Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Definitions: Alien Abduction (updated)

This is not the kind of thing you normally plan for, but which sometimes happens to hikers in remote areas, generally around dusk.

For some reason or other.

If you hear a strange rattling buzz and your arm hairs start to tingle, then try ducking under cover, though it may already be too late. They're pretty good at locating the people they want, which may be you. Even if you haven't had a bath in the last two weeks.

But try hiding anyway.

If you were just contentedly gazing at the evening sky and then you suddenly find yourself bathed in a cone of white light, you are definitely S.O.L. (Surely Out of Luck). Even if you try ducking under that log.

Expect to be gently levitated upward into some sort of disk or saucer-shaped pod, and after that you can just about throw out the rule book. Control has definitely passed out of your hands.

While there really isn't much you can do it still pays to make as clean and presentable an appearance as possible. It couldn't hurt. Wear fresh undergarments. Bathe more often than twice a month.

Seriously. At least try to.

Always carry a small kit with a selection of essential toiletries such as toothpaste and deodorant, and maybe a small comb. Trim your nose hairs if at all possible.

Remember, these beings are much more advanced and refined than we are, even if they do have tentacles and/or bristles, and uncomfortable quantities of slime oozing from various places. They will look more favorably on you if you don't stink. And they are the ones with the ray guns.

If you are tidy, if you do behave, and especially if you seem to enjoy the probing and so on, they may let you snap a few photos, so be sure to include a small camera in your kit and remain alert for opportunities.

Aside from a few lingering sore spots if the probing gets out of hand, the experience may not be too bad, and coming back with a bunch of photos could put you on easy street for the rest of your life.

On the other hand they may just eat you.

You really never know.

Play it by ear.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Definitions: Clothing

Clothing is that which separates backpackers from animals, and serves as a shrubbery deflector in scratchy places.

Whereas, on the one hand, animals have natural-born fur, which is self-replenishing, self-cleaning, durable, form fitting, warm, blends into the landscape, costs nothing, repels insects, and prevents sunburn, humans have clothing, "a covering designed to be worn on the body".

As if that sounds like an improvement.

Trees have leaves, and bark of various colors and thicknesses, and some even have Spanish moss, which can be eaten as a salad if times get tough. But humans, no. Nothing like that. (Edible panties hardly count — they lack calories.)

Humans have only "a covering", which sounds a lot like shelf paper. Though if this covering stuff is intended for backpackers, and sold in stores, it's likely to be made of Gore-Tex, cost a thousand dollars, come only in yellow, blue, or orange, and not fit well. And leak when it shouldn't.

A backpacker can use dung, and it's been tried, but never has been popular. Early market testing found it more commonly used as an insulating layer in deep burrows during the winter months. For warmth you see, and not as recreational wear. And not that much fun.

If you must have clothing, then pajamas work, or overalls, kimonos, or sarongs, supplemented by shawls, nightcaps, spats, veils, or wimples. A lot of things work, if you come right down to it, each in its own way, but the backpacker has no universal, all-purpose, factory-supplied, shrink-wrap-tight hair suit like the other critters out there. And you just can't get around that fact.

So backpackers have to work at it, improvise, and a kilt isn't right for everyone. For most, a kilt is never even an approximate solution, with or without the user even has enough leg hair to pull it off.

Backpackers need clothing.

Backpackers need clothing because they are not meant to live in or under shrubbery, or cozily nestle in between mucky rustling lakeshore reeds.

Backpackers do not belong under the wide sweeping sky of the steppes, ripping tufts of grass with their sturdy teeth and masticating it into submission, depending on their fuzz to deflect the pummeling gusts of gusty winds.

And so a backpacker needs clothes the way an astronaut needs a space suit, the way a candy bar needs a wrapper, the way fruit needs a can — for preservation.

Clothing is also that thing which, if you grow forgetful and leave it at home, you will regret not having it, immediately, incessantly, completely, and for the full duration of your trip, especially if someone has brought a camera.

So there.

Note: According to the ancient Egyptians, clothing may be protected from mice and rats by liberally applying fat of the cat, which is a decent reason to have a well-fed and docile pussy around the house. Something to keep in mind.

Source: how to talk in the woods.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Definitions: Alluvial Fan

Yet more interesting dirt facts.

What an alluvial fan looks like after it is recaptured and returned to its cell.

Definition 1. A pile of dirt in the desert.

These occur everywhere that dirt has escaped from the hills and gotten out into the wide open spaces where it can live free. Or so it thinks. Mainly, it's out there for you to step in. As if you needed that.

Definition 2. A pile of desert dirt that has been flattened and spread out in a fan shape over the centuries.

It gets this particular shape by being run down every decade or two by panicked water rushing to get out of the hills as fast as it can. (Water is afraid of heights.)

Definition 3. The pleasant, cool and welcome nighttime breeze flowing down out of the desert hills and through your campsite after dark just before the rainstorm, and the flood, and your sudden, unpleasant death.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — Drips and out.

Darkness at noon.

Or slightly after. Near the top of the Gray Wolf / Deer Park trail, a miles-long trudge uphill.

Pretty though.

A miles-long trudge uphill during which rain did fall. Fine. Bring it on. No. Not fine.

At least someone was happy.

Definitely not me. I don't do well in rain, especially while sweating. But it was the only way out.

Remember that sunny panorama?

Yeah, well things had changed in a little over a day. No more sun. No more open vistas. Only a trail going off toward the edge of the earth.

Giant whatsis (looming phase).

At least, if rain is falling, also having fog gives an opportunity for sightseeing. Everything looks different.

Then there's Mom.

Plus a fresh one from the copy-oven. Li'l Hopper, you could call it, hopping around the way it did. Tiny but happy..

Fading out.

I didn't get (and couldn't get) close enough for good photos but did manage these few. Mom didn't want anything to do with me, even though I was the only one around, and Li'l Hopper just bounced along behind her, both of them moving away from me at a decent clip.

And...

Gone in a couple more seconds. Though I had my little pocket camera racked way out, I barely caught them. Not even enough time to adjust the ISO for a faster shutter speed or anything. Just one more desperate shot before the deer were completely back in their own element and hidden from sight.

And that was my trip.

Info

Olympic National Park map (PDF)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — Time to climb.

I am curious (buck).

It was a surprise to me too. Things came off slightly blurry but perhaps at least one of us may be excused. (That would be me. If you agree.)

Nope. Don't wanna be near any hiker guys.

Deers got more important things to do anyway. Even more blurred. This guy was on a much faster schedule than I was at the time.

Smaller than a deer, but with more legs.

More like one of my relatives, except that most of my relatives prefer to stay under the rocks. No words passed between us. We pretended not to recognize each other.

A nice, bright touch.

So far the day had been lightly overcast — enough to allow decent photography in the forest without blown highlights, making anything brightly-colored stand out even more.

Overcast but dry. And, of course, since I was near the end, things were about to change.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — Time to make a climb.

Register here?

Not any more. No more pencils, no more paper cards, no information. The Park Service has recently entered the 20th century.

This way out. Or, um...

I didn't meet the person who gnawed this off at ground level. Maybe he was watching from the bushes, or resting his teeth.

Trillium? I think, sans blossom.

Someone took a bite out of this too. There's a whole lot of that going around.

Bridge.

Or footlog-with-railing. Over the Gray Wolf River. There is a camping area here, but, as with most such places, it is salted with assorted human detritus and likely to attract night-creepers and biters, as well as backpackers. I avoid such.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — Continued tromping along gloomy trails.

Trail, yes. Gloomy, yes. Wonderful-fine, yes.

High up above the Gray Wolf River, going upstream.

Bridge.

And/or footlog. Your call what to call it. It works the same no matter which name you use.

Salal.

That stuff on the ground? Salal. Kind of crinkly and stiff. Always clean and decent. An all-around nice shrub.

Down-steps.

Approaching the confluence of the Gray Wolf River, Cameron Creek, and Grand Creek, which is where I turned right and began to climb.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — Sleepy time and beyond.

Snooze shack.

I used one of those two-ounce emergency space blankets for a tarp. I'm glad there was no rain. Too short. Otherwise it worked OK. Kept in enough heat, blocked the overnight down-slope breeze. Did the job.

More dimness.

Yeah, so the next day had a cloudy morning. The photos give you an idea of the actual gloom. I happen to like gloom. It looked like what you see here. Gloomy.

Relevant detail.

Looking down, this is what I saw. A lot of the plants have waxy leaves. I'm not sure why, but since there isn't much dust in these northwest forests, the leaves often look preternaturally clean.

Spookiness.

If you want to call it that. Every now and then there will be a long stretch of forest with little undergrowth and lots of dead trees. I happen to like it.

The same, with moss.

There are whole hillsides full of moss. This year has been dry, including the moss. But it's still green. I also like green.

Geometry.

I.e., pointy at the top and bushy below. This is possibly a hemlock. More green on green and quiet. I was alone for almost all of the trip. Just like this — only me and the trees.

See that?

That's the trail down there. In case. In case you wondered.

But, to be honest, not much else was going on. Which was fine.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — Some structural details.

Bridge over Gray Wolf River.

Nice bridge. Better than wading. I waded the river the first time through, back in 2003, because I didn't know that there was a bridge — kinda too lazy/too smart to follow a side trail and check upstream for a bridge. The river nearly took me.

Bridge deck.

For those who find themselves thrilled by such. Anyway, it was a nice angle for a shot. I'm trying to remember to look for nice angles. I think this is one. It's a photo of a bridge, as seen from one end.

First you see it, then you get to it, then you walk across it and then you do other stuff. And so on. Pretty easy, overall, if you think to look for the bridge. That's important.

Thrashing waters.

This is a pretty boring shot as photographs go. At least I think so, but then again, what else would I photograph? At least you can see water, and moss, and ferns, and then imagine what water and moss and ferns would be like. It's actually about what you'd expect.

Cliff Wall.

I used to work with a guy named Cliff, but he wasn't Cliff Wall. Despite that he was pretty nice.

I saw him a few years later in a class for naughty people. My two colleagues and my boss were there because none of us got along with him (this was after he threatened me when no one was around and he thought he could get away with it, my boss did).

Cliff was there too that day. He'd said something bad to his boss. I was on Cliff's side. He was a lifer of a state employee but not a bad guy. I'm sure his boss deserved it, whatever it was.

This cliff was about as you see. Rock. Alongside the river, and interesting insofar as it went. For the most part it just stood there, which is also fine.

More busy water.

A lot of the Gray Wolf River is like this. I tend to like it, but not for putting myself into. That's why I took a photo of it instead of sticking my head down in there, which seemed like a decent idea at the time. Still does.

Trail. Dim. As evening comes.

True to form things began to get dark before I found a place to sleep. This tends to induce suspense, if not outright panic, and is one of my signature moves.

Come around next time to see what happened next. Something did, as far as I can recall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — Wherein vascular plants are encountered.

I see Paris. I see France. I see various under-plants.

Strangely, at this moment, I have nothing to say.

I am squeakless.

Rhododendron.

Circa 1600, from French rhododendron and directly from Latin rhododendron, from Greek rhododendron, literally "rose-tree," from rhodon "rose".

Yeah. A flower. They grow wild here. On bushes. Go figure.

Rhododendron leaves.

Sometimes, when you look at them, they make sense.

Cairn.

Also known as a heap of stones. Though in this case I'll take gentle exception to that characterization.

How about you?

Another rhododendron.

Once you've seen one, you've seen one, unless you've seen more. For a guy from the High Plains, this is a deal. A big deal. On the High Plains there is not a thing such as this. Any where.

And now, The End. For today.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight — The story begins.

A brief update.

I'm going to do this in segments — a series of posts a few images at a time.

So hang on. It will be a ride. Not a wild ride, but a sort of slow tumble.

Deer Park

It begins this way. It looks like this.

A few steps east. Over there it looks like this.

And although in general I'm not a fan of east, in this case it works. I like it, I like this east. This east, right here.

South. And then there is south.

And if you look closely, you'll see, you'll realize that direction means something, and in this case it means what you see here. I have been there. Me. I. There. Here.

This means something, to me if not to you. But even if it means nothing to you, welcome. Come in. You are welcome to come in. To come in and look.

But first, some hiking.

Hiking often gets in the way. Landscape gets in the way of hiking. Planning gets in the way of experience. I have done that. I have done all of it.

Still, in some way, it works.

Southeast.

Southeast? Is there potential there? One wonders. One wonders what. What would happen if one went there.

I did.

And a thing happened.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Gray Wolf Overnight

Placeholder for now, more later as soon as I can swing it.

Got some images from a low-key two-day and one-night trip to explore an area that's vague on the map, and to check out a new pack I made.

For now I have just the one image, which pretty well stands in for the meaning of life, so it ain't that bad overall. Eh?

And, on the off chance that someone somewhere in the world actually reads this blog, I was on the edges of Olympic National Park and of the Buckhorn Wilderness.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fresh, July 5

 The Atlantic:  2015 Audubon Photography Awards.  The National Audubon Society was kind enough to share some of this year's winners and runners-up with us.  Read this...


 Pasatiempo:  Book Review: "Backpacking With the Saints: Wilderness Hiking as a Spiritual Practice".  Reading a potentially dangerous book in a landscape perceived to be dangerous can be doubly hazardous. The place heightens the vulnerability occasioned by the text.  Read this...


 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  Twenty years on, revisiting the Appalachian Trail.  We are there to mark the 20th anniversary of a seven-month, end-to-end through hike of the AT by journalists from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and four other Eastern newspapers. But first there is yoga.  Read this...


 Backpacking Bongos:  Should a trail map have the trail marked? Not according to Routebuddy!  Not only do you not receive what you paid for, the subsequent customer service makes everything feel ten times worse.  Read this...


 Outdoor Herbivore Blog:  Avoiding Dishes in the Backwoods: Cooking Bag Pot Liners.  Cooking liners are rated for super high temperatures (up to 400 degrees F), so does that make them safer for hot foods?  Read this...


 The Adventure Junkies:  Backpacking Essentials: 41 Hiking Tips For Beginners.  To help out first-time hikers we've compiled a list of tips inspired from questions asked by our readers, advice given to us by other hikers, and our own experience.  Read this...


 Lady on a Rock:  Climbing Mount Russell: The Beast.  Once upon a very beautiful summer day, Dan and I attempted this peak...and knew we must come back another day.  Read this...


 Cesar And The Woods:  All of Cesar's Ultralight Shelter Systems: Full Reviews, Comparisons, and Analyses.  What follows is a long reflection on my choice of fully enclosed backpacking shelters, with a breakdown of specifications, pros/cons, comparisons, applications, etc.  Read this...


 DNTO:  Mac Hollan: The Wolf.  Mac was an experienced cyclist but nothing could have prepared him for what happened on this trip!  Read this...


 Lens Culture:  The Last Stand.  My great grandfather and great uncle, in providing for their families, felled many of the actual trees whose remnants you now see in these photographs.  Read this...


 The Hiking Life:  Five Basic Principles of Going Lighter.  By choosing to 'go lighter' you are essentially making a conscious decision to adopt an...uncluttered approach.  Read this...


 The Huckleberry Hiker:  Two More People Injured By Bison In Yellowstone.  Before the girl could react, the bison charged her and tossed her in the air.  Read this...


 Austin-Travis County EMS:  Hiking Safety Tips.  Carry a small amount of cash for emergency purchases...Wear reflective material...Do not approach homeless encampments or hostile people engaged in illegal activities.  Read this...


 National Geographic:  Photographing the Revival of the American Mountain Man.  Dozens of rugged-looking men mill around an encampment. They tether their horses and mules to trees. They wear animal skins.  Read this...


 As It Happens:  Hiker's dog saved his life when they were hit by lightning.  The charge went through both of our bodies, and that was how he passed.  Read this...


Ad: Fire In Your Hand: Ultralight backpacking stoves.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hell And Out

Standing tall on a dim evening.

It looked like rain. I was stompin' it downhill.

Distant beasties.

Didn't notice these guys across the valley until editing the photo.

My home for the second night.

See the elk now? Same photo as the previous one. Anyway, I found a place to camp, and walked through poison ivy. And survived.

At least someone was happy.

Some of the plants were in a good mood. I was trying to figure WTF.

An early brief, hopeful flash of morning sunlight.

I finally got that figured out, dumped my food, slept, and bugged out the next day, two days in and one day behind schedule.

Rolling, rolling along.

The weather was better — not cold, not windy any more. Sometimes it's like that when you give up.

View down toward the river.

In fact, things looked pretty good overall.

Yeah. Go figure. If you can.

I had a Forest Service map, which was so detailed and tiny-printed that it was almost useless, and had a couple of photocopied pages from Douglas Lorain's book, which were good, but little help from what signs were there — all old, wiped clean.

My only friend.

If you look closely, and have nothing else to do, you see little stuff.

Overview.

And there's lots of big stuff to see as well.

Just about the only legible sign.

Hey! A sign! With letters on it. At least I knew that I was still on the trail. For a while.

Ridge to hell. Or the Snake River.

I never did actually get to touch the Snake River. It was over there somewhere.

About where I lost it (the trail).

And then things got confusing. Coming in it was all clear. Going back out the trail sort of seemed to evaporate.

Happy because flowers can't get lost.

Hmmm — a flower. Not a serious marker. I wonder where the trail went.

Clear, clean upland.

Not up there.

Which way is out?

Not out there, I think. But who can say?

Elkers. Running. From me.

Probably not over there, but even if I went to ask the elk, they weren't in a helpful mood.

Hmmm. Do I want to go there?

No evidence of a trail. How the hell did I get in here? Anyhow?

Landmark.

Well, I finally decided just to go in one direction, and decided that this was a good landmark. A few minutes later I saw the trail on the other side of the valley, backtracked, chased it down, and got back on it after only two or so wasted hours. Heh.

Another scorched tree.

OK. Trees. There were trees. Looks like a lot of them have had hard times. But they came through.

OK, this looks like the way out.

Ahhh. Finally. Clear trail. Actually, this was way farther on, but it makes a good story. Mostly, in fact, the trail was clear to see if not great to walk on. Overall, I probably averaged 1.25 miles an hour, pushing hard. No wonder I couldn't make my 15 miles a day.

You're happy too, aintcha?

Well, since it was just a matter of following the trail out, I once again had time to admire the flowers. While still keeping an eye out for snakes.

On the trail back to the top.

And then there was the long trudge back up to the ridge, from where I was able to make a long trudge back down the other side to get back to my car.

Still pretty.

OK. Color. I get it (pant, pant). Still a damn long way up.

Definitely the trail out...

Etc.

Been there, seen that.

Finally, at the top of the ridge, the only other readable sign. But it only told me what I already knew.

The end, except for a couple more miles down the other side.

In the end, I decided that I'd like to go back some time, and maybe aim for a shorter hike, going in one day and then heading east, toward Snake River, taking the trail down the long slope and forgetting about making any grand loop. The trail gets worse and worse as you go north, and all the worst poison ivy was up that way, and along the river coming back from the north end. A little wouldn't be too bad, but... You know?

More:

Post 1 To Hell, Briefly

Post 2 Hell Again

Reference: Backpacking Oregon, by Douglas Lorain.