With thousands of miles of dirt and gravel under her boots, local hiking enthusiast Haley Hueckman knows plenty about both day trips and backpacking in Grant County.
From tips and equipment to personal experiences and favorite spots – both beginners and advanced hikers can benefit from her knowledge and advice.
The Eagle talked with Hueckman recently, and asked her to share her passion and know-how for other trail trekkers.
Q. Let’s start with some basics. What are some good tips, as far as supplies and safety equipment that a beginner hiker should know before hitting the trail – either for a day or overnight trip?
A. The most important tip for day hikers and backpackers alike, is water. Staying hydrated is crucial. Bring water when you start your hike, and if you suspect you”ll need more later in the day, plan your trip according to natural water sources. If you carry water bottles, I suggest Nalgene bottles. Personally, I carry a 3 liter bladder. If you need to purify drinking water from a stream or creek, you have two options. You can use iodine drops or a pump. Both will suffice. It’s also important that you carry lightweight equipment. They make backpacking tents, sleeping bags and cookware. Another important tip is packing your backpack. Distributing weight onto your hips and not your shoulders. ALWAYS let someone know where you’ll be and an estimated time of when you’ll be done.
Q. Not all trails are created equally; they vary greatly in length and difficulty. What are some things hikers of all abilities should look for when deciding on a trail?
A. Hikers should always carry a map, and know how to read it. Look for reliable water sources, and trails that have been maintained. Not all trails are routinely maintained and can sometimes be difficult to cross. Injury is always a possibility. The more you hike, the more weight you should be able to carry on your trip. Prepare to carry your food, shelter and water.
Q. Grant County has an abundance of trails winding through breathtaking scenery. How can a person find out where they are?
A. The best place to get information on trails is the Forest Service – either at the Supervisors office in John Day or the Prairie City Ranger District. They will have maps there as well. You can get forest maps or if you plan on being in the wilderness, they offer wilderness maps as well. It’s imperative, if you’re headed to the wilderness, to learn and know what wilderness ethics are.
Q. How long have you been hiking and how did you first get interested?
A. I’ve been going on day hikes for as long as I can remember. I grew up near the Strawberries and can remember being on the trail with my family. Backpacking never peaked my interest until college where I met my friend Jessica, who introduced me to the idea of sleeping on the trail. In the summers I worked for the Forest Service and learned an infinite amount about our forest. My first trips were in the Strawberry Wilderness and I soon found out I loved to hike where no one could drive.
Q. Got any lessons to share with others?
A. Good hiking shoes and water. These two things are key in a safe and comfortable hike, short or long. And gummy worms. I always bring gummy worms for the trail.
Q. What’s your favorite local day hike? And your favorite overnight, longer hike?
A. One of my favorite day hikes is the Pine Creek Trail. Up to Baldy Mountain. For a backpacking trip, start at the Strawberry Campground, then to Slide Lake for the night, over to High Lake, to the summit of Strawberry Mountain and then back down to the Strawberry Camp trailhead.
Q. Any memorable experiences?
A. One of my more memorable moments hiking was at Little Strawberry Lake. It’s a popular spot to see mountain goats. However on this particular morning, I spotted 12. I’ve never seen that many up there.
When not out on the trail, home base for Haley Hueckman, and her cat, Stella, is John Day.