Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hike One

So, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

Now what?

Try hiking, something easy but fun.

So I headed into the wilds of Lacey, WA, and tackled the mighty Chehalis Western Trail.

Preparation: minimal — after several weeks of hiding in libraries I was ready to explode, so I thought I'd try living dangerously and tackle this route "naked".

Start. Plenty of parking. Water. (See background.) All-weather surface. Looks good.

I started about a half-mile (0.8 km) in from where I used to when I lived here. To the railway and back was about 7 miles instead of the former 8-ish miles I used to do mornings. No pets to pick up, so I skipped a pet pickup-bag and didn't pack anything either in or out. Bold!

No motor vehicles. Always reassuring. The woman at upper left was wearing an odd dress with a piano-keyboard print on it, and large headphones (I don't know how she communicated with her companion), but other than that, she didn't seem overly dangerous. I decided to continue.

Blossoms. Must be spring, at least up in the trees.

There was some wildlife blocking part of the trail, but I was able slip by unnoticed while it attacked an elderly man approaching from the opposite direction. When I returned, it was still occupied feeding on the body, so no problem with that either. My lucky day.

Signage was plentiful though confusing at times. I guess this means that if you are on foot you should be ready to run for your life, swerving unpredictably if necessary in case of rogue bicycles. Again, no motor vehicles. And as for obstructions, I did notice some light dust, but managed to make my way around that, and I did see a fallen leaf or two, but again, forewarned is forearmed, and since I was prepared, I managed to climb over them (even without trekking poles), so no loss, though the effort did slow me down a bit.

Typical native huts. Nicely separated from the trail by a thoughtful chain link fence. I didn't see any beggars on the trail, or even near it, so I suspect that the fence may have been electrified. Nice touch.

Freight train. Near the end of my section. I hid behind a tree until it was past. I don't think it saw me.

Whew! At this point I'd gone 3½ miles (5.64 km). For a while I wasn't quite sure if I was still on-route, despite the 12-foot-wide asphalt paving, but once I caught sight of this sign I was mightily relieved. I knew I'd be able to make it back without too much trouble.

And what do you know? Another arrow, although without text (maybe the batteries died), pointing back the way I had come. A second reassurance.

I stopped to look at the tracks but had to scramble away quickly after hearing another train approaching in the distance. I don't know what might lie on the other side of the tracks. I'm not sure anyone has ever been over there. I'll let someone else go first and then think about it later.

This southern end is boggy too. You never know what's going to happen around boggy areas. In Europe they find dead bodies in bogs. Thousands of years old. I'm not that old yet but I don't want to push my luck, you know? I stayed on the pavement and grabbed a couple of shots of the grass while it was looking the other way, then moved on quickly.

Ah. Color. Comforting at first sight, but then it began quivering on its stalk, as though reaching for me. Some say it's just the breeze but better safe than sorry.

I can't say for sure if anyone has ever thru-hiked this route, but the guy on the right could be a good candidate. He didn't stop to talk, and didn't look really happy, both of which only added to my suspicions.

Lakeside rest area. Homeless guys have been known to use this area. I wouldn't doubt that.

Greenery. And to think that only a week ago this was all a wasteland of mud and gray skies and endless rain.

But the ditches on each side of the trail are still full to the brim with black water.

And who knows what might be living down there? Luckily for me, although the day was growing late it was nowhere near dark yet, so I made it all the way back to the parking lot without incident, and then left immediately.

Comments? Send email to sosayseff@nullabigmail.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Definitions: Spoon

(1) A position that hikers may innocently and often unintentionally assume while sleeping in a trail shelter. I.e. sharing warmth with a friend, or with any random warm body that happens to be lying next to you.

This can, of course, result in several varieties of surprise, such as when the warm body that happens to be lying next to you is a bear attempting to snuffle its way into your neighbor's pack in search of midnight munchies, or, in another case, when that warm body that happens to be lying next to you is in fact a swarm of mice the size of a bear. (Note: This takes lots of mice to pull off, so be forewarned here — you will be doing a whole bunch of swatting in short order.)

This isn't the spoon we're talking about anyway, so forget you read that and move along...

(2) That tool you dig food with, according to Homer J. Simpson. Closer...

(3) The only eating utensil that a real hiker will consider carrying. Yeah, maybe...

(4) An unnecessary complication. Which is true, if you are really hardcore.

But some people use sporks. What's wrong with sporks?

This sounds like a simple question, but you could get stuck in a vast wet swamp of similar what's wrong with sorts of questions, and thinking about them will leave you paralyzed by unnecessary mental activity, which is a notorious time sucker.

Questions like:

  • What's wrong with the SEC?
  • What's wrong with Starbucks?
  • What's wrong with the Chiefs?
  • What's wrong with my tomato sauce?
  • What's wrong with Vanderbilt women's basketball?
  • What's wrong with Barron Trump?
  • What's wrong with Sports Illustrated
  • What's wrong with you?
  • What's wrong with gender reveal parties?
  • What's wrong with white women voters?
  • What's wrong with groovin?

So, the simple answer, applicable to nearly every dining situation is...Use a stick.

If you start feeling fancy, use two sticks. Now you've got chow sticks, and still can't eat soup, but sticks are everywhere, so feel free to play around. (And for crying out loud, just drink your damn soup already.)

For those times when you can't find even one stick, then, if hiking with others, use any finger of your non-nose-picking hand. Or any finger at all if you're hiking alone, or don't care what people think, and if you're a hardcore backpacker you don't care about anything except for being seen as a hardcore backpacker, so a move like this could enhance your image reputation, if that's what you have. Hard to say.

Comments are appreciated via email to: sosayseff@nullabigmail.com

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Definitions: Nimbostratus Cloud

(1) A nimbostratus cloud is a rain cloud, especially a low dark layer of cloud accompanying continuous rain or, if you prefer brighter colors and are lucky, snow.

These clouds are typically at a height of a quarter mile (0.4 km), which is just a bit too high to hit if you throw rocks at them in hopes of scaring them off.

Spitting doesn't work either (it just comes back at you), so don't bother trying that, though loud cursing can help to keep you warm, and may attract wolves, which will give you a reason to run, which in turn will make you that much warmer. Could be worse.

(2) Nimbostratus clouds are a low-level cloud type, formless and dark gray in color, and occur in layers at low altitude (normally below 1.5 miles or 2.4 km). They usually bring gloomy precipitation and/or depression, thoughts of suicide, and that slimy feeling you get inside your rain gear after a couple of miles of walking in drizzle. This is of course the essence of backpacking, so you do have a reason to rejoice, right?

(3) Another definition: Just in case you were wondering, the word nimbostratus means rain plus sheet, which are some of the words you might use, though with slight pronunciation differences.

Interesting facts: Rain and snow often accompany these nimbostratus clouds, coloring the sky a bright and cheery solid gray. (Inserted here in case you missed the previous mentions.)

Besides that, these clouds scrape along at altitudes so low that you always feel like ducking. But this never helps. The bases of nimbostratus clouds are actually too high for you to bump your head on though generally there will be plenty of rocks around in most locations so you can amuse yourself by pounding them against your head to make the time pass more quickly.

Nimbostratus clouds are said to develop when a front of warm, moist air meets a body of cold, dry air, but that's only science talk. When the day is dull and dark, and rain is falling steadily, and everything is gray, don't blame it on warm, moist air meeting a body of cold, dry air. To put it that way sounds almost romantic, and makes it seem like it's understandable. It isn't. It's your unfathomable fate at work. Probably.

Endless, gray, featureless, weeping clouds could be what you deserve. And if not you, then someone, somewhere, and you're only reaping the collateral benefits of their karma.

And really, does it matter if you are the one suffering due to your own issues, or because of someone else's transgressions? Truly? Aren't we all interchangeable in a fundamental way? After all, is there any proof you can provide that you are actually any better in any real sense? At all?

Probably not, so forget it and keep walking in the rain. Enjoy the gray, and that numb feeling in your hands. It's likely to clear up in a week or two. Or maybe next month. One of these days.

One of these days the sun will break through to warm and cheer the world again, for 15 minutes or so, before the clouds close in again and the rain resumes. Which could be what you in fact do deserve.

Who can say?

Comments are appreciated via email to: hoofist@nullabigmail.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Definitions: Basin Bog

(1) A basin bog is what's left in your cooking pot after you use it as a tiny tub for bathing, even if all you've done is to lightly shampoo your eyebrows.

The residue from even this little bit is probably thick and rich enough to support a flower garden. That is, if you are a real hiker, and actually live in the dirt.

Real hikers attract dirt the way cars attract dogs and rock stars gravitationally suck in groupies.

Unfortunately for you, backpackers (let alone day hikers) are not sexy, and never get to choose one or two or three or more temporary playmates from a crowd of the most beautiful and voluntarily willing human specimens on earth.

Part of it is that crust of dirt. (The one encasing you.)

Another part of it is the crust of dried sweat under the dirt, on the dirt, and mixed throughout the dirt. (The dirt on you.)

And don't forget the pit stink. No one around you can. Your pit stink.

Face it. You smell like ass, all day, every day, at every spot on your body.

And that is not sexy, unless you are trying to attract the kind of action that the rest of us do not ever want to know about.

If you do want that, then please do not tell us, because we do not want to try unringing any bells, though we would try, with all our might, for a long, long time. We would. Would try.

(2) The other kind of basin bog is one that is wet and has lain low.

It is one that has stayed in one place for almost ever, slowly building itself, putting itself together, rising by hairsbreadths over endless centuries until its very upmost part finally, barely, slightly, breaks the water's surface, the surface of the water that has nurtured it, whether that water is a pond, a lake, or a stagnant former stream channel, and having ultimately pushed beyond the surface tension of that body of water the bog then pauses and continues to lie still, in place, there, horizontally, waiting, stoically, sluggishly acquiring consciousness and then thinking about what to do, and to whom.

Which is about the time that you come tromping along, whistling a happy tune, completely and entirely oblivious to every one of the possibilities inherent in this situation.

Comments are appreciated via email to: sosayseff@nullabigmail.com