Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trail Tending

Today I rebelled against doing household chores and went out into the woods.  But I was not completely goofing off, as I was performing trail maintenance with the Mazamas.  In June I wrote about my appreciation for trail maintenance crews after going cross country on Hunchback Mountain.  It was time, I felt, to practice what I preached.

Today we were working on the Trapper Creek Trail in Southwest Washington.  It actually was not that strenuous.  Most of the work that I did was brush clearing and taking out plants that had the unfortunate luck of sprouting out in the middle of the trail.

I must say that I got more out of this than the feeling of satisfaction from volunteer work.  When hiking or climbing, it is easy to focus on the destination.  However, with trail maintenance one is often pausing to work on a particular section of the trail.  I found that I had ample opportunities to soak in the the beauty of the old growth forest that we were passing through.

Friday, September 26, 2008

St Johns Theater and Pub

I had a McMenamins Gift Certificate that was burning a hole in my wallet, so this evening I went to the St. Johns Theater and Pub in downtown Saint Johns.  This is one of the McMenamins where one can catch a second run movie.  While this theater pub does not have the atmosphere of the Baghdad Theater, it makes up by being very cozy.  The theater is under the dome of this building that was built for Portland's Lewis and Clark Exposition.  

This evening I saw the film Wall-E.  There is a scene in this movie where our robot hero is riding on the outside of a spaceship through our solar systems, spellbound by the views.   It reminded me of when the Voyager probes were approaching the planets of the outer solar system.  As I marveled at the photos of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, I could not help to wonder what the view would have been like.

As I biked from my house to the pub I ran into a crowd of folks at the corner of Fessenden and Midway, all carrying signs.  It seems my neighbor activists were sick and tired of cars driving too fast through the area, so they were trying to do something about it.  Power to the people!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Return to Horsethief

I spent Sunday in the sun at Horsethief Butte, just North of The Dalles.  I was helping out with the Mazamas Intermediate Climbing School (ICS) Anchors, Belaying, and Rappelling field session.  Not only was I there to help out, but I was being evaluated for Climb Leader Development.

It seemed fitting that Jay Chambers would write my final evaluation at this stage of progressing through Mazamas Climb Leader Development.  He was very honest with me last year when told me that he did not know me well enough to write a letter of recommendation for entrance into the program.  I had climbed with Jay on Sahale Peak and Middle Sister.  I could not think of another climb leader who I had climb with more.  For a moment I thought I had painted myself into a corner, since I had done most of my climb with another climb leader.  However, Jay said he would consider writing a letter after observing me lead a hike or assist for one of the climb class field sessions.  I was so impressed and grateful for his willingness to work with me.

One of the fun parts of the day was seeing familiar faces from my climbs this summer.  I saw that climbers from my Mt Adams and Middle Sisters climbers were enrolled in ICS.

Now, all I need to progress to the next stage is to attend the ICS Navigation Field Session in November.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On Wisconsin

After regrouping from my backpack trip in the Wallowas, I boarded a Delta flight to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Having scored a window seat in an exit row, I was treated to views of the Oregon Cascades as far south as the Three Sisters.  But it was the view of the Wallowas that sent a shiver down my spine.  As the plane past north of this mountain range, I could see the area that I had been backpacking in just days before.  There were so many memories down there.

My visit to Charlotte was short, but long enough to enjoy dinner with Scott and his girlfriend Julie.  And Julie, if you're reading  this, thanks for the cookies and trail mix.

The next morning we departed for Madison, Wisconsin.  Our route took us through the Appalancan and Cumberland mountain ranges.  I also set foot on four states that I have not visited before:  Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.  Furthermore,  Manus Hand would have been proud, because we visited the grave sites of three American Presidents.  Andrew Johnson in Greenville, TN, William Henry Harrison in North Bend, OH, and his grandson Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, IN.  Once in Madison we picked up my father, who had flown in from Seattle.

Please note, we were not converging on Madison on a whim.  My brother was going to take part in the Wisconsin Ironman.  This was not my first trip to Madison.  Ten years ago I was here to visit my friend Eric, who was then working on his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.  Eric has since moved on to greener pastures, but his friend Dave provided local expertise.  Not only did he provide insights on the various hills surrounding Madison, but we had a wonderful dinner at his home.

Not only did I spend time with Scott and Dad on this trip, but I also had a lot of quality time with Scott's dog Winston.  Even though Winston is nearly seven years old, several people would come up to us and ask if they could pet the 'puppy'.  I could see why people would think that Winston was so young, because he was the one taking me for a walk down the streets of Madison.

With over two thousand participants and even more spectators, it was difficult to get a good view of the swimming portion of the race.  We had better luck with the 112 mile long bicycle portion.  The trick is to know the mileage at various viewpoints along the route.  We would go to a spot, wait for Scott, and then scramble to the next view point.  Dad would cheer and ring the cowbell, I would take photos, and Winston would wag his tail.

In the end, it was dark and we were in downtown Madison.  In the background was the lighted capitol dome.  It was an emotional scene.  Often children would join their parent for the last steps to the finish line.  And then Scott came around the corner.  My camera failed me at this critical moment, but a least I was there.  Way to go Scott!!!
The next day I found myself on the plane, going back home to Portland.  Dad would drive back with Scott.  Unfortunately, thunderstorms delayed my arrival to Atlanta.  We were diverted to Huntsville, Alabama to refuel.  By the time I arrived in Atlanta the last flight to Portland had left.  It had been three years since I had flown, now I remember why.  Delta gave me a slight discount at a hotel.  I caught the first flight to Portland.  Even though I had a middle seat, I could see Mts Rainier, St. Helens, and Adams as we approached the airport.  Despite the prospect of getting to work half a day late, I was happy to be home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No Shortcuts to the Top

I have just completed Ed Viesturs book No Shortcuts to the Summit.  Not only is the author a fellow University of Washington graduate, but he is the first American to climb the world's fourteen 8000 meter peaks without the aid of bottled oxygen.  While this is a noteworthy achievement, it is understanding his climbing philosophy that interested me.  This is a climber who still has all of his fingers and toes, has not suffered from pulmonary or cerebral edema, or lost a climbing partner while climbing.  Before you say that luck as the major explanation, consider that he has turned away from one of those 8000 meter peaks ten times.  Four of those were within 350 vertical feet of the summit.  I may not be interested high altitude climbing, but l sure like to know how he decides whether to continue climbing.

It seems the most important aspect of the author's outlook is an ability to hear and respect his instincts.  Easier to say than to do, this represents to me the opportunity of personal growth that climbing offers.  I also noticed how Viesturs credited years of guiding for Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated as instrumental in his climbing approach.  He learned from people who had been climbing longer than him.  More important than teaching him skills, they taught him to respect the mountains.  Guiding also taught him to constantly evaluate and prepare for conditions that could affect the safety of his clients.

My respect for the author's approach to climbing allows me, as a Husky, to forgive him for getting his doctorate in Veterinarian Science from Washington State University.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wallowa Backpacking Weekend

I spent the Labor Day Weekend backpacking in the Wallowa Mountains, leading a group of Adventurous Young Mazamas.

We started at Two Pan Trailhead and followed the West Fork Lostine River.  At the Cooper Creek Trail junction we forded the river and ascended to high alpine meadows.  After reaching the highest point of the trip we descended down to Swamp Lake, were we spent the first night. 
A cold front was moving through the region, so it was not a surprise that we awoke to frost on our tents.  After drying off the tents we set out over a minor ridge and descended to Steamboat Lake.  From here it was a long descent into the North Minam River Valley.  We hiked through this pleasant valley, passing by the meandering river and tall green grass.  Then it was up a series of switchbacks to the Wilson Basin.  We found a covered campsite near the spur trail that goes to John Henry Lake.  We were expecting another cold night, so we built a quick campfire to lighten things up.  Any concerns about our  campfire spreading were extinguished when the snow started to fall en force.

The temperature in the tent was 36 degrees when I checked my watch the next morning.  We broke camp and then ascended to Wilson Pass.  From here the views were enhanced by the light dusting of snow on the distant mountains.  We said goodbye to the Wilson Valley and descended into Browine Basin.  From here the switchbacks lead us down to the Bowman/Francis Lake Trailhead.

The parking lot at Two Pan Trailhead was overfilled when we arrived.  Thankfully most of these people were headed to the Lakes Basin area up the East Fork Lostine River, so we were spared sharing our outdoor experience with the masses.  As the leader, I got a lot of experience balancing the needs of the experienced and novice members of the group. 
In my previous post I wrote about William Ashford's adventures in the same mountain range.  His first attempt to scramble up  Sacajawea Peak was aborted when a sleeping bag fell loose and tumbled down a gully.  I could not help to smile as I recalled this passage while helping one of my fellows readjust his sleeping bag on his pack.