National Forest Lampoon with GR2

National Forest Lampoon with GR2

By Dan Zehner

Provisions for the Expedition

When you have three kids, setting out for a day is like packing provisions for a month long Arctic expedition. They need more layers than Shackleton, eat more than a pack of sled dogs, and somehow always end up with what you brought strewn about your mode of transportation like a pack of salty pirates.

On the weekend after Thanksgiving, our pack of crazy drove out to the Willamette National Forest to pick out our family Christmas tree. This was the first time any of us had ever done that! We usually just set up our plastic fake one in the beginning of November and bask in its polymeric branches and twinkling lights until February. This year though, we were Oregonians! Hardy folk who laugh in the face of danger. We balk at the idea of the easy way. Ok, ok, I had to drag the kids out the door with the promise of hot chocolate...

In my ruck today, I stashed more snacks than I care to admit. I poured an ocean of hot chocolate into my trusty Hydroflask bottle, stashed some enamel camping mugs, and all of our gloves (these are my favorite!) in my GR2. Most exciting though, were the tools we were to use for bringing home our quarry. This time I got to pack a hatchet in the ruck, and carried a bow saw and a felling axe into the woods as we searched for our coniferous catch.

A Christmas Vacation

Armed with a map of the Willamette National Forest, we set out like the Griswold family from Christmas Vacation. We listened to Christmas music as we wound our way through the mountains, thankfully avoiding any angry semi truck drivers on the way. After just over an hour, we pulled off onto a gravel road that would take us up a small mountain. The noble fir we were after lives above 4,000 ft of elevation, so we would have to climb quite a bit. We used a great tool called Gaia GPS to track our progress on the map, since Google doesn't give you helpful information like elevation, or topographical features to let you know when you're about to drive off a cliff. Handy stuff, that.

We drove on, and as we got higher there began to be some snow on the ground. We were all excited to get to romp through the drifts, but the adults in the front seat got a little bit anxious about slipping off the side of a mountain on our little adventure. Thank you Toyota, for making a great 4WD system in the 4Runner we were driving! After a while, we pulled off on the side of the road to make the rest of our way to the tree on foot.

We reenacted this classic scene as we finally found the tree...

Thankfully, no children were frostbitten, we had remembered to bring the saw, and the tree fit snugly in our living room without damaging any windows. It pays to prepare ahead of time! That's what I love about not only the ruck itself, but the mindset that you get when you pack one for various adventures. You start to build internal and external checklists for various things. If we're going somewhere that there might be snow, we pack gloves and hot beverages. For woodland adventures, a hatchet and a good first aid kit are a must pack.

How to Prepare for Winter Adventures and Beyond

One thing I've learned throughout the years and am reminded of every time I go out on an adventure with our family, is to be prepared. That doesn't mean I always get it right! Learn from each time you go out, and get better for the next one. Here are some things to consider for your adventures this season:

  1. Consider where you should go. Why are you going on this adventure? What are you hoping to learn or teach your kids?
  2. What's the weather going to be like?
  3. What's the terrain I'm heading into? Mud? Dirt? Gravel? Forest?
  4. How many people are coming? Pack enough food and water (double the snacks if you have kids).
  5. Do I have a first aid kit, and know how to use everything in it?
  6. Let someone know where you're headed before you take off, and when you plan to return. Many places like the Willamette National Forest don't have cell phone reception!
  7. Take a physical map of the area, and a compass. In case your phone battery dies or you run into an area without reception, this can be a lifesaver. Learn how to orient yourself on the map. I'm a big fan of bringing a VSSL Camp Supplies Kit, since it has my survival essentials and a compass on top of it. Here's a great article from the Art of Manliness on how to navigate by map and compass if you've never done it before.
  8. Make a packing list and review it after you get home. How did it go? Did you have what you needed? Did you not need something you took with you? Update your list and write down lessons that you've learned.

From all of our team here at GORUCK, I hope that you have some great adventures this winter and that they bring you joy and peace heading into the new year.