Saturday, August 25, 2012

i've been everywhere, man

Johnny Cash sang loudly as I drove down yet another dusty, potholed forest service road on my never ending quest of the grand grail of goals. "He asked me if I'd seen a road with so much dust and sand..." My daydreaming was cut off by the lyrics and I was sucked into the song.  It was so spot-on appropriate in that moment, that I turned it up even louder and sang. "I've breathed the mountain air, man..."

Yes, I felt like I had been everywhere.  I'd crossed swift rivers on teetering logs, encountered strange mountain men, twisted and cranked ankles in troughs of motorcycle tracks, been blown away by mountain grandeur, smelled more wildflowers than most florists, smelled more horse poop than most farmers, and played chicken with fear.  This day was yet another great day, filled with who-knows-what on a trail in who-knows-where.  I'd learned that just because it existed proudly on a map as a solid green line, did not mean that it existed in reality or that anyone but wildlife used it.

This day, there was a nip in the air and I could tell that fall was seeping in, much to my chagrin. I had so much to accomplish and strongly disapproved of the weather changes and the fact that I'd added extra layers including gloves to my backpack.  "More weight to haul around," I'd mumbled as I shoved them into the black hole of pack paraphernalia.  In my head I calculated how long until the snow arrived back up on these peaks and winter engulfed my beautiful green, subalpine meadows.  I told myself to relax and went back to focusing on the immense pot holes in front of me- swerving and zigzagging as I'd learned to do.  It would all get done.  "Of travel, I've had my share man, I've been everywhere..."I belted.

You came along, just when I needed you most
This photo cost me 6 mosquito bites, but was worth the memories!
(Sand Lake near White Pass)
I'm stumped! Guessing a northern flicker? 
Just another fabulous moment of looking at mountains
Nannie Ridge Trail near Sheep Lake 
This week I was lucky enough to be joined on Fife's Ridge by 17 friends (one is taking the picture).
The oldest in the group is 83 and faithfully hikes each week.  They are
simply a charming bunch, full of laughs and stories.

Near Tipsoo Lake the flowers took my breath away.
Sheep Lake, Goat Rocks Wilderness

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

this weeks shenanigins

Never a dull moment!  Years ago I used to hear Brian Adams bellow the vocals of "the Summer of 69"  and wondered what that must have been like.  In my teenage-head I'd had several fun summers, but none that were as memorable as getting my first real 6 string, or standing on my mama's porsche.  Wait, that's porch isn't it?  Whatever. You get the point, nothing stood out as much as Brian's beloved summer of 69.  The summer of 2012 might change things.  There have been so many good and bad moments of this odd summer that at this point (settle in for a hiker joke) "I can't see the forest for the trees" (ba-dump-bump).  When it's all over, it may just inspire me to get a 6 string and compose lyrics.  Or a banjo, which would be much more fitting.  Take, for example, my run-in this week on Snipes Mountain.

First, off, I need to point out that V thinks it's weak of me to be afraid of cows, but I admit it!  I find cows scarier than pink meatloaf at a potluck.  Let's face it, cows are huge- I mean really huge. Add the fact they are conniving and it packs quite a fright.  Although, I learned this week that they are about as coordinated as a cross-eyes squirrel when they need to move quickly.  There I was, walking amongst burned trees, up on Snipes Mountain enjoying the lupine and fireweed, when I spied something large through blackened bark.  All I saw was part of a tan-colored mass.  My first thought was that I'd seen an elk.  A few more steps and I realized I was being eyeballed by several cows- just starring and chewing and glaring.  What in the sam hill were cows doing on a hiking trail?  Before long, I was surrounded by them.  One decided that it didn't like me and tried to run away, which sent the whole herd stampeding down hill- cow bells ringing, dust flying, all the while mooing while clambering and tripping over downed burned logs. What the heck? Do cows not know how to lift their legs?  Someone should invent cow-hurdles, just as a fun sport to watch.  I'd buy tickets. 

Then I saw him.  He was pure evil and was giving me the stink-eye as we stood in the woods.  He was a bull, a big bull with sharp horns, angry as a wet hornet and not about to run or back down.  I had no choice but to find a tree to hide behind and wait it out.  A song came to mind and the only lyrics I knew to it got embedded in my head like a broken record that I had absolutely no control to stop.."Yippie yi yay Cow Patty...she rolled in to town to find the man that killed her daddy, yippie yi yay....cow patty."  Fitting, but annoying all the same.  "Who sings that stupid song?"...I wondered out loud as over and over my brain belted out "Yippie yi yay...Cow Patty". The standoff ended when the mosquitos found me and I had to logically choose between being eaten alive by hemoglobin hunters or facing the enemy.  I kept thinking how ridiculous it was to stand there behind a tree, scared of a cow!  I mean for crying out loud, cowboys ride those things.  What a pansy! 

So, I walked out, strongly (completely freaked out), with my head high (walking gingerly), in a tough (yet cowardly) posture, bear spray, cap-off drawn like a sharp shooter in the old-west (Yippee yi yay...Cow Patty).  Luckily, I didn't bring bear spray to a horn fight and there were no issues. But, adrenaline was flowing and I learned that, yes, I'm totally afraid of cows.  If that makes me weak, so be it.

highlights and low-lights: 

* Foolishly took the car out roaming (instead of the truck), thinking that “all-wheel drive” meant it could go anywhere. Found out this wasn’t the case and had to do a visual & physical inspection of it’s underbelly after trying to drive up a defunct forest service road, that was more like a washed out riverbed.  I might add, I know little about cars except that leaking oil or transmission fluid is baaaaaddddd.  Thankfully all was well, and I learned my lesson the hard way, as I often do.
* Saw three bears near Hamilton Buttes.  Count ‘em, three!  One is odd enough, but three?  They weren’t together either.  Saw two cross the charming forest service road (as described above) on the way to the trailhead and one on the actual trail.  He looked at me, then lumbered off.  I have that effect on most folks.
* Huffed and puffed up a peak only to find an unopened Miller Genuine Draft sitting by the benchmark, with nary a human in sight.  It was purposefully placed and piqued my curiosity.  During some exploring, I located a plague in honor of a man who died in 2009 and calculated that someone must have left him a beer.  Thoughtful!  Although, it might be frowned upon to drink in the afterlife.
* I discovered two ground bees nests on a rarely used trail and learned that they stay away from bug spray on skin (good to know).
* Met a couple nice equestrian folks in the beautiful meadow on Stagman Ridge.  The whole scene as they made their way towards me looked like a movie set.
* V came down for the weekend and we did some mountain biking in addition to hiking.  It was nice to give my feet a break and roll on wheels!
* We caught the Perseid Meteor shower over Mount Adams one evening.  We sat on the truck’s tailgate in a field and watched as they shot across the dark sky, breaking into flaming pieces.  A night I'll never forget.
Pictures like this are becoming so familiar...

Probably my favorite wildflower.  It's called Elephant's Head
creatively named by someone who looked close!

It gets lonely walking for miles alone.  Sometimes, I get reminded
I'm never that far away. 
Hooray for wild strawberry season! 
Dang cows.  They ran all the way from the trail to the road.
I had to drive around them because they wouldn't move.  See
the look?  

Always an adventure.  Luckily I was with Mr. Fix-it.
Old boy made it on a 9.5 mile hike, but wanted
to rest a lot (preferably on top of fragile wildflowers).
I'm guessing this is why dogs are not allowed in National Parks.

Hamilton Buttes

Straight out of Hollywood 
Looking Glass Lake

frozen in time

Fireweed brings life to a dead forest

Friday, August 10, 2012

those gone before

As I hiked through the trees and meadows the quietness was so loud it almost hurt my ears.  I stopped my huffing, puffing and stick crunching to listen.  Nothing.  It was a sound so seldom heard in this world anymore that I didn’t know whether to embrace it or fear it.  I continued on with mind-noise rattling around in my head, as it often did when I hiked.  “Isn’t it odd that we are using these trails for recreation?” I thought to myself.  The more I had read about history, the more I had learned that most of the current trails in today’s wilderness were created not for enjoyment, but for a solid purpose.  They were a survival tool for sheepherders looking to graze their flock in high alpine meadows or for Native Americans to stalk goats and deer and gather edible plants.  The paths I walked were the very same ones that had been used for years for vitality.  I pictured small loin-clothed children with dark braids playing hide and seek behind trees and rocks.  “Wait...did they really look like that, or have I become a victim of media animation?” I wondered.  The thought passed quickly and my mind went back to the daydream of all of those who sought bounty and value from the earth ascending these trails.  Yet, I hiked up here not to feed a herd or gather berries or to slaughter wildlife.  I was one of many who rambled through this ear-piercing silence without a vital purpose.  But why?  

Why did this bead of sweat just creep off my forehead into my eye on the side of this challenging trail? I wiped my brow again and stopped to catch my breath. “Did the Native people sweat like this?” It was a funny thought, which made me smile and briefly I pondered if their daily fitness and healthy diet made them some sort of super beings.  After all, they were eating the nutritious antioxidants of huckleberries with a side of salmon’s omega 3s and other wild proteins. I resolved that they must have been incredibly fit and went on thinking about my personal journey.  What was I doing out here? Why am I writing a book on the location of these trails so that others, like me, can wander through here without a mission?  I knew why, and felt my brain unbury the answer into consciousness. 

As I climbed one of the lingering, consolidated snow piles that sat stubbornly on the trail and heard the unmistakable swish-swash of slush under my feet, I felt alive.  I felt happy and fulfilled.  I felt healthy, both physically and mentally. Instead of thinking about bills or email or deadlines, I walked through larch, pines and wildflowers with a buzzing busy brain and a grateful happy heart. My mind-noise had led me down a trail of thankfulness and gratitude for those whose purpose was greater.  I stopped again to let the silence soak into my ears and cleared my mind’s slate for the next revelation.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day Hiking Goat Rocks & Mount Adams Wilderness Areas

Not sure if you got the skinny, but I'm working on my new book- a day hiking guide to be published by Mountaineers Books (early 2014) which will feature 100 hikes from the South Cascades, such as Goat Rocks, Mt. Adams, Packwood, Yakima, etc.  I'm so excited to be part of the legacy day hiking series and hope everyone will get a kick out of following my footsteps to these beautiful, uncrowded, hilltops.

This summer has been a busy one; so many trails and such little time between snow melt and snow fall.  Since I've been a hikin' fool, I figured I'd try to update the blog with photos and anecdotes.  You can join me in a virtual world of adventure mixed with achy feet, up with a twist of heavy pack. One could write a book on writing a book- there is never a dull moment! Enjoy and happy trails.

This weeks trail highs and lows:
  • Sitting by the shores of Deep Lake, feeding ants to a small friendly brook trout
  • Having a tire pressure gage show up as "low" in the middle of nowhere (handling it like a champ, uh-hem...)
  • Getting a creepy feeling then realizing I was being watched by a young doe (who was probably feeling the same)
  • Struggling to prevent a toe blister after mis-stepping into a small brook
  • Sitting on the warm summit of Juniper Peak with three fantastic friends from home
  • Finding comfort in the presence of my four familiar neighbors, Mt. Adams, Mt Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, on almost every trail
  • Finding meadow camas!
  • Eating fresh mango on a rocky outcropping
  • Forgetting I had "The Friendship Song" by Carbon Leaf on my iPod and singing at window-cracking volumes with the truck as my only critic.
  • Hearing a loud "BANG," then stopping, heart pounding and realizing that yes, if a tree falls in the makes a sound.  I was around to hear it.
Tiger Lily
A natural flower pot for huckleberries
The beautiful meadows of Indian Heaven Wilderness 
Jeffery Shooting Star
The outskirts of Lemei Lake
Subalpine Mariposa Lily
Marsh Marigold 
The casual trees of the casualties...of winter 
And from this angle, Mt. Adams doesn't seem so big!
Deer fly on Sitka Valerian
The ever photogenic bear grass 
Cresting Juniper Ridge w/ a few friends

Wildflowers near Juniper Peak 
Deep Lake, Indian Heaven Wilderness
Fields of Conboy Wildlife Sanctuary
House Wren is home!