Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Big Meadow Campground

As you might guess I didn't hang out at Tamarack Lake and instead walked back out to my van, arriving at 4:10. Just enough time to get my bear canister back to the forest service office before closing. I got there at 20 till the hour but, who knew? They close at 4:30. I went to the door anyway hoping to beg myself a door opening and some poor soul was trying to lock up. She kindly took my canister and a few minutes later, while I was divesting myself of accumulated trash in their trash cans, she told be all was well! At least I didn't have to wait till opening tomorrow to return the dang thing. 

I looked at my maps and I couldn't see any FS campgrounds along highway 50, which seemed surprising to me. So I dropped in at the outfitters there in So Lake Tahoe (nice folks) and they told me about this FREE campground off of highway 89. There are 11 sites and you can stay for up to 7 nights. The only downside is there is no potable water but who cares? I got a gallon o'water in the van so I'm good to go. 
Nice big spaces with lots of room between sites. And I was very happy to see this. 
I hope folks are being respectful of the fire bans. I know some people don't feel the camping vibe if they aren't sitting around a fire but as a lifelong Californian, fire makes me nervous. 

As usual while sleeping in my van in an unfamiliar place, I didn't sleep well and awoke at 3:30PM. I ruminated till about 5:00 when I finally realized I didn't have to lay there till daylight and could just take off for home. Yea! Off I went into the dark of early morning. Highway 50 never seemed so downhill. I managed to hang on till I got to Placerville, where I stopped off at Mel's Diner for a good breakfast. 
I do love driving and seeing my state,  but as I moved farther west, and time passed, I needed to pulled off and snooze for an hour or so. I guess the coffee didn't really kick in like I'd hoped.   Back on the road I remembered there was an IKEA right at the junction of Highway 80, west and east. Hum...
Fun as always, though I managed to get out of there forking over less than $7.00. Yahoo!

Finally home. I love going away but still, I love coming back to my spot. Looking at the next project... an El Niño inspired retaining wall. I have some post holes to fill in the very near future. 

Day Two

Hammock bliss. 
I can't ever remember a time in the backcountry where I've been as comfortable as I was last night. I laid down at 7ish, more because of the cold than tiredness, and here I am, twelve hours later. Watching the sun climb over the low ridge behind me and light up the trees, all from the warmth and coziness of my hammock. 
Last night I had grand plans for this morning, which had to do with getting up early and being at Lake Aloha by sunup. The lake is a beautiful spot for photography and I was gonna be there before the birds. But, but, the hammock... I think I'm spoiled for good. 

As it turns out it's a good thing I didn't rush off this morning since Lake Aloha doesn't look anything like it used to look. In this image I am standing on a rock that would have been under water in previous years.
The next is a pano standing on the same rock. 
Finally, can anyone tell me why there is a wall out there with steps that would normally be under water ?
So Lake Aloha isn't as dramatic as I've seen it in the past but it's still pretty. Still and all a nice six mile out and back with some nice fall colors thrown in for good measure. 
I'm back at my base camp now, laying in the hammock trying to decide what to do with the rest of my day. I didn't mention it before but yesterday it appears I pulled a muscle in my right lower leg which was pretty good by this morning, but is acting up after my hike. This seems to preclude any more hiking, at least until the Advil kicks in. 
Having said all of that this is about the time on a trip when I start thinking of walking back to the car early. Especially since I'm not spending my time making miles and being goal directed. Instead I'm just hanging around camp...so I'm starting to feel antsy. Yesterday was fine because I was tired from lack of sleep on previous nights but I'm rested now. What to do? Stay or go? Four miles back to the car...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tamarack Lake - 7,800'

It's been many years since I've hiked in Desolation Wilderness, west of Lake Tahoe. Last time was when I hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail, probably ten years ago. It was summer then and there were lots of folks on the trail and camping alongside the many lakes in this area. Now? Haven't seen anyone at all. Nice. 
I originally thought I'd hike in here last night but it was too late by the time I got everything ready so I slept in my car at the trailhead and took off at first light. By the time I'd hiked the four miles into this lake I decided to do something very different for me and use this spot as a base camp, going out for day hikes and returning here to camp. The thing that decided me was the dang bear canister I got talked into borrowing from the ranger station when I went to pick up my permit yesterday. The loaner canister is a full three pounds and doesn't really fit well in my pack. I didn't realize the bears were so active this season or I could have brought my own (lighter) canister and a different pack.  Suffice it to say, my pack was a tad uncomfortable. 
So here I am and I must say, it's actually kinda nice laying here in my hammock, mid morning, lazing about. I'm not used to this kind of backpacking, though I might be able to get used to it. We'll see how long I can tolerate the inaction. 

*Note to self*
You are going to have to start using a checklist when you pack for backpacking trips😬
What did I forget? My version of toilet paper, and my standard packet of handiwipes. Well damn. I did have four squares of the blue shop towel I usually use but that's only two days for me, if I'm lucky. Today I was unlucky so now I'm down to two 4" by 4" squares. It looks like I may have to try out the natural material method many folks use. 
Some say using round, smooth rocks is good but I'm in granite country up here so I didn't find too many of those. I did find some sticks though and I was VERY careful to soften any potential pokey places on a rough stone. We will see how it goes - It's all an adventure. 
Later - It's only 6:22 PM but I'm all done with dinner (yum, turkey stroganoff) and into my sleeping clothes. Swinging in the breeze! I hope I stay warm...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bumping River - 12 miles today

The trail was relatively easy today with elevation changes in the low hundreds. We broke up the day into three sections of four miles each with a two hour lunch break at Snow Lake. We've hiked the first ten miles three times (we're getting pretty good at that part) but at least the last four today were all new to us. 
There's tons of lakes up here. Some are low and mucky while others are clear and clean looking. Even the mucky ones have pretty grasses growing and nice reflections. 

When we arrived at the Bumping River we looked for a campsite upstream and found a nice big site. Unfortunately when we were putting up the tents, what I noticed were the yellow jackets. Tons of them, but they weren't going after us to sting but they sure wanted something. Mostly from me. We hastily cooked dinner and I had to eat mine standing up and walking about. Once I got finished with food and clean-up I dove right into my tent. Right now they are buzzing around my tent, but they can't get me! It's gonna be a long evening😧

L painted a nice painting of Snow Lake at lunch today. 
And here is the one of the meadow next to our campsite. 
Tomorrow is a mostly up and some down day with views galore. We will get somewhere close to Chinook Pass and leave a short day to go out the day after. L has a long drive home back to Bellingham, through Seattle traffic if we don't time it right. Traffic! Blah!

Finished - 15 miles

Today the yellow jackets were ever present in my mind. When we got up at 5:45 they were still sleeping (as would any reasonable creature) so the early part of the day was buzzing free. As we climbed the big first hills of the day the cold kept all but the elk hunkered down. Too bad I didn't have a good camera but here is what I got. The first image is before they knew were there, the second after they caught wind of hiker stink. 

Big hills today... Most of the day. The sun hit our path with rich light
and we enjoyed the trail as we climbed to the west. Then we saw Rainer. Big and bold, even with the smoke of the fires. 
Most of the morning we had this view. 
As the day wore on it got hotter and hotter when the trail was in the sun. Until we arrived at Anderson Lake, nine miles into the days hike. L was having lots of difficulty with one of her feet and it wasn't clear why she was in so much pain. Soaking her foot in the lake helped but whenever she would put back on her shoe, the pain on her heel would return with a vengeance. Finally, she decided to try and hike in her Crocs and, what do you know? No more pain! Somehow the back of her shoe was pressing on her achalies tendon and creating lots of trouble. 
So, what to do? It seemed reasonable to go on for a couple more miles. There were yellow jackets at Anderson Lake, as well as everywhere else we had stopped during the day, so we didn't relish the idea of hunkering down so early in the day, hiding from the buzzers in the tents. So off we went to Dewey Lake. 

Twelve miles into the day we arrived at Dewey Lake, nearing late afternoon.  I was tired but the same trouble was at Dewey Lake. It was, as one man had told us early earlier in the day, a very bad year for yellow jackets. Call me a wimp but having been swarmed by these critters once, I don't relish a second event. 
So we sat, L showed off her paintings/drawings and we decided to push on the last three miles to her car at Chinook Pass. Once I start thinking about real food it's hard for me to let go of the idea so, even though it was still hot, and we had a seven hundred foot climb in the sun, we pushed on. The reward was wonderful late-day sunlight. 
Back to the car and off to Packwood to eat at one of the two restaurant in town. Don't rember the name but we sat at the bar with "Burn" who is a 25 year local. 
Salad, burger and beer plus the drive back to the car in near dark. The perfect ending to a wonderful trip. Two last images. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Deer Lake - Do Overs

This morning, after sleep and much discussion and consideration about what to next, L and I decided to take today as a tourist day, checking out Mt Rainer. Now that we can see it. 

We found ourselves in Sunday traffic heading into the park but soon enough we got to Sunrise Day lodge, along with many other folks. 

The plan was to look around for the day then go back to the trailhead and hike BACK on the trail we originally planned to do, now that the rains have subsided, and we have dried out. I'm starting to get pretty familiar with the first ten miles of this section. Tonight we only hiked in two miles and have setup camp at this sweet little lake. 

Dinner done, water treated for tomorrow and I'm watching L paint. 
Final image. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

White Pass

Wow. It was wet, wet, wet this morning, after 13 hours in my tent. It rained all night, with some thunder and lightening thrown in for good measure. When it started to get light I looked out and saw raindrops all around. Not so much falling from the sky but from the trees. When a big one would go splat on the tent, the spray from the moisture on the inside of the tent would drift down. While the fabric kept the outside rain from coming in, it also gathered condensation from my breath and the wet ground. Let's just say, everything was kinda wet. 
Deciding what to do next was tough. Two flexible people, with a tendency to think positive, have a hard time evaluating risk.
Or wanting to intertain the idea of heading south (to the car) instead of the planned trail north. What cinched it for me was the fact that while my gear was damp, L's was wet. If it continued to rain, which was entirely likely, then she would be doubly wet, with the danger of hypothermia lurking near. Plus, I was mostly dry and warm but my own margin of error was narrowed since my "just in case" gear had been offered to L. So I voted for a return to the car and, as it turned out, it was the right decision. 
So we retraced our steps of the day before. The cool thing is that it all looks different going the other way, plus it was more clear and we could actually see the terrain.  It took a bit longer to hike those ten miles today, probably since it wasn't raining cats and dogs, but we managed to get back to the car near 4pm with a new plan of getting a room at the Inn here and drying out all our stuff. 

We did get lucky and got a room, soon to be strewn with wet gear...
And leisurely beers on the deck. 
Now it's time for sleeping and I've opted for the bottom bunk. What could go wrong?

Section I, Washington PCT

It is strange to be picking this blog up after so many months of absence. I won't spend time now talking about this. Instead I'll jump right into the description of this section hike. 

My Washington hiking buddy L met me at Chinook Pass this morning at 9:30. She had driven down from Bellingham and we were to leave her car at the pass, take my car south to Highway 12 and hike back north to her car, taking three leisurely days to hike the 30 miles. When I arrived the pass was socked in and the fog was so thick I couldn't see across the street. 

Fortunately I had looked at the forecast and Mt. Rainer was supposed to get rain, snow flurries and lightening today so I had thrown in some extra gear. A wind shirt, buff and wind vest. It was hard to imagine it being cold since I had been sweltering in Yakima with 103 degree days. 

We donned our packs at 11:15 and off we went, in a beautiful swirling fog. We walked for an hour then stopped for lunch, in the shelter of some trees. The fog had started to go 3-D on us and began to turn into droplets. It turned out that L had also been unable to imagine rain, since it hasn't rained in Bellingham for three months, so she didn't bring rain gear. Over the next few hours the fog turned into rain while L got wetter and wetter. I gave her my extras and we managed to walk the 10 miles needed to get to Snow Lake but it was full on raining when we arrived. 

All of the established campsites were inhabited by others so we walked along the lake shore till we found some relatively level ground under some trees. L put up her tent, which unfortunately is kind of like a big, roomy bivy tent. She can't sit up in there so she's stuck in her tent, with her wet gear, till morning.

I made her some miso soup with seaweed, which was quite yummy, and she finished off my dinner of Thai Chicken. A big deal since she is a vegetarian.   

It's only 6:45PM and we are both ensconced in our sleeping bags and tents. It continues to rain and all around us is damp. A novel thing since it has been bone dry around here for months. I think I will be able to get warm tonight and hopefully stay dry, but if it is still raining in the morning I wonder if it is a good idea to continue on. L has no rain gear and most of her stuff is wet, except what she is sleeping in. I guess only time will tell. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring is here

One hard thing about spending lengths of time away from home on long hikes is that I don't get to garden. For decades now I've loved to make environments that grow plants, flowers as well as good things to eat. For two of the past three years I've spent six months away from home, making it impossible to do summer plantings. This year I've decided to go for it but first I had to build garden beds that will protect plants from the mauruding gophers we have up here on the property. My previous gopher wired beds only lasted a couple of years so this time I built some with hardware cloth that should give me five or so years of gopher proof bliss. I added climbing trellises to both planters so I'll be able to grow gourds and peas, sweet peas in fact.
The biggest box above is 4 x 8 and contains one big cherry tomato plant, dalias, basil, radishes, beets, sweet peas and sunflowers. Some of which did well and others did not.
The small box here has done very well with loose leaf lettuce, radishes, beets and a bumper crop of gourds... birdhouse gourds. I love those and I should have tons by late fall.

So you can see my spots for protected planting are small but I hope productive this year.  I'll be gone some early this summer (vacation to Mexico) and will attempt to finish hiking the state of Washington in August. I hope there is some food left for me when I get home in September.

Friday, January 16, 2015

I am a gear head

There I've said it. Isn't admission the first step in recovery? Well I certainly hope so because I have more gear than any reasonable person needs. Multiple packs, tents, tarps, sleeping bags, quilts and hammocks, I'm always looking for the lightest kit for any given situation, even though I generally only backpack in the high season. Having said that I am working on a new shelter/pack combination for next summer and I've posted the detailed info on my Gear 2015 page. I'll also be selling some of my gear in order to make room for the stuff I am keeping and I'll post that info here soon. In the meantime, get on out there... the weather is grand.