Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Your questions answered.

If you ever go hiking or backpacking and, once you're out there you sort of stop and think "Hey – what do I do now?", well, there's an answer to that.

Like, for example, you're facing a terminal situation and you know that no matter what, you're going to bite it. So you should know How to Kiss Your Ass Goodbye.

And, if you are in this situation, and find that you have a little more time than you expected, there is How to Dig Your Own Grave.

But that's getting extreme. More likely you'll be wanting more common advice, like How to Have a Safe Camping Trip With Your Pet Rock, or How to Eat Worms.

(Note for those who don't like worms – see How to Attract a Centipede.)

(Extra note if you have a big appetite – see How to Trap and Eat Texas.)

If successful at mastering the above techniques, but still alive, and still lost, then plan for a longer stay. For that you'll need info on more permanent accommodations – and someone has already been there, so check out How to Make a Cave to Live In.

Once you have a cozy hidey-hole, you'll need to get around and do errands without attracting attention. For that, there's How to Become a Master of Stealth and Hiding, which is handy when your camping permit expires.

Tired of centipedes and worms? How about some help getting tastier calories in the form of How to Steal Cheese and Not Get Caught. But what if you're allergic to dairy products? Well, in that case, refer to How to Eat a Pony.

And if you find yourself out after dark, be sure you know how to handle it by memorizing How to Defend Yourself Against a Velociraptor. (Word to the wise – memorize it before you need it.)

Once home again in your snug cave, you might find that you have an unexpected house guest. (We all do from time to time.) So be prepared by knowing How to Live With a Raccoon Under Your Bed. And if that strange, high-pitched sound keeps you both awake, then educate yourself on How to Silence a Potato.

After several months of wandering around, eating worms and stinking, you may accidentally find your way back home. (To your real home.) If so, you'll want to fit in again, which might be hard if you've forgotten what it was like, so try this one – How to Appear to Be Human.

But getting home is sometimes harder than expected, so be sure you know How to Survive a Butterfly Attack, How to Fend off a Giant Squid, and How to Fight a Unicorn.

And of course, once home again, after a nice bath, and before going out, be sure to refresh yourself on How to Recognize a Pair of Pants.


Image based on the work of Estrilda (Anastasia Kalenkovich).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Five Days Rocking With The Goats (Part 3)

Heading south. (Still no goats.)

Greetings, Moon.

I camped near Snowgrass Flat, which isn't snowy or grassy (Didn't I mention this before?) and isn't great for camping. But it had water.

Ridge just east of and above Snowgrass.

I like water. Some of my best friends contain significant amounts of water. I especially like it when it stays on the ground and behaves itself.

A group of aliens milling around their spacecraft.

Day three turned out to be sunny, which is something I like even more than sloshy friends.

They were soon joined by others.

I escaped to the up-climbing trail before the other campers were even fully awake, which was good because there was someone under every dome tent. The tents were all dome tents. What's the deal with that?

All REI dome tents too.

Adams the Mount, a blunt instrument.

On a clear day you can almost see forever, which is about seven miles if you're at sea, but it works. In lumpy country the mountains get in the way. Impressive, but they do spoil the scenery for those brought up on the Plains. But hey. Nice change.

This would be Snowgrass Flat if I had a say. Nice view.

Up higher, things got more interesting. Surprisingly, given the number of people around, few of them spent much time hiking.

If I was an ungulate, I'd try doing it here. (click/embiggen)

Wide open spaces, sun, sky, and pants. I wore pants this time. That was fun too. I'll have to remember that. Fewer bug bites than when wearing shorts all the time.

Talk about your cairns, eh?

After a while I came across one of the world's largest cairns.

From a few steps back, in case it decided to charge.

It was either a cairn or Andy Goldsworthy had been by recently. I should have moved it to the other side of the trail while no one was looking.

PCT marker.

But that sounded like work, and the flies might have caught me unawares while my back was turned. I've been there before. No thanks. I already have buzz scars all over from previous lapses of attention.

Talus. (Not a cairn this time.)

So then the trail continued, south, toward Mt Adams, which is an unreasonably large hump firmly standing its ground.

Clever drainage channel.

Overall, this trail is in grand shape. There are stretches where it's been cut so deeply (probably by horse hoofs) that there are parallel tracks, but aside from that, it's pleasant.

Cispus Valley

And then I approached the valley that Cispus River inhabits. This is one of my favorite places ever.

Another peek from a north-side overlook. (click/embiggen)

Even though I've been there only once before, 13 years earlier.

Not to be messed with.

But you don't forget the good things in life, like empty space between two enormous pieces of landscape.

The valley's head. (click/embiggen)

This sucker is close to half a mile wide, and you can spend all day just trying to spit across it.

South wall of Cispus Valley. (click/embiggen)

If you look closely at the valley's side, in the right light, from the right angle, you can see where elk have been grazing for millennia. They cut their own terraces with their hooves.

Starting to enter the valley. (click/embiggen)

This is a thing you learn if brought up in cow country, and pay any attention at all. But elk are more fun to think about.

This was all volcanoes once. (click/embiggen)

I didn't see any elk either. No goats, no elk. No deer, no bear (just a small handful of poo). No dragons. No free-range tapeworms.

Continuing the up-valley trudge.(click/embiggen)

Though the valley narrows toward its top, like all valleys (all well-behaved valleys) it also opens up, so the view improves.

Cispus River, larval stage.

For example, that little wiggly thing you saw earlier? It's a river, and higher up you can see actual water, and hear it. And get pictures and stuff. Cool.

Bipeds. Moving our way.

And then I began to see other hikers. Herds of them. Coming my way.

I could stay there all day.(click/embiggen)

While waiting to bump into them, I continued pointing the camera every whichway. It began glowing cherry red while humming pleasantly.

Feeder stream.

Then there was a vigorous waterfall. Surprisingly, this general area was full of streams, even in late August.

Nearing the valley's head. (click/embiggen)

A bit of wind the first night, a bit of rain. Fog the next day, and then sun and warmth, plus plenty of water. It doesn't get much better.

Another approaching herd.

Though some established "campsites" can get crowded, there is is enough room for those who know how to fade out of existence around dusk, and who don't mind not having a fire ring or wreaths of used toilet paper in unexpected locations. And there is lots of trail to spread out along.

The valley's "up" end. (click/embiggen)

The trail wisely curves at the pointy end of the valley. Try going too far and you rudely bump into immovable basalt. Basalt has no sense of humor and is likely to drop a hunk of itself on your head if you annoy it. (Word to the wise there.)

Don't mess with basalt. (click/embiggen)

Some day, like next year, I'd like to try coming back and exploring more. There is lots of country off the trail.

Finally. A chance to look down-valley. (click/embiggen)

A day or two later I found an informal trail that led to a hidden lake. Got to get back there. It's on my list.

Hiker family.

But out on the main trail there is plenty of drama, at least around here. All you have to do is look for it. Even an average sort of family out for a day or two can seem dramatic.

Where I was. (click/embiggen)

But out in the Goat Rocks anything can seem dramatic. And since it's National Forest, all you have to do is fill out a tag on the way in and not kill yourself before you leave. Other than that, no one much cares what you do or where you go.

Near Cispus Pass

And the higher you go the rockier it gets. In case all those trees begin to give you the creeps after a while.

Things begin to flatten out. (click/embiggen)

The climb out of Cispus Valley isn't that bad. It is uphill, but especially if there is a breeze, and cool temperatures, it is lots better than many other trails.

And get broad. (click/embiggen)

And has views.

I don't know either.

Even some trees have their own brands.

At the pass. Love it. (click/embiggen)

And once you're at the pass, you get another view, into the valley of the Klickitat River, which is pretty fine too.

The view from my luncheon table. (click/embiggen)

Which is a decent place to have lunch, if you have lunch, and water to go with it, and don't mind sitting in the dirt, a thing that never stopped me.

A short way down the Klickitat.

And after lunch, it's mostly downhill.

Columnar basalt.

With a stop to admire basalt that was able to cool slowly enough to get organized.

There be hexagons (somewhere).

There is a whole cliff full of these posts, and they're all there just for the taking. I stuffed about six into my pack before realizing that I'd just upped the weight by roughly 18,724 pounds (too many kilos to think about while remaining at least partly sane.)

Cliff. (Told ya.)

The good news is that none of these things is awake, or has legs, and no visible teeth. No worries about being chased hither and yon amongst the landscape and ruining one's digestion.

Toward Adams.

And then, down a bit, to the right over the ridge, and then there's Mt Adams again.

Large, bold, and stolid. Adams it is.

Mt Adams starts to get in your face about now. It is a supremely accessible mountain, and mellow to walk around (see earlier posts from previous years), due to its fantastic trail and the more-than-fantastic off-trail section on its east side.

Return to the forest.

The trail curves around east, hops over a ridge, and skirts Walupt Valley.

Nameless boggy lake.

This is nice too, though the upper end of this valley is boggy. Lots of water here, but mostly impossible to get to with the muck and all.

So inviting yet so mucky. (click/embiggen)

And then there is the certainty of mosquitoes. And other things living in the water, able to clog filters at first suck, or to overwhelm chemical treatments by sheer numbers.

Walupt Lake

At one point you get a glimpse of Walupt Lake out west. It's bigger than it seems from the map, but it's a long way down and full of organized campers singing drinking songs all night. So you probably don't want to go there.

Back to the bogs. (click/embiggen)

Too bad. Bogs are nice, though stand-offish. Especially for those with hammocks. Though I did hop off-trail and take a look. The deal-breaker was access to questionable water that required at least two people, a horse, block and tackle, and a rescue dog.

Pleasantly flat though.(click/embiggen)

So I continued walking, descending, and finally found a place far below, near a drippy stream. Not much to brag about, but it worked. End of day three.

Andy Goldsworthy