Beginner’s Guide to Backpacking

Backpacking Eagle Cap Wilderness

I know how intimidating and overwhelming it can feel to get started with backpacking. There are so many questions that need answering. What gear do I need? How will I stay safe? How will I know where to go?

When I first began backpacking, I dove headfirst into the longest hike of my life; the Oregon section of the PCT. I backpacked for 30 days using ill-fitting, heavy gear, paper maps, and a whole lot of extra stuff I didn’t need. My feet hurt throughout the entire trek, red, sore, and covered in blisters. But I made it and all that anguish was worth it!

I’ve learned a lot over the 6 years since that hike. I’ve been able to swap out some of my gear for more practical items and successfully spent countless nights under the stars in the mountains, in the desert, and on the coast. My objective with this post is to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from my adventures. Hopefully, it will give you the confidence to branch out beyond car camping.

Backpacking in Eagle Cap Wilderness

Before I get started, I want to clarify that this is what I’ve found works for me. Everyone is going to feel differently when they enter the backcountry, so make sure to do plenty of your own research and trial and error to figure out what you’re most comfortable with.

So if this sounds exciting to you, but you aren’t sure how to get started, I’m here to help! Here are some ways to work up to backpacking:

• Start with longer hikes! Tackle a long-distance trail and bring a heavier backpack with plenty of supplies, including extra food and water (we call this training weight). Do all the research you’ll need beforehand to complete the hike safely. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment while training your body to carry a heavier load. It will also help familiarize you with the experience of spending several hours immersed in nature before trying it out overnight.

• If you have no experience backpacking, I recommend going with knowledgeable friends the first few times. There’s only so much you can glean from the internet. Learning directly from those who have experience will be so helpful when questions arise. And they’ll be there to back you up if you forgot to pack a crucial piece of gear. Don’t have friends who want to backpack with you? Try a local club,, or reach out to like-minded folks on social media.

Underwood Wine Cheers

• Before you invest in your own backpacking gear, try borrowing from a friend or renting from an outdoor store. This will help you narrow down what kind of gear you like best and will ensure that you’re well equipped with knowledge and experience when you do finally purchase the items you need. There’s also plenty of used gear shops out there for those with a tighter budget. REI has a whole used gear section on their website. This is the perfect way to get started while simultaneously keeping used gear out of our landfills.

The most important step you can take to prepare for your first backpacking experience is to do a lot of research. Knowledge is so empowering and the more you have, the more comfortable you will feel in the backcountry.

One creative option is to take an online or in-person class on backpacking. For example, REI teaches many outdoor skills classes, including topics in navigation, survival basics, women’s wilderness skills, and First Aid. They also have local backpacking trips in many cities across the US for those who’d prefer to learn from experts on multi-day trips. This is also a great option if you’re looking for new like-minded friends to go backpacking with.

Backpacking trip by a lake

When choosing a location for your first trip, start with a fairly easy, low mileage trail and only stay out one night. That way you won’t be far from your car if you forget a crucial piece of gear. Starting easy and working your way up to longer and more difficult treks is perfectly normal. And there are plenty of short trails with beautiful views! It may just mean a little less solitude.

If you’re not sure how to find trails near you, I suggest using the AllTrails app downloaded directly to your phone. There’s both an unpaid and paid version. There are benefits to the paid version, like the ability to download maps that you can follow while you hike, but the free version works great as well and you can still often view the maps offline. This app will help you figure out what trail will suit you best. It lists the length and elevation gain of each trail. Plus, people write helpful reviews on trail conditions and campsite locations.

Once you decide on a trail, google the nearest ranger station and give them a call before you depart. They might have more recent information about trail closures, permits, wildfire restrictions, and conditions that you won’t find on the internet.

Wallow Whitman National Forest Backpacking

Start your hike early in the morning. Getting an early start will allow you to take your time getting to your destination and will most likely give you the chance at the first pick of the best campsites. That way you’ll have the rest of the day to play and enjoy the gorgeous views.

Safety in the Backcountry

Have you heard of the 10 essentials? Carrying these items with you every time you step into the backcountry is so important, even on short day hikes. And knowing how to use them will be incredibly valuable if you ever get yourself into a bind. They could save your life.

Backpacking Essentials What to Pack

The Ten Essentials:
• Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB), or satellite messenger.
• Headlamp and extra batteries
• Sun Protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, and sunscreen
• First Aid: including band-aids, ointment, and insect repellent
• Knife: and gear repair kit
• Fire: matches, lighter, tinder, and/or stove
• Shelter: carried at all times (even as simple as an emergency bivy)
• Extra Food
• Extra Water
• Extra Clothing

Having a whistle could save your life if you accidentally slip, fall, or are rendered immobile in any way. Many backpacks have them attached to the shoulder straps, but you can also purchase one separately. Experts advise keeping it around your neck, in case you’re separated from your pack. 3 loud blasts, each lasting about 3 seconds, is the universal call for help.

I always carry an extra iPhone battery charger with me. Smartphones aren’t only good for taking amazing photos and videos of your travels, they double as navigation, map storage, and potential call for rescue. The last thing you want is for your phone to die on the trail when you need it most.

Always be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Supply them with the phone number for the nearest Ranger Station and let them know at what point they should be worried enough to call.

As stated earlier, always be sure to know what your selected trail conditions will be like and check the weather forecast before you go. Knowing what to expect, in terms of weather, will give you the information you need when you’re packing for your trip. But it’s also important to “expect the unexpected.” So even if the forecast isn’t predicting rain, I’ll stuff a raincoat into my pack just in case the weather turns. This can happen frequently in the mountains, so it’s best to be prepared.

What to Pack

Having the right gear for your trip is essential, but don’t get too hung up on the fancy stuff! Expensive gear can be a huge barrier for a lot of people. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing from friends, finding used gear, or starting with the less expensive, but probably slightly heavier stuff. When I started, everything I brought with me was used. Over several years, I slowly replaced the vintage items with more lightweight ones. It’s ok to start wherever you are. The most important part is knowing how to use what you have.

It’s really helpful to have a physical list and cross items off as you go. That way, you won’t get stuck without a crucial piece of gear when you’re miles away from town.

REI has this super helpful and comprehensive backpacking checklist that you can download and print out at home.

In order to determine what you need to pack, however, you’ll have to consider several factors, including how far you’re going, what kind of weather you’re expecting, how long you’ll be out for, and what kind of terrain you’ll be crossing.

Here are some items I deem essential:

Backpacking tent

A One-Person Tent (unless sharing with a friend):
I recommend using a one-person tent to keep your pack weight down. However, if you have a dog or you prefer something roomier, you might want to consider a two-person tent. I use a Nemo Hornet 1 Tent, because it feels spacious enough for me and my pup, it’s easy to set up, and it packs down small.

A stove is a great item to share with a friend to keep weight down. But you can also bring your own. I have the MSR Reactor Stove because it performs well in snowy conditions. But this might be overkill for the casual summer backpacker. There are several lightweight, less expensive options to choose from as well. Jetboils are a popular option amongst backpackers.

PLB’s and Satellite Messengers:
My Garmin InReach Mini is my most valued piece of gear. It gives me an added sense of security whenever I’m outside of cell range. I often use it to text my parents my location when I arrive at camp. Just knowing that someone else has my exact location gives me that extra peace of mind. I also love that I can check the updated weather forecast whenever I need to.

However, these devices can be quite pricey. If you don’t have the funds to invest in an emergency device right now, don’t let that keep you from going. Just make sure someone knows where you’re heading.

First Aid:
It’s important to always hike with some form of first aid. Even on short day hikes, I carry a handful of these items. You can buy a readymade kit or build your own. I’ve been using the same first aid kit for a few years now, and I simply replace the items as I use them.

The items you bring will largely be dependent on where you’re going and what time of year it is. You’ll want bug repellent in the mountains during summer, for example. I always like to stash away some extra ibuprofen as well, to soothe my sore muscles at night.

I bring SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray with me on my solo hiking and backpacking trips. This is my preferred method of self-protection. Keep it somewhere easily accessible and know how to use it before you go.
Another option would be to carry a more standard pepper spray, like SABRE RED Tactical Pepper Gel. If you aren’t hiking through bear country, a spray of this strength would be perfectly suitable.

Underwood Wine in a lake

Underwood Wine:
No backpacking adventure would quite be complete without a delicious can of Underwood Wine to reward yourself with after a long day. Just chill your beverage in the nearest spring-fed river or alpine lake and wait!

Ok, now that you’ve made it to your destination and set up camp, what do you do with the rest of the day? This is my favorite part of the trip and it’s so full of possibilities!

A few fun ways you could spend your afternoon:
• Take an exploratory side hike. Pack an extra small backpack. It can easily double as a stuff sack for clothing and will provide you with a small pack to take with you on those fun afternoon explorations. Fill it with snacks, a water bottle, your camera and you’re good to go!
• Sit and read a book or Kindle in the sun all day. This is my favorite afternoon activity. I use a Kindle because it’s so lightweight, low profile, and means you can carry multiple books!

• Tie up a hammock and nap the afternoon away while you listen to the birds chirp.
• Listen to music or podcasts downloaded on your phone. Just be sure to download everything you might want to listen to while you’re still in cell range.
• Draw or paint your surroundings! Bring a small sketchbook and a set of paints or pencils and practice your art skills in an inspiring location.
• Bring a set of cards and play games with your friends or solitaire by yourself.
• Pop open that can of Underwood, cheers your friend, and watch the sun slowly dip behind the mountains.

Leave No Trace:

Lastly, some of the most pertinent information you can familiarize yourself with is the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. Make sure to educate yourself on these practices and understand the “why” behind them. Mother Nature, local wildlife, and your fellow hikers will thank you.

You can find more in-depth information here at

Now get out there and enjoy!

Brooke Weeber Backpacking Trip Tent by Lake

Photography and story by Brooke Weeber

A Conversation with our Founder and Owner, Ryan Harms

From med school dreams to putting Oregon pinot noir in a can—if that’s not the path less taken, we’re not sure what would be. Either way, we are glad he chose the road he did. On today’s Field Notes, and in our latest PDP—Pinkiesdown podcast*—we sit down for a special interview with our founder, Ryan Harms. We talk shop on the beginnings of our little wine company and how it came to be. How some things have changed dramatically, yet some goals have stayed much the same. A bit of what life coming out of a global pandemic means for him as a father, husband, and business owner. And what “blue skies” we have to look forward to.

Ryan Harms UWC Owner and Founder

PDP- Hello Ryan, welcome. It just so happens our interview day of is May 25th, National Wine Day. Do you have one, or maybe multiple picks for this summer of 2021?

RH- I have to say that in the summer months ever since we started producing Rose Bubbles in a can that has become one of my go-to, getting out, doing yard work, spending time—usually not operating a lawnmower—but I’ve been known to have it in my hand as I’m pushing the lawnmower around the yard. That has become a go-to in the summer months. Then I always am a fan of some of our can cocktails, or I mess around making my own at home. There’s nothing like a little fruit in some wine and maybe a little carbonation.

PDP – I like that. Maybe we will have to release a few more cocktail recipes for our fans out there. I know that you and I are both fans of a nice Negroni every once in a while.

RH – You know, there’s nothing wrong with a little Negroni. It keeps everything fresh and lively in the summer months.

PDP – Speaking of (hopefully) entering a season of openness, health, and prosperity, let’s go back in time a little bit. The new normal, that we’re now sitting in, how has this last year pushed you further as an owner of our company, father, husband, trying to find balance through the waves the pandemic brought us?

RH – Oh man, there’s a lot there. I think if I go back and think about everything that’s gone on over the last year, on the one hand being home, I feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to keep everyone safe and healthy. Being able to be home with my kids it became apparent to me that there was all this time that typically as a parent I wouldn’t get to spend with my kids. Now, by all of us being home, having lunch with them almost every day, spending more time with my wife, those were all absolute plusses in what otherwise was obviously, at times, a little bit of a scary and stressful situation. In terms of the business, we proved that we put a good plan together. We took care of our people and made sure that we did the best we could to keep everyone safe. Finding our way through COVID we probably realized that we were more resilient as an organization than I might have thought we were. And we also really proved to ourselves that working remotely was incredibly successful. That will be a great thing for us to continue to think about going forward as an organization. How we can potentially create more flexibility for our staff in terms of where they want to work. It is cool to have this kind of forced experiment if you will, it really challenged a lot of people’s thinking around remote work, versus being in the office.

Ryan Harms UWC Owner and Founder

PDP – As someone who has been in a period of work-life where it was tangible or nothing in my previous part of the wine industry, you either had to be on-site or you weren’t. Then translating over to not quite in office but a little bit of that environment and still being able to do everything you were already going to do, and sometimes even more efficiently. There’s a lot of adjustments made that I think will be beneficial moving forward.

RH – Yeah, because we are growing and producing a product, and we’re a manufacturing organization at a certain level we’re not able to all be home. For the staff that needed to come into the winery, and the staff at the packaging facility, we were able to create a safe workplace for them to all come into during COVID, to make sure that we could continue as a business and to operate. I think for us it was unique, not everyone’s role allowed them to work from home. And yet, I think we’ve learned a lot about coming back to business resilience in what’s made us resilient. I feel like now as a company we’ve been in business since 2005 this is the second major economic downturn that we’ve been through. Now we can say we survived a global pandemic and feel really good today about this organization and its strength.

PDP – My interview day I remember asking you about, not just the wine industry, but the canned-wine industry. I remember your answer was something along the lines of “yeah man, lots of blue skies left” like, don’t worry. Every time something reared its head, I would think alright, we’ll figure it out. Blue skies indeed.

Ryan Harms UWC Owner and Founder

PDP – So, going further back in time, back to pre-Instagram times. Definitely pre-Tok-Tok—maybe Myspace was around doing its thing, some AOL. I want to talk about Mr. Ryan Harms, Pre- Union. Your first winery/vineyard job. And, if you could describe the deciding lightbulb, over-the-head-moment when you decided “OK, Wine. Here we go”.

RH – Yeah, so go back to 1997. When I went into college, I wanted to be a doctor, and so everything that I was thinking about coursework was all structured around that. Then I realized that that wasn’t in the cards, and I was going to need to kind of rethink where I was going career-wise. Now looking back it’s pretty funny, you know, freshman/sophomore in college, you think you’d really have that all sorted out. I was reassessing things that were interesting to me and what I wanted to explore. Wine had been something I was always a little interested in. My girlfriend’s family at the time was super into wine. Being around their household I was exposed to it. So, I reached out to Rex Hill, and Lynn Penner-Ash was the winemaker there at the time. She gave me a harvest job, and an opportunity to come to Oregon. I’d never been here, just a kid from New York at the time. I came out here and worked harvest in 1997. It rained, I think pretty much from September 15th on…it was not one of the high-quality vintages. It was stormy, yeah, it was a tough vintage. I absolutely loved it. Loved every minute of it. I met some awesome people and wanted to get back here as soon as I could. I graduated college and Josh Bergström from Bergström wines was also working his first vintage. His family had just purchased some land in Dundee. Move forward a couple of years, they were developing and just getting their winery off the ground. He gave me an opportunity to come back to work with him. That was my first full-time job in the wine business after working harvest in 97.

Ryan Harms UWC Owner and Founder

PDP – That’s awesome. That’s around that time when people were still utilizing whatever equipment they could to get the job done. Do you remember using any old basket presses?

RH – At Rex Hill there wasn’t a basket press, we had an old Willmes press. It was super manual to run, and probably scary as can be to think about the way in which it functioned and working around it. But it was a total kick-in-the-pants to run.

PDP- Well, as we’re taking this trip back in time, and through all the things that we’ve dealt with in the last year, let’s flash forward, but not all the way to the present. I’ve been curious, and I know a few of our other folks here at Union have been curious to get the story straight. For all the folks out there that enjoy our Underwood canned wines, where, if you can recall, was the very first Underwood can cracked?

Ryan Harms UWC Owner and Founder

RH – Well, I can say my first can that I cracked was somewhere in August of 2013. We canned the first trial run of pinot gris and pinot noir that was all being done for the upcoming Feast event in September of that year. I don’t know where I was, not at the winery when it happened… I was going camping that weekend and I stopped at the winery really quick. Grabbed some cans and went out to the Oregon coast. I had two cans that evening, absolutely loved it. Then I couldn’t understand why I could barely move after that and realizing that I basically just consumed a bottle of wine. So, it’s a great moment on a couple of different levels. So excited to finally have wine in a can that was our product and was super excited about that. And then this kind of this epiphany that yeah, you just drank a bottle of wine.

PDP – I love that. The first story, the story from you is almost verbatim to a lot of folk’s same enjoyment of those cans. Knowing firsthand being on the road promoting the wines and sharing them with the good folks out there, that’s one of the parts of the double-edged sword of delicious wine.

PDP – In general the idea of Union Wine Co. and the credo which our podcasts is aptly named for—“pinkies down podcast”—what is #pinkiesdown? And what is the genesis story behind that?

RH – Sure. The decision to get can wine out into the public and “pinkies down” all came from this awesome brainstorm session earlier in 2013. We had committed to doing the Feast event and we were doing some planning in the spring of that year to try to think about how were we gonna show up at Feast? As part of that, there was this whole creative group that had been working with us, and they were there for this brainstorming session. We had talked about canned wine, a couple of the guys were aware of it as this idea that we wanted to bring the life. In that brainstorming session canned wine, the idea of the wine truck, and “pinkies down” all came out. I walked out of that session with my stomach hurting from laughing, and just having one of those moments where the chemistry in the room was phenomenal. Then you think about that moment and how transformational a bunch of ideas in this one brainstorming session has been for our company. So, “pinkies down” was there, it was just kind of solidifying a way of thinking, a way of looking at the world, putting, I guess, a label on something that has always been a core with this company. It was incredible. It was one of those moments where you could only hope to replicate it. Yeah, and I think ever since then, like in 2014, you try to think about planning for Feast again and you’re always chasing the experience you had and the ideas that came about from the prior year…and we’ve kind of, to a degree, been chasing ever since, something that you just can’t replicate.

Ryan Harms UWC Owner and Founder

PDP – So to step to another side of the conversation, the idea of conservation in wine and some of the steps that we’ve already started taking towards being a better winery. Can you speak to that, and this year, and where we’re going?

RH – Yeah, to me at a simple level there is something that’s inherent in a company that is making Oregon products. I think we both support the perception of Oregon products, and our “Oregon-ness” helps to support our products. So, right off the bat, I think we start from the standpoint of ‘we’re thinking about conservation and we’re thinking about the environment.’ We’re thinking about the impacts that we have. I think that is probably true in lots of businesses, but it’s very true here in Oregon. If you’re doing business here it’s part and parcel of how you show up. For us as a company for a long time, I think I have been saying we’ve gotta “walk the walk” but we haven’t always wanted to talk about what we do, and how we approach it. I think it’s been both a learning experience, and me building confidence and being comfortable talking about the things we do. Not because we’re bragging about them, but more because we’re proud of how we show up in our community and in society. The last couple of years I think it’s also a product of a crazy growth curve. There have been some points where we are just trying to hold on to keep this whole thing from disintegrating as it’s kind of a rocket ship. I think we’re finally digesting a little bit of the growth. We have the ability to step back and ask, you know, what are the things that we should be talking about, and what are the things that we’re able to do? This year feels like a little bit of a culmination of where we can both celebrate some of the stuff that we’ve done as an organization year in year out, and finally talk about it. Then, I think in terms of the “Give Back Can” and our focus on some charitable giving, it’s a point where the success that we’ve had as a business, we’re finally able to be able to give back. I’m super proud of that. I think as an organization hopefully everyone here is super proud of us getting to a point where we have the financial resources to make that kind of commitment. You know, it’s a little bit of putting your money where your mouth. It is a little bit of walking the walk, and I’m excited that we’re finally at that point.

PDP – Absolutely. In the future having transparency is one of the best forms of currency you can have, right? When you can not only talk the talk and walk the walk but be open about that path you’re taking. I think that’s important and I’m happy and proud that we’re doing it.

RH – Yeah, and just from an organizational standpoint, trying to have internal initiatives to think about water reduction in the cellar and thinking about energy conservation. Simply being able to actually put some of those initiatives forward and begin to work on some multi-year projects is super exciting, and I think a great opportunity for us. There are always areas that we can get better at, and I think as a company we’re finally able to focus and look a little deeper into what we’re doing to see how we can improve what we’re doing always.

PDP – Always forward. Well, with that said. Coming to our wrap-up here. If you could close us out, speaking of always forward, Union Wine Company, but more importantly Ryan Harms. What are you looking forward to 2021-2022 to 2030? Close us out here with a little bit of a “blue skies” as we call it. What are you looking forward to this coming future?

RH – Blue skies as it’s raining out right now, right? Well, we need the rain. Yeah, so I mean, man, 2021 has already been a year that we didn’t entirely expect, in all good ways. We just closed on a vineyard purchase out in Sheridan which is totally exciting. We didn’t enter the year thinking that we’d be acquiring vineyard ground. Back to the sustainability side of our business, taking more of a direct hand in our farming. Being able to think from a cultural standpoint about how we’re approaching our farming, what is important to us—becoming more integrated in that way is an exciting opportunity and growth. Now that we’ve gone down this path, we will continue to be looking to acquire more vineyard ground and become bigger growers at the end of the day. Which hasn’t historically been how our business is structured, so that’s totally exciting. I continue to see great opportunities for our canned wine products and, you know, continued growth in that regard. Some of our other projects are a lot of fun. Amity vineyards right now is in development of a couple acres that have just been replanted, and we have about 10 more acres that are going to be planted next spring that’s entirely new ground. There’s a lot of energy and excitement around that project. I see good things ahead for several of our brands. Then, here at the winery, we’re getting ready to break ground on a new crush pad, hopefully, any day now. Kind of continued fun investments here, things that will make us more efficient and be able to continue to help shepherd our growth going forward. I don’t know yet about 2030, I haven’t gotten there yet. I think in terms of 2021-2022 I can see some really good things on the horizon.

Ryan Harms UWC Owner and Founder

Rosé Sangria for Summer

Summer Rose Sangria

Summer is here and we are all about it. The days are longer, warmer, and full of hope as more and more of us are able to see our friends and family after a long year of trying to stay safe. So let’s celebrate with an easy, picnic ready Rosé Sangria! With fresh fruit, coconut sugar, and Grand Marnier, this simple and refreshing sangria is sure to be a favorite all summer long. We like to pair this recipe with a good friend, a picnic blanket, and a shady spot in our local park.

Summer Rose Sangria

Summer Rose Sangria


1 orange, cut into wedges
2 cups strawberries, halved
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 cans of chilled Underwood Rosé
1/3 cup Grand Marnier
1 handful of fresh mint leaves
1 lemon, sliced
1 mango, peeled & cubed
1/2 cup blackberries
Sparkling water for serving

Summer Rose Sangria

Place oranges and strawberries in the bottom of a large mason jar or portable glass pitcher. Add the coconut sugar and stir.
Let sit for approximately 15 minutes.
Pour in the rosé and Grand Marnier. Add the mint and lemon. Stir and place in the fridge for 1-3 hours.
Pour the sangria into glasses with ice and top with sparkling water. Add the mango cubes, blackberries, and some fruit from the pitcher to skewers for garnish (and snacks).

Summer Rose Sangria

Recipe Inspired by: A Couple Cooks

World Ocean’s Day and Our Conversation with The Nature Conservancy’s Associate Director for the Coast and Marine

Today we celebrate our world’s oceans. That seems like the perfect day to celebrate an Oregon Coast treasure – Cascade Head Preserve. The nature preserve and surrounding national forest at Cascade Head are so special they have won recognition as a National Scenic Research Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve. The waters off the coast here are also protected as one of Oregon’s five marine reserves. Pretty rad right? Thanks to the fine folks at The Nature Conservancy, such as Dick Vanderschaaf, this stunning site will be around to safely enjoy for decades to come. Continue reading for information from our Pinkies Down Podcast interview with The Nature Conservancy’s Associate Director of the Coast and Marine Program – Dick Vanderschaaf.

Welcome Dick, can you tell us about your history with The Nature Conservancy?

DV- Hi, I’ve been here with The Nature Conservancy for many moons, and really enjoy my work. I do all sorts of fun things here at the coast, primarily working on conservation, no surprise. In the salty world, primarily in the ocean, but also somewhat in the estuaries as well—all here on our diverse coastline.

Cascade Head

Cascade Head Viewpoint1©Devan King/TNC

PDP- Well, thank you for everything you do. We appreciate it. As a lot of my fellow Oregonians and folks from outside of Oregon love and enjoy spending time at the coast, we want to keep it as beautiful as ever. We appreciate you and everything you folks do.

To start us off, we’re going to talk about marine protected areas today. Can you tell us what is a marine protected area?

DV- Sure, a marine protected area is really an area just as it sounds: a designated site that’s typically in the ocean, usually it abuts to land, but it doesn’t have to. It could be out there in the open ocean. It protects all sorts of the resources that are contained within it. The fish, the bottom habitat, the seaweeds that are maybe there. All these different things, in different ways. And there’s all different kinds of marine protected areas. Some prevent all sorts of extraction fishing and any kind of development. These are usually called a marine reserve, that’s the strongest kind of protection that we have available. Whereas other ones have other sorts of limitations on certain kinds of fishing. Potentially they may that there’ll be no ocean development of different kinds.

Nowadays we’re seeing a lot of interest in the ocean for energy development, these sorts of things. People created offshore wind development on the East Coast, and it’s being looked at here in the West Coast of the US as well. A marine protected area could be designated to say ‘no energy development’ as well.

Cascade Head

Cascade Head Viewpoint2©Devan King/TNC

PDP- Thank you for shedding a little light on that. With a better understanding of marine protected areas, diving deeper into a more specific spot: Cascade Head. Could you speak on the history in this story on that location?

DV- Yeah sure. Cascade Head, as you probably know, is a well-known big headland on the Oregon coast right on the Central Coast. The headland itself was purchased by The Nature Conservancy way back in 1966. We protected this big grassy prominent headland that overlooks the Salmon River. It’s been a Nature Conservancy preserve for all these years now. The one thing that we always have known as we went up hiking there and protecting this unique grassland habitat right there at the coast, is that we were not protecting the ocean—and we knew we needed to. We weren’t the only people coming to realize that ocean protection was something that needed to be pursued much more strongly here in Oregon.

In the early 2000s, the governor directed the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council, a citizen group who advises the governor, to come up with a process to protect special areas along the Oregon coast in the Oregon marine environment. Eventually what happened was, five areas were up for proposal for designation, of which offshore of Cascade Head was one of them. Then, there was a citizen panel that evaluated the site of Cascade Head. This took a year, and of course there’s lots of contentions about these sorts of things. But that finally wound its way through the process and recommendation was made to the Oregon legislature.

Then in 2012 there were five sites that were designated on the Oregon coast and Cascade Head was one of them. Cascade Head itself was already marine reserve. So again, that’s the strongest kind of protection and prevents any sorts of extractions. You can’t take any fish from this site, you can’t take any seaweed, you can’t do any development at the site—these sorts of things. Then, surrounding the marine reserve there are a series of three protected areas. There is one on the north side, there is one to the west side,  farther out in the ocean, and then there is one of the south side. These areas allow different sorts of “take” if you will. They allow sustainable fishing at some level. But they still prevent any kind of bought development whether it’s going to be for renewable energy or whatever the case may be. So, they’re still highly protected.

At Cascade Head, we have not only the land-based protected area, which is The Nature Conservancy preserve, but we also have the ocean-based protected area. And in the 1970s, the United Nations initiated and set aside the land-based area as the Cascade Head biosphere reserve, which is the international designation. So, Cascade Head really has both the land and the water protection going for it now. It’s just a huge complete package, which is really cool.

Cascade Head

Cascade Head Viewpoint3©Devan King/TNC

PDP- What a special place. But wow, that’s really quite a long period of time to get established?

DV- Yeah, it took a long time. There are a lot of meetings. A lot of contention about these things because they are setting cited areas that are excluding some traditional uses. It took a lot of meeting people to make agreements and compromises going forward. Cascade Head again, the offshore area is very well known as having the largest offshore reef: Siletz Reef, along the Oregon coast. It has some highly sustained fisheries as well. The marine reserve excludes any kind of fishing. But at the south end and the north end the marine protected areas that bracket the reserve do allow hook and line fisheries. That is again sustainable, and Oregon has well-regulated fisheries in general. These areas will be protected for a long time in a good way.

PDP- Fascinating. I know some of the fishing families have been around forever, some of those individuals and families being able to continue to earn a living and continue what they do is important. As general visitors such as myself or other folks that want to go visit Cascade Head, or other parts of the Oregon coast. How can we, as a collective, just be more mindful? What are some things that would be recommended?

DV- One thing to remember is there are five marine reserves. I certainly encourage people to go and visit these sites. They’re really interesting sites, each one is a little bit different. They span from the South coast at Redfish Rocks near Port Orford. It is an incredibly cool site; it is much different than the others. You can enjoy the beach, or you can get out into the water. Whether you’re a surfer or swimmer or paddler there’s ways to get into the water there.

I certainly encourage people to visit these five sites and enjoy them. To think of them kind of like a National Park. You go to National Park, and you may not be able to get to all of the park necessarily, but just the feeling of being at these sites is really a special feeling. The same thing holds true for the Oregon marine reserves, and the marine protected areas here on our coast.

A lot of people come to me and say “Well, how can I just go there and enjoy these sites? The Oregon ocean is so cold, what if I’m not a surfer with a strong wetsuit?” I say, “Just take your shoes off, wade down to the water, and you’re in the marine reserve! Right at that instant when your toes are down there just starting to numb off!”

You can certainly go and enjoy these sites on the North Coast. Many people enjoy the Cape Falcon reserve, they go to Oswald West State Park, which is of course hugely popular park here on the North Coast. It’s a place that many people visit. There’s over a million visitors a year there so these sites are accessible. They’re all special and I encourage people to go there and enjoy them in various ways. You can go hiking, you’re overlooking the ocean. You can be in the ocean if you have the wherewithal. Just go and enjoy them, that’s the most important thing to do.

PDP- I love it. A few of these places I hold near and dear. So, I sure enjoy hearing the zeal. Are there ways that we can continue to educate ourselves or help folks like yourself in The Nature Conservancy? Getting involved seems to be a good way to put the best foot forward.

DV- I think if you are traveling, if you’re local, you can certainly visit these sites and you can participate in various things here. You can maybe help with the monitoring program in one way or another. You can go to a site and maybe help with a regular beach cleanup. But if you’re not local you can certainly—with the wonders of digital media—keep up on these sites. Some places have videos you can watch, or you can certainly read through the agency websites that are tracking these things. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is the manager for the great reserves here in Oregon and they have a great website. For some places they have live-stream videos going on so there’s a lot of ways to keep up.

Finally, I certainly encourage you to support The Nature Conservancy. Our organization, and many other organizations as well, are looking at supporting and working hard at protecting the ocean. The ocean is obviously hugely important to us as people; it’s hugely important to our livelihoods; it has amazing cultural significance that we’re just beginning to better understand. I think we’re going to see in the future some marine protected areas come forward that are strictly being set aside for cultural reasons. Which is really neat to see this newly added diversity of importance for these sites, not just protecting biological diversity. But certainly, I encourage people to support organizations that are trying to do the right thing for the ocean. And to stand up for them when it comes to talking to your representatives. One way or the other, say “Hey, these places are important to us. We need the ocean, and we want you to do everything you can for it.”

PDP- That’s right. Give them a holler. Well, thank you. We appreciate it a lot. Sincerely we really do. Everybody here at Union, myself obviously. I don’t know what I’d do without the Oregon coast. It is definitely a place to go find balance. The least we can do is our best to protect it and keep it the beautiful place that it is.

An Inspired Evening in Nature

Pan-Roasted Whole Trout with Union Wine Company Chardonnay

Some of us love to camp, some of us feel so-so about it, and some of us want a real bed while still enjoying the outdoors. A little something called “glamping” has gained in popularity over the years. It generally involves a structure of some sort, but still the open sky and a place to enjoy food, friends, and a good beverage while being outside in nature. We think this is the perfect moment to enjoy a bottle of our Alchemist wine for an elevated experience.

Alchemist Chardonnay pairs perfectly with this fancy-looking, yet simple-to-make meal. We dug through our favorite cookbooks and found a whole trout recipe that is easy to prepare and doesn’t require too many ingredients. Bonus points if you catch the trout earlier in the day. Otherwise, just make sure you ask your local fishmonger for a “dressed” whole trout. Dressed means it is descaled and gutted. Start off the meal with a fire-baked brie and you’ll be in heaven.

Camp Fire Baked Brie

Camp Fire Baked Brie

1 small brie wheel

1 apple


Rosemary and thyme

Crusty bread

Cut the top off the wheel of brie and place the brie in a small cast iron pan. Slice the apple and place it around the wheel along with some fresh herbs. Put some tin foil over the pan and place it over a fire with hot embers. Check on it every 5-10 minutes until the top is gooey and slightly melted. Once it is done, remove it from the fire, drizzle with honey and some fresh apple slices. Enjoy on pieces of bread or crackers.

Camp Fire Baked Brie with Chardonnay

Whole Pan-Roasted Trout with Green Goddess Butter and Roasted Spring Vegetables

Open Fire Glamping Recipe Ingredients

Whole Pan-Roasted Trout 

serves 3 to 5

2–3 whole trout, branzino, or small black bass (12–14 ounces each), gutted and scaled

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few sprigs of fresh savory, thyme, oregano, marjoram, or rosemary

1–2 tablespoons canola oil

Green Goddess Butter (see the recipe below)

2 lemons or limes, halved

Flaky sea salt.

Whole Roasted Trout

Pan Roasted Trout

Make sure your fire has enough hot embers to cook

Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the inside with the herbs of your choosing and rub the outside of the fish with the oil. Place the fish directly on a pre-warmed cast iron pan with the spine facing you (this will make it easier to flip later). Let it cook, without moving or fussing, until the skin is charred, crisped, and fully cooked on one side, 6 to 8 minutes.

Test to see if the fish is ready to turn by using a spatula to flip the fish away from you onto its other side. A perfectly cooked fish will easily release from the grill; if it struggles, chances are it’s not ready, so give it another minute. Once ready, flip the fish and continue cooking until the skin is crisped and the fish is fully cooked, another 6 to 8 minutes.

Use the spatula to transfer the fish onto one large serving platter (or two large plates). Spoon on some of the butter, letting it melt over the fish. Squeeze the citrus over and sprinkle with the flaky salt. Serve any extra butter alongside.

Green Goddess Butter

Green Goddess Butter – Can be made ahead of time

1⁄2  cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1⁄2  cup fresh parsley, tender leaves and stems, very finely chopped

1⁄4  cup fresh tarragon leaves, very finely chopped

1⁄4  cup very finely chopped fresh chives

4 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely grated

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the butter, parsley, tarragon, chives, anchovies, garlic, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Smash with a fork until well blended (alternatively, place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined). Season with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD  Green Goddess Butter can be made up to 2 weeks ahead, covered tightly, and refrigerated. Bring the butter to room temperature before serving.

Glamping dinner recipe

Pan-Roasted Late Spring Veggies 

1 bunch of small turnips

1 bunch radishes

Green garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Trim green tops off of radishes and turnips and half lengthwise. Trim off the bottom and tops of green garlic and half lengthwise as well. Toss radishes, turnips, and garlic in olive oil with salt and pepper. Add a glug of olive oil into your second cast iron pan. Add a piece of tin foil to the top to act as a lid, or a lid if you have one. Roast anywhere from 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until the vegetables look brown and roasted.

Alchemist Chardonnay

Chardonnay pairs nicely with a more meaty fish like salmon, trout, or halibut. Our Chardonnay is fresh and bright, aged in neutral French oak for only a few months. This gives it a little bit of body and texture, but not an overpowering oakiness.

Alchemist Chardonnay Glamping Dinner at Getaway House

Trout and Green Goddess Butter Recipe by Alison Roman. The roasted vegetable recipe is based on an Alison Roman Recipe. All these recipes can be found in her book, Nothing Fancy.