Friday, December 31, 2010

Boundary Trail 2

So the first day of this trip was about one day's worth of hiking, plus several desperate hours more, to find a place out of the cold wind. I'd planned to tank up on water at Badger Lake and then noodle along until I found a cozy place to hang by my feet for the night, but things never go that way, so I kept hiking faster and faster as the day got darker and darker, colder and colder.

Another view of the pleasant but shallow Badger Lake.

It started fine. Sun. Calm winds. (I like that phrase. Calm winds. Like winds but not. Power completely benign and under control. But still there, waiting to get loose.)

Kirk Rock, a little farther on, from the west.

Well, you know. How it goes, is, first, some clouds. You figure two, three hours before they slowly slide in and even so it's only gradual, and you expect them to thin out and evaporate as they infiltrate they sky, returning you to sunshine. Given that, it's no surprise that my clouds were on me 20 minutes after I estimated that I had at least two hours. And they kept getting thicker, and didn't seem interested in moving along and letting the sun have a chance for a change.

In the north armpit of Kirk Rock.

Which is why I did a lot of walking that first day. You walk out of the St. Helens Monument area, cross Road 25, and enter a quieter forest, with two water sources if you're lucky. There is a trickle a couple of miles in, and then Badger Lake, which seems like a good place to camp until you get there. Somehow it always seems to be cold and breezy, and not far enough in besides.

Ditto.

And beyond it there isn't either any level ground to speak of, if you sleep right down there on it, or any really sheltered place to hang from your hind claws. Or, um, I mean put up your hammock for the night. So that day was a long one, until finally I hit a low spot where the trail, after passing Kirk Rock, Shark Rock, and Craggy Peak, takes a turn north and down toward Yellow Jacket Pass.

Meadow to the north between Kirk Rock and Shark Rock.

And it so happened that at the low point I saw a flat down below, through the forest, and headed for it as the light faded. By then the day had settled into a permanent chill, under a permanently white sky, with a persistent cold westerly breeze. Dropping off the trail to the east and descending I got to the edge of a fen where there was almost no wind, and found a couple of pools where a person could get water if needed.

Kirk Rock from the northeast.

Water is the limiting feature in this area, so locating a source of any kind is reassuring.

Jumbo Peak two valleys away to the northeast.

I set up camp, ate supper in the dark, and hoped for nicer weather on the second day.

Corn lily.

Instead I got cold fog.

Pretty, but cold.

Kirk Rock from just past Shark Rock.

This was at the end of August, shortly after the snow had melted out enough to expose the trails. August is normally hot. Around here that means at least pleasantly comfy, and sometimes genuinely hot and dry, but not this year. August was barely warm, and there was still snow here and there, in places where it would normally be gone by the middle of June.

View southwest just past Shark Rock.

But it was good to be out. I had a nice, long, first day's hike, including my usual desperate sprint toward evening, and found a good place to camp.

Top of Shark Rock. Up close you can't really see the fin.

The next day I climbed up the other side of the pass and descended again, into the heart of the Dark Divide.

Summer in Western Washington.

There are spine tingling views here when it's clear.

Close to the area where I spent the night. No rain though.

Early on day two. Mostly down from the high country.

In some ways. But if you have water, you're OK.

Near a road access point where the trail splits.

The place with the big tree with the big sign on it is where you get a flat spot to stop and rest, and think about things. You can continue east and up, toward Dark Mountain, go north to link up to the gravel road that comes in from that side, or head down a decommissioned road and a hidden trail to Quartz Creek, which is what I did. Day two turned out to be more desperate living (typical). I'll get to that next time.


More:

The first post in this series.

Boundary Trail #1, as the Forest Service sees it.

Washington, 1895, from Rand McNally

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hoodoo McFiggin's Christmas


By Stephen Leacock, from Literary Lapses, published in 1910.

This Santa Claus business is played out. It's a sneaking, underhand method, and the sooner it's exposed the better.

For a parent to get up under cover of the darkness of night and palm off a ten-cent necktie on a boy who had been expecting a ten-dollar watch, and then say that an angel sent it to him, is low, undeniably low.

I had a good opportunity of observing how the thing worked this Christmas, in the case of young Hoodoo McFiggin, the son and heir of the McFiggins, at whose house I board.

Hoodoo McFiggin is a good boy--a religious boy. He had been given to understand that Santa Claus would bring nothing to his father and mother because grown-up people don't get presents from the angels. So he saved up all his pocket-money and bought a box of cigars for his father and a seventy-five-cent diamond brooch for his mother. His own fortunes he left in the hands of the angels. But he prayed. He prayed every night for weeks that Santa Claus would bring him a pair of skates and a puppy-dog and an air-gun and a bicycle and a Noah's ark and a sleigh and a drum--altogether about a hundred and fifty dollars' worth of stuff.

I went into Hoodoo's room quite early Christmas morning. I had an idea that the scene would be interesting. I woke him up and he sat up in bed, his eyes glistening with radiant expectation, and began hauling things out of his stocking.

The first parcel was bulky; it was done up quite loosely and had an odd look generally.

"Ha! ha!" Hoodoo cried gleefully, as he began undoing it. "I'll bet it's the puppy-dog, all wrapped up in paper!"

And was it the puppy-dog? No, by no means. It was a pair of nice, strong, number-four boots, laces and all, labelled, "Hoodoo, from Santa Claus," and underneath Santa Claus had written, "95 net."

The boy's jaw fell with delight. "It's boots," he said, and plunged in his hand again.

He began hauling away at another parcel with renewed hope on his face.

This time the thing seemed like a little round box. Hoodoo tore the paper off it with a feverish hand. He shook it; something rattled inside.

"It's a watch and chain! It's a watch and chain!" he shouted. Then he pulled the lid off.

And was it a watch and chain? No. It was a box of nice, brand-new celluloid collars, a dozen of them all alike and all his own size.

The boy was so pleased that you could see his face crack up with pleasure.

He waited a few minutes until his intense joy subsided. Then he tried again.

This time the packet was long and hard. It resisted the touch and had a sort of funnel shape.

"It's a toy pistol!" said the boy, trembling with excitement. "Gee! I hope there are lots of caps with it! I'll fire some off now and wake up father."

No, my poor child, you will not wake your father with that. It is a useful thing, but it needs not caps and it fires no bullets, and you cannot wake a sleeping man with a tooth-brush. Yes, it was a tooth-brush--a regular beauty, pure bone all through, and ticketed with a little paper, "Hoodoo, from Santa Claus."

Again the expression of intense joy passed over the boy's face, and the tears of gratitude started from his eyes. He wiped them away with his tooth-brush and passed on.

The next packet was much larger and evidently contained something soft and bulky. It had been too long to go into the stocking and was tied outside.

"I wonder what this is," Hoodoo mused, half afraid to open it. Then his heart gave a great leap, and he forgot all his other presents in the anticipation of this one. "It's the drum!" he gasped. "It's the drum, all wrapped up!"

Drum nothing! It was pants--a pair of the nicest little short pants--yellowish-brown short pants--with dear little stripes of colour running across both ways, and here again Santa Claus had written, "Hoodoo, from Santa Claus, one fort net."

But there was something wrapped up in it. Oh, yes! There was a pair of braces wrapped up in it, braces with a little steel sliding thing so that you could slide your pants up to your neck, if you wanted to.

The boy gave a dry sob of satisfaction. Then he took out his last present. "It's a book," he said, as he unwrapped it. "I wonder if it is fairy stories or adventures. Oh, I hope it's adventures! I'll read it all morning."

No, Hoodoo, it was not precisely adventures. It was a small family Bible. Hoodoo had now seen all his presents, and he arose and dressed. But he still had the fun of playing with his toys. That is always the chief delight of Christmas morning.

First he played with his tooth-brush. He got a whole lot of water and brushed all his teeth with it. This was huge.

Then he played with his collars. He had no end of fun with them, taking them all out one by one and swearing at them, and then putting them back and swearing at the whole lot together.

The next toy was his pants. He had immense fun there, putting them on and taking them off again, and then trying to guess which side was which by merely looking at them.

After that he took his book and read some adventures called "Genesis" till breakfast-time.

Then he went downstairs and kissed his father and mother. His father was smoking a cigar, and his mother had her new brooch on. Hoodoo's face was thoughtful, and a light seemed to have broken in upon his mind. Indeed, I think it altogether likely that next Christmas he will hang on to his own money and take chances on what the angels bring.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Boundary Trail 1

An edgewise experience.

The start, at the Norway Pass Official Parking Lot.

So then, this was going to be my big backpacking year.

Another big backpacking year.

Well, for me.

But it futzled. Or I did.

Go ahead, blame me. I probably deserve it, but this season was not good for backpacking, no matter whose fault it is. Was. Etc.

West, toward, in fact, Norway Pass.

Northwest, toward the northern part of the Monument.

After 30 years, it's still recovering. Hot too.

First, a dry winter, ending in blizzards. Eh? Get it? Practically no snow all winter, and then we got creamed.

I don't ski so I don't care what happens during the winter as long as it isn't massive, erosional downpours like we had a couple of years back, and as long as it doesn't leave the trails covered meters deep in snow in July.

The mountain (nameless) south of Bismark Mountain.

Southeast from the trail.

Mostly south. Mt. Hood is out there somewhere.

So. No one was listening to me. Again. This is exactly why I do not pray. You know? If it did any good, yes. I'd do it. I'd do anything. I like backpacking. Yay for backpacking. But you can't do it well on snow that's deeper than you are tall, frozen and thawed over again, and turned to ice pellets. Or into solid, personal-sized glaciers. (OK, I was in the supermarket one day and saw a big box of "personal watermelons". That phrase seems to be a glove fit for the abnormal. Let's hear it for marketing.)
Valley of Clearwater Creek.

Ah. There's the culprit.

The culprit. The beast.

Panoramoranamic view of the beast.

Anyway, another lost backpacking year.

I tried this trail at the end of July, got one day in, and hit snow. Deep snow. Badger Lake ends this first series of photos. I got that far that first day, and the whole basin was snow. The lake was frozen, the deep basin that holds it was snow, the last half mile of trail connecting to it was snow. The whole deal. Poop.

It would be fun to hike along here on top of snow, except. Like, suicide, OK? Because after Badger Lake you get to Kirk Rock, Shark Rock, Craggy Peak, and Snagtooth Mountain, all fun. But with the trail on their north sides, on a near-vertical slope, you know? Frozen, frozen, frozen, and a trip straight down to death for any hiker.

Odd. Very odd. Looks like the bottom of a one liter bottle.

Trees and such. Typical and such.

Trail. Clever invention!

That was summer.

I went back at the end of August and hiked most of the Boundary Trail (look up the definition already). No snow. Chilly though. The last two days the temps were around 45 F (7 C), with motorcycles. Somehow I totally managed not to photograph any of the dirt bike riders, but we'll see if the other photos are any good. I'll turn this into a multi-week post, starting with now, the first half-day of the trip, from Norway Pass to Badger Lake.

Norway Pass is within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, etc. Badger Lake is east of there. Water is scarce. The lake is approximately the only reliable water source along a 10 to 15 mile (16 - 25 km) stretch. Though I accidentally found some secret sources this year.

So let's go.

Washington State arboreal alligator.

The one, the only: Badger Lake.


More:

Boundary Trail #1

Monday, December 13, 2010

Self-Propelled Visitor


My window continues to work magic tricks.

At odd times, unannounced, you can find raccoons, bunnies, squirrels, opossums (from the Powhatan "apasum", or "white animal"), and various cheepie things coming around to hang out beneath it.

Now this.

Best guess: an immature herring gull.

First, standing in place. Later sitting. I expected my third trip to the window to find it dead on the grass but it waan't there 'tall.

Feeding: Eats mussels, clams, fish, rodents, insects, young of other gulls, garbage. Steals from other birds.

Voice: Long call is like "ow ow ow keekeekee kyow kyow kyow". Alarm call is "ga ga ga ga".

Habitat: Coasts, lakes, rivers, fields, dumps.

Next up, I hope, is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and her gastropod dress, which would likely draw more garbage eaters.

Ga ga ga ga! I can handle it. The camera is locked and loaded.

I'd like to see her on the lawn eating worms after a rain, but that may be too much to hope for.

(Notes from "Field Guide to Birds", by Donald & Lillian Stokes.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Occasional Definitions: Adjustable Suspension


Adjustable Suspension: To accommodate a variety of torso lengths and thicknesses, and variable densities of body fur, some packs have shoulder straps and/or hip belts that move up and down on the pack frame, and this adjustability allows you to fine-tune the fit of your pack.

Instead of doing this you could also gain or lose weight, or wait to grow an inch or two, or wait somewhat longer for old age in the hope of shrinking to fit.

You can also go to a pet groomer and have your pelt clipped back a bit.

But some packs do not have external frames. In fact most packs do not have external frames any more, so generally speaking you should stop trying to adjust it. If your new pack is too small, then give it 20 or 30 years, grow old and wither, and maybe then you can finally fit into it. There may be no other way.

If that works for you, be sure to get a walker with lug soles.

Adjustable Suspension:
A belt. Adjust it too loosely and your pants fall down around your ankles. This can result in a nasty fall, so keep a close eye on your belt at all times. This can also result in a nasty fall because you aren't watching the trail, so keep a watch on the trail at all times. But don't forget about your belt either. If necessary, hire someone to come along with you and watch your belt for you, or stay at home and eat chips, drink beer, and watch football on TV.

Adjust the belt too tightly and your lunch can come back at you, with an attitude, so watch the belt carefully. Try loosening your belt if you have problems with your lunch escaping.

If your pants fall down a lot then the belt is too loose again, or you've lost a lot of weight because of your not being able to keep lunch around long enough to do some good. You can start over from scratch and try staying in your jammies for a few weeks, then moving back cautiously into elastic-waisted pants, and only later, once you're sure that you're fully desensitized, back into belted pants.

If none of this works then try suspenders or overalls.

Overalls are comfy, and they make it so easy to scratch anywhere you want to, anytime.

(From what will be a new web site, and maybe a book. Anyway, I'm working on it all.)

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