Brain on Fire

I so enjoy getting up early. For the past, oh, eight years I’ve been going to yoga before work. It started when I was at a purely desk job at the publishing company, and it made sitting in a chair all day in front of a computer bearable. And I think it helps me be more creative.

Over the past year I’ve been using the mornings that I don’t go to yoga to read. I used to flip through internet stuff on those mornings, and inevitably I came away with an incredible overwhelming sense of despair, so instead lately I’ve been reading books and feeding my brain.

I can’t even list all of the wonderful books I’ve been able to read during these mornings, but a recent one, The Traveling Feast by Rick Bass, really helped me grow the list of other books and authors I want to read. And by the way, if you like writing, nature, food, wine, and the company of inspiring people, I highly recommend this book. All his books in fact.

Anyway, The Traveling Feast took me to Barry Lopez, an Oregon author, whom I had never heard of. The foremost travel nature writer??? How did I not know him? I checked Horizon out from the library, and also got a ticket to a reading he is giving next week in Bend. Score! Did I know if I liked his reading? Not yet, but yes. I do.

I’m only a third through Horizon, and this morning his words hit me hard.

Movement and words. Yoga and books. My favorite things right now are a morning routine that is helping me be more creative and is helping to catch my brain on fire.

To books, nature, movement, and contemplation!

More Wild and Scenic Rivers!

So I realized there are 51 waterways along or near the Oregon Desert Trail that don’t have Wild and Scenic designation. So I nominated them all.

Oregon’s Senator Wyden has open nominations for new Wild and Scenic Rivers until January 20. This is historic! What rivers do you want to nominate?? Get it!

Read my submitted 51 river nomination and submit your own today:

51 Rivers That Could Be Wild and Scenic

Owyhee River packrafting

Dear Senator Wyden,

Thank you for your visionary leadership to preserve Oregon’s wild rivers, clean water, and wildlife for the future. I sincerely appreciate this opportunity to help develop legislation to protect my favorite rivers.

For the past four years, I’ve been working to establish the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail, a project of the Oregon Natural Desert Association. Since your announcement of this Wild and Scenic nomination process, I realized that 51 different unprotected rivers, streams, and creeks are found along our immersive desert backpacking route.

In 2016, I hiked and packrafted the entire 750 miles of the Oregon Desert Trail. After six weeks of walking and paddling through the desert from Bend, through the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge; Steens Mountain Wilderness; the Pueblo, Trout Creek, and Oregon Canyon Mountains; to the most dramatic of all of our high desert treasures: the Owyhee Canyonlands, I came to understand firsthand how important these natural water sources are to the health of the desert landscape. These waterways support important intact habitats and sensitive species and are also crucial to that thirsty long-distance backpacker after a 20-mile day of hiking in the sagebrush sea.

Clean water sources are not only important to the safety of hikers, but they support other primitive recreation opportunities across eastern Oregon. Sections of the Oregon Desert Trail can be packrafted, kayaked, or rafted, and paddling these desert rivers presents an incredible opportunity to view the landscape from a different perspective. Much of the Owyhee River is already protected as Wild and Scenic, but the stretch below the dam which continues through dramatic rock formations and past enticing side canyons is also an excellent section to explore from an inflatable packraft. I’ve also paddled the lovely Chewaucan River in the spring snowmelt, enjoying the stately Ponderosa pines and early-blooming balsamroot lining its banks. I believe that rivers are trails too, and I am always on the lookout for other remote paddling experiences along the Oregon Desert Trail.

I would like to advocate for the inclusion of the 51 different unprotected waterways along the Oregon Desert Trail in your upcoming legislation. I nominate these rivers for Wild and Scenic River designation:

1. Chewaucan River
2.  Honey Creek
3.  Little Honey Creek & Tributary
4.  Poison Creek
5.  Deep Creek
6.  Guano Creek
7.  Guano Slough
8.  West Road Gulch
9.  East Road Gulch
10. Rock Creek
11. Dry Creek
12. South Ankle Creek
13. Little Fish Creek
14. Mud Creek
15. Bridge Creek & Big Bridge Creek
16. Riddle Creek
17. Coyote Creek
18. Mann Creek
19. Castle Rock Creek
20. Little McCoy Creek
21. Cottonwood Creek
22. Big Alvord Creek
23. Little Alvord Creek
24. Pike Creek
25. Indian Creek
26. Willow Creek
27. Little Cottonwood Creek
28. Arizona Creek
29. Vanhorn Creek
30. Denio Creek
31. Kings River
32. Big Trout Creek
33. Sage Creek
34. McDermitt & NF McDermitt Creek
35. Willow Creek
36. Little Whitehorse Creek
37. Antelope Creek
38. Fifteen Mile Creek
39. Doolittle Creek
40. Whitehorse Creek
41. Cottonwood Creek
42. Oregon Canyon Creek – East Fork
43. Oregon Canyon Creek & Tributary
44. Indian Creek
45. Rattlesnake Creek
46. Antelope Creek
47. Middle Fork Owyhee River
48. South Fork Carter Creek Tributary
49. Succor Creek
50. Dry Creek
51. Owyhee River

Thank you again for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advocate for desert river protections. On behalf of myself and the hundreds of other hikers and paddlers who explore eastern Oregon each year along the Oregon Desert Trail, I hope you consider these suggestions in your upcoming legislation.


Renee Patrick
Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator
Oregon Natural Desert Association



Nominate your favorite waterway in Oregon for Wild and Scenic River designation today!

A Hiker’s Relationship with the Land

I wrote a blog post for Six Moon Designs last month on a very important topic:

A Hiker's Relationship with the Land, by Rennee "She-ra" Patrick

Prepping for my ski of the CDT in 2015 with home-made shoe bindings.

As avid backpackers and hikers, we spend countless days, months, even years of our lives outside. Sleeping under trees, swimming in creeks and lakes, cresting saddles and summiting mountains…it is no understatement that significant portions of our lives are spent away from walls, canned air, and artificial light. That extensive time outside can give you a different perspective on what makes a rewarding and fulfilling life. I often hear, “thru-hiking ruins you for normal life.” Spending five months watching your body transform into a hiking machine at the same time watching the ecosystems change again and again is certainly transformative, and I’m not just talking about the transformation of your calves.

All this time spent in nature works on you…in you. Instead of placing a majority of your self-worth in a 9-5 job and quest for accumulating more things and stuff, we start to value the places our legs can take us, and the determination it took to get up on day 145 to keep hiking and see what’s over that next ridgeline.

So much love for trails…and now the ground beneath

As I hiked year after year, the mountains, rivers, and sunsets did infiltrate my desire to live a “normal life,” but I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the land: the forests and deserts, and bodies of water that make epic treks across the United States possible for dirtbags like me and my friends.

It was after completing the triple crown and a bunch of other trails; after about 10,000 miles hiked and at least 500 days sleeping outside, that I started working for a conservation organization and began paying attention to the land and the people that make our long trails possible. Ok, those things were written into my job description, that’s true, but I was a bit embarrassed that it took a job description to get me thinking about these issues. I had the great fortune to start working to establish the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail (ODT) for the Oregon Natural Desert Association. My role would be to engage the long-distance hiker in knowing the eastern Oregon landscape in a deeper way during and after their hike through the sagebrush sea; to create opportunities for them to see value in the land and intact habitats enough to join the organization in our work to protect, defend and restore the land they were walking on.

She-ra has her dream job to connect hikers to the conservation issues through the Oregon Desert Trail.

And that’s when I realized I already had a relationship with the land, I felt like the out-of-doors was an extension of the indoors, I knew that the health of the landscape that I walked directly supported the life I wanted to live, but I hadn’t spent any energy thinking about our system of public lands, the land managers out there who are charged with the health and vitality of those places, and the countless organizations and people who live and breath trying to defend our trails and landscapes from degradation, exploitation, destruction and more.

That’s when I got excited to help other hikers engage with our trails, routes, and landscapes in a deeper way. Just who are the local, state, and federal agencies that say what can and can’t happen in these places? Just what do these designations mean when I see a sign on the tree that says “Wilderness Study Area” or “Area of Critical Environmental Concern?” What makes these places special, and how are they different from the next area I will hike through tomorrow? What are the threats to these places, the animals, water, and even the views? And what can I do if I want to get involved?

There is so much to it all. And in Oregon where I’m working on the Oregon Desert Trail, most of the land east of the Cascade Mountains (and Pacific Crest Trail) are public, that means those lands are owned by you and me.

It’s time to start paying attention because as it turns out, there are threats, very real threats to our ability to hike on a long trail and trust that the water in the creek is clean enough to drink. That the animals we enjoy watching along the trail have the habitat they need to survive and thrive. That the people whose job it is to make decisions about what’s best for these places have the money, resources, and our support to do so.

Ask yourself: What is your relationship to the land? Let’s just start with the land underneath your favorite local trail. Who owns it, who manages it, what is it managed for, who are the animals and plants that live there; are any endangered? From what? Is there something you can do if you want to have a say in how this place makes it into the next decade? I bet there is. And then try it out on the next long trail you want to hike. What are the issues there? It’s enlightening, and I’ll admit a bit frightening, to look underneath the hood of your next long-distance trail, but I bet the trail organizations who are tasked with its management and development would be happy to engage you in some of the issues.

Whether we like it or not our chosen life (yes, I’ll say life, because it’s a life-long goal of mine and many of my friends to hike ALL THE TRAILS), is not guaranteed, and if we don’t get involved in what makes these trails possible, who will?

My relationship with the land is evolving; it excites and scares me, but thru-hiking has ruined me for normal life. I want to keep hiking, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Backpacker Radio #53: The Ultimate Backpacker Holiday Gear Wish List

Howdy hikers!

If some of you are looking for some good hiker gifting ideas, I got to share a couple of my favs with Backpacker Radio in their Ultimate Backpacker Holiday Gear Wish List. If you didn’t catch my podcast with them from this summer, head on over and give it a listen.

I have more suggestions that I’ll mention below, but for the podcast I could only pick 2! And preferably from brands that I’m not sponsored by, so I’ll cover a few of those below 🙂

#1 Gortex Socks

Why hike in freezing wet shoes?


#2 Purple Rain Adventure Skirts

You have to try one of these skirts (dudes love them too). This is how you will feel wearing one of Mandy’s skirts:


A few other of my favorite things:


This polished long-handled spoon is SO beautiful.


Six Moon Designs

The Silver Shadow Sun Umbrella is a blessing because sometimes you need to bring your shade with you (it works in rain and snow too).

Wander Woman Pee Rag

Drip drying sucks.

Photo from

Planetary Designs French Press mug

Life is too short to drink bad coffee. (with a couple other favs: Sawyer’s Mini water filter, and TOAKS woodburning stove)

Food for the Sole

Eat good…so much yum in my tum (on the TOAKS spoon!).

I really love all my gear, and instead of listing it all, head on over to my gear list and check it out!

Wear the Oregon Desert Trail

Since I’ve started working on the Oregon Desert Trail (almost 4 years ago!!!), I’ve wanted to make some shirts or hoodies for the trail. After running the shirt and swag company, hikertrash, for a few years, I knew how much time and energy went into ordering, shipping, figuring out popular colors and sizes…it was a lot of work.

From the years I ran hikertrash:

So when Ultralight Jerk created a fundraiser earlier this year to sell some of their shirts to benefit the Oregon Desert Trail and it raised over $2,000, I started paying attention! There are multiple websites out there now that will do the work of printing and shipping shirts and other things when you upload a design, and I really liked the process over at Bonfire, so I decided to finally make some ODT stuff for sale.

Each of the 4 designs has options between tshirts, long sleeve shirts and hoodies, and a variety of colors to choose from.

The promotion ends in 19 days, and will ship on December 3, just in time for gift giving (even if it’s a gift to yourself).

All can be found here and sales will go to benefit the Oregon Desert Trail.

pronghornclassic odtodt multi sportget ONDA trail

A Summer of Stewardship

About the time the leaves fall from the trees and the first snow or two has hit the mountains, I am again astounded at how fast the year has passed. Granted I’m looking forward to ski season and the slower pace of the fall and winter months, but where did the year go?


Oh wait! We went skiing last weekend for the first time this year. Exciting!

I didn’t get to any big thru-hikes this year (Sad), but I did get to do quite a bit of hiking, some paddling, a good amount of rafting, a lot of car camping, completed one short thru-hike, and lead a bunch of stewardship trips on the Oregon Desert Trail.

Ok, not too bad of a year I guess.

Kirk and I took 5 days to hike the 40-mile Timberline Trail (5 days!). We dillied and dallied our way around Mt. Hood. Took naps and got late starts to the days. It was wonderful.

We also circumnavigated Broken Top with my good pal Cindy (my Appalachian Trail hiking partner) and her friend Peter.

But the majority of my time was spent leading trail work trips with volunteers. So rewarding. Here’s a quick photo journey into those trips this year.

Fremont National Recreation Trail (and ODT) Work

Steens Mountain Wilderness Trail (and ODT) Work in Big Indian Gorge

Steens Mountain Wilderness Trail (and ODT alternate) Work in Little Blitzen Gorge

Fremont National Recreation Trail (and ODT) Work for National Public Lands Day

I also joined the Oregon Timber Trail (a long-distance bike route in Oregon that has been developing about the same time as the Oregon Desert Trail) for two trail work projects in the Fremont-Winema National Forest on sections that diverge from ODT route in the area.

Oh, and did some hiking and scouting for trails in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s pretty rewarding to be able to put these hours into improving our trails. I may not have hiked as much as I would have liked (is anything less than 1,000 miles on a long trail a year satisfying? not really), but doing so much trail work comes pretty close.



When I began to develop the Oregon Desert Trail, one of the important tasks I started to undertake was to connect with some of the private land owners who had parcels on or near the route. While the ODT is primarily on public land, I wanted the people living near it to know who these homeless-hippy types were that they might encounter in the middle of the desert.

County data shows where the private land is, and when I found my favorite app, GaiaGPS, offered a private land layer, I discovered I could easily research who owned what along the route.

Most of the 200-miles of the ODT in the Owyhee Canyonlands region is public land, but I discovered a few small pieces of private in there. When I was researching one particular plot in the West Little Owyhee River near the main confluence of the river, I discovered the owner, David Rumsey, was a big-time map collector. So big in fact, that he had a map library at Stanford University named after him. Wow. I contacted David to give him an update on what I was doing with the ODT, and he responded…offering that hikers were welcome to pass through his land to access the river, and even camp there if they needed. (Note: I’ve been finding a lot of generous land owners along the route who offer hikers access to important resources like water and camping on their private land)

David also explained that he got lost in the Owyhees in the 1970s and it completely changed his life.

I wrote up a story for ONDA’s blog about David’s experience, and I think you might enjoy it too:

An Owyhee Mis-Adventure Inspires Life-Long Mission

When a young David Rumsey’s car broke down in the far reaches of the Owyhee Canyonlands in the late 1970s, he didn’t have any of the devices we’ve come to rely on today. No GPS, no smart phone, no satellite locator beacon.

Rumsey had a map, but at the time the USGS 1:250,000 scale only outlined the vaguest of features. Nearly a decade would pass before a detailed USGS map of this remote area would be published. He had to walk out, unaware of the deep canyon walls and boulder-choked rapids that loomed between him and rescue.

“The nearest habitation was fifty miles ahead of me but only reachable by walking through a roadless wilderness, following the road back out would have meant walking almost twice as far, so I chose the more direct, though uncharted path,” Rumsey explained in the forward to his 2002 book, The History of the American West in Maps.

“It is daunting to look out over a fifty-mile vista and realize that one’s life depends on dead reckoning and that the route one takes is based mostly on hope. Walking those miles was the most frightening event in my life and my closest brush with death. As I stumbled late at night through the silently beautiful landscape, I gained an admiration verging on awe for the explorers who had had no maps at all to guide them.”

The arduous four-day excursion to find his way out of this remote corner of the high desert turned out well in the end. It also ignited a passion.

When detailed maps of the Owyhee region were finally available in the mid-1980s, Rumsey “…filled an entire wall with 1:24000 maps so I could visually re-walk my escape whenever I liked and see the location of my rescue. Maps became the mnemonic devices I used to recall the uncharted wilderness that had changed my life.”

Over the next 25 years, Rumsey collected upwards of 150,000 maps. Many of these maps focused on the American West including early non-Native explorer’s maps of the western territories, maps created by trappers, military expeditions and scientific surveys. His quest to visualize the deep canyons of that experience led him to amass one of the largest map collections in the country.

Today, many of Rumsey’s maps can be found on his free digital portal to the collection, the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection or at Stanford University where they are housed at the David Rumsey Map Center in the Stanford Library. He is also collaborating with the Library of Congress on the map division of its American Memory website.

When a reporter from The San Francisco Chronicle asked him Why?, Rumsey responded, “Some people might think [historical maps are] an arcane subject, but I disagree. Everyone can relate. Everyone is curious about where they live. And every map is like a little snapshot of history; each is a visual history.”

In this case, a visual history that started in Oregon’s remote and iconic Owyhee Canyonlands.

David Rumsey has since purchased a piece of land in the Owyhee region along the Oregon Desert Trail near 5 Bar, the confluence of the West Little Owyhee and main Owyhee river, and generously offers passage through his land to ODT hikers in the area. We are jealous of his view.

Story by ONDA’s Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator Renee Patrick.

This photo of 5 Bar taken by Devin Dahlgren graced the cover of ONDA’s 2019 Wild Desert Calendar. 

Backpacker Radio Podcast Interview

I first met Zach (author of Appalachian Trials – and website which has since become The Trek) back in 2015 at the Winter OR Show. He was getting started on estabishing his thru-hiking media empire and I was with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) as their first hiking ambassador (before my 2015 CDT thru-hike), and to help them find partners to develop the trail.


hehe, I bet he didn’t think this photo would surface 🙂

Since then he started a podcast called Backpacker Radio, and has been asking me to participate. Our schedules aligned this summer when I went to the Outdoor Retailer show again, this time in Denver, and we sat down and went deep. Really deep, over 20 years into my history as a hiker and adventurer. It was a great conversation, and you can give it a listen here or here:

Paddling Anxiety

Anxiety. I’m not normally an anxious person, but paddling rivers can bring those feelings up out of the depths of my normal confident nature.

I recently found myself telling a friend that I Iike to paddle rivers in spite of the rapids, not because of them. Maybe this is because I came to rivers in my 30’s, a bit more hesitant to pick up a new extreme sport, or maybe it’s because rivers hold more consequences than trails.

Learning to read a river is like learning to read a new language. Where do you want to put yourself in a river with potential hazards like holes, strainers, undercut rocks and log jams? The risks are bigger and the consequences can end your adventurous life in a second.

But meeting Kirk, an experienced Class V whitewater boater (and guide), was probably the only way I would have approached this new sport. Through Kirk I was able to start learning the language and trust him in the water.

It was been fun and exhilarating, and I love broadening my skill set.

I’m not comfortable in a hardshell kayak… not comfortable upside-down under water, but with the advent of packrafts (lightweight inflatable kayaks) I’ve enjoyed our paddling adventures all over the Pacific Northwest.

I have seen a change in my comfort levels. The first few years I would start many of our trips white knuckled and tense, afraid to make a mistake and swim out of my boat, but I would see Kirk and his friends approach the trips very differently. Instead of a mine-field of potential hazards, they saw a playground full of features to try out moves, surf the waves, and have fun. Could I get to that point where I saw fun instead of angst?

It is so empowering to paddle a section of river that will challenge your skills and be successful, but every time I feel like I’m being put to the test, me against the river. I’ve done some big trips, successfully paddling Class IV rapids, and solo packrafted the 140-mile water alternate to the Oregon Desert Trail on the Owyhee River, but lately we’ve spent more time on rivers I’ve become comfortable with, and I find myself entering that place of enjoyment instead of dread.

There is still that little voice in my head that berates myself for taking the easy way out and not rising to the challenge. I don’t know how to quiet that voice entirely, but I’ve gotten better at not listening to it. Why are we our own worst critics?

So this weekend we paddled a section of the North Umpqua River that I’ve paddled 20 times before, the same section we paddled yesterday in fact! Today I’m going to marvel at the blue-green water, do some more river snorkeling (my new favorite thing in clear river waters) and leave the white knuckling for another day.

River Love

One of the best antidotes after a week filled with people is to get outside. I spent last week in Denver for the Outdoor Retailer show, representing the Oregon Desert Trail, ONDA, and thru-hiking in general. (I talked TRAIL SO HARD). So many good things came out of the week, but being “on” all the time comes with consequences. I’m drained.

So to the river!

Watching water flow in nature is one of my recoup strategies. It’s as simple as that. Throw in some adventure, and bam! I’m back to new in no time.

In honor of our river trip today, please enjoy this flash back to a similar trip on the North Umpqua River a few years ago when Kirk and I R2’d his raft.

…And this one is another one of my favorite river adventures of all time…