Some of my backcountry lessons include taking a trail name (like thru-hikers do), making sure to check the stars if you get up in the middle of the night, and taking every opportunity to put your bare feet in a cold stream on a hot day.
Like many parents, I’m horrified by the devices and the screens and how addictive staring at a screen can be – and worry that kid’s brains are being rewired by the dopamine hits of the endless scroll and the abyss of consumerism. I worry that kids won’t know what to do if they’re dropped into the backcountry, but I’m here to report dear reader – it’s not true. In the absence of the iPad and the Switch and all other external stimulation devices kids – will find a way – they’ll revert to their feral selves and bask in the bugs and sunshine and streams and huckleberries.
We spent the past few days in the backcountry around Mt Hood. I deliberately kept the mileage low and the exploring and down time high. It was a good combination of backpacking time, day hikes and no schedule. And lots of snacks.
There’s a phrase in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Sierra book that I’m reading in which he describes an early member of the Sierra Club who “pursued life intensely”. I really like that… Onward.
I remember backpacking in the Carter Range in New Hampshire – it’s one valley over from the Presidentials in the White Mountains, and there were trails there that were so rocky, and the footing so unstable, it was such difficult hiking – I was tired, my pack felt heavy, the light was fading – and I got so angry at the trail. Why would anyone make a trail here? This trail is just boulders, why does this trail exist?
It was years later I realized I had some expectation of what a trail should be like – that it should be easier, smoother, it should have better footing. There shouldn’t be so many boulders and river rocks. It’s good to question our assumptions and expectations of how we think “it should be”. The trail just existed, someone chose to walk that way and set the trail. It’s a waste of energy to be angry when things don’t match your expectation. Maybe a better way is to ask why your assumption is thus and why you think your expectation of something is correct. Our expectations are a manifestation of our preconceived biases. Question your biases.
The amount of snow on Mt. St. Helens is closer to what we normally see mid-winter. Chatting with a Mt. St. Helens Institute ambassador(?) at the summit, he said there is about 60 feet of snow on the Swift Glacier (at about 7,000 feet). Fun fact I learned from the very same guy: The glacier in the crater is the only glacier in the US that is growing. Wind blown snow and collapsing cornices accumulate in the shaded north facing crater. Super cool.
T and I left Marble Mount Sno Park around 4:45 and got to Chocolate Falls just before 6. We stayed on the rocks of Worm Flows route and picked our way up. Apparently after the last snow the first person to climb set a boot pack far left of the normal route. Everyone then followed that boot pack and that’s the current spring route. It’s far climber’s left of the regular route. If someone were to go skiers right from the summit, you would be in very sketch terrain (cornices and wet slides) and be 2 drainages over from the Chocolate Falls drainage. It was a long day but we had warm temps, sunshine, soft snow and very little wind. Perfect Sunday dad/daughter outing. Her request after we got back to the car was for a large Dairy Queen Blizzard. Done and done 🙂
Spent last week visiting my family in Maui. My brother sailed solo overnight from Oahu and anchored in Lahaina. My family flew from Portland and set up base camp in Kihei where my mom lives. I’m grateful that I could see my mom, brother and niece and tour around the island with my wife and children and have these experiences with them – we often get so caught up in our day to day lives that it becomes difficult to step out of the flow and just pause to experience this beautiful world.
I was quarantined with Covid the week before we left and then masked up for the journey. The sunshine and salt water was probably the best medicine for beginning to feel better. I had about 48 hours of miserable body aches, then minor congestion, then no symptoms.
We said goodbye to everyone yesterday, my brother will spend the next 2 weeks sailing back to Oahu around Molokai with his daughters, my mom leaves for the Azores for a month to work on her novel.
We returned to rain and 50 degree temperatures in Portland – the wettest spring in 11 years. Fingers crossed the wet spring will delay or mitigate the summer fire season.
There were so many highlights and everyone hustled to tour around from sunrise to sunset, but spending the day with family, snorkeling at Maluaka Beach with my daughters and brother and eating fish tacos from the food truck on the side of the road was one of the simple highlights of the trip. Maui is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
Last week I had 2 threshold workouts on the trainer, and one hard running hill workout, max HR. Thursday my watch was telling me “Your current training load is going in the right direction, but your fitness is declining. Try reducing stress and get more rest.” Weird. I knew something was going on.
Friday I was tired. Afternoon nap tired… then my lower right lumbar started to feel sore. I thought maybe it was from being on the trainer… or I need new running shoes. Saturday I decided to rest and was planning to run on Sunday. Saturday night was rough. I started sneezing before I went to bed, then couldn’t sleep as the inflammation started to kick in and my back became more and more sore. I was waking up and falling asleep, my nose was running. I got about 6 hours of sleep Saturday. Sunday morning I woke up and realized I probably have Covid. I took a test and before the 15 minute timer went off, I was lined up. I have Covid.
I’m proud to have made it this far. The new variants are extremely transmissible. I think I was exposed at the soccer match or at the pizza place. It doesn’t really matter. Sunday night I had chills and sweats, no sore throat, no loss of smell, not really any congestion. Today is Monday and I almost feel back to normal.
Mild so far. I’m grateful that I have a place to quarantine away from the rest of the family. I missed going to see Hamilton with everyone yesterday (it would have been the 2nd time). I’m going to test again on Wednesday, then again on Friday. I’m scheduled to fly soon and would like a negative test before I fly. Fingers crossed.
I’ve been extremely careful the past 2+ years… but with the relaxed masking rules and more transmissible variants, I guess it was bound to happen. We’re set up for a 4th wave, just like the Spanish flu. I’m just hoping being vaxxed, boosted and now infected will give me as much protection as possible.
That’s the story of how I got Covid-19 in May 2022.
I’m planning to explore central Oregon more in the coming months and took a short overnighter down to the Pine Mountain Observatory east of Bend, Oregon. The past few weeks have been shoulder season weather in the PNW – rain in the valley and snow in the passes. Once you pass the Cascade crest that runs north/south in Oregon, the landscape changes dramatically to open range and a much drier (and browner) environment. If there were cholla sprinkled around I would think I was back in New Mexico.
A friend who grew up in New Mexico, but lived in the Pacific Northwest for a short time told me the thing that bothered him the most about the PNW was he couldn’t match direction to compass – in New Mexico the Sandia mountains are always East, Rio Rancho and the desert is West, Santa Fe north and Socorro South. You can look with your own eyes and know where you were – there’s something to be said about being able to always see the horizon. (“Stand in the place where you are – now face north…” / REM)
Wallace Stegner wrote about the brown landscape of the West. Most people think beauty is lush green forests and waterfalls, but Stegner and even Edward Abbey wrote about the beauty of the arid Western landscape of the US.
One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.
Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water
Maybe the attraction is because the desert is both beautiful and dangerous. It’s a place where life is fragile and has to work harder to thrive. I won’t go into the biblical references to the desert or popular culture references of desert (think Mad Max apocalyptic). Cadillac Desert is a classic book about the history and future of the American West.
The drive from Portland was quick – though when I passed Mt. Hood I was wishing I was climbing high on the mountain in the 60 degree sunshine. I’m sure there was some good climbing and skiing. Once you emerge from the alpine zone and leave the doug firs behind, it’s a quick drive through Warm Springs Indian Reservation and then on to Madras. I’ve always continued to Bend, but Saturday I stayed on Rte. 26 to Prineville, OR. Here the landscape opens up with the Ochoco mountains to the east and the spine of the snow covered Cascade range to the west. Hood, Jefferson, Black Butte, North/Middle/South Sister, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor – all topped with recent spring snow.
The Observatory is run by the University of Oregon and has maybe 7? telescopes of various sizes. The drive up to the observatory was on a nicely graded gravel road with patches of melting snow. Once I got to the top ~6400 ft in elevation, the north aspects were still snow covered, with the southerly aspects showing a nice forest duff of pine needles. The place had a Flagstaff, AZ vibe, with slightly smaller pine trees.
The campground has about 6 car camping sites with another handful of walk-in tent sites scattered in the forest. With the observatory closed in early season, I had the entire place to myself. The dogs ran around chasing chipmunks and playing in the snow while I got camp set up.
Nighttime lows were below 30 degrees and we suffered overnight. I slept with a hot water nalgene in my sleeping bag and the dogs got as close as they could and we all tried to stay warm. At 1:30am I heard scratching under the truck and realized I left the cashew/pumpkin seed clusters that I was eating in the car in the front seat. I’m pretty sure it was the chipmunks trying to climb up through the engine into the cab to get some snacks. I got out of my bag and put all the foot in the cooler and sealed everything up.
Overall a good first trip to central Oregon to explore. More to come.
The IPCC report on climate change was released last week and the takeaway is that we are clearly on track for an unlivable planet. Mass extinction, climate disasters, economic and food security crises have already begun. Is that sobering? Does it make you sit up and pay attention? Scary enough to change behavior? I’m not so sure. Behavior change is a tough nut to crack. Consider Covid mask requirements over the past 3 years – incentivizing the population to take some action for the common good. Take this minor action – wear a mask – to protect your fellow citizens and “flatten the curve” so that we can exit this pandemic. People resisted, it became an argument for individual rights. Masks were referred to as “muzzles” by those whose rights were seemingly being infringed.
I finished Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson) yesterday and one thing that stands out to me is that there aren’t (m)any bad actors in the book. There isn’t any evil. A lot of focus on finance (carbon coin) and how incentives can work for Big Oil, but no one deliberately trying to ruin the planet.. only to get rich capitalizing on resource extraction. People are motivated by petty things – the antagonist (if there is one) is apathy. And maybe that’s what we can’t escape when starring down the barrel of climate extinction – apathy. Behavior change is hard.
I won’t want to write a book review, but for a solid “cli-sci” book Ministry of the Future is hard to beat. The solutions and vignettes are creative and eye-opening. I won’t give away one of the major premises of the book – but it involves a heat event not unlike the heat dome we saw in the PNW last June. Temperatures to 47C – people died.
I’ve been on a bender of climate emergency reading lately. The other I recommend is Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. This is more of a hard science fiction account of geo-engineering to mitigate climate change. Both books are set in the very near future – think 10 years out. Nothing futuristic about the ideas presented in the books.
So what to do? Ride your bike. Buy a heat pump. Go solar. Stop eating meat. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”, as the old New England saying goes.