Camping for a Cleaner Forest

Written by Brain Mize, Field Forester
Photographed by Milo Zorzino

Foresters tend to be an introverted lot, spending our days care taking the land in solitude.  So when our volunteer coordinator, Lauren Miheli, suggested an overnight camping excursion in the Central Cascades with a group of volunteers, I was a little apprehensive to say the least.  I provided the idea for a project of cleaning up a couple areas where people had illegally built cabins and left garbage scattered about.  I warned Lauren that this area was isolated, and was at least a 4 to 5 hour drive from Seattle.  This is when Lauren came up with the idea of camping onsite to allow more time for working.

As we convened on Saturday morning, my uneasiness was quickly settled when I realized we had a small, but incredibly dedicated group of volunteers.  We traveled to the project site and quickly set to work cleaning up a jackstrawed mess of rough cut logs, chicken wire, plastic, and scattered trash.  The afternoon temperatures reached into the upper 80’s, and there was no shade at the work site; however, our group of 5 volunteers cleaned up the area and hauled everything 500’ up to the road in about two hours.  We spent the rest of the evening setting up camp and enjoying the scenery.

By the time we split off on Sunday, our small group had exceeded all expectations of how much work we would accomplish.  But more than that, the dedication of our volunteers helped me get over my anxiety, and left me wanting more.  Although we have not planned our next volunteer event in the Central Cascades, I look forward to spending more time with people in a place that I love.

See our upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Camping in Paradise

Written & Photographed by Carrie Krueger, Director of Marketing, The Nature Conservancy in Washington

Clayoquot Sound, on Canada’s Vancouver Island is a spectacular place of sea and forests, centuries of culture, and home to First Nations with deep connections to the land and water. As the region’s indigenous people look for ways to protect cherished natural resources they are also sharing the area’s abundance with others. One example: The Lone Cone – a campground and hostel located in the heart of this rich ecological treasure and open to all to enjoy.

A short boat trip takes visitors to the Lone Cone, for camping, dormitory style housing or even private rooms along with a community kitchen, game room and hot tub.  But it’s the access to nature that attracts visitors – from tents with a view to hiking trails and beaches, nature abounds. Kayaks, paddleboards and mountain bikes are available as part of the eco-tourism experience.

The Lone Cone is an example of community based conservation that protects nature while creating local economic opportunities.  The site has created more than 20 jobs and attracts visitors from around the world. It is run by the Ahousaht First Nation which has plans for other sites and attractions in the area.

It’s a tiny piece of the vast Emerald Edge, a Nature Conservancy priority that spans from Washington, through British Columbia and all the way to Alaska.  The landscape holds the largest intact coastal rainforest and is of massive ecological importance to the world. Through our work we are committed to partnership with indigenous and local people to heal the lands and waters while creating new opportunities for local wealth creation, economic development and entrepreneurship.



After Sunset: April Photo of the Month

Written and Photographed by Jason Neuerburg, Northwest Photographer

Curiosity fuels a lot of my adventures. I love driving forest service roads just so I know what's at the end of them. Same goes for hiking trails or a campground space. There's so much to discover in the Northwest and last year, I made over 40 trips to go find what's out there.

It was February of 2015 and if you remember – there wasn't any snow. It wasn't difficult to convince my friend Kit to join me for a few nights of backpacking. The forecast was set for mid-70's near the coast. We took an early ferry to the peninsula and made our way to Port Angeles to pick up our bear bin and camping permit. Then off to Rialto Beach to hike up the coast to Hole-in-the-Wall Camp. We spent the weekend in front of these two huge sea stacks, which were great subjects to photograph – both during daytime and nighttime.

Since I love to shoot night photography, I always try to look for a campsite with open sky or a subject to light up or silhouette like the sea stacks. This shot combined light from the late evening sky, our campfire, and my headlamp laying inside the tent. When you don't have the powerful sun to contend with, it's much easier controlling the lighting. You can use headlamps, flashlights, glow sticks or even your phone to add light to a scene.

The coast is a wild place to explore and experience its powerful vastness. I plan on more excursions to the coast this year and anticipate capturing a lot more photographs at night around campfires with friends. 

Jason grew up in the Driftless Region of Southwest Wisconsin. He's a freelance photographer in Seattle and enjoy coffee, hiking, camping, and going to see live music. Visit his website for more nature and music-centric photography and join him on his adventures here: Follow Jason on Instagram: @driftless_photographer

October Photo of the Month: A Spectacular Night Sky

Photo taken from Table Mountain, Artist's Point, Mt Baker, WA Canon 70D with Canon 10-22mm lens F/3.5 ,  30 sec,  ISO 2000

Photo taken from Table Mountain, Artist's Point, Mt Baker, WA
Canon 70D with Canon 10-22mm lens
F/3.5 ,  30 sec,  ISO 2000

Written and Photographed by Erin Cunningham, Northwest Photographer

As a young child, I was always fascinated by the night sky and went to sleep every night under a blanket of neon green glow in the dark stars on my ceiling. Growing older, my curiosity heightened and I spent warm summer Minnesota nights laying on the wooden dock watching twinkling stars, pointing out constellations and waking up at odd hours to watch meteor showers and lunar eclipses. In high school, a friend's Dad had a telescope and would set up viewing sessions at a local park for us to identify stars, constellations and planets. Luckily, growing up in a small suburban town in Minnesota, I was able to enjoy the vast mystery of the night sky by escaping any light pollution.

When I was about 12 years old, I saw the bright neon green of northern lights for the first time, illuminating rows of corn in a neighboring farmer's field. Little did I know, years later, I would be watching a ribbons of green and purple dance across the sky over layers of mountains in Washington state.

Life changes brought me to beautiful Washington state where I have since been in a love affair with the mountains. They have drawn me to them and I enjoy hiking and climbing their peaks, jumping in alpine lakes, and capturing as much of their beauty as I can through my love of photography. It has been so refreshing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and light pollution to explore the beauty of varying landscapes of this unique state.

The recent purchase of an updated DSLR camera, specifically the Canon 70D with a wide angle 10-22mm lens has broadened the scope of what I can capture of this incredible place I now call home. Linking up with a few adventurous photographer friends, I've gotten hooked on astrophotography and I'm learning how to timelapse the milky way in various places in the North Cascades. It is humbling to realize that no matter where we are in the world and how old we grow, the vast night sky is always present for generations to enjoy.

After hearing of the solar flare predicted on June 22nd with the possibility of seeing the northern lights as far south as Washington, a group of friends and I headed up to Artist's point near Mt. Baker and Shuksan. Remembering Table Mountain was an exceptional viewing point, I suggested set up there to get 360 degree views of the night sky. We set up our tents for a short nap later and had some dinner. Around 1am with multiple cameras set toward the northern sky, all of a sudden, beams of purple light started to shoot up from the tops of the mountains and soon after, ribbons of green light danced across the sky for over 2 hours. Our group was in complete awe, jaws to the ground, whooping and hollering at the light show before us. I think we all could agree we saw a piece of Heaven that night.

Memories like these are ones we will remember forever. I am so thankful to have witnessed the natural wonder of the northern lights in one of the most stunning venues in Washington.

Helping My Kids Fall in Love With Nature




A summer spent growing up in the great outdoors

Written and Photographed by Adam Runions, Deputy Director of

I determined that this would be the summer in which my kids get to walk deeper into nature. My middle child is 5, and I wanted to throw a spark and see if it ignited an interest, a little fascination in the outdoors.

I also wanted to show him what he is capable of. Teaching him about carrying what you need, getting comfortable with the exposure of the night sky, a myriad new sounds and the sensation of wading into a dark lake. These little strides feel big, and can become the foundation for a healthy sense of independence.

Outfitted with a little backpack, a platypus, and a good stick, he made the trek up to Independence Lake (on Independence Day). I’m glad he did!

Cup of Coffee: The July Photo of the Month


Hidden Lake Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Written and Photographed by Back 40 Outfitters Trail Team Members

The understated photo title, Cup of Coffee, is a play on the powerful and in your face color from the sunset this particular evening on the rooftop of the North Cascades.  My father and I had decided to take a special trip away from the hustle and bustle, visiting the site of my very first backpacking trip 15 years ago: Hidden Lake Trail. The trip served a dual purpose: quality time with my dad and testing out the equipment in our Back 40 Outfitters backpacking kit.

Holding a wealth of treasures at the end of the trail, Hidden Lake rewards all travelers who brave the switchbacking 3,000 foot trek through a gorgeous green avalanche chute. Most visitors enjoy the view from the fire lookout, while overnighters drop over the saddle into the North Cascades National Park glacial cirque that holds the cobalt blue water of the lake. From this vantage point, Hidden Lake resembles an infinitely pool poised to cascade off its eastern-most shoulder.  We prefer a secluded campsite, perched above the lake to the west with the lookout’s rocky spire looming above. Here, a couple steps in any direction give you a 360-degree view of the granite sentinels that surround you. 

After breezing through camp set-up and scrambling to scout the views, we made dinner and found our water source: a trickle of melting snow water on the snowfield below our site. It was interesting to see  how the flow of water changed depending on ambient temperature and sun exposure. Evidence: an overnight chill and absence of sun on the west slope had shrunk our water source to slow drip for breakfast.

Finally, the moment that launched my dad’s outdoor modeling career. After dinner we  heated leftover water for some coffee to warm up before tucking in for the night. As the August sky began to change color, I hustled to capture the scene and my dad unknowingly climbed himself into the frame. Since the trip, we’ve made a few prints of this shot that now decorate our households and workplace, visual evidence of this awesome trip.  The sunset and scenery are truly impressive, but what I love most about this photo is way it captures my dad in his element and reminds me of the impact of his adventuresome spirit on my life.

This photo was captured by Back 40 Outfitters Trail Team member Nate and edited by their staff photographer Eunice Lommen.

Back 40 Outfitters is an outdoor gear rental & events company based in Seattle that specializes in backpacking, car-camping, and concert gear kits. Our service takes all the roadblocks out of camping (we even help brainstorm trip planning) by offering complete equipment packages and a convenient delivery model. They can’t wait to help get you out  on adventures like this one. Find them at and follow their adventures on Instagram @back40outfitters.