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Amputee Outdoors isn't just for amputees, any lover of hiking, backpacking and camping will find value in this site.  But, if you are an amputee, I hope the videos, advice, and gear reviews educate and inspire you to enjoy the beauty of nature.

  • Look through the Gear dropdown to read reviews of gear I've used and tested along with examples and discussions of hiking and backpacking gear.

  • Read the articles in the Advice section for information on a variety of hiking, camping, and backpacking topics

  • Visit the Latest Videos to see where I've been or reviewed lately. 

And of course, don't forget to check out my YouTube channel, Amputee Outdoors to see all my adventures, tips and tricks, and reviews. Thanks for visiting!

#1 Nature Doesn't Care if You Live or Die

Harsh but it's true. Nature doesn't care who we are. All those things that we argue and worry about regarding who or what we are mean nothing to the natural world. And although Nature may be the mother of us all, she can be a mean m-Samuel L. Jackson-r. Nature is perfectly happy to recycle our physical bodies into nutrients for all the other flora and fauna we share this world with. This is a truth overlooked when living in a technologically advanced civilization.

When we go out into nature we are at the mercy of the weather, whatever resources (food, water, building materials, etc.) are in the vicinity, happenstance occurrences like a misplaced foot resulting in an injurious slide down a ravine, etc.

There is no home, apartment, or even car we can find shelter in, what we have in our backpacks or can forage is all we have, and there's no Urgent Care clinic or ER on the trail. Which is why Principle #2 is so critical.

#2 Knowledge is Power

We're the dominant species on this planet to the point where we've started exploring off our home world. This isn't because of our claws, horns, speed, or anything like that. In fact of all the world's many creatures, we're one of the most defenseless, especially for the first few years of life. So how have we achieved such mastery of the natural world? Knowledge.

Our ability to gain knowledge, transfer it, combine knowledge, access knowledge, grow our knowledge, and build upon it has taken us from living in nature to being so very comfortable in our homes that we go looking for nature to live in.

Knowledge is the most important thing we take on our hikes and backpacking adventures. This means knowledge of not just the weather, the trail and its conditions. We need knowledge of our equipment, our capabilities, our hiking partner's abilities, and more. Knowledge makes the difference between a fun day on the trail and a day best forgotten. Knowledge makes the difference between a minor incident and a news story. The nice thing about knowledge is that it's ultra-light! Weighs nothing!

#3 Gear

Based on principle #2 is the fact that we are tool-using creatures. Other animals use tools from time to time, but our entire existence is based on making and using tools. This is especially true when we've left the safety and convenience of our homes. When we plan our adventures in nature we combine our almost unconscious awareness of our vulnerability in nature with our knowledge to select the right tools. Knowledge of what a tool will be used for, how it will be used, and maintained is a crucial aspect of our trekking. Whether it's our boots, backpacks, or clothes, we rely on that gear to do what we need it to do in the circumstances our knowledge has indicated. And of course, we take care of our gear so our gear can take care of us.

These three principles are the basis of all my plans in nature and I'm always working to expand my knowledge and take care of my gear.

Man sitting with a beer looking over Spectacle Lake

I started my hike to Pete Lake around 2 pm and arrived there around 4 pm. It's only about 4 miles and the trail has very little elevation gain. Once at the lake, I found that I was the second party to arrive for an overnight stay. Within about an hour, three more parties arrived, so I wasn't the only one getting a late start. :)

Camping hammock with an integrated bug net set up in a forest

The plan was to spend the night at Pete Lake, get an early start in the morning to beat the heat and make it to Spectacle Lake in the early afternoon. Spend the night at Spectacle and on the following day, hike the approximately nine miles back to Pete Lake Trailhead. Once I'd relaxed by Pete Lake for a while, I set up my new hammock with an integrated bug net. The bugs at Pete Lake this time of the year are nasty. By about 7 pm I'd had enough, (bug spray only dissuades the lazy bugs), and retreated to my hammock to try and get a full night's sleep before starting the next hike around dawn.

I had tested this hammock at home before going on this backpacking trip, but that was in near-ideal conditions. I found that in less-than-ideal conditions, the hammock has some problems. For one, no ridge line to control the hang angle and length. Another is that the straps stretched in the night so I went from hanging at chair height to about 12 inches from the ground by morning.

Wooden sign bolted to a tree reading, "Pete Lake Trail No. 1323 Spectacle Lake".

I woke at first light, had some porridge, packed up, checked around to make sure I'd not left anything, and then started my trek to Spectacle Lake. The trail starts much like the trail to Pete Lake, with not much elevation gain along a well-groomed path. Along the trail, there are several logs that have fallen across the path. Most are easy enough to get over and even those that are a little more challenging didn't stop me, and I have a prosthetic leg. The trail will lead you to Lemah Creek where you're supposed to ford the stream. I wasn't going to do that. It was about 2-3 feet deep and running fast. Fortunately, in addition to trees across the path, there are also trees across the creek. I continued along the trail to Lemah Meadows and on the left found a cairn marking the unofficial trail (a little bush-whacking is needed) that leads to two sets of logs that cross over the two branches of Lemah Creek. It was a little tricky, but with good boots, balance and hiking poles, I was able to make it across easily.

A trail in the woods with a stone cairn indicating the correct path to take.

It's not long after crossing Lemah Creek that you leave the forest shade and enter the burned remains of the forest. Nature has started reclaiming the land, but there's little to no shade so sunblock, long sleeves, wide-brimmed hat, are strongly recommended to prevent sunburn.

A trail running along the side of a mountain that suffered a forest fire several years ago is now starting to come back.

There are several streams along the way and a waterfall. Take some time to relax and enjoy those. I replenished my quickly depleting water supply at them and doused my hat in the streams to cool myself down.

The author of the blog post (Glenn Barfield) wearing a hat and glasses next to a mountain waterfall on the trail to Spectacle Lake.

After a lot of switch-backs and elevation gain, you'll attain the ridge where you can look down to Spectacle Lake. The trail down the basin to the lake starts off steep but manageable. As you get closer to the lake you'll find that the trail starts splitting off into several different paths to various campsites. To go to the peninsula that almost divides the lake in two, stick to the paths going left. They are a little hard to find, the one I took went over a massive flattish rock outcropping and down a steep path. This took me to the peninsula and even more social trails to explore. At this point, I just started exploring the peninsula looking for a good campsite.

A high elevation view of Spectacle Lake in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.

I found a great spot next to the lake and rigged up my hammock. Testing it I found that it was sinking down to the ground. The distance between the trees was too great. I relocated it to a couple of trees that were closer together but still had to pull it so tight that I was getting badly squeezed at the shoulders. Fortunately, I always carry a ground tarp and using that, my rainfly, hiking poles, and some line I always carry, I was able to set up an open-ended A-frame tent. I positioned it so the breeze coming off the lake would go through the tent. This helped cut down on the bugs and with a few sprays of bug repellent, I was able to avoid all but the most determined bugs.

The sun setting behind the Cascade mountains with Spectacle Lake in the foreground.

After dinner, I spent some time wandering around the peninsula, chatted with a few other campers and then settled down to watch the sun go down behind the mountains. One of my favourite things to do when camping is to sit and just look at the view.

The next morning I woke up a little before dawn and so enjoyed my morning porridge watching the sun come up.

Early morning view of Spectacle Lake with no wind so the lake is a perfect reflection of the trees and mountains.

It was going to be a hot one again so I made sure to fill all four of my one-liter bottles with fresh (filtered) mountain lake water, packed up and hit the trail before 7 am. The hike out of the basin in which Spectacle Lake sits is really the only hard part of the hike back. Once that's done the trail is generally a relaxing hike back.

I chose Bandera Mountain for a Saturday hike based on the reviews I read and heard from other hikers. They all indicated that if the weather is good, the views are breathtaking. Saturday was going to be a clear day, and the trailhead is for the Ira Spring trail to Mason Lake and Bandera Mountain, making it one of the popular trailheads in the area. So I figured the trail would be busy and the parking lot full, but I figured that setting off at 7 AM to get a good spot at the trailhead parking lot would do the trick. Nope. When I arrived at 8 AM I found just one parking spot and a line for the single toilet.

The author, (Glenn Barfield) hiking up a rocky path, above the cloud layer and with Mt Rainier in the background.

Loading up my gear I started up the trail which starts off along the old logging road many of our trails around here are based on. The grade is easy, the trail well maintained, and mostly free of rocks and roots. You will get to a juncture where the trail goes to the left and transitions from easy to moderate. It was at this point that I entered the cloud cover. Some folks don’t like the grey and dark green colours we enjoy here on the western slopes of the Cascades, but I love them. Something beautiful about being surrounded by the forest and mist that speaks to me in a language I can’t translate.

A steep trail going up through the forest on the Bandera Mt. Trail.

The trail was very well populated by a variety of hikers of many different levels of experience. Some were heading to Mason Lake to camp for the night, others to just enjoy the day. Others were heading up to Bandera Mountain and those folks were generally more experienced. The trail takes you to a T intersection, left for Mason Lake, and right up the mountain to Little Bandera and Bandera Mountain. I followed the path up to the right and immediately felt the difference between moderate and hard. For much of the trail, you are gaining a foot for every two feet forward. The cloud density was thicker too, and it was a little cooler because of it but I was still sweating a good deal from exertion.

The author (Glenn Barfield) smiling and wearing sunglasses, and a bandana on a rocky trail up to Bandera Mt.

Finally breaking free of the clouds, I first saw the peaks of mountains across the valley that I-90 runs through, and shortly after, the clouds revealed Mt. Rainier in all its magnificent glory. Fully into the sunshine now I quickly regretted forgetting my sunblock. That higher alpine sunshine is ruthless on us redheads. My hiking poles were getting a serious workout, which may explain their breaking later.

A view from the trail to Bandera Mt, above the cloud layer with Mt Rainier in the distance.

Arriving at Little Bandera (false peak) I found it crowded with lots of folks enjoying the view of Mt. Rainier and eating lunch. It seemed a little too crowded for me, so I decided to press on to the true peak of Bandera Mountain. This was difficult as the trail isn’t as frequently traveled and thus easy to lose. I was able to align my path and the trail using the GPS on my phone and finally arrived at Bandera Mountain. The view was stunning. Mt. Rainier to the south of me seemed to be floating on a sea of clouds and stood out against the blue sky brilliantly. I settled down to have lunch, (Instant ramen noodles, some left of chicken tossed in and water) and take in the view. I don’t care how good a restaurant may be, none can compare to lunch atop a mountain with a view like that.

The author (Glenn Barfield) holding his hands up high celebrating his successful ascent to the top of Mt. Bandera with the clouds and Mt. Rainier in the background.

After a while, I felt my skin starting to burn a little and decided to pack everything up and head home. About thirty feet from the summit, as I traversed a narrow path with a long drop down a ravine on my left, both hiking poles broke. Stumbling to my left I slide a few feet down the ravine before catching a small tree and stopping my slide. It’s a good thing no one was around because the swear words were flying as bad as when I was in the Navy. Clambering up the slope I regained the trail assessed my condition and finding nothing too badly damaged I trudged on.

I made my way back to Little Bandera and offered to trade my camera tripod for a pair of hiking poles or perhaps borrow a pair until I made it down the mountain. Trail folks are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and two guys, Eric and Pat, offered to loan me a pair of poles and walk back down the mountain with me. The three of us, and Eric’s dog Barley, had a great time chatting about hikes, dogs, politics and various subjects as we returned to the trailhead. Definitely one of the best hikes I’ve enjoyed in a long time thanks to those too.

Eric and Pat, along with Barney the very helpful medium sized dog,

If you want to see the hike, you can find it on YouTube at

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