Monday, April 30, 2012

Stick It.

The prince of utensils.

Fork: A tool with a handle with several narrow tines (usually two, three or four) on one end. Historically the fork as an eating utensil has been more prevalent in the West, and, in the days before the perfection of the revolver, was also the sidearm of choice among knowledgeable cowboys.

Fork: Cutlery used for serving and eating food.

Fork: Something shaped like a fork: "forked fingers".

Fork: A thing you find in some roads. If so, take it.

Fork: An implement to eat with. Some are metal, some are plastic, or even wood (which makes them easier to burn). In a pinch you can use the tines of a fork to comb your hair, and if bored you can poke the cat with it (if you also have plenty of bandages).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adams South

More photos from the past. And more to follow.

St Helens (click to embiggen)

These photos are from the third day of one of my trips around Mt Adams in the south Cascade Mountains of Washington State. I think this has to be my favorite trip ever. I'll have a bunch more photos later.

Rainier (click to embiggen)

But right now, let's enjoy summer weather, if only in images.

Round the Mountain Trail (pano: click to embiggen)

The west side of Adams is pretty lush. Not like rain forest terrain, but well-watered. Mt Hood in northern Oregon is similar, but different. The trail around Adams is pretty level and easy (except for a part we'll get to in a later post). The high point at Mt Hood is about 7800 feet (2377 m), and there is more up and down. Adams is pretty level.

Horizon, St Helens to Rainier (pano: click to embiggen)

After a short first day and a mellow first night on the western side of the mountain, you continue (if going counter-clockwise) in deep forest for a while. Streams are common but not too frequent. There are no wet crossings, at least in August, which is always nice. You also get good views of St Helens to the southwest, as well as diminishing sightings of Mt Rainier to the northwest.

Mt Hood (pano: click to embiggen)

Gradually, Rainier disappears into the trees while St Helens becomes more prominent, and then, if you're watching for it, you realize you can see pointy Mt Hood. This is always a treat. Adams is pretty blunt. St Helens is truncated, dusty, and still smoky. But Hood is a spike on the skyline, always distinctive.

South side of Adams

Sure, Rainier is quite distinctive too, but in its own class - much, much larger than any of the other volcanoes in this area, with a more complex profile, nothing like the clean, simple Hood..

South Adams - getting dry (pano: click to embiggen)

Eventually, coming to the more southern side of Adams, you notice that you have views of broad valleys toward the south. The forest changes slowly, and if you have a calm day, you might start feeling a little too hot. This is a fine time to stop for lunch. Hop off the trail and out of sight, find some clean bare soil, and settle in on a level shelf above the trail, enjoying both privacy and 180-degree views of the surrounding landscape. Given the right choice of location you can have enough shade to be comfortable too.

Mt Hood (pano: click to embiggen)

Unlike the south side of Mt Hood, where be ski areas, a lodge, late-season snowboarders, and tourists, at Adams there is only trail and trees. I've been 'round the mountain twice and have seen almost no other people. Just after passing the southernmost side of the mountain and coming into the southeast you see a sign welcoming you to Yakima tribal land. I don't know much about this area, except that I've seen signs indicating that there might be a picnic area somewhere below. You also see day hikers who drive into the Reservation, park, and hike up to an overlook. We'll see that next time.

Typical late summer foliage

For me, this is the time to find my second campsite. Hey, why push it? This trail is massively enjoyable, all too short, and the third day is a killer, so this is a good time to camp, and a great area for it. The first time I did this trip (the photos here) I found an absolutely amazing hidden campsite. Not a campsite, for one thing. Completely out of sight, well above the trail, on a sandy flat, and with its own stream. The foliage picture is from a spot where a similar little stream crosses the trail.

Southeast Adams - the driest side (pano: click to embiggen)

Luckily, I'm a doofus. I wanted to stay well out of sight, though there were almost no people around. It's kind of my thing. I took a left turn off the trail and noodled upslope through the trees, thinking of giving up with every step. But, since I really am a doofus, I kept going. And kept on after that. And after that. And then there was this little circular open area about 40 feet (12m) across. Flat, sandy, with good hammock trees. And then the killer feature. Down a small bank there was another flat, all grassy, and then my own little clear, clean stream of water. Bingo.

Morning, Mt Hood from my bedroom (pano: click to embiggen)

I had a great, quiet night, all clean from a bath, plenty of water to drink, and for cooking, my choice of good places to hang food, and it was all fine. The next morning when I got up the sun was out again, and going over to my "bedroom window" I realized that I had a fantastic panoramic view southeast into the dry center of Washington State, and stretching all the way around to the west, where I could still see Mt Hood. OK by me.

Previously: Adams West

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kinky Kritters

And plants with teeth. Plus some questionable rocks.

Exotic Species: A plant introduced from another country or geographic region outside its natural range.

Exotic Species: A foreign species or foreign mineral that did not originate where it was found. Exotic plants are those that have been carried to an area from a distant location.

Exotic Species: In geology, exotic rocks are those that not of local bedrock and which have arrived via a mechanism such as ice sheet movement.

Exotic Species: Any backpacker who is unnaturally clean, sometimes suspiciously so, and makes everyone else look and smell worse by comparison. Day hiker. Ordinary human.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Colorado Blow Hole

Sweeping was never this much fun.

Spring is here. The high country is thawing. The Forest Service is hiring. There are seasonal jobs for rangers, or fire fighters.

And for removal crews. You don't hear much about them but they're as important as the others.

When the days grow longer, and the snows melt away, it's time once again for spring cleaning in the backcountry, so recreationists can get out and have the kind of quality experience they expect.

Not surprisingly, some people are outdoor slobs. They leave behind spoiled food, wrappers, fuel canisters, discarded clothing, and all kinds of other things. But there is more than that to clean up.

Because not everyone who goes out to the woods comes home again. Especially at popular (and more difficult than expected) destinations, Forest Service crews sometimes have to remove leftover bodies.

It's easy to forget about this in winter when low temperatures keep everything crispy-fresh, and piles of snow hide misplaced campers and hikers. But come spring everything changes. As snows melt and temperatures rise, well, ripening happens.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Steven Hauler says that while some cattle are allowed to wander around on wilderness lands, if ranchers have permits for them, day hikers and partiers are harder to track. "You can find them almost anywhere," he said. "Under rocks, up in trees, frozen solid in ponds -- you name it. Sometimes we find whole families melting out of snowbanks, and no one knows how they got there or what they were doing. Least of all them, it seems."

While experienced hikers do get into trouble at times, most come home again, on schedule, no worse for wear. The people in sneakers, wearing shorts and T-shirts, carrying beer and lawn chairs, well they tend to account for the bulk of the frozen dead.

"Last week we found a group of six with no food as far as we could tell, no shelter, practically naked, that had still managed to carry in four kegs of beer -- all frozen solid now, some with cups still in their hands," Hauler noted. "They were in over their heads, literally, in one snow drift."

And in what may be a record, a frozen herd of an estimated former 29 pavement dwellers was found wadded up in an old ranger cabin high in the Rocky Mountains.

"It appears they wandered into the cabin, then died and froze solid when they couldn't find their way back out," said Forest Service Removal Supervisor Dirk Porter, shaking his head slowly. "This is something new. We never used to see groups of weekend dweebs this big, this stupid, and surely not this far from the safety of urban areas," he added. "Right now we're thinking it may take explosives to dislodge them all."

The cabin is a full nine miles from the trailhead, which is much farther than most chug monkeys are capable of walking under any circumstances, let alone unsupervised and off-leash on trails.

Carol Michael, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society of Colorado added, "There is a lot of snow, and it's hard to determine how many are actually in there. Obviously, we don't want them defrosting and contaminating the water of the nearby hot springs. Actual backpackers use that area. Explosives may be the only solution."

"We've learned a lot since the days of Oregon's Exploding Whale," Michael said, summing up. "With a little dynamite we can have this place squeaky clean inside of two weeks."

And she may be right. Helicopters are too expensive. Lack of roads limits truck access. Pack animals are too skittish. But everyone likes blowing things up.


Oregon's Exploding Whale - 1970 KATU (original report)

Forest Service in quandary about Colorado frozen cows

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pot, Stock

It's what holds dinner together.

Stock Pot: A pot in which stock for soup is prepared by long, slow cooking.

Stock Pot: A pot used for preparing soup stock, or a soup containing various kinds of meat and vegetables.

Stock Pot: Chiefly British: A pot in which stock for soup is made or kept.

Stock Pot: Hiker definition: No one cares. We're hungry NOW. Let's just get some calories already.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Adams West

Some photos from the past. More to follow.

Top end of Trail 112.

If you drive up to the northwest side of Mt Adams in southern Washington State, you first come to a Forest Service campground at Tahklakh Lake.

Junction of Trail 112 and PCT. (click to embiggen)

From there, the road continues to, for me, points unknown. The part I've been on goes only a mile or two farther, where there is a dirt parking area. This is dusty but if you have a small vehicle you can back it in between a couple of trees where it will stay in the shade all day.

Mt Rainier northwest from my campsite. (click to embiggen)

Which is fine, because it's always nice to finish a trip and get into a cool dusty car rather than a baking hot dusty car. Anyway, from that point trail 112 goes straight up the side of the mountain. This isn't too bad. The slope is steady but shallow. In August there are still lots of flowers.

At ridge-end, oggling Adams Glacier.

And there is plenty of shade. And the trail is only about two miles long. Near the top you can get to a stream. It's a typical volcanic stream, gray with silt, so if you take water from it you have to let the rocks settle out and then pour the liquid part into another bottle. But it is wet, and there is shade, and it is a nice place to have lunch.

Panorama at same point, well above treeline. (click to embiggen)

Next, you finish your walk when you hit the Pacific Crest Trail. This is the second photo here (above). There is a sandy flat and there you are. You can go left (north) or right (south). Both times I've been there I've gone south, but not far.

Evening from my campsite. (click to embiggen)

Since it isn't far from where I live, but isn't really close, I've gotten to the main trail sometime after lunch. There isn't really enough time to do much more hiking, and since this mountain was built for pleasure, no reason to either. So I hike less than two miles to the south before disappearing into the trees.

Mr Rainier after sunset. (click to embiggen)

This is the fun part. Leave the trail headed uphill, take it slow, and feel around for a campsite. Having a hammock helps in finding off-trail campsites, but, surprisingly, there are some cleared spots up at treeline. Which is where I've camped, and obviously where others have too. The really nice thing about this, aside from late summer weather, lack of people, no bugs, and a pleasant leisure, is that you can camp sheltered by trees but still have a great view right up the mountain.

Mt Rainier next morning. (click to embiggen)

Another reason for quitting early is to drop the pack and go hiking across the barren slope up toward Adams Glacier, which is pretty much in your face. But a lot farther than it seems at first.

From treeline you go up a gentle slope, then walk on top of a finger-like ridge, and then you come to the end of it and stand there, with nothing between you and the glacier but a mile or so of air. Going forward is easy if you're careful, and on my second trip I walked up to the glacier, which seems to keep getting farther away as it gets bigger. And the walking also gets trickier, but there's really nothing dangerous about it if you go slowly.

Most of the hazard, such as there is, is because of the rocks. While the slopes look grassy they are really a sort of pavement formed of loose stone that has settled over the millennia into a lumpy and unforgiving terrain. It's easy to stumble, and a fall would be painful. Really, really painful. So far that experience has eluded me. Which is fine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

News Of The Wild

Superman survives cowardly attack with help from Mama Bear.

The Man of Steel, now retired from the comics, has gone to Paradise. Paradise, California that is, where he lives quietly with his third wife Lana Luster and their dog Shemp.

While he lives quietly on most days, that wasn't the case last week when he went for a stroll near his home in this normally peaceful and somewhat remote part of northern California.

Hoping to enjoy the spring sun on a short hike in the Bean Soup Flat area, about a mile from Whiskey Ridge, near Celery Mountain in the Artichoke Backcountry, the Man of Steel came upon a family of bears, one he had encountered before.

Charmed by the mother bear and her two young ones, Superman stood quietly for a few minutes, watching them tussling playfully in the dust. And then something unexpected happened. He was attacked.

Now, you've heard this before. Superman has been attacked by almost every kind of thug, two-bit dictator, and deviant criminal there is. You know how it turns out, or always has. But this time things were different.

First, the attacker was not a petty crook but a mountain lion.

Second, the attack came from behind, without a lot of inflated dialog, or even any warning at all.

And third, the Man of Steel is now 74 and getting rusty.

"I hate cats. Always have. You can't trust the bastards," said Superman, who is more widely known around the retirement community as Clark Kent, mild-mannered old crank. "Cats are trouble. We got two or three that come over from the neighbors' place and crap in our begonias. Pisses me off," he added, while thoughtfully whacking the shrubbery with his cane.

The lion jumped Mr. Kent, as we probably should be calling him, and grabbed his knapsack, ripping at it and growling loudly, possibly trying to get at the tuna sandwich and bran muffins inside. But just as everything looked hopeless, Mama Bear pulled the same trick on the cat, jumping it from behind in turn.

After only a few seconds of growling and hissing, accompanied by some flying fur and a good bit of mauling, the bear managed to pull the cat off Mr. Kent and kick its butt, sending the cat yowling back into the bushes where it belongs.

In gratitude Mr. Kent shared his lunch with the bear, and played pat-a-cake with one of her cubs until the mother began to grow apprehensive about all the inter-species attention her little one was getting.

At that point she abruptly rounded up both cubs and returned to her home in a large rainbow-colored shoe on the verge of Unicorn Lake in the Lollipop Forest, and huffily slammed the door behind her.

Superman suffered only minor injuries, as you probably guessed.


Paradise Post story: Man claims attack by lion, saved by a bear

Paradise Post followup: No lion, bear blood found on Biggs backpack