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Photograph of Pete Lake in Washington State with the sun about to go down behind the mountains.


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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

Am man breaking into a car.

If you love hiking, you may have returned to the trailhead only to find that someone has broken into your car and stolen your belongings. Or you know someone that has. It’s a terrible way to end a beautiful day, and it can cost a lot of money and hassle to fix the damage and replace your items. This happened to my wife and I late last year at a popular hiking trail. The thief was able to rack up a few hundred dollars in purchases using her credit cards before we discovered the theft.

Unfortunately, car break-ins at trailheads are becoming increasingly common, especially near urban areas where thieves can easily access the parking lots. Most trailheads do not have security cameras or guards, so it’s up to you to take precautions to avoid becoming a victim.

In this post, I will share with you ten tips to prevent car break-ins at a trailhead, based on my experience and research. These tips will help you deter potential thieves and protect your valuables while you enjoy your hike.

Tip #1: Lock your car and don’t leave your key in the gas cap or wheel well

This may seem obvious, but locking your car is the first and most basic step to prevent car break-ins. Some people may argue that leaving your car unlocked will prevent thieves from breaking your window, but this is not a good idea. If you leave your car unlocked, you are inviting anyone to take whatever they want from your car, even if it’s just a headlamp or a water bottle. You also risk someone hotwiring your car and driving away with it.

Another common mistake is leaving your key in the gas cap or wheel well. This is a very risky practice, as thieves know exactly where to look for keys. If they find your key, they can easily unlock your car and take everything inside. They can also drive away with your car or use it as a getaway vehicle.

The best thing to do is to lock your car and take your key with you. If you don’t want to carry your whole keychain with you, just take the individual car key and maybe your house key. You can also get a small pouch or belt clip to store your key securely while you hike.

Tip #2: Keep valuables out of your car or hide them before arriving at the trailhead

One of the main reasons why thieves target cars at trailheads is because they see valuables inside them. Laptops, wallets, purses, phones, cameras, and other expensive items are very tempting for thieves who are looking for a quick score. If they see something valuable in plain sight, they will not hesitate to smash your window or pop the lock and grab it.

The best way to avoid this is to keep valuables out of your car. If possible, leave them at home or in a safe place where you are staying. If you need to bring them with you, hide them in your trunk or out-of-sight before arriving at the trailhead. Don’t wait until you get there to stash them under the seat or in the glove compartment, as thieves may be watching you. Make sure nothing valuable is visible from the outside of your car.

Tip #3: Keep unnecessary gear at home or get window tints or DIY curtains to keep them out of sight

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you may have a lot of gear in your car that you don’t need for every hike. For example, if you are into climbing, biking, skiing, or fishing, you may have equipment that is bulky or hard to hide in your car. While these items may not be as valuable as electronics or cash, they can still attract thieves who may think they can sell them or use them for themselves.

The best way to avoid this is to keep unnecessary gear at home. Only bring what you need for each hike and leave the rest behind. If you can’t do that, consider getting window tints or DIY curtains to cover your windows and block the view of what’s inside your car. Window tints are relatively cheap and easy to install, and they can also protect your car from sun damage and heat. DIY curtains can be made from any fabric or material that matches your car color and can be attached with velcro or magnets.

Tip #4: Take the least impressive vehicle to the trailhead

Another factor that can influence whether thieves target your car or not is how impressive it looks. Thieves may assume that a newer, fancier, or more expensive car has more valuables inside than an older, simpler, or cheaper one.

If you have more than one vehicle or if you are carpooling with friends, consider taking the least impressive vehicle to the trailhead. This may deter thieves from choosing your car over others that look more appealing. Of course, this does not mean that you should ignore the rest of the tips listed, as any car can be broken into regardless of its appearance.

Tip #5: Situational awareness

Sometimes, thieves may try to trick you by pretending to be friendly hikers who want to chat with you at the trailhead. They may ask you how long you plan to be gone, what trail you are taking, where you are from, or other seemingly harmless questions. While they do this, they may be looking for clues about what’s in your car or where you have hidden your key.

While it’s nice to be polite and friendly with fellow hikers, be careful of any stranger who engages you in conversation at the trailhead. Follow your gut instinct and look for signs that they may have ulterior motives. For example:

  • Do they seem overly interested in your plans or personal details?

  • Do they keep looking at your car or other cars in the parking lot?

  • Do they have any hiking gear with them or look like they are ready for a hike?

  • Do they have any visible tattoos, scars, or marks that could identify them later?

  • Do they have another person waiting nearby or in another vehicle?

If something feels off about the encounter, end the conversation politely and walk away. You can also hang around the trailhead and observe their behavior for a few minutes before starting your hike. Or you can start your hike and then come back shortly after to check on your car.

Tip #6: Choose the most visible parking spaces and park under lights when available

Another way to deter thieves from breaking into your car is to choose parking spaces that are highly visible and well-lit. Thieves prefer dark and secluded spots where they can work without being seen or interrupted by other hikers or passersby. Parking in open and bright areas makes it harder for them to approach and damage your car without being noticed.

When choosing a parking space at the trailhead:

  • Park as close as possible to the entrance or exit of the parking lot.

  • Park near other cars that look occupied or well-maintained.

  • Park under lights if available (especially if hiking at night).

  • Park facing outward so that anyone approaching from behind will be seen by others.

  • Avoid parking near bushes, trees, walls, dumpsters, or other objects that could provide cover for thieves.

Tip #7: Take pictures of anyone or anything that seems out-of-place at the trailhead

If you see someone or something suspicious at the trailhead:

  • Take pictures of them with their license plate if possible.

  • Report them to the police or park rangers if available.

  • Warn other hikers about them if appropriate.

Taking pictures of potential thieves can serve several purposes:

  • It can scare them off by letting them know that you are aware of their presence and have evidence against them.

  • It can help identify them later if they do break into your car or someone else’s.

  • It can provide proof for insurance claims or police reports if needed.

Of course, taking pictures of potential thieves can also be risky, as they may react aggressively or even violently if they notice you. Prioritize your safety and keep a safe distance from them. You should also avoid confronting them directly or accusing them of anything. Instead, call the police or park rangers and let them handle the situation.

Tip #8: Do not approach a car prowler in progress, observe from a safe distance and call the police

If you witness a car prowler in progress, either breaking into your car or someone else’s, do not approach them or try to stop them. This can be very dangerous, as they may be armed or violent. They may also have accomplices nearby who could join the fight or escape with the stolen items.

The best thing to do is to observe the crime from a safe distance and gather as much information as possible. For example:

  • What do they look like (gender, age, height, weight, clothing, tattoos, etc.)?

  • What are they doing (smashing windows, picking locks, grabbing items, etc.)?

  • What kind of vehicle are they using (make, model, color, license plate, etc.)?

  • How many of them are there and where are they located?

Then, call the police or park rangers and report the crime as soon as possible. Provide them with all the details you have observed and follow their instructions. If possible, take pictures or videos of the crime scene and the suspects for evidence.

Tip #9: Report car break-ins to the police whether you plan to make an insurance claim or not

If you discover that your car has been broken into after your hike, you should always report it to the police whether you plan to make an insurance claim or not. Reporting car break-ins can help the police track down thieves and recover your items. It can also help them identify crime patterns and hotspots and increase patrols and security measures at those locations.

To report a car break-in:

  • Call 911 if it is an emergency or if the suspects are still nearby.

  • Call the non-emergency number of the local police department if it is not an emergency or if the suspects are gone.

  • Provide them with your name, location, vehicle information, and a description of what happened and what was stolen.

  • Ask for a case number and a copy of the police report for your records.

  • Contact your insurance company if you have coverage for theft or vandalism and file a claim.

Tip #10: Don't advertise your hike

Avoid leaving signs in your car that indicate your hiking plans or destination. This can alert potential thieves that you won't be back for a while and make your car a more tempting target. For example, if you leave a map, a guidebook, or a note in your car that indicates your hiking plans or destination, thieves can infer how far you are going and how long it will take you to return. This can make your car a more tempting target than others that have less or no signs of hiking plans.


Car break-ins at trailheads are a common and frustrating problem for hikers. By following these tips, we can all reduce the risk of becoming a victim and enjoy our hikes with peace of mind.


  • Lock your car and don’t leave your key in the gas cap or wheel well.

  • Keep valuables out of your car or hide them in your trunk or out-of-sight before arriving at the trailhead.

  • Keep unnecessary gear at home or get window tints or DIY curtains to keep them out of sight.

  • Take the least impressive vehicle to the trailhead if you have the option.

  • Be leery of any stranger who engages you in friendly conversation at the trailhead and observe their behavior.

  • Choose the most visible parking spaces and park under lights when available.

  • Take pictures of anyone or anything that seems out-of-place at the trailhead.

  • Do not approach a car prowler in progress but observe from a safe distance and call the police.

  • Report car break-ins to the police whether you plan to make an insurance claim or not.

  • Don’t advertise where you’re going or how long you’ll be gone.

I hope this blog post has been helpful and informative for you and you never have to deal with a car break-in. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. See you out there! 😊

Glenn Barfield

May 12th, 2023

Two backpackers leaning on a wooden fence in the woods with very large backpacks.

Backpacking is a great way to explore the outdoors, connect with nature and challenge yourself. However, it can also be a daunting experience for beginners who may not know what to expect or how to prepare. Here are five common mistakes new backpackers make and how to avoid them.

1. Packing Your Fears

One of the most notorious beginner backpacking mistakes of all is bringing too much stuff. Whether it’s too much food, clothing, gear or water, many newbies “pack their fears” in an attempt to control every possible variable. However, this only leads to a heavier backpack that will slow you down, tire you out, and make your trip miserable.

To avoid overpacking, try to evaluate the contents of your pack before setting out for the backcountry. You want to balance carrying enough gear to stay safe and comfortable and not carrying so much that you can hardly move. It helps to build a spreadsheet itemizing all of your gear and the weight of each item. You’ll be stunned by how much the little things add up.

Some tips to reduce your pack weight are:

  1. Choose lightweight and compact gear that is designed for backpacking use, such as tents, sleeping bags, stoves, and cookware.

  2. Pack only the clothing you need for the expected weather and layer up or down as needed. Avoid cotton and opt for synthetic or wool fabrics that dry quickly and wick moisture.

  3. Plan your meals carefully and pack only the food you need for the duration of your trip. Choose high-calorie, nutrient-dense and easy-to-prepare foods that don’t require much water or fuel to cook.

  4. Carry only enough water to get you from one reliable water source to another. Use a map or guidebook to locate water sources along your route and plan accordingly. Carry a water filter or purification tablets to treat water from streams or lakes.

2. Poor Footwear

Another common mistake new backpackers make is wearing inappropriate footwear. Your feet are your most important asset on the trail, so you want to take good care of them. Wearing shoes that are too tight, too loose, too heavy or not broken in can lead to blisters, hot spots, foot fatigue and injuries.

To avoid foot problems, choose footwear that is comfortable, supportive, breathable, and durable. You may prefer hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners depending on your personal preference and the terrain you will encounter. Whatever you choose, make sure they fit well and are broken in before your trip. You may also want to invest in some quality hiking socks that are cushioned, moisture-wicking and seamless.

3. Cutting Calories

One of the most surprising mistakes new backpackers make is not eating enough. Backpacking is a physically demanding activity that burns a lot of calories, so you need to replenish your energy regularly. Not eating enough can lead to fatigue, weakness, headaches, and mood swings.

To avoid under-eating, plan your meals carefully and pack enough food for your trip. Aim for about 3,000 calories per day or more depending on your body size and activity level. Snack frequently on high-energy foods like nuts, dried fruits, granola bars or jerky throughout the day. Eat a hearty breakfast before hitting the trail and a satisfying dinner at camp. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid alcohol which can dehydrate you further.

4. Optimistic Expectations

Another mistake new backpackers make is having unrealistic expectations about their trip. They may overestimate their abilities, underestimate the difficulty of the terrain or ignore the weather conditions. This can lead to frustration, disappointment, or even danger.

To avoid setting yourself up for failure, do some research before your trip and have a realistic plan. Know your physical limits and choose a route that matches your fitness level and experience. Check the weather forecast and prepare for possible changes. Have a backup plan in case something goes wrong or you need to bail out early. Be flexible and adaptable to whatever challenges you may face on the trail.

5. Overanalyzing Gear

The final mistake new backpackers make is obsessing over gear. This is easy to do and I think we've all done it. New hikers may spend hours comparing different brands, models and features of backpacks, tents, sleeping bags and other gear. They may spend a fortune on the latest and greatest equipment or try to save money by buying cheap and low-quality gear. They may get overwhelmed by the number of choices and information available or get influenced by the opinions of others.

To avoid overanalyzing gear, remember that gear is not the most important factor in backpacking. Gear is just a tool to help you enjoy your trip, not the goal of your trip. You don’t need the most expensive or the most advanced gear to have a good time. You just need gear that works for you and your needs. In fact, the most important gear you take with you weighs nothing. We're talking about knowledge. What you know about your gear, the trail, the weather, yourself, etc., will count for more than all the gear you bring.

The best way to find out what gear works for you is to try it out. Borrow or rent gear from friends, family or local outfitters before buying it. Test your gear in your backyard or on short trips before taking it on longer ones. Read reviews and watch videos from reputable sources but don’t rely on them blindly. Trust your own judgment and experience.


Backpacking is a rewarding and fun activity that can enrich your life in many ways. However, it can also be challenging and intimidating for beginners who may make some common mistakes. By avoiding these five mistakes, you can have a more enjoyable and successful backpacking trip.

Do you have any other tips or advice for new backpackers? Share them in the comments below. And if you liked this post, please share it with your friends who may be interested in backpacking. Hope to see you out there!

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