in seven miles to see the 310 foot long Kolob Arch. The gorgeous orange colored rock walls have to be seen to be believed. The botany was richer in Zion, and John Guppy helped us to identify over twenty flowering plants and shrubs. We saw large zebra moths pollinating flowers with their proboscis. A gray fox jumped out of a tree near one of our group and startled her half to death. The students got up early on the last day we were in Zion and took the famous Angel’s Landing trail to a narrow escarpment and saw the sunrise. It was stunning. We then headed home by crossing the basin and range country of Nevada, moved north into Oregon for a brief stop to see Crater Lake, and made it safely back to Salem.
It was a hard working, good tempered and joyful group of backpackers. God blessed us with safety and wonderful times of conversation. Utah superb canyons would be well worth seeing again.
Olympic National Park
In May of 2003 ten Westrek backpackers took a two part trip to NW Washington's beautiful Olympic National Park. The hikers included Kristi Born, Jon Goertz, John Guppy, Steve Hall, Ben Ketler, Ben Melli, Keriann Rumrey, Tara Schmidgall, Joe Sell, and Assistant Professor of History, John Scott.
The first three days of the trip were spent traveling a seventeen mile section of roadless wild coastline. We traveled the coast from the Hoh River to Third Beach. We had to use tide tables to get around several headlands at low tide. Other headlands required using steep cable spruce ladders, ropes, and switch back trails to negotiate. It was almost an edenic setting because we had the coast to ourselves (pre-vacation season) and the weather was good for the first two days. We saw harbor seals, bald eagles, marine tide pools, beautiful sunsets, and parts of whale skeletons. Several of the students earned credit in Pacific Northwest History by studying the book Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. The book chronicles the Lewis & Clark Expedition and looks at the complex life of Meriwether Lewis.
The day we journeyed out to Third Beach, to our vehicles, and inland to the mighty Hoh River Rain Forest it did as you would have expected - started to rain. It was cold rain and there was wind. We worked together as a team to set up tents, build fires, etc. It was a real adventure in a grand forested valley. On the ridges above us there was snow. Six of our group took a 19 mile day hike up to Elk Lake near the base of Mt. Olympus. The Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, and Douglas Fir trees in the valley were magnificent. Within a few feet of one of our tents was a fir that was just under 30 feet in circumference.
We had good times of conversation, singing, prayer, and giving thanks to God for his good creation and the rich blessings that He gives so freely. It made for some good memories and some good friends.
Rogue River Canyon
Twelve Westrek hikers traveled approximately 35 miles of southwest Oregon's Rogue River Canyon. This canyon won our respect; it is both beautiful and challenging. Rough and crannied, the canyon is divided by a vibrant fast moving river. We saw Osprey, Chinook salmon, a black bear cub, a Bald eagle, and a rattle snake. The canyon has abundant poison oak, so we really had to watch carefully where we sat and set up our camps. The botany of the area was superb; occasional stringers of old growth forest move down the canyon walls to the river. Douglas fir, Grand fir, Madrone, Western hemlock, Incense cedar, Giant chinkapin, Ponderosa pine, Sugar pine fill the canyon. We literally camped on top of old Rogue River Indian encampments along the river and lamented their loss of this canyon as we studied E.A. Schwartz's book The Rogue River Indian War and its Aftermath, 1850-1980. Our fellowship as Christians was enriched as we were reminded of the "God who made the world and everything in it…he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else." Acts 17: 24a & 25b.
Eagle Cap Wilderness Area
Five Westrek-Western Baptist backpackers went on a week long trip to northeast Oregon. We visited the Whitman Mission and Oregon Trail Museum while staying on the campus of Eastern Oregon University. We had already read Alvin M. Josephy Jr.'s The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest. His fine book gave us a good sense of northeast Oregon's history, and provided us with topics to discuss related to the successes and failures of Christian missions work in the Pacific Northwest. We used EOU's library to do some species research on the animals, birds, and plants native to the nearby Wallowa Mountains. We then spent four days backpacking over an 8,200 foot ridge and into the magnificent Frances Lake Basin. We were surrounded by ridges 9,000 to 9,600 feet in elevation. We saw coyotes, black bear, deer, mountain goats, Golden eagles, and over two dozen bighorn sheep. We also had a rip snorting lightning and thunder storm on the way back down. God's creation is good and the trip was well summarized by Psalm 104:24 "How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures."