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Support September: The Venture Out Project

Support September: The Venture Out Project

Update: We raised $2078 for The Venture Out Project!

Each September, Cnoc Outdoors pledges 10% of the revenue from our website to an organization working hard to keep up our trails and care for our communities. For 2019, our recipient is The Venture Out Project, an organization that leads backpacking and wilderness trips for the queer and transgender community. In the past, Cnoc Outdoors has donated Vectos to make it easier for The Venture Out Project to take groups on trips with long stretches between water sources.

Perry Cohen is a trans man who saw a need to create safer spaces in the outdoors for queer and transgender adventurers, so he left corporate life to found The Venture Out Project. We asked Perry about running The Venture Out Project via email.

Which trips have been your favorite?

It seems like every trip I'm on is my favorite at that moment. I know that sounds corny and like it can't possibly be true but there's something about being on a trip with other queer folks, out in the woods that just makes me feel so present that all I can feel is how much I love that very moment and the group of people I'm with. In hindsight though my two current favorite trips were our Rocky Mountain National Park trip where we climbed Mt. Ida and spent an amazing week in the Rockies seeing elk, 14ers, crystal clear streams, traversing glaciers, and climbing to nearly 13,000 feet. The other amazing trip was this August in Churchill, Manitoba, where we saw polar bears, kayaked with beluga whales, and even saw the aurora.  

people smiling with Wy'east/Mt. Hood in the background.What’s planned for the rest of 2019 and for 2020?

We are currently packing out a trip to climb Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of NH, then we have some mountain bike clinics, Mt. Monadnock (where I first came up with the idea for Venture Out), a few winter hut trips in the White Mountains, a weeklong ski trip in Oregon, more of our Classic long weekend backpacking trips in NH, VT, OR, and CO as well as our big 5th year anniversary trip to a super exotic and exciting location that will be revealed in a few months. See a list of upcoming trips here.

What are the primary ways that gear companies can promote queer and trans inclusiveness?

First and foremost companies can employ queer and trans folks and provide good wages, benefits, and HR policies. Make sure you're thinking about who's behind the camera as well as who's in front of it.  When you're marketing and promoting your gear, consider if it makes sense to say this is a woman's pack or if it's more appropriate to say, "This pack is for folks with larger hips and smaller shoulders, whereas this pack is for broad shouldered people with a long torso," rather than automatically assuming all people with a long torso and broad shoulders would want to buy a pack labeled as a men's pack. Consider if your gear even needs to be marketed or labeled as gendered. I once bought a tent and found a tag on it that told me it was unisex!

How will the funds from Support September be used?

We have a goal to never turn anyone away for lack of funds and for five years running we have achieved that.  We have been fairly successful in raising money for scholarships, but it's harder to get funds for the non sexy operational costs we incur like insurance and internet and salaries so we are thrilled to have Funds from Support September to help fund our operating costs so we can continue to employ and support LGBTQ+ folks.

How have the Vectos been helpful to your programs?

It's been great to give participants a Vecto and let them carry their own water rather than having one person carry a 6 or 10 L dromedary bag for the whole group. We've also been able to give each participant their own mini filter to attach to the Vecto so they can be in control of their own water purification systems and learn to use them versus relying one someone else to treat their water. 

 For more information about Cohen and The Venture Out  Project, listen to this episode of the Dirtbag Diaries.

 

So You Want to Hike the ODT?

So You Want to Hike the ODT?

Finished your Triple Crown and not sure where to get your next thru-hike fix? While not as well-loved as the PCT, the Oregon Desert Trail shows off the intense scenic beauty of the high desert in southwest Oregon and deserves more attention. The ODT is a 750 mile W-shaped route with the western terminus in the Badlands of Central Oregon, east of Bend, and and the eastern terminus in the Owyhee Canyonlands in Lake Owyhee State Park near the Idaho border.

It’s a new route, vetted by thousands of volunteer hours beginning in 2011. It is a "virtual route" meaning there is no dedicated Oregon Desert Trail signage, so you need to show up prepared for the navigational challenge. In this backcountry, you will be able to experience the sublime solitude you dreamed about, but couldn’t find, on the crowded PCT and AT. You won’t have to fight anyone for the flattest, softest camping spots, but the terrain is so rough sometimes there aren’t very flat or soft spots.

There are hot springs and pictographs to enjoy, pronghorn antelope and sage grouse to view, and rattlesnakes to avoid. Unimpeded by light pollution, you’ll see more stars than you thought possible while challenging yourself to the limit. This is truly a hike for the experienced but it offers those special rewards reserved to those who persevere.

 

When to Hike

As a desert hike, shoulder seasons are the best time to get on the trail, though that means less stable weather with day and night extremes. In terms of water supply, springtime is the best time to hike the ODT, since the streams will be well-fed by snowmelt. (But that also means mosquitos!)

No matter which time time of the year you go, you can experience snow or 100+ degree days, or sometimes both in the same week. Deserts! They’re unpredictable. Here is some solid advice for keeping safe in the heat. (Ever heard of hyponatremia?) Like the desert animals, consider being active earlier or later in the day, and take some rest in shade during the hottest part. 

Water

Water is probably the ODT's biggest challenge due to a combination of several factors:

  • Hot and dry desert environment requiring a high intake of water while not offering much in terms of natural resources
  • Low-density population makes human-made water sources scarce
  • Mix use of many areas that include cattle herding creates a constant environmental strain on the few water sources that exist.

Be prepared for long stretches without water that is impossible to carry all the time, so you'll need to cache it. The Oregon Natural Desert Association has created a water chart indicating reliable, questionable, and unreliable water sources along the way, make sure you use it. While both spring and fall have milder temperatures than the summer or winter, fall will be a lot drier. The first person to thru-hike the ODT in the fall carried 9L of water at the driest point, and you should expect to need similar quantities.

Many of the water sources are shared with cattle so a reliable water filter is a must, aim for a high volume one like the Sawyer Squeeze. Due to the high volume of water needed, opt for a 3L Vecto instead of a 2L one, and carry at least 2 of them.

Resupply

The ODT passes through several towns, including Paisley, Plush, Frenchglen, Fields, and Rome (within 1 mile), where you can either buy supplies or have them mailed to Post Offices for you to pick up. The towns of Christmas Valley, Lakeview, and McDermitt are reached by alternate trail options. The greatest struggle is between the eastern terminus and Rome, where the nearest towns are more than 20 miles away and you may have to rely on hitching a ride. ONDA provides a resupply strategy here.

Section Hiking

If you're not committed to thru-hiking the ODT all at once, you can section hike (or section paddle, horseback ride, or bike) as you please. This is a great project for local Oregonians to add to their bucket list with the goal of completing a section a year. ONDA has helpfully divided the ODT into 25 sections and created guides for each region.

Region 1: Badlands to Paisley (Section 1-6)
Region 2: Paisley to Frenchglen (Sections 7 – 12)
Region 3: Frenchglen to Hwy 95 (Sections 13 – 19) 
Region 4: Hwy 95 to Owyhee Reservoir (Sections 20 – 25)

The map below shows the sections and route.

Gear

The ODT has some particular concerns and so requires some specialized gear beyond a standard 3 seasons kit.

  • Extreme heat, but also snow: Make sure you are ready for cold nights (even in summer) and hot days (even in winter). Sunscreen, UV protecting clothing, puffy jacket and a warm sleeping kit is recommended at all times.
  • Lack of high vegetation (aka trees): Umbrellas can shield you from heat, but also precipitation and help avoid sun strokes. We recommend the Silver Shadow Trekking Umbrella from Six Moons Design.
  • Rattlesnakes: Bring along gaiters. They're also useful for sharp plants.
  • Strong winds: There aren't many-wind breaking trees in several sections of the trail. Tents can become kites. Some nights, sleeping in the open air or in a bivy sack may be your best option.
  • No potable water/long distances without any water: You'll need more water storage that you usually carry. We recommend 3L Vectos and, of course, don't forget your filter.
  • Unmarked route: Unlike the PCT, AT, or more established trails, some of the ODT is not labeled. Bring maps and a compass and know how to use them well. ONDA has provided GPS data for your phone or GPS device.
  • Alternate options: At times, the ODT is more of a suggested route than a trail. Some explorers prefer to bikepack portions. You might want a packraft; the last 200 miles are along the Owyhee River.
  • Lack of cellphone service: Be safe in very remote areas. Carry a beacon to alert rescuers in case you need to be evacuated.
You can find ONDA's suggested pack list here.

Support September

In September, Cnoc Outdoors donates 10% of revenue from purchases on the website to an organization that strives to protect the wild beauty of the world and create inclusive, accessible outdoor adventures. For 2018, we are donating to the Oregon Natural Desert Association. The Executive Director of ONDA was the first to dream up the ODT. In addition to working on the ODT, some of the Oregon Natural Desert Association’s work has included obtaining legal protection for the Oregon Desert's lands and wildlife against dangers such as industrial-scale energy development and the intrusion by motorized vehicles.

Much of the information you will need for your desert adventure is available on the ONDA website. Check out their detailed guide before you head out to the trail. Oregon’s desert backcountry beckons.