Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hells? Oh, noes.

Should be trig. Isn't anymore.

OK, I think I've jumped the shark again.

I was planning on hiking the high trail along the western side of Hells Canyon, something I did four years ago. I drove 475 miles from my hideout in the woods to the edge of Hells Canyon, stayed overnight in my car, and then turned around and drove 475 miles back.

When I got up that morning rain was falling. I couldn't face it. I didn't have much view of the sky, but since I saw stars overnight, I figured that the weather was coming in and was going to get worse, even though the forecast didn't say much either way. And that was it.

I had to decide one way or another and I couldn't face a day of rain.

Made it this far.

About two hours later, after I'd driven well up and away from the canyon area, things looked better though there was a big storm out east. I still couldn't tell if the storm was going farther east, or coming west, or going some other direction. I almost turned around and went back, quit my quitting. But meh. Inertia, once set in motion, becomes self-sustaining.

A day and a half later I was back in Olympia, on Friday, and then it rained all night, and all weekend, and half of Sunday night. That would be the night before last. Still fresh in my short-term memory.

It looks like though I want to go out and go backpacking, I just don't feel like actually doing any backpacking.

Looking back the way I came, toward the lonely guy's hotel (far right).

I did make a short drive out of town on Saturday, up the Skokomish River, and spent the night in the woods trying out my new hammock setup. That was nice enough, especially sleeping in a hammock again (best way to sleep ever), but I almost got drenched before I got it up, and mostly wetted out on the short hike back to my car on Sunday. And didn't much enjoy the hiking part. More of the same, you know? And had no place to go at the end to lay out my gear to dry and clean it. Only a 4x5-foot self-storage locker.

This happens.

For a while I went fishing all the time, then just didn't care any more. Built a couple of rods up from blanks — wound on the line guides, glued on cork rings and shaped them into grips by sanding, made them all shipshape and usable.

I did years worth of film developing and printing in a home darkroom, in a basement, then just didn't care much any more, at least about that end of photography. It dead-ended.

Went backpacking for a short while before returning to college for a second pass, then found bicycling. Built several bikes up, starting from the bare frame, made wheels, did it all. Rode STP (Seattle to Portland — 198 miles) in one day. Did RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier In One Day — 156 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing). Did lots of stuff. And then suddenly I didn't care any more.

So back to backpacking, which I hit like crazy for a couple of decades, and now I'm tired and don't want to fuss so much with anything, not even that.

Yesterday I wrote Henry at the hotel in Cuenca, Ecuador. Asked him to let me know when he has an apartment open. No reply yet. I'm pretty much ready to go any time. Don't know what I'll do there, but living on the road is too much bother. I miss going out for lunch, when lunch was the big event of the day, and I miss seeing people on the streets. I miss being a stranger in a strange land. Around here it's all cars, everywhere, and belligerent angry people, all of whome I've met already, too often.

Example: I spent about an hour in Kennewick, WA, looking for the Costco place to buy gas. Geez.

Gazing into the void. (From a Forest Service poster.)

The three cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland) are nothing but malls, strip malls, and housing tracts. Might have been nice at one time, when the cities were smaller, with two major rivers meeting there, and lots of parks along them, but now it's the worst of modern life. You can hardly walk from one store in a mall to another store in the same mall because of the traffic. Crazy shit. So I'm kind of waiting for when I can back out of this machine world and get back to where people are people.

I gave my dream a shot and it's crap. Poor me. At least it's only a matter of time. November at the latest. I have an official apartment reservation for November 10, in Cuenca. Thanks to you, my previous self, for thinking of that months ago, as a hedge.

Meanwhile, I'll probably have to wait. I got an eye exam scheduled, but it's July 31. I started a course of vaccinations at Wallgreens, and the final dose is due July 22. So, July. At best/worst I'll probably be here until the end of July.

Last night I remembered that I have a "Senior Citizen Limited Income Pass" for Washington State Parks. Half off. I used it. $12.50 for overnight parking isn't that bad — $375 a month. A set of ear plugs kills any chance of being disturbed, and there's no penalty in using them it's safe there, unlike sleeping in the woods in a state forest, where you never know what might happen in the night.

Will be doing more of that state park business. And probably some actual backpacking. The season is still early and I'm still a sucker, and will get seduced by actual rain-free summer weather if I'm still here when it comes along.

Coda: As it ever has been noted on my report card, so it remains — Frequently disappoints.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Palouse Falls

The not-dry falls of Washington State's channeled scablands. These are the other falls. Palouse Falls.

Energetic. Forceful. Downfalling.

There is a slight trail curling around the basin. No idea what made it, but it's not for hiking.

Downstream. Overlook under a big tree (right), parking lot, and "campground" (way right, hardly visible).

The downstream part looks inviting, and I hear that it can be navigated via kayak.

It is possible to scoot around to the north side of the falls to get a different perspective, bit it's also possible to slip off the edge.

Mostly it's safer to stay behind the fence.

Massive though. Massive falls way out here nowhere.

Yeah, so one more try. Still hot though. Still dusty.

From Jackson Creek Fish Camp I headed east again, and took in Palouse Falls. Impressive, but dry, hot, and dusty (more of the same).

There was a campground there, at the state park of the same name, but it was only a small patch of grass, two sides of which were defined by the gravel parking lot, subject to clouds of dust from it, and had no privacy.

Not much choice for me. I headed south, toward Walla Walla. I thought I could camp in the hills east of town and then head west again.

Along the way I stopped at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park and had a shower. Nice looking place but low and overgrown and would have been fatally buggy to stay in.

The roads out of Walla Walla have changed from four years ago. One, going through the mythical community of Kooskooskie, dead ends now, way short of where I wanted to go, as far as I can tell, and the other, north of there, is gated near the top. Anyway, I could at least find the gated part if not the place I once parked along the other road, so I stayed by the gate, above and east of Walla Walla.

And was attacked by bees.

There were hives, about 50 of them, across a fence just ahead of my car, 50 or 60 feet or so (15m - 20m). As soon as I opened my container of Safeway deviled egg potato salad I had a couple of bees flying at me, banging into me. I kept swatting at them. Not much good.

I folded a paper towel into a mitt and caught the more persistent one and crushed it. A bit later another one came along. Much more aggressive. This one slammed into my face several times. I had to pull it off and throw it downwind, but it kept coming back, so I crushed it too.

About then I finished eating and the bees thinned out. Must have been the smell of my food.

No other bugs. Breezy overnight with frequent gusts of gale-force stuff shaking the car. No rain, not cold. Pretty much OK.

The next day I again buzzed through Yakima far to the west, showered there and ate, and headed back to Rimrock Lake, and camped again at the end of the road where I had parked a few days earlier. All quiet. Probably overrun during the summer vacation season, but I was once again alone.

More info:

Palouse Falls (Wikipedia)

Lewis and Clark Trail State Park (Wikipedia)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Crab Creek Again

Evening view.

Secret parking spot slightly off the road.

Could have been fun,, no shade, dusty, buggy.

Jerry-rigged sunshade in rear of car relects at least some son while the hills wait for night.

Local color.

So, Dry Falls and Lenore Lake didn't work too well. Given that, I decided to head south and take a second look at Lower Crab Creek, since it wasn't too far off. Maybe, I thought, evening would be better than the morning had been. Maybe the weather would cool. Maybe magic.

After also checking out Billy Clapp Lake, I headed south through Soap Lake (a town), and Ephrata, and aimed in the general direction of Royal City, but a bit east. The roads were good. Billy Clapp Lake was not, especially. Nowhere to camp without paying a bunch, hot, hostile, and so on, although given the right weather, there is what has been called a decent hike along it west side.

Shortly south of Royal City is the Lower Crab Creek Road, which doesn't seem to have a number. I cruised west on that until I spotted a gap in the Russian olive trees and pulled off the main road (dusty gravel). This was immediately west of what shows up on the map as "Smyrna", where the road takes a jag south before it turns straight west again.

Parking was OK. There was a reasonable level of stealth. I thought it could work.

Sitting in the car's shade the 93°F temperature was not too bad. Surely things would cool after sunset. Nope.

By 7:30 p.m. the sun was low, but then the light breeze died and the bugs came out. Mosquitoes. Hungry. Whining. And the air became heavily humid. Nope. Nope.

Time to scrape the maps with my tired eyeballs. Time to swap back into refugee mode.

Here? There? Where?

OK, Jackson Creek Fish Camp. Back to Jackson Creek Fish Camp. It hadn't been bad. It had been good. Chance it.

I bugged out. Unbugged myself. Left bugginess behind. Drove fast, making my own wind. All the bugs finally fell away.

I got to Jackson Creek by 8:20, with the sun slipping behind the cross-river bluffs a few minutes later. No one there, not even fishers. Wow — I had the whole exact entire place to myself. There was a slight breeze. The air was not humid. The lack of shade did not count because the site was cooler in the evening dimness. Fine. I could even urinate into the fire pit at will, one of my favorite conveniences.

I had a decent sleep.

Before I left in the morning two pickup trucks came in, separately, and each left after a few minutes. Other than that I was totally alone. Deal. I didn't complain. The morning sky was blue. Hope returned.

More info:

Crab Creek (Wikipedia)

Lower Crab Creek Unit, Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Crab Creek (Columbia National Wildlife Refuge) Washington Trails Association

Google View

Elaeagnus angustifolia "Russian Olive" (Wikipedia)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dry Falls

First stop after leaving Wenatchee, and bomb making: Dry Falls. It looked like this.

Not dry at all, and no falls. Bummer.

There is a nice visitor's center at the spot, and it has a good view, with lots of info inside as well, and it isn't hot. All good stuff.

It could be fun to explore this area in early spring or late fall when the weather is more agreeable, but I think I got the point just from hanging my toes over the edge.

Definitely deserty here.

And the country goes on forever.

The visitor's center does allow service animals but not pets. Pets are fed to the resident tiger. I missed that part.

Here's the general area as seen from above in 1935.

If the weather hadn't been so hot I might have found the route down to the water, but as it was — meh.

It was a goodly drive, and I was hoping to find a cozy spot where I could camp. Didn't look like there was any.

There is a state park close by, but the whole area is so wide open and sun blasted that I was not impressed.

I did hope to do some hiking (finally) a bit farther south along Lake Lenore, or "Lenore Lakes", however you say it, and I did find the turnout. The route description said something like "Pull off the road at the turnout and leave your car in the steep parking area," which meant in practice that there was just enough room to pull off the road and hit a tiny patch of dirt angling upward at around 30°, and then leaving your car about 10 feet (3m) from the road, all buttoned up to keep out the clouds of dust whirling around every time a vehicle passed, and hope that nothing happened.

The weather was so hot that I didn't even consider going for a vertical hike right up into the hills. There was no point.

There was a much bigger pullout fairly close by, and I chose to go there, take a few careful steps down to the lake, and rinse out a pair of socks. (They are in short supply right now.) While there I eyeballed my maps frantically. Didn't get much of a clue, though I had to go somewhere.

So I continued driving, to another falls, and then some other uninteresting things happened.

More info:

Dry Falls (Wikipedia)

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

Lake Lenore

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wenatchee South

Wenatchee/East Wenatchee on a Sunday evening in May from the Cascade foothills to the southwest.

A wider view showing more of the Columbia River valley.

Closeup, relatively speaking.

What it looks like farther upriver, Rocky Reach Dam at left center.

My parking spot.

Although there are three state parks in or near Wenatchee, there isn't much of anywhere to go from Wenatchee, if you want to get into the hills, especially to park for the night.

The first night I was there, I drove north, past Entiat (far past), and then up a torturous, winding dirt road that is really fit only for four-wheel-drive, high clearance vehicles, even though I did make it up there four years ago in a Toyota Yaris, and repeated that trip this year, in a Nissan Versa Note. (Though I have to disclose that the road had been freshly graded in 2018, for some reason, though I did appreciate the improvement.) That trip is around 37 miles (60km) each way — a long, long way to go for a sort of sketchy parking spot.

Going south, the situation is worse. There are three roads up into the hills, but two of them were, at least as recently as two years past, impassable for ordinary vehicles. The third is paved all the way up, but that only gets you to the mission ridge ski area.

The trick is not to miss the undistinguished turnoff two or three miles before then, and then to drive a twisting and extremely dusty road until you can't go any farther, and then to look around for any possible place to park.

Sunday night was crowded, but the place was empty coming out on Monday morning. I'd hate to try going in on a Friday or Saturday.

Back in town Monday morning, I washed the car, picked up some food, and then stopped at Wenatchee Confluence State Park for a shower and for breakfast.

Over in the day-use area there is only one shaded parking spot, and it was open after I finished my shower, so I parked there. While noodling around in the back of my car to pull out food and my home-made backpacking cook kit, a van backed in right beside my car, inches away. There must have been 100 to 200 free spots in the area, all equally sun-blasted, but this person decided to take a chance on rubbing fenders with me. Arrr.

So, despite being chosen as a neighbor by someone of dubious sanity, I went about my business. The other person was a barrel-chested woman who went out walking her dog. She passed me a couple of times and eventually left. In the middle of this, a state park pickup truck approached from the other direction, and stopped in the shade, sitting there with the engine running in a no-parking area, facing me. Made me wonder if I was under surveillance.

Eventually the woman, the dog, and her van left. More eventually, the park vehicle left. By this time I had finished breakfast, which consisted of heating water, adding it to a ziplock bag of pre-assembled ingredients, and then kneading and shaking the bag to mix it all, after which I let it cool before gnawing off one corner of the bag and sucking breakfast out of it, my meal technique for backpacking.

The woman and her dog returned, seemingly out of nowhere, without her van. She asked me in a gravelly alcoholic/heavy smoker voice why I'd been wearing rubber gloves. Not rubber gloves — I had hot food — protecting my hands while making breakfast. "You look like you were making a bomb." "No, I made breakfast and then ate it." Then she left, again.

My best description is to imagine Popeye after a sex change. Big barrel chest, big belly, voice like a bulldozer, walks like a truck.

Then I went to a picnic area where I thought I'd find a water tap. Just after I got there the park truck came back and two armed rangers came to question me. About a report that I was making meth in the parking lot.

Yep. Same woman. Said I was making meth (by mixing my powdered meal with hot water) and/or making and then eating a bomb.

They said she was in the office practically jumping up and down with frightened excitement and all, but no, that wasn't me.

Or it was me but different — I was the person, but the person just making and eating breakfast while you two guys sat in your truck about 30 feet away with me in full sight.

Yeah, uh, right.

Arrr again.

They were pretty cool about it all, and I was too. I had some wine in the car, some rubbing alcohol as a hand sanitizer, and some Heet for stove fuel and that was it. No meth, no explosives, no guns, no secret decoder rings, no dog pornography.

I showed them my second, unopened bag of Soylent, which is what I had been test-eating that day (finishing off the first bag at breakfast that morning). I offered to dig my garbage out of the can if they wanted to look at it but they didn't seem that enthusiastic, so things didn't get that far.

Shortly after that they left, and so did I. Who could know what weird shit might hit the fan next?

I drove east and north. Everything looked disappointing. The sun was full out. The land was hot. The day dragged on.

More info:

Rocky Reach Dam (Wikipedia)

Wenatchee Confluence State Park (Wikipedia)

Soylent (meal replacement) (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Wenatchee North

The road in to my north-of-Wenatchee parking spot. Probably best considered four-wheel-drive only, though I made it in my Nissan Versa Note. (Columbia River valley in background.)

The far (east) side of the valley.

To the north, it looks like people are living here, so there must be a better road in than the one I took from the east and south.

A better view of the road I took. (Ripples, holes, narrows, and other dodgy spots smoothed out by the distance of the view.)

Salad. Potential salad. Does it bite? I promised not to if it didn't.

Top of the road, where I came in. A sign there warns of the primitive road, in case someone has come in from the opposite direction, so there must be a better way, though it could take days to find it.

Ditto. Top-of-road, to the north, as seen during my evening walk.

My nighttime parking spot, well out of sight, down a spur road that looks like it's been unused, at least so far this year.

So, a little unexpectedly, I ended up in Wenatchee about a day earlier than expected, since I couldn't loiter and/or hike and loiter.

Visiting Wenatchee when the point of my trip was to see some of eastern Washington's Channeled Scablands didn't make sense, since it's outside the scabland area, but I just wanted to see Wenatchee again.

I had tried to find an apartment there in 2014, but was unable to, not in my price range. The options are limited, starting at $1000 per month (with little selection), and going up rapidly from there. If you're willing to rent something for $1800 to $2000 a month, you can get by, but on the other hand, what's the point of that?

It does have three state parks close by, one of them in town, so that's handy. But really, for a city sitting actually touching the Cascade Mountains, there is almost no access to hiking areas. Looking for a place to park overnight is rugged. There are few.

So, the next day was Sunday, and I was able to get to the library, which is one of the highlights of Wenatchee, being open seven days a week. Via email I got notice from my sister that a cousin had died, a year ago in February. I hadn't seen him for 50 years. Didn't recognize him in the obituary photo. My sister now says there are things she wants to do while she has the chance to. Same with me.

I pushed off on Monday.

More info:

Wenatchee, Washington (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Lower Crab Creek

Not successful. In the hiking sense. Interesting place though.

So, I guess I'm not the only one who has been here, but I didn't take off my shoes.

View to the south. I wanted to scramble up there, but it was clear that this was not a place to spend the night afterward.

So I did walk up, but only a short way, maybe with a hundred feet (30m) of elevation gain, enough for a more expansive view.

It seems that this general area, especially a mile or two downstream, is popular for fishing, based on the number of vehicles and people I saw.

The water is muddy, or was when I passed through the area. I'm not sure what the quality of the fish might be. I would be more trusting of those caught in the Columbia River, only a few more miles to the west.

The weather was dry and sunny but also unexpectedly hot, furiously hot, with intermittent gale force winds. Lots of dust.

I also saw no place I would have wanted to park my car for the night, though I did find a place a few days later. It had other problems, as we'll see later. Anyway, I moved on.

More info:

Crab Creek (Wikipedia)

Lower Crab Creek Unit, Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Crab Creek (Columbia National Wildlife Refuge) Washington Trails Association

Google View