Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Adams North

Capping the loop.

Me hammock on a nameless ridge. (pano → click to embiggen)

Yeah, well, this was a while ago.

I've done the hike around Mt Adams twice, and wanted to go back the last couple of years. Two years ago we had rain all summer. Last year I was selling off my camera gear. This year I'm packing to leave the country and have no car, so poop on it.

I usually forget to photograph it. (pano → click to embiggen)

These photos are from the first trip.

The off-trail stage is only about three and a half miles (5.6 km), but takes forever.

First, because it is extremely dangerous. If you are traveling alone.

It isn't that hard, but one misstep can break a leg or a shoulder, or a skull, and then that's about it. Take it easy, be cautious, be conservative, and you'll probably get through OK.

But that takes time, so the first time through I had to camp on a ridge around a mile short of my destination. Which was actually a good thing. Sunrise was great.

Gnarly morning. (pano → click to embiggen)

The second time I did this trip I pushed through and covered all the ground -- in eleven and a half hours -- but actually it was better the first time.

Keeping to some arbitrary schedule does not always make sense.

The nice thing about reaching the meadow is that there is water there, and although there is plenty of room for tents, it's not so good for hammocks. And the view is much better from the ridge.

Mountains always look good at sunrise. (pano → click to embiggen)

Coming around the mountain on the trail is easy. The trail is level and well-maintained. It's a piece of cake. You could hike it with your eyes closed.

Then, arcing around the south side of the mountain and heading back north again, you come to the end of it. The trail.

There is a drop, into Hellroaring Valley, and if you go there you are on your own.

This is the part I like.

After some terrain negotiation - midday-ish. (pano → click to embiggen)

Negotiating the route after that takes caution and some planning. Think of on-the-ground tactics applied to pre-hike strategy.

You encounter various kinds of scree and talus, both of stone of dried, flaked dirt.

There are thickets. Unstable boulders. Hidden streams. Thorns. Steep slopes.


Well, one glacier. A small one. But a glacier nevertheless.

It could bite if it chose to. I guess.

In other words, there is freedom and you are welcome to use it to your advantage or detriment, as the case may be.

High, clear, calm, rocky, lonesome. Perfect. (pano → click to embiggen)

But we've been over that part.

Today we move beyond.

Trending first south, then east, and now back north and again to the west before leaving the mountain takes us through several different environments.

The trail travel is mellow, as noted.

The off-trail travel is interesting.

The northern side of the mountain is something else again.

It is open. It is free. There are no boundaries.

The landscape is softly rolling and grassy, and yet rocky underfoot.

Both times there I have lost the trail, despite wasting what seemed like hours searching for it. You lose it. You can't help it. It doesn't matter. Not really.

The trail is there, and might be easy to follow if going the other direction, but by traveling counter-clockwise, losing the trail is not only easy but inevitable.

Rainier standing alone. (pano → click to embiggen)


Cross-country travel is easy to the north. All you have to do is head toward where the map says you need to be and sooner or later you will cross the trail, and then it will carry you from that point onward.

In between, you get to fly free across a sort of cobbly tundra. Grassy yet full of stubbornly-hidden stobbers waiting to catch up your feet and throw you down.

Evening closing in and miles to go yet. (pano → click to embiggen)

Eventually you will come to a stream. One of those volcanic-mountain streams full of grayness and silt, and you will have to cross it.

Crossing these is always uncomfortable. Late in the day, after high snows have warmed, these streams are full to the brink and vigorous with their strength. This is when you have to cross them, even if, early in the day, they may be only damp gullies.

So you cross the stream because you have to, and you get your legs and feet covered with grit, and have to wait to dry, and then you continue.

Final morning at the PCT junction. (pano → click to embiggen)

Not long after this crossing you enter the first outliers of forest.

For most of this day you will have been in the open, skimming the mountain's surface like a happy bee, carefree in the sunshine.

But now, toward evening, you begin to look for clear water, supper, and a campsite, and soon you find water, and then woods.

Rainier always dominates the horizon. (pano → click to embiggen)

For hammockers, the north part of Mt Adams is fine.

There are many places to slip off the trail and find a couple of trees to hang from, and another one to put your food in.

Hey. OK. I can't get enough. (pano → click to embiggen)

And in August, when the weather is fine, you are too.

The only trouble I had was on the first trip, when coyotes -- well, one coyote -- insisted on howling and barking late into the night.

I was awake yelling at it, hoping to scare it away, but I think it finally simply got tired of making noise and climbed into its own bed to finish rest up and leave me in peace.

Goodbye, Adams. I love you.

Anyway, the last (short) day is an easy hike back down the trail to the parking lot, where, if you've been clever with your parking, your car is waiting in the shade, nice and cool for the drive home.


Adams West

Adams South

Adams East

Monday, August 27, 2012

Orificial Fuzz


A common site for hair removal in older males.

Only hair on the outer ear should be treated, and never inside the ear canal due to risk of infection.

Also a good home for tiny crawling things, handy in case you're hiking alone and need company.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Twice As Good

Lay it on thick.

2-Layer Padding: (For shoulder straps or hip belts.)

This is used where maximum support or cushioning is required.

It is made by combining a durable and stiff compression-resistant foam with a softer open cell foam to provide a contoured and cushioned fit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Deuterium Sued For Trademark Infringement

Microscopic shenanigans threaten big biz.

"Well, we had to do something," said Helmut ('Bad the Impaler') Kreuznach, Chief Legal Counsel for German outdoor equipment maker Deuter. "Just because some random isotope exists is no reason it should be allowed to whiz around and infringe on our brand identity."

You might think that a constituent of nature that has existed for at least 13.6 billion years might be immune from the legal hassles of copyright and trademark law, but apparently this is not so.

Deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has been around since the very beginning, long before tailless apes decided to go backpacking, but now it is at the center of a huge dispute recently brought before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

At issue is whether deuterium the isotope should be allowed to continue existing, and if so, what it should be called.

"This is very important to us as an international brand," asserts Mr. Kreuznach, stroking his beard. "We are extremely concerned that if we allow just any sketchy, possibly counterfeit version of hydrogen to pop up here, there, and anywhere under a name that is suspiciously similar to our brand, consumers might become confused."

"For example," he continued, "what proof do we have that so-called deuterium is even a legitimate isotope, let alone an element? There is no paper trail. It is not mentioned anywhere in existing trade agreements. We have only the word of a few unreliable scientists that this substance even exists, except to threaten our business."

A court review is scheduled for late October under guidelines set out in the WTO's Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, adopted in 1994.

Deuterium could not immediately be reached for comment, though its attorney did play a recording of a very soft hissing sound, said to be coming from deep space.

There is some precedent for cases like this.

For example, The North Face is presently suing not only The Butt Face for brand dilution, but also butter itself. And late last year Big Agnes, a maker of tents, sleeping bags, and related gear sued Big Agnes Johnsson Moving and Storage Co. of Whistle Bluff, TN "just in case".

There are also rumors afoot that Osprey Packs, Inc. may be after not only ospreys, but also anything that could possibly be referred to as a fish hawk, sea hawk, or fish eagle, or any animal ever seen around fish, living or dead.

And if your parents call you Jan, and you like sports even a little, then you may be in deep trouble, legal-wise.

Or, if your name is Gregory, then look out. You could be next, bud.


The South Butt

North Face considers Butt Face contemptible

Discovering the Higgs boson

Monday, August 20, 2012

It Came From The Middle Ages

Build siegeworks or bridges - it's your call.


Gabion: A rectangular container, usually of heavy galvanized wire, fastened together with others of its kind and filled with gravel or cobbles to make a retaining wall to control erosion.

Gabion: A porous metal cylinder filled with stones and used in civil engineering, especially in the construction of retaining walls, the reinforcing of steep slopes, or in the prevention of erosion in river banks.

Gabion: A large basket of wickerwork constructed in a cylindrical form, but without a bottom, varying in diameter from 20 to 70 inches, and in height from 33 inches to 5 or 6 feet, filled with earth, used to form the foundations of dams and jetties. They are filled with stones, and sunk or anchored in streams where they will become loaded with silt.

Also known as: "Gabion Baskets".



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Snakelike Appalachian Trail

Slithering from Maine to Georgia.

When 26-year-old Bitsy Wimbles woke up this morning, she was confused.

She has been hiking the famous Appalachian Trail for several weeks, and now it's gone.

"I dint do nothin diffrent, I swear," Wimbles says. "I was jus hikin like uszhal, and went to bed same as allays, and then I gets up and it aint here no more."

Ms. Wimbles, a June graduate of Missippi State University, Frog Creek Branch, was craving a bit of adventure when she first got onto the trail near Poke Hollow, TN.

"I thought I'd camp and hike a few weeks. But then I kinda never did stop. I caint splain it," she says. "I feel like a kid again, and I dont ever wanta leave."

Except that now she has no trail.

The Appalachian Trail, part of the National Park System, jointly managed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, 31 local clubs, and various state agencies, is like a complex organism.

And though it may be hard to imagine, the trail does move around every now and then.

"It will always be in the same general area," said Marcus Wrangler, executive director of the Appalachian Trail Handlers Association in Harpers Ferry. "But it's a living thing. You can't expect it to stay put. Much like a river writhes around in its bed during the spring runoff, the Trail gets a bit irritated when too many hikers, campers, picnickers and party animals climb on board. Then it gives a little twitch and relocates itself a few miles to one side or the other."

"It's really nothing to worry about," Wrangler continued. "Happens all the time. Believe it or not, only one percent of today's trail is in its original location. Our biggest headache is redrawing the maps, which we have to do at least once a year, sometimes several times. But that's life with the Trail."

So where does that leave Bitsy Wimbles?

"Caint say precisely," she replies. "My map dont work no more, so at the moment I guess technically I'm lost. Caint be far though. The trail that is. I'll jes feel around a bit and pretty soon I'll be back on it I bet. I'm due in Maine in a coupla months, you know. Gotta keep at it."

Meanwhile, Mr. Wrangler, standing in the shade of a nearby tree, seems lost in thought. "Did it move a little to the left or a little to the right?" he wonders while staring into a guidebook. "You know, ultimately it's all to the good. The Trail always comes to rest a little nearer to waterways or scenic landscapes, and continues to find a more relaxed and peaceful course. I think we'll be OK."

And with that Ms. Wimbles gives a hoot and dashes off into the forest. "I found it! Over here! I see it now!" she says, and vanishes.


Appalachian Trail still evolving after 75 years.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lacustrine Bog

Has lots of water, and not all that many things with feelers, as bogs go.

Lacustrine Bog: The transitional stage in bog life in which some mineral water is still a major influence in the bog.

As opposed to the other kind of water that is not mineral, I guess.

Which may or may not be what you want, although in general bogs are poor places to hike unless you are trying to get away from someone.

But then, you might be getting in over your head, considering some of the things found in bogs. (Not all of which are friendly, you know. Very few, in fact, and some are bigger than you are.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Grizzly Bears Attack Alaska

Possibly mistaking the state for tacky footwear.

Earlier this week, Mike and Tammy Jones drove to Anchorage, Alaska on a regular shopping trip. They each bought several pair of Crocs shoes, which they are addicted to. On the way home they decided to spend the night in a campground, where they were eaten by chipmunks sometime during the night.

This is only one in a series of baffling incidents which some say presage a counter-attack by nature on bad taste, hyper-consumption, and the over-intrusion of humans into the last remaining vestiges of wilderness.

Every backpacker has had their own experiences.

You set up camp, eat, clean up, and then as dark falls, you snuggle down inside your cozy sleeping bag and serenely drift off to sleep. Only to awaken a couple hours later covered by swarms of ravenous mice drawn to the faint aroma of supper clinging to your lips.

You know how this works. Either they find some vittles they can cart off and devour in peace, or they shred everything you have in retaliation. Or worse.

Take the case of Brenda Snoerffer of St. Michael, Minnesota.

While gently paddling about in a small lake near her family's cabin in rural Aitkin County, she was nearly nipped to bits by ornery otters.

"First I thought the bluegills were bitin' pretty good. Then I realized they was bitin' me. And then I remembered that bluegills don't have no teeth, so then I got a little scairt," she related to authorities. "Then I seen all these furry heads pop up around me, and all those eyes, and then I really did get scairt pretty good."

A trip to a nearby hospital and treatment by doctors skilled in dealing with the web-footed aquatic weasels quickly got her back on the road to recovery. But not without a few scars as a frightening reminder of what Nature can dish out.

So, back to Alaska then, where it's not all chipmunks and weasels. There are bigger things out there. Much, much bigger things.

After close to a century of being billed as North America's big-game hunting paradise, quite a few of the larger beasts are now hunting the hunters. Several hunters have been devoured by unknown toothed animals lately, while others have been severely trampled by whatever it is that leaves large hoofy prints behind.

Could be lots of things, but whatever it is, it has an attitude.

And finally, just last Thursday around 11:43 p.m., something large, lumbering, and extremely furry emerged from the woods along State Highway 27 and began tearing up the pavement.

Some say it was a huge grizzly. Some say they don't know, but increased surveillance at all locations around the state has revealed unmistakable tooth marks in all sorts of state buildings, including some at the State Capitol itself.

So, grizzlies are now attempting to bite Alaska to death. Your state could be next. Staying in your tent will not help a whole lot, experts say.


Grizzly Bear Attacks Alaska Woman Near Anchorage-Area Campground

Second otter attack reported in less than a month in Northland

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Super! Exciting! Practically Harmless!

Like having breakfast on plutonium.

What do you think when you think outdoor recreation?

It could be forests or grasslands. It might be mountains or seashores.

Lakes, streams, long vistas, magnificent peaks. All these come to mind. Another thing that comes to mind is funding.

Someone has to pay for national parks, national forests, even lowly Bureau of Land Management facilities.

Sure, you pay taxes but taxes don't cut it any more. Due to popular demand, taxes have been cut here, there, and everywhere, to the point that there isn't enough money left to do diddly.

Don't talk about raising entry fees. That has been tried, my friend, and people get cranky when told they have to fork over a handful of bills just to get through the gate.

So the U.S. Government is trying something new.

In an all-too-rare fit of bipartisanship there is a move to try SuperFunding. Yep. You heard that right. SuperFunding.

Recreation up to and even over the edge.

For example, there is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, just sitting there doing pretty much nothing. Why not let people go see?

Hanford is hopping with fascinating radioactive leftovers dating way back to World War II. Leaky storage tanks. Hazardous waste pits. All in all, 53 million gallons (200,630,016 L) of high-level radioactive waste, simply waiting quietly for you to come and visit.

Your entry fee of only $19.95 per day, or $235.00 annually (for a "U-Pass") will allow you to explore on your own, enjoying the kind of hiking and camping others only dream about. And until recently, were shot on sight for attempting.

Check out the historic "B Reactor", the world's first plutonium producer. Or the graphite-encased "N Reactor". (Just like the one at Chernobyl!)

Or if you're up for a more spectator-type experience, witness the slightly less historic but almost comically frantic groundwater remediation efforts. Watch guys with buckets and shovels try to remove radioactive nuclides before they seep into the Columbia River's ripping current and go to visit beautiful Portland, OR, just a few miles downstream.

OK, too far to travel for a Hike-N-Glow vacation? Well, if you live in the U.S. southeast, there is always Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Bring your metal detector and spend a few days searching for leftover traces of enriched uranium, or the odd nut or bolt that jumped off a waste-transport truck. Between sessions you might try some tried and true backcountry camping or hone your skills at family decontamination.

If these programs prove they can pay for themselves, the SuperFunding program is sure to extend from government reservations to even privately-owned chemical waste dumps and acid pits.

Every state has some already, and if not, we can always open up the national parks themselves for a little judicious dumping and filling-in to sweeten the deal and attract more visitors willing to pay their fair share for a tingly vacation experience.


Nuclear weapon sites may become national parks.