Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Relief Open Thread

This is a place to suggest valid charities and relief groups for helping victims of Katrina. Here are a couple to get started:

Mercy Corps
American Red Cross
Northwest Medical Teams

There are many more...perhaps you can add...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Better Late than Comment Spam

Hi all,

I took a while to get Day 4 of our trek out there...sorry. I've also been deleting spam in our comments section rather alot (Spamalot). I hope that our pals at Blogger are working on a way to combat this as it is quite annoying. Don't be surprised if you are required to enter a verbal confirmation phrase embedded in a freaky graphic file soon.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In Tribute to a True Pioneer

On June 3rd Don Snabulus posted an article about the Moog Fest, celebrating 40 years of the Moog synthesizer and its indelible effect on contemporary music.

Well, now, sadly, Robert Moog has decayed and released, aged 71, felled by a brain tumor. How ironic, considering his brain and the ideas that flowed out of it had such a strong impact on the world of musical instruments.

Moog never claimed to be a musician. He called himself a "toolmaker" whose customers were musicians. His early efforts were huge, clunky machines with lots of cables and knobs (and sometimes they were even played by knobs). True to form, even the newer products put out by the Moog company seem bulky compared with today's industry standards. Many if not most of the devices are even based on surprisingly primitive technology. Still, there is no replacement for their sound or their reliability.

Rest in peace, Robert Moog!

(Hmm...I've never owned a Moog product. Maybe I should look at that MIDI-controlled, digitally programmable Minimoog module...or one of those really wild Moog effectors...)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hiking Down the Oregon Cascades

Well, thanks to a few factors, our great 2005 Pacific Crest Trail section hike did not flourish into the full 110 mile, 2 week backpack trip we had hoped. Instead, Ladybug traveled 52 miles (so far) and a smaller excursion is planned for later this week after I am over bronchitis and a couple of foot problems are healed.

Since this journal is going to occupy space already blogged in by The Moody Minstrel, this post will serve as in index for each day’s activities.

Update: At the doctor's advice, there won't be a week two as originally planned. I have an infection in one big toe and will likely lose the nail. I may lose the other big toe nail as well (it doesn't hurt, but has a blue spot). The bronchitis should be knocked down soon as well. I have an antibiotic called OmniCef that is supposed to take care of both. He told me to maybe go swimming instead.

Week 1, Day 1: Odell Lake

Week 1, Day 2: Whitefish Creek

Week 1, Day 3: Bingham Lakes

Week 1, Day 4: Tolo Camp Springs

Week 1, Day 5: Mt. Ladybug and Mt. Snabulus

Week 1, Day 6: Diamond Lake Resort


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Week 1, Day 6: Diamond Lake Resort

August 18th, 2005
Destination: Diamond Lake Resort
Distance: 12.0 miles
Climbed: 500 ft.
Descended: 2,300 ft

It was still pretty dark when we got up and going. The morning air at 7,000+ feet was chilly but still. It was dead quiet all night with only an occasional (and unnerving) noise among the sticks on the ground or branches in the tree. I don’t think Ladybug slept that well either since we carped at each other about unimportant things. In any case, we set a personal record by being on the trail by 6:35am.

After about a mile of hiking and more climbing, we reached high enough where the views were just busting out to greet us. Although the elusive Mt. Thielsen was still obscured by Howlock Mountain, we were happy to see the low, thick clouds down in the valleys like ghostly lakes spread out below us and to see this high country. The reddish knob of Tipsoo Peak was a great site. We worked our way along the outside of that peak along a hill side of reddish soil just below the timberline. Still climbing; but gradually now.

We reached another saddle and reached the high alpine meadows. Although only a few of tiny, purple dwarf lupines were still blooming and an occasional pipsissewa, one could imagine a month earlier where dazzling reds, blues, and yellows complemented the greens and the loud buzz of thousands of bees, flies, and mosquitoes would have filled the air. Only the flies remained to greet us at this late date. Somewhere in all these fields, we reached the highest point of our trip at 7,560 feet. This was also the highest point on the PCT in Oregon. It was unmarked so we didn’t realize it until we were going downhill for good.

As we kept walking along to the west of Howlock Mt., we finally reached a spot where we could see Mt. Thielsen. I am a sucker for stratovolcanoes like Mt. Hood, St. Helens, etc., so I considered this view to be a prize for the trip. Although not well glaciated, Mt. Thielsen has a great alpine look (kind of a Paramount Pictures thing) and it is known as the Lightning Rod of the Cascades.

We started to descend for real now, with some 2,300 feet down to go before reaching our destination. Although it was a relief not to be climbing anymore, we were on a mission to finish so we increased our pace and it punished our feet (more on that later when they hurt more). We met a few interesting characters that morning. The first were a pair of hikers who were actually filthier than we were. Although we hadn’t showered in days, we at least tried to keep the first layer or two of dust off of us. The guy in this group had a mop of dark red hair and his face was literally grimy like a three year old after playing in a sandbox with a popsicle. A woman walked behind him but she was only slightly dirtier than we were. We asked where they started today and he replied in a huffy voice, “Mexico.” I concluded he was a jerk, but also in a hurry to “get mileage” as some try to achieve records out here.

We also met an older man in his seventies or possibly even eighty walking about as slowly as we did most of the trip. He was very nice and we chatted for a few minutes about destinations, arrivals, and equipment. He was carrying a single trekking pole.

Digression: Trekking poles are lightweight aluminum walking sticks. They look like ske poles modified to fit a walker’s hand. Some people swear by them and some don’t feel the need. Of the dew dozen people we came across on the trail, there were many who used poles and many who did not. I used them for this hike. It took my arm muscles a couple days to work into the routine, but I found them invaluable for stabilizing my bad feet and maintaining a constant speed. On the other hand, Ladybug kept hers stowed in her pack for 99% of the trip. On at least three separate occasions she tried to make use of them, but they just didn’t feel right. My advice to those who are contemplating a long hike is to see if you can borrow a set for a day hike to see if they are “your thing.” End of Digression.

Soon we descended to the Howlock Mountain trail junction and left the PCT superhighway behind. We did not see another person for seven miles. This trail descended along the spine of a ridge. Much of the first couple miles were spent in a beautiful and shady forest of giant mountain hemlock trees with trunk sizes reminiscent of redwood stands at times. This forest was broken by more open areas as we traversed sideward along steep hillsides as we steadily went downward.

As we continued for a couple more miles, signs of horse use gradually increased as did the amount of sunlight penetrating to the forest floor. I’d had enough experience in this region by now to recognize that we were now below 6,500 feet. Somewhere in this stretch Ladybug and I both thought we heard quiet voices, but we were fatigued enough and driven enough not to mention it for several minutes. When Ladybug did mention it, I was immediately relieved not to be the victim of auditory hallucinations. We never saw anyone though and trudged on without solving the mystery.

Just about the time we really needed it, we heard the trickling waters of Thielsen creek. This was the first real stream we had run across in 48 miles and it was as if we could hear the Music of the Spheres. We crossed the creek on a log (another reason I was glad to have trekking poles to offset my terrible sense of balance) and soon we were sitting in a small meadow of yellow monkeyflowers. We drank a bunch of our water so we could refill as much as possible from the purest source of water yet. As beautiful as it was, though, we knew that a few pebbles of deer poop upstream could mean a nasty bout of Giardia, so we treated this water as well. We finished off the Cheez-Whiz to be sure to have enough salt for the last four miles. We spoke during some of our rest breaks about what kind of food and drink would really hit the spot after a week of dried food. The favorites were fresh salad and either burgers or chicken. Ladybug mentioned V-8 and I thought about a cold root beer to drink. We settled for power bars and trail mix of course, but the real food was near now. Our descent was now more than half over and my toes were killing me. Ladybug’s feet were in great pain too. We took about 45 minutes to recover at our private streamside meadow, then we were off again.

Now that we were below 6,000 feet we had one more gauntlet to run, four more miles of the Lodgepole Desert Dust Circus. Actually, the term we started using for it at this point was “that f-ing lodgepole desert.” Apparently, horse people like to ride in “open country” that resembles the Ponderosa since the trail almost immediately turned into a dusty, horseshoe rutted hellhole the moment we entered it. Once again, we were forced into to inhale horse poop laced dust cocktail for most of the rest of the hike. For the next three miles, there was little happening except hiking, grumbling, and foot pain. When we finally heard road traffic from Highway 138, we were relieved to know that we were almost there. A giant culvert pipe passed under the highway that was big enough for people on horses to pass through. It was stinky from horse poo, but we experienced a refreshing minute of cool shadiness. We met our first horse train just past the tunnel with only 100 yards left to the trailhead.

Once at the trailhead we had about a mile to go (but we didn’t know that yet). We tried to inquire with the only people we saw about the direction to the resort, but they were riding away by the time we got to where we saw them. We found our way to the road to the resort and started walking down. A sign said it was a 1/2 mile to the lodge and it was about right. There was almost no shade and it was a very hot walk, but it was nice to be out of the dust. My feet felt like hamburger at that point pounding along the pavement and gravel. Eventually, we saw the beautiful Diamond Lake and checked in to the lodge. Twelve miles of hiking by 2:30pm and we felt it.

We could barely manage the stairs up to our room. We opened the door and gleefully dumped our dusty old gear. The first order of business was SHOWERS. We both took showers and got into the cleanest clothes we had left. Then we headed down to the lodge restaurant for lunch. Real food! Real water! We walked down to the lodge gingerly and with very tired muscles. People noticed our wobbly gaits to be sure. We sat down and ordered lunch. I went for the reuben sandwich, mushroom barley soup, and some orange juice while Ladybug had a chicken breast sandwich, cottage cheese, and tomato juice. Oh, that soup went down so nicely. I felt my self rejuvenating with every spoonful.

We walked around the resort area a little bit and enjoyed the lakeside. We called family to let them know we were safe. Mostly we napped, showered again, and laid in those wondrous clouds of comfort called beds. The beds were the hit of the day. After dinner back at the lodge (more fresh treats), we were ready to crash and so we did.

Culture Shock in the Disney DVD

Here's a very good example of the dangers involved in importing pop culture, or even traditional culture, from other countries. Disney's latest attempt to import an animated feature from Japan's reknowned Studio Ghibli (maker of such blockbusters as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, among many others) has left at least one American reviewer scratching his head with both puzzlement and disgust.

This particular movie, Pom Poko, is based on traditional Japanese mythology concerning the tanuki, or raccoon dog (not "raccoon", as the reviewer mistakenly says). The problem is that, in old Japanese mythology, the tanuki is not only a very clever and mischievous, supernatural creature with shape-shifting abilities. It is also, shall we say, well endowed...and it tends to make very good use of that endowment, as this movie accurately portrays...much to the reviewer's sorrow...

The Europeans have long accused Americans of being too (hypocritically) prudish. I wonder what the Japanese would say about this review? Maybe I should ask...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Week 1, Day 5: Mt. Ladybug and Mt. Snabulus

August 17th, 2005
Destination: Mt. Ladybug and Mt. Snabulus
Distance: 11.0 miles
Climbed: 1,700 ft.
Descended: 900 ft

Digression: Information quality is variable and iffy on the Pacific Crest Trail. Over the course of talking to people and sharing what we had heard about water availability at Tolo Camp, it was never the same twice. The people with the snarly dogs told us the springs should be easy to find. A warning message left by a hiker at Windigo Pass told us not to settle for the mud hole 1/3 of a mile down the hill, but go 100 yards down for the clear water. A message left by another hiker at Tolo stated that water was 200 yards down. There were a few older gentlemen camped near us at Tolo. One said that he walked down a mile without encountering water. Another that came in to camp later (presumably from down the hill) told Ladybug he walked two miles without finding any water. Don’t worry, the water story gets more convoluted as we go. End of Digression.

On this morning, we roused ourselves before the sun came up and started the morning routine. We looked at our water reserves. A couple of liters we left. We thought about all of our data points and weighed whether we wanted a possible 4 mile side trip for water or just hike to our destination, Maidu Lake, just 7 miles ahead and enjoy a whole lake full of the stuff. Those old guys had better and lighter equipment than we did and sure seemed more acclimatized to hiking than we did, so we decided to believe them regarding scarcity of water and we bugged out. Ladybug snapped a picture or two of the beautiful sunrise and we started hiking at about 7am to get as many miles behind us as we could before it got warm.

Just a few hundred yards out of camp, I couldn’t remember packing our water treatment stuff. Since we found things laying around after we picked up our packs, Ladybug headed back to make sure we hadn’t left anything behind. Meanwhile, I tore my pack apart looking for the iodine, but didn’t find any. She came back empty-handed, so we assumed we overlooked it and continued. We tried not to think about the time we wasted backtracking.

The first couple of miles were viewless but cool and shady. The mountain hemlocks in this area were large (4 to 5 feet in diameter on average) and there was little underbrush, so we were looking at a forest near its prime. Eventually we finished our morning climbing and found ourselves looking over some beautiful glacial valleys and eventually we were gazing over the shimmering waters of Miller Lake. We threw down the packs and rested for a while. Ladybug turned a fallen log into a resting cot while I took a couple of pictures.

We continued on down some mountain a few miles until we reached a trail junction at which a trail connecting Maidu Lake and Miller Lake criss-crossed the Pacific Crest Trail. We sat and started ripping apart the packs looking for our precious iodine tablets and other items. They showed up in some strange corner of my gear (blush). In the process, we made the decision to water up at the lake and continue on. The trail junction was at 6,200 feet elevation, Maidu Lake was at 5,900+ ft., and we knew we were going to hit the high point of the Pacific Crest Trail the next day at 7,560 ft. It made sense to put a dent in that ascent, so we stashed our backpacks behind a big tree and put our empty water bottles and lunch in a garbage bag to take down to Maidu Lake (about a mile away). We would fill up with water and then return to continue our hike.

We got another taste of our famed Lodgepole Desert Dust Circus on the hike down to the lake including horse poop and lots of dust. I was getting a clue that elevation was determining our flora, but it wouldn’t hit home until later. Ladybug agreed to carry the garbage bag to the lake as long as I would carry it back up to the trail (full of water of course).

When we reached the lake, we sized up the situation looking for a good place to fill the water. There were people swimming out in the lake (as well as a dog) and the now familiar mudhole where a hundred hooves ripped up the shoreline to afford this life-giving gift of water to the horses. There was one difference at this lake though. Frogs. Hundreds of them all over the shoreline soaking up the sun. We’d had enough sun, so we were enjoying the cool breeze coming in off the lake. After a while, it was cool enough to make standing in the sun more comfortable than the shade.

Ladybug owned our sole pair of water shoes, so she found a good spot to fill our water without silting it up with her own footsteps. The frogs parted to let her through. She caught a frog in the first bottle, but let it go. The frogs must have gotten the message because they dispersed for the rest of the job. She would fill each bottle, then toss it to me on shore. I performed the initial treatment on the way. We hung out and relaxed for a half-hour while the iodine destroyed the evil frog germs, hoof residue, and minute amounts of DEET and sunscreen (which we were able to push out of our minds at the time) hidden in that perfectly clear water. Eventually, we ate lunch, refilled and retreated our water supply, and readied to lug our water up the hill (my turn now). Just before we got up to go, the swimming dog came up to say Hi followed by his owners.

We chatted with them and it turns out they were headed to Tolo camp. We told them of our conflicting data points and how we decided to move on without trying to find the springs. They were counting on that water being there, so they had a discussion while we trundled off up the hill. We got back to the junction, got our packs and were repacking our gear when some hikers coming from behind us on the PCT caught up and so we chatted with them. They stopped at Tolo and had no trouble finding water just below the mudhole 1/3 of the way down. Apparently the old, wise, seasoned hikers were either dumb or inattentive (and what did that make us for believing them I wonder?). The other folks with the dog showed up about shortly and were heartened by the better news about Tolo. Hopefully we won’t hear about four human skeletons (and a dog) found below Tolo camp wherein the forensic pathologist determines the cause of death as dehydration. Somehow I think it probably turned out okay, but it does serve to show that there is no substitute for direct experience.

We marched on and braced ourselves for what seemed to be some brutal uphill coming up. We had a mile and a half of gradual uphill walking before things started steepening. We walked up the first unnamed ridge (named Mt. Ladybug by me) and collapsed on some rocks near the top, probably around 6,900 feet. With over half our climbing to the top completed, we trudged onward and upward a while longer and finally found a good sheltered flat area beneath another unnamed peak (which I call Mt. Snabulus). We were definitely over 7,000 ft. now and we had whittled down the distance to be hiked the next day by a few miles. It was not as bad as I feared.

We set up camp between our little mountains and it was cold. It didn’t help that I was drenched in sweat from the climb but, even after I put on a coat and hat, I never completely warmed up to shirt-sleeve comfort. Wispy puffs of white cloud whizzed overhead like migrating birds sometimes dissipating into the distance. I worried about the possibility of our first precipitation so we used our rain fly for the first time. Since we weren’t in an improved camp site and the highly flammable humus was very difficult to penetrate, I used the camp stove on the hiking trail to reduce the risk of fire. I was coughing a lot more with that lovely bronchitis, so I went to bed as soon as I could (as did Ladybug).

Let me just say one thing about being a big guy and sleeping on the ground. It sucks. I had a 3/8” foam pad and Ladybug had a borrowed Therm-a-rest. Neither of us slept like a baby. I generally couldn’t remain in any one position for more than an hour and I woke up at least a dozen times every night, usually many more, changing positions to relieve pain in the shoulders, hips, and neck. It was the same for Ladybug. This particular night was even tougher for me and I didn’t so much wake up the next morning as gave up on trying to sleep and even became a bit claustrophobic perhaps because the rain fly blocked my view of the stars through the bug mesh roof. But hey, it was our last night on the ground for this leg of the trip, so what the heck?

Digression: Some people drive Mini Coopers and some drive Winnebagos, but not always for the reasons you think and not always by choice. Most of the people we met on the trail had small, self-contained backpacks. Sleeping bags, tents, and the rest were safely inside the backpack. All of this good stuff comes at a price. We paid some of that price, but ran out of budget before buying all of the light stuff that would have added miles to our days and erased sweat from our climbs. $150 here and $75 bucks there for things as simple as clothes and shoes adds up too fast. In the end, we looked like Griswolds in Winnebagos compared to the petite campers with their expensive, superlight gear. We had tent poles and sleeping pads strapped on like CB antennas and gun racks. At the beginning of the trip, my pack was 42 pounds and Ladybug's was 35 pounds including water. There were people out there travelling with less than 20 pounds. I am hoping that next year we can afford the Mini-Cooper lifestyle because hauling the Winnebago was a chore. End of Digression.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Week 1, Day 4: Tolo Camp Springs

August 16th, 2005
Destination: Tolo Camp
Distance: 11.7 miles
Climbed: 1,400 ft.
Descended: 600 ft

During the night, a dry cough developed that I attributed to breathing dust and particalized horse poop for the last 10+ miles. I hoped it would go away when he hit the Pacific Crest Trail proper and got off the horse track. We made some breakfast, broke camp, and got on the trail around 8am. The Lodgepole Desert Dust Circus was ready for our daily pilgrimage as we passed by a smaller Bingham Lake and Oldenberg Lake on our way up to Windigo Pass. Luckily the morning was cool and the shadows were long. The nearly flat trail began to climb after Oldenberg Lake and we reached the Nip and Tuck Lakes trail junction after a couple more miles. We hiked a few hundred yards up a spur trail to find a good place to get water at the lake. We treated the water with iodine at the lake and walked back to the junction for an extended rest until we could finish treatment of the water.

Up until now, we only encountered one couple and a mountain biker over nearly twenty miles of trail. It was nice to have some campsite privacy, but we expected to say hi to a few people by now. Perhaps there would be more when we reached the Pacific Crest Trail. We continued to climb for a few more miles until we reached Road 60. This was the same road we traveled on yesterday, but it was not paved up here. Instead, a hardpan layer of red cinders made up the roadbed. We had 200 feet to climb and 3/4 of a mile to walk before reaching Windigo Pass. Once again, we found road walking was the hardest of all. There was little shade (at just past noon) and the road is tougher on the feet than trail. At least we were out of the dust and it seemed as though the forest was changing from lodgepole pine to more fir and hemlock trees, a hopeful sign that shade may be on the way. As we neared the top, we encountered two people on horseback who reassured us that the pass was right around the next bend. At the pass, we got our bearings, then prepared for lunch. Ladybug walked across the road from our trail launch point to take advantage of a circle of benches for lunch.

I was digging through my pack for some supplies when a couple of people with a couple of dogs happened by. The dogs came out snarling and growling while their owners tried to reign them in while simultaneously assuring me that they would not hurt me. I was skeptical. Barking I can handle, but snarling is something that will never put me at ease. After we got the dogs calmed down, the people turned out to be wealth of information about the trail we were embarking on. We lamented the Lodgepole Desert Dust Circus and they assured us that we had left it behind us (although they failed to mention that it wasn’t a permanent vacation). They also gave me some mileage and water information that turned out to be mostly true. Ladybug came over to join in and the dogs went nuts again. We talked a bit longer after that and the noisy dog brigade went on their way. Apparently, our lonely days of solitary trail walking were over (at least temporarily).

We finished our lunching and resting at Windigo Pass and readied to hike on up the official Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. We were about half done for the day, but there was another 900 feet of climbing to reach our zenith on the side of Tolo Mt. (6,800 ft.) and a 600 foot descent to reach Tolo Camp and those delectable springs. Well, they were supposed to be delectable. A messageboard at the pass was alden with news that the springs were really just a mudhole and that the good stuff could be found further down the hill, messsages for hikers to each other, and a makeshift trail register (which we signed). We would need to hike and see about the water. The first mile along our new track was still somewhat sunny, but the shady areas were lengthier and underbrush to look at. After miles without ground cover except around the lakes, we were refreshed to see manzanita, kinnikinnick, and a high country red huckleberry growing here. The bowl of dust left by horse traffic disappeared as well, so we could actually lose the thick patina of dust on our legs as we hiked.

We also saw three more young people hiking northward as we hiked south. They were worried about water, so we told them about straying from the trail to Nip and Tuck lakes. They wanted to stay on the trail, so we wished them luck. For a while, I felt guilty about not offering from our plentiful water (even though they hadn’t asked). Later, I would be glad we didn’t. The huckleberries were ripe and at times it smelled like we were walking in a big, sweet glass of wine. Since almost every flower was bloomed out for the year, we contented ourselves with this scent and the tiny red ornaments of the berries hanging on the dwarfish shrubs.

The climb steepened as we hit Tolo Mt., but thankfully the shade of the higher Mountain Hemlock forest engulfed us during the ascent. Nonetheless, when we finally reached a trailhead junction at the top of our climb, we were tired and it was already after 5 pm. We were hoping that we were within a couple miles of our camp. We discussed our itinerary and realized our 55 mile first week was really well over 60 miles after correcting for errors and confusion in our calculations. Given that my cough was deepening and we were showing few signs of hardening to the trail (as I did when I was a skinny teenager), we decided to change our end point to Diamond Lake. This would keep us near 50 miles (it would turn out to be 52) and keep us out of the Pumice Desert and the 17 mile waterless stretch that would have marked the end of our hike into Crater Lake National Park. We figured that we’d had enough lodgepole desert already. I pulled out the cell phone to let our pickup person know and was surprised (pleasantly) to find a decent signal up there in the middle of nowhere. We had a good line of sight to the west (although too obscured by trees to afford any good views). I called and left messages with a couple people hoping it would make it where it needed to.

We slung on our packs and descended down to Tolo camp. We were back on the verge of heat exhaustion again and it was about 6:30pm when we arrived. I immediately began coughing again and saw the unmistakable signs of bronchitis. That sucked. I also developed a large and nasty blister on my right heel. The camp was perched on a saddle between Tolo Mt. and an unnamed ridge with a nice exposure to the east and west (at least tonight when it wasn’t too windy). Some left a note reiterating the difficulty in finding water, but saying the water was even farther down. However, there were two older guys camping there already and one of them said he had walked down two miles and hadn’t found any water. Bad news. We were so tired, we decided we would worry about it in the morning. We still had a couple of liters left.

We cooked dinner and set up camp fairly quickly with Ladybug starting the tent work while I gathered food for the anti-bear bag and heating water. I help Ladybug finish the tent, we ate, slung the anti-bear bag, secured the gear and went to bed at about sunset (which was quite pretty from this location). The big trees and some decent ground cover made this a very pleasant setting after our arid start. 29.1 miles...whew! Over half way done and nowhere to go but straight ahead. On to tomorrow!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Week 1, Day 3: Bingham Lakes

August 15th, 2005
Destination: Largest of the Bingham Lakes
Distance: 7.0 miles
Climbed: 500 ft.
Descended: 500 ft

On the surface, this should have been a much easier day than the first and, to a small degree, it was. We were still fairly weak and shaky from our heat exhaustion of the day before. The trail mix and power bars I bought for our lunches were unsalted and the oatmeal-type breakfasts were low in sodium. Our MaryJane’s freeze-dried dinners might have had enough salt (and they sure hit the spot last night), but our main meals were too low in salt for the amount we were sweating out under the sunlight of this Lodgepole desert we were walking through (be prepared to hear that term with increasing venom throughout the hike). Luckily, we brought some beef sticks and some Cheez-Whiz as treats and these turned out to be important sources of salt. Whenever we started feeling weak, a squirt of Cheez-Whiz into the mouth along with some water generally perked us right up. We hoped we brought enough to last through the trip.

This day turned out to be even hotter than the last, mostly because shade was limited for all but a mile or so of the trail. After breakfast and breaking camp, we hiked down to the Odell Lake trailhead near Crescent Lake. Along the way, we saw some animal crap in the trail that was full of huckleberries and seeds. I believe it was left by a bear. Cool. Sorry, no pictures; I don’t take pictures of crap.

The trailhead emptied out into the Whitefish Horse Camp, a stop on a trail called the Metolius-Windigo Horse Trail. Since we were heading toward Windigo Pass, we could only hope that it was a different trail than ours (a false hope indeed). We watered up at the spigots and took advantage of the upscale outhouses since our next indoor bathroom was about 40 miles away. Our Pacific Crest Trail guide had a convoluted set of instructions on how to get from the Oldenberg Lake trail to our current location. Trying to translate it backwards turned out to be futile, so we took a trail called the Horse Trail bypass (which was heavily used by horses as it turns out) and hoped for the best. We ended up skirting around Crescent Lake and getting back on a forest service road (road 60) to find the trailhead. It was actually much simpler than the book, so that was nice, but what I thought would be a fraction of a mile turned out to be a couple miles. We read the signs at the trailhead and paid special attention to the bear stuff. Getting ransacked didn’t sound like fun, so we read intently.

We continued up the trail as the day’s heat and the lack of shade bore down on us. We stopped frequently to eat and drink water to stave off heat exhaustion, but we were still shaky from the previous day. There were a number of Forest Service signs to point directions and give mileages, but it seemed as though the numbers given were only within about 25% of the actual distances. I think guesses were etched in sometimes. We were treated to several nice views of Crescent Lake as we ascended out of the basin. We had lunch at the shrunken Pinewan Lake and rested for quite a while trying to get our strength back and then moved on. We stopped at the largest of a group of lakes called Bingham lakes. It was such a pretty place, we decided to camp here instead of proceeding one more mile to Oldenberg Lake. A nice breeze blew in off of the lake and the area just felt good.

We replenished our water supply and made dinner. Heeding the bear sign, we looked for a tree that could meet the specs necessary to keep bears out of the food (branch 20 feet up, 5 feet out on the branch, with the bag hung 12 feet above the ground). There was no word what we were supposed to do when an enraged bear, pissed at being denied food, went looking for something else to get into (like a tent). Since I snore louder than a chainsaw and our food was triple-sealed in plastic, I wasn’t too worried. A couple of random notes... I ripped out my hiking shorts, so I packed a change of clothes into the tent. This lake had the nicest sand of any mountain lake I've seen (usually it is black humus silt and sharp sticks).

AN ASIDE: I forgot to mention this earlier, so I will present it as an afterthought here...

You can't escape mankind. You wear clothes made in textile mills, carry space age plastics around in your pack, eat foods that are made lighter using very human techniques, etc. but that is all fairly easily forgotten when traipsing through the woods. During our first few days out here, we've heard fighter jets on maneuver, innumerable passenger jets, a few light planes, and some road and boat noise near the bigger lakes. However, there is one other thing we heard for four days in a row at around 4 or 5am without fail: the early freight train moving over Willamette Pass. Each day it was fainter, but we walked over 30 miles before we got away from the whistle and thrumming of that metallic workhorse each dawn. I thought it would be interesting for you to know that.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Week 1, Day 2: Whitefish Creek

August 14th, 2005
Destination: Unknown Tributary, Whitefish Creek
Distance: 10.4 miles
Climbed: 1,100 ft.
Descended: 500 ft

We woke up and made hot water for breakfast before other people were stirring. We could tell it was going to be a very warm day, so we broke down the tent and we left our site at 7:30am. We headed up to the trailhead and made our way up the valley next to the bubbling and very pleasant Trapper Creek. …And we went up and up and up until the trail veered away from the creek and into higher country. We finally reached the top of our climb and traversed to Diamond View Lake. Given our relative lack of conditioning, the heat of the day, and the reality of years of sedentary behavior, we were nearly exhausted as we stopped for lunch at the lake with its beautiful view of Diamond Peak.

After catching our breath, we continued on down the trail. Although we dropped in elevation these last few miles, the lush hemlock and fir forest of the Trapper Creek drainage gave way to more pines as we descended into the Whitefish Creek basin. Although it shows as a permanent stream on the map, Whitefish Creek was dry for most of its length. We were also introduced to the "Lodgepole Desert." The area we hiked through had scattered Lodgepole pines that were spindly and provided little shade. The ground cover was sparse as well.

We also encountered another new feature as we hiked this side of the hill; horse ruts...dusty, deep, and dry horse ruts filled the air with minerals, grit, and particalized horse manure. We were soon covered with a layer of tan as the day grew much hotter. We both descended down the hill and into a state of heat exhaustion as we marched along. A “reliable” tributary to the Whitefish was to be our last stop for the day. When we reached the little stream, it was a slow moving trickle which the horses stomped into a mud hole, but we were done for the day so hiked about 100 yards on and stopped.

We dropped our packs and learned about one of the differences between Ladybug and I. The flies went after me and the mosquitoes went after Ladybug. I helped get out the mosquito repellent (hereafter known as DEET, an abbreviation for the active ingredient) to provide her with some relief. We were both suffering from the heat exhaustion, so setting up camp was slow and arduous. It was akin to trying to set up a tent and cook dinner while having the flu.

Eventually, we fed ourselves and I was able to refill our water supply and put our new Potable Aqua 2 step Iodine treatment to the test. Most people don’t like to use iodine tablets to purify water because it tastes like, well, s**t. However, our setup has a new second step that is to be performed after the water is purified (30 minutes after initial treatment). This involves dropping a second set of pills into the water to nullify the bad test. It worked like a charm. Ironically, the magic ingredient is ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C. Good call!

As soon as possible, we dragged ourselves into the tent and felt our bodies collapse into the sleeping bags. Ladybug had a Thermarest and I had a foam pad for cushioning, but it still felt like we were trying to burrow a hole into the grounds with our hips and lower back. Eventually sleep came on.


I wonder if our grainy but sweet, renewable-fuelish friend has anything to do with this game, which is apparently a big hit in the state of Ohio. (What's round at both ends, high in the middle? WE ARE DEVO!!!) After all, it seems like a nice, "safe", non-violent sport...unless a couple of crazed rednecks start belting the beanbags at each other...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Week 1, Day 1: Odell Lake

August 13th, 2005
Destination: Odell Lake
Distance: 0 miles
Climbed: 0 ft.
Descended: 0 ft

My dad drove Ladybug and I up to Odell Lake in the central Oregon Cascades. The morning was warm and hazy as we drove up the Willamette Valley from Portland to Eugene. We made a pit stop at a rest area near Eugene. Ironically, one of the men’s bathrooms was being worked on and, for once in a blue moon, there was a long line to use the men’s restroom while the women’s was not busy. This caused enough mirth among the womenfolk that some were taking pictures of the line of men for posterity. Those of us in line tried to feign good humor while awaiting our chance to ease the pressure in our bladders.

Soon we were back on Interstate 5 and soon turned east onto Highway 58 into the mountains. The haze remained with us into the mountains. We passed through Oakridge, a city of about 3,300 people surrounded by national forest lands. We gassed up, noted the A & W and Dairy Queen locations for future trips and motored on up to Willamette Pass.

Having arrived at our destination, we scoped out a spot at the Trapper Creek forest service campsite, marked it as ours by putting up a tent, and then took off around the lake. We bought lunch at the Odell Lake Lodge and then settled in by the lake at the camp. We enjoyed the nice picnic table since we would be using logs and rocks as tables and chairs for the next several days. Our tent site was surrounded by bushes filled with dark blue mountain huckleberries. My dad and I joked with Ladybug about the relative urine content of bushes found near the tent sites. We thanked my Dad for the ride and the help and he drove off.

The next order of business was to find the trailhead for our trip. We drove up the road earlier, but only found a road entrance for a trailhead to a different trail number. We decided to take one of the unmarked spur trails off the main road to see what we could find. We reached a set of railroad tracks (odd for the mountains) and wandered southward to see if any trails crossed it. We found one, followed it and found our trailhead. Although it was unmarked at the road, it was indeed sharing the same trail we saw the sign from earlier while driving.

With that settled, we went back our campsite. We brought a couple of fresh salads for dinner to fortify ourselves against the dry goods diet we were to eat for the next couple of weeks. We walked around a bit and found some Pacific Crest “Trail Angels” in one of the camp sites. Trail Angels are people who come up to provide items that trail weary Pacific Crest Trail hikers couldn’t otherwise get like barbecued food, cookies, cake, water in dry areas, etc. Due to large amounts of snow in the California Sierras, many hikers decided to switch sides and hike south from Canada. This resulted in a scarcity of hikers coming through this part of Oregon, so they were happy to see people like us even if we were just starting out. We chatted for a while until the sun got low and we took our leave.

After our campfire began to die down, we climbed into the tent, but it took our neighbors a bit longer to quiet their camps. Around 11pm all was finally quiet enough to sleep.

Still Making Discoveries in our Own Backyard

92-year-old gold panner Dick McDermott thought he knew the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, and the creeks that flow through it, like the back of his hand...till park officials found a 400-foot waterfall that he had never even heard about.

I say "largely unknown" because apparently loggers knew about it, and rumors of its existence had been bouncing around for some time. An old map of the area dating from the 1960s mentioned a "Whiskeytown Falls", but it was never found. As it turned out, the map had been more than a mile off.

Interestingly, the falls were found with a little help from orbiting satellites:

In the spring of 2003, he was looking at global imaging system maps on his computer when he saw a stretch in the creek that dropped in altitude quickly with a sliver of white leading through it.

"I thought, 'That looks like white water to me,'" he said.

It's always refreshing to know that there's still more to discover in the open spaces of the U.S.. It's also reassuring to know that there are still open spaces left, period.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Backfill Blogging

Ladybug and I are going to venture into the backcountry for a couple of weeks. We are going to write our experiences on PAA devices (also known as Personal Analog Assistants or Memo Pads). We will backfill the weblog with backcountry exploits when we get back. Hopefully, it will be confusing as heck.

In the meantime, The Moody Minstrel or InfoGeek may wish to place a post or two. No big deal. This is summertime and that means Get Away From the Computer for a While.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

PARABOLA-Musings on Marriage

Well, I went through my Parabola magazines today, looking for the Marriage issue for encouraging words for friends who've recently married, (like yesterday!). I have seven issues; I need to get a subscription! Please note that my definition of Marriage includes partners of both sexes, and also union of self to the God/Goddess (much like St. Theresa of Avila, or Sappho).

Here are some Pearls of Knowledge that I've picked - If there is a highlighed word, you can click on to take you to the story, or more info, elswhere on the web.

Greek - The Tale of Baucis and Philemon (one of my personal favorites since I was a child). Jane Mickelson states in her text about this story, "It would be difficult to find a human relationship that embodies a greater complexity than marriage- with its blend of civil, social, spiritual, and physical -and stories reflect this."

English/Irish/French(Medieval)- The Dame and the Knight A truly rollicking tale of the celtic Loathly Damsel or Ugly Bride with a surprise ending. Michael Van Baker notes in his dissection of the tale, "The Kingdom of the Grail is such a land: to be achieved only by one capable of transcending the painted wall of space-time....The transformation of the fairy bride and the sovereignty that she bestows are, finally, of one's own heart in fullfillment."

Native American - Linda Johnston discovers the Ojibwe (Anishable) Mide wi win (midwife & healer) way of life is complemented by her marriage. She says, " Many times I have marveled at the depth of Amig's [her husband] prayers for our life together. Or is what we experience a result of our faith? I think it's both."

Now for some quotes:

"There is nothing nobler and more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye to keep house...., confounding their enemies, and delighting their friends." - Homer

"I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." - The Song of Songs

"The best marriages, like the best lives, were both happy and unhappy. There is even a kind of necessary tension, a certain tautness between the partners that gave the marriage strength, like the tautness of a full sail. You went forward on it." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh
[*Note: I really like Mrs. Morrow-Lindbergh's works, such as Gift from the Sea, especially considering the very public and infamous kidnapping & death of her 1st child, a son, and the unfortunate execution of a German immigrant who was convicted (but later proved innocent) of the crime.]

Finally, I'd like to end with a picture (mindful of my old Art History days...)

This piece is titled, The Anolfini Wedding by Jan van Eyck (c.1434)
Note the dog, symbol of fidelity; the bed and fruits, referring to fertility and the garden; and the mirror, which shows the painter and a witness to the moment of betrothal.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Harvest Festival Fun!

Well, there's so much going on these days, it's hard to keep track of! How to have fun, get out in the community, and celebrate the season you ask? Well....

Here are my fave picks to celebrate the Fall! Click on the festival title to take you to its website.

1. Mt. Angel Oktoberfest - We seem to go every other year, and therefore thoroughly enjoy it each and every time. They also have the biggest Craft Fair outside of Saturday Market, a huge variety of ethnic food carts, plus endless Bier/Wine Gartens w/funky Polka music. Get there early, park close, and take all day to wander the town - don't miss the Maypole & dancing!

2. Shrewsbury Renaissance Fair - We've only been twice, but have heard they now have permanent building and many improvements. We're looking foreward to going with friends from Salem this year for sure!

3. Oregon State Fair! Hey - and guess what!?? The Oregon Country Fair is presenting "LiveArt" (hands-on public art projects) at the Fair! The main artist directing the public art project is Francisco Letelier, whom I saw in person delivering a live poetry reading at OCF this year! I highly recommend visiting this year! You get a significant discount if you buy tix in advance from TicketsWest (online or at Safeway stores).

4. Your local Farm/Produce Stand - Often these places have big fall displays, like a Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch or Cider-making/tasting. These are often free, and often have kid friendly activities. Yay! (Link takes you to info on farms in the Oregon Tri-County area; Multnomah, Washington & Clackamas)

Summer Blogging Doldrums

It turns out that the glowing orb called El Sol provides many non-blogging opportunities. Expect things to be slow for a while. Later in the month, we will have some high-adventure blogging, so stay tuned for that!