Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Vacation Options

Ahhh yes, vacation!

Several opportunites appear.

1) Here a tentative itinerary:
Buckskin Gulch (http://www.utahtrails.com/Buckskin.html) is often described as one of the finest slot canyon hikes in the world and a photographer's paradise. Chesler Park (http://www.utahtrails.com/Chesler.html) is a meadow deep in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park with some spectacular spires and arches.

Wed., Oct. 3

Start at Wire Pass trailhead, UT (Map.)

Hike 12.5 mi (20.8 km)

Camp at Buckskin Gulch campsite, additional campsites 1.5 mi and 2.5 mi further (1 mi and 2 mi after confluence of Buckskin Gulch and Paria River)

Thu., Oct. 4

Hike 7.5 mi (12.5 km) to Whitehouse trailhead
Drive 300 mi, approx. 5h40m to Needes, Canyonlands National Park, UT (Map.). We must get here before 4:30 pm to pickup permit or wait the next day until 9:00 am when the visitor center opens

Camp at Squaw Flat Campground

Fri., Oct. 5

Hike 7.5 mi (12.5 km) to Chesler Park campsite (http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/upload/needles.pdf)
After setup of camp, day hike around Chesler Park 7 mi (11.5 km)

Sat., Oct. 6

Hike 1.5 mi (2.5 km) to Elephant Canyon
Leave packs, hike 4 mi (6.7 km) to Druid Arch (in and out)
Hike 6 mi (10 km) to Squaw Flat Campground via Squaw Canyon
End of official trip

2) August 14-18 Shawn's Birthday Puget Sound photo workshop.

3) Owens Valley Photo Workshop in October. It is planned as the Owens Valley / Kick Matt's (Blaize) butt out of California Workshop. Maybe someday I'll explain that, I'd be happy if he would finally stop teasing me about that waitress I fell in love with met in Zion ...

4) I want to go deer hunting.

Does anyone else wonder if the first trip seems kinda hard. Does the Buckskin Gulch part of the trip actually have a 30 foot rope assisted drop in it?

Trail: There is no trail for this hike, but the route is easy to follow. You will be walking along the bottoms of two narrow desert canyons. Occasionally there are deep pools of water in the canyon narrows, so be prepared with an air mattress or some other means of floating your backpacks across. You will also need a 30-foot length of rope to help you get down a rockfall near the end of Buckskin Gulch.

I know my friend is aware of this. It means dry bags and perhaps climbing gear, and extra water. Although I have the gear (harness and rope and whatnot), I need training. plus what -- you have to get out of the canyon and it's 12 miles long. At a very aggressive pace it's at least 4 hours in a slot canyon in October.

I've already committed -- God forbid anyone of my friends should have any real excitement without me. I will go -- they are getting permits on my behalf as we speak. I am sharpening my nerves and my crazy mad skillz. Perhaps the elder brother will teach me a bit more about the ropes.

So that's a 5k route plucked off the map right near my home. Before breakfast tomorrow. 3 times a week. till I can do more. I need to be able to keep the pace with the happy hiking guy. There will be risks. If it's tough going we need to beat a mile and one half per hour pace. I'll need a few extra pounds and the ability to pull myself up. I'll have a minimum of food -- but should try to get an ultralight sleeping bag. I'll want to wear lighter shoes -- so I need to work out in those.

So -- weight training and some climbing practice , and run on my shoes.
The top picture was appropriated from some one who has actually been there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lessons in Grace ...

In The Charcoal Cathedral

4 days in the charred remains of an ancient wilderness. 26 miles on foot. 2 Black Bears, one Bald Eagle, 3 Mule Deer, a Western Tanager, the sound of an Owl. One river, three springs, two dogs, two friends. I think I might have heard the sound of a Woodpecker. 4 days in the charred remains of an ancient wilderness.

Humility sanctified. Lessons in grace.

There was hope. The trip was defined simply enough. Hike from Chinaman Hat to the Illinois River at Collier Bar via the 1161 (or 2) and 1174 trails in the Kalmiopsis wilderness. By way of Bald Mountain Spring, Polar Spring, and the spring at the Pup's Camp. Around 13 miles each way.

The trail was rough and hard at the beginning and end, with a 3000 ft. descent from Bald Mountain into the Illinois River canyon representing the most formidible feature. It was a difficult and challenging hike. The first day we hiked to Bald Mountain Spring and then to Polar Spring and broke off to make camp at the Pup's Camp, totalling 9 miles or so for the day. The climb from our parking spot to Bald Mountain spring barely served to warm us (my friend Jim and I, the dogs Josie and Lily) up, and as the day progressed it seemed clear that our pace was not going to bring us to the IllinoisRiver by the end of the day. We shot photos and videos and looked for cougar (0), or as the local teen trail cleaner girls called them, "Screamers," which was followed with a bit of giggling. And bears (2), or Elk (0) or Deer (3). We lally-gagged at the springs, drinking deeply, and growing used to the wilderness. Jet fighters flew through a cloudy sky to help minimize the culture shock.

We fought our way down the trail. There was a lot of debris, since the forest was burned to a crisp in the 2002 Biscuit fire. Some areas were also burned in the 1987 Silver Complex Fire. There were many fallen trees and branches blocking the trail. Sometimes it is so much easier to walk around and step over the obstacles. It appeared the no one had been down the trail since last summer. We were alone. There was very little life and no bird song. It was ominous and severely quiet.

Charred giants. Entire hilltops rendered treeless. Sticks remaining. Large sticks. A forest destroyed, charred beyond comprehension. I was there in 2003 or 2004, and although the carnage was obvious, I just saw the edge of it. The Biscuit fire was the largest fire in Oregon's history. That forest was torched, totalled.

It is still inherently beautiful.

There is no way to describe in words or pictures the awesome power whose force is evident before me. And how insanely gorgeous I found this forest to be.

Part of the reason for stopping at the Pup's Camp was my concern about my knee and going downhill. We spent the night there and in the morning we hiked the 4 miles and 2000 ft down into the steep Illinois River Canyon and set up camp. This was a bit hard on my knee. But not as bad as the poison oak. I have poison oak. I got it 3 or four different times on this trip. The trail was overgrown with Poison Oak. The Elder Brother says that "it used to be called the poison oak forest ... ." Jim insisted that I eat tablespoons of Certa™ and I put Gold Bond™ cream on it. It disappeared. Like a badge of honor that vanished. I swam and bathed in the Illinois River. We hardly moved from the camp at Collier Bar until Monday when we packed up and bailed out with a bit less than a days food left, to hike the 13 miles out. We did discover this hornet's nest hanging in a tree almost in camp.

Oh -- The mushroom girl might enjoy this.

Lily at the first bath in the Illinois River.

Jim the videographer.

Josephine in the river cooling down.

The hillside across the Illinois River from our camp.
Jim on the QRP (low power) radio checking in from Collier Bar.
Remember these.

And there was hope everywhere.

On the way back down the trail we met a party of 12 of Oregon's youth clearing the trail. Their leader told us that while we were out the fire level had risen to 2, meaning no open campfires, and that they were to spend a week clearing the trail to Silver Creek. They were a sign of hope in a stale climate of preserving, rather than enjoying the wilderness. 12 young people learning early lessons of work and joy in the wilderness. So there is hope, we saw other signs of hope.

Like the Black Capped Rasberries and Hungarian Blackberries that compensated for the fact that we had run out of food. I think we may have eaten several pounds of rasberries each.

Those are rasberries there in the foreground. Despite the dead trees everywhere, the understory had sprung to life with layers of Madrone and Douglas fir, oaks, rasberries and poison oak. There was a carpet of a youthful forest before us, promising to return to a past glory. There were places with a hundred fir trees per meter. It was stunning; brilliant in both the vibrance and urgency of the new growth.
Coming down the last hill, I hammered my toe, and I will probably lose the toenail. My knee was fine during this descent, and I am hoping that the pounding I took over 4 days has finally convinced my body to behave.

There was hope everywhere. Hope for me, in my 4 day marathon in charcoal, and hope for the forest. The two represent personal bests for me. Longest trip at 25+ miles, and longest single day at 13 miles.

End of the trail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trip Day

If you look closely at these two pictures you'll see some familiar things ... these shoes ... and all the regular stuff one takes into the wilderness. Matches, pink water bottles, a bandana ... GPS.

Tomorrow I will be sitting around with my old friend and we will be picking apart the contents of my backpack, commenting on the coffee pot and the can of sardines ... talking about bear spray, and escape routes over a map, and reducing the load one more time. I am sure it's not the addition of that titanium fork that pumps the weight up, but rather the way that things just seem to get heavier over time. Although the two extra days of food could contribute, we all know that a fleece vest weighs about a pound when you buy it, but after carrying it for a while it weighs about ten. This is not a function of fatigue, but rather a general property of things to get heavier over time. It's called the uncertainty principle. You'll never quite know how much you're going to have to carry.

Despite knowing and planning for the afternoon showers and humidity, I will probably eliminate the rain gear in favor of the river shoes or try to strip the first aid kit by half. For some reason this pack is about 10 pounds heavier than it was back then. It's 50 pounds, and oh man -- there's no camera in it. Adding the 10 lbs I would normally wear and the 4 pounds of camera, my burden will be 64 lbs. Ouch. Once I eat all the food ...

It's always too heavy. Jim will remind me that I don't need an extra day's meals and that maybe I don't really need that jar of prunes dried fruit. He will carry about 70 lbs. while I struggle with 40 50. Go figure.

Velogirl Sighting

That's right, I definitely saw the velogirl (on the pink bike) zipping in front of me this afternoon, and I was, embarrassingly, riding on the sidewalk near my home. I said "Hello", but well, it was rush hour, and she had clearly already made it through the scary intersection. Maybe next time we'll get a chance to say "Hi." I think I heard a "Hello" back -- she might have recognized me -- but it was uber busy, cars and traffic and me in a hurry.