Backpacking the Salmon River Trail to Kinzel Lake: P.S. I Think We Almost Killed your Dog

While this blog’s usual content involves two wheels, I’m going to switch gears for one entry to catalogue Trish and my backpacking trip last Wednesday and Thursday (August 28-29) to Kinzel Lake with two pups: our dog Bryn, and our friends’ dog Gin, who we were dog-sitting for. Backpacking is always entertaining, but this trip proved to be especially fun since Bryn and Gin’s preferred hiking method is scrambling down every side trail, jumping into water when at all possible, and chasing each other around to the point of exhaustion. Unfortunately for Gin, this meant trying to keep up with our dog Bryn, a feat that proved to be a bit much by the end of our two day hike.

Our trip actually started Thursday night. Directly after I finished an evening class for my Master program at 7:30pm, we embarked on a 1 hour and 45 minute drive to a campsite just west of Government Camp called Pioneer Tollgate, where we spent the night. The dogs were proving a bit overenthusiastic that first night so we put them in the car while we both slept soundly in the tent. The next morning we drove thirty minutes south on the Salmon River road to Green Canyon campground, which was where we parked and the backpacking trip began.

Setting up the tent, with our dog Bryn giving pointers.

Two tents: a single for me and a double for Trish and the pups. I think I got the better end of the deal.

Rise and shine!

After a night in the car, the pups are ready to go.

Cooking breakfast

while the dogs entertain themselves.

And the hike begins with the all-important auto-timer shot.



Our hike started on the Salmon River Trail, a slowly ascending trail that follows the Salmon River for about 3 miles before gradually veering up along a ridge and away from the gently flowing water.   After six miles, we headed north on the Kinzel Lake Trail towards Kinzel Lake. Getting to the lake was a bit confusing, and we took some wrong turns before figuring it out, but eventually we made it.

One of the many water stops.

We are now officially in the wilderness because the sign says so.

One of the viewpoints.



Thirsty dogs.

Gin cooling off.

Rest stop.

In our opinion, the lake hardly even qualified as a pond, which was a bit disappointing, but a pleasant surprise for both of us was a rather nicely developed campground right next to the lake which wasn’t on the map or in the guide book. We got to the campground in the afternoon, which gave us some time to recover a bit and enjoy some quality play time with the pups.

Getting ready to set up camp.

And filling up on water.

The campsite.

Swimming in the lake.




And a nightcap.

Our night was much more restful with the pups until about 1:45am, when a truck slowly rolled into the campsite, pointed its headlights directly into our tents, and then slowly drove away to a different campsite. The dogs were on high alert after this little incident, and to make matters worse, at 3:45am another truck pulled up and did the same thing. This time, however, a man stepped out of the vehicle and looked to be slowly walking towards our campsite. At this point the dogs were in a frenzy and Trish asked, “Can we do something for you?” The man spoke very little English but we were able to communicate that another truck had pulled up a couple hours ago to a different campsite, to which he slowly stumbled back in the truck and pulled away. Now both the dogs and we were on high alert, and little sleep was had by all the rest of the night.

The next day we woke up, did our breakfast routine, and headed out. Whereas the previous day was almost all uphill, our second day was almost entirely downhill. After a short hike up to a watchtower at the top of Devil’s Peak, we descended down Hunchback Trail and eventually Green Canyon Way to the car. It was on the final couple miles of descent that our friends’ dog Gin began to lag behind. She would lope along right behind either me or Trish where a mixture of condensation and drool would slowly accumulate on our calves. Her breathing was quite rapid and could be likened to an asthmatic having an attack, short quick breaths that were labored and raspy. Trish and I were a bit concerned, but in the end she made it to the car and just passed out in the back for the 2 hour ride home.

The dogs were up to their usual antics in the morning.

I decided to join them in their morning jumping routine.

Packed up.

The top of Devil’s Peak.

The watchtower at the top of Devil’s Peak.

Everyone’s ready to continue the hike.

Some of the trails on the hike back were a bit overgrown.

And there was a lot of this along the trail.

One section was completely washed out and took us about five minutes to navigate across.


As always, the trip was a mixture of strenuous physical exertion and well deserved rest and relaxation, a perfect vacation if you ask me. Trish and I now need to switch gears and get ready for our week long bike tour in southern Oregon. No rest for the weary!

Categories: Pedals and Packs

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2 replies »

  1. You really did get the better end of the tent deal! Poor Trish! And you really need to work on the weight and compactness of your packs. Have you ever checked out the Big Agnes sleeping pads? They are wonderful. That, plus my feather-light sleeping bag have been, by far, my best investment for backpacking. 🙂

    • Yeah, while I’m extremely weight conscious while bikepacking, Trish and I aren’t as concerned about weight when it comes to our backpacking setups. Big Agnes is awesome though. I use a Big Agnes tent for bikepacking, and a lightweight REI sleeping pad for bikepacking as well.

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