Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Mornings light catches the tops of row upon row of Apple Trees. Gifted by the morning hour I stand atop my ladder and catch this magnificant view. The glowing hues of pink seem to catch the tilted leaves stretching out to the horizon. As I look down towards the apples in my hand they seem to glow as well. The hour is early and the world is still sleeps as I complete my first bin of Golden Delicious. The sounds seem muffled by the mists in the Valley settling down towards the lakeshore. A roster determined to make himself know, as a morning jet passes over head, crows even harder. About an hour later the distant hum of people bussling to get to work throughout the Okanogan, destined to spend there days in offices and shops. But as the rumble of another bag in the bin matches the distant accented voices, I feel that I am in right place this morning.
A man feels rooted by being part of a harvest. As the day goes by the world seems to change by the light that filters through the Orachard. A Cresent Moon trails ahead of the Sun that rides like Helio's chariot slowly making it's way from horizon to horizon. To watch them both chase each other through the day, you almost gain aglimps of the Cosmos that is hidden behind a canvass of blue. Slivers of wonder reach into the hearts of dreamers as the gaze a skyward throughout their day. Eachtime to be reminded constantly of the cyclic nature of change. I'm sure that this is how the Celts felt as they reached the harvest. Seasons, kept watch by standing stones among the fields and groves of the Old World, tell of a closer tie to the land. One in which the most hopes rested in what could be yielded in these Fall months. That pulse can now still can be felt by those walk the Orchards. A pulse of seasons that I still am connected to after the Trail.
The Avians keep an eyeful watch as we work through the day. As all summer they peer down from lofty hights or in amoung the trees. Hawks, Raven, magpies, and an occasional eagle circle about with the midday thermals. Scanning of any creature that the sudden activity flushes out. They circle about eachother ina great dance, falcons and ravens making their moves through the others flight path. I think of the grand view they gain upon the gentle support of the airs fingers. To look out over the valley, lake amd mountain ridgeline. For me a ladder at treetop level is a view impresive enough to yern for more high mountain days.
The day follows it's course and soon the sun begins to fall near the western horizon. Light casts long the fields as everything begins to whind to a close. Sore musles tell me the day is done, and I finish off what is left of my sixth bin. That last layer falls from the picking bag, as a V of migrant birds seek the southern course. For even though the 80 F days bring their warmth, the chill of the night reminds us all of wintern the is on the horizon. For myself the fall itself holds much, andeven though it began in the mountains to see it paint the Orchards of the Okanogan will be quite a sight.
From the backcountry mile
Monday, September 22, 2008
The embers of the bonefire glow bright with a red that seems to warm the face. Around me are the laughing faces of Canadians and other traveller, here along the banks of the Simikameen River. The night sky seems to shine like no other night along the trail, and I can just make out the milky way, the center of which we all revolve about. There is a sence of warmth and yet distance. I finds myself in that land in-between, niether arrived to the next journey, and my thoughts still at pace with the rhythmn of the walking life. For this is the fate of all traveller at the end of their long journey.
Laughter and stories, swirl about the campfire, woven in the words of Ferench, Spanish, German and English. A world apart from the self meditative state of a quiet forest, only to echo the sounds of a deep ravine or the calling howl of the wind. For I've emerged upon a new community that I call home for the next few weeks, yet still somehow yern for the one that remains south of 49, of those warm summer days.
This evening I pour over the memories of the last three summers worth of experiences, so thick you have to reach out your hand to whip then away. The two journies along the Pacific crest and the life in between. Now as I Look back to those days, I find that the fire deep within has truely been rekindled. A particular email from an old friend strikes most. It reminds how the trail affects you greatly when you come back to the city. When the voicesof spirits no longer walk with you. Instead youare left with concrete, steel and clocks. And yet somehow to bring partir that wilderness home with you ispart of the real lesson. I remember watching Flop stare out upon the watersof Lake Chelan, with a look of sorrow in his eyes. And as I read from a hiker
fromthe last hike I an reminded how important that we remember thatwe take the trail withis always. Home is part of the journey. But as I have learned in this last hike, so is return.
Soto the life before me, I hope it leads me as well as it has before. And to Ladybird, may you find that journey that lies within on each day. And hopefully ill see you again on the trail some day to complete the stories to be fully written.
From the backcountry mile
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
PCT 27 - The People Along the Way
One thing that I have written little about through this trip is the hiking community that we have shared time with. Now that the end of the trail just 80 miles and 4 days away, it seems many of us have landed in the little town at the head of remote Lake Chelan, Stehekin. Most of the day has been spent in the all time favorite hiker passtimes; talking with others, drinking and eating food. The Bakery here has been a focal point of many, but most have just sat on the deck at Stehekin Landing looking out, just staring upon the mountains. In each there is a sadness that the days of summer are coming to close. Line is always amazed to think that when we started this long trek back in Quebec, that there was 5 meters of snow in the ground. Myself as well feel the clock ticking by, and yet so close there is an urge to take it slow. But the trail calls.
Tonight most of the hikers here in Stehekin got together for dinner at the Resturant and had dinner together. We all reminised stories and places that we have seen. We shared a table with Irish, Flop, & Damp Dan, while another crew of hikers was at the table next to is. To realize that you have spent a summer with such a fluid or tight community, brings a connection of a traveller that I have not really felt since my years on Camp Staff. Line (Accent) counted that we have hiked with over 200 other hikers on this trip, now as we tell stories of the others we habe seen, I realize that we all share a special experience. The regular guests of the resort look over from time to time at the scrappy dresses bunch with long beards and inquire with the waiters who we are. With rolling eyes he responds, "Those are just Hikers..." and leaves it at that. For our community exists for a summer and the disbands into our other lives that we live in the "real world".
Through this trek I have meet some of the most extraordinary people. From Austin, a 75 year old woman that just rafter the Colorado River and was full of life. To Gordon, a dedicated Trail Angel, who seemed always to be at the next road crossing with gateraid and more stories to tell of trips, trails and life. The Trail Angels like the Saufley's, Anderson's and Heitman's, who took in hundreds of hikers into their own homes to allow all of us to rest or tired worn out feet. To all the random people we meet that gave us rides to our resupplies while hitchhiking, who's stories ranged from the bazaar to the heartwarming. And to each Postmaster of those small mountain towns, that for the summer deal with hundreds of hiker resupply boxes. After meeting so many people, I have became more confident that the heart of real people is warm and true, giving me back my faith in humanity.
Sometimes one of the most enduring memories of travelling like this is the people you meet along the way. And that has made it all the better...
From the backcountry mile
Monday, September 15, 2008
PCT 26 -- Following the Marmot's Whistle
We trek most of the day up along ridgelines, connecting from one to another. Deep below, the headwaters of great watersheds begin from late summer snowfields, down their raging courses with name like the Sauk and the Wenachee. The trail keeps reaching higher as the crest heads straight for the mountains of DaKooba's inner sanctuary. We climb above the treelike into a world of vivid reds, yellows and oranges of the last high alpine flowers of the seasons fading into
fall. Behind mountains not seeen by many and only spoken like lore from the Cascade Alpine Guide deep in granite greys and metamorphic purple hues reach skyward giving a man time to dream of lofty peaks. With all these sights the high whistle of a marmots call draws the hikers attention away from dreamy sights. Standing alert from his hole, of seems he is the spirit of this alpine haven. This is part of what makes the Glacier Peak Wilderness so special.
Located just east of Darington, this wilderness by it's very nature is remote. Each year districtive floods erode away miles of trailhead roads and routes, placing the mountain further with each mood of the river. And yet there is a lure to the hiker to follow old paths and climb over washed-out bridges, there just is no other place that feels deeper then here. Even as we look from ridgeline trails, we know the valley floor 4000' below is here the trail will descend to the old growth groves only to ascend the next ridge again.
My first encounter with this mountains was after high school as I worked on a trail crew. Days spent in those backcountry valleys bucking out logs to build punchon bridges, working the two man crosscut through old growth hemlock, and brushing out miles of overgrown trail, came with tireing days. Yet my first view of the High Cascades, came from days walking Vista Ridge or Fire Creek Pass, meadows with indescribable views. To walk now again and see the logs that took two days to make the 5 cuts needed to clear the trail, now stacked with 2 new blowdows was sobering. The power of natures forces is something to behold. Motion of water, wind and land move the forest and rivers, creating an obstacle course that honestly was fun to cross.
For years these trails have been stated as impassible by the Forest Service, yet out trek found this to not be true. For the adventureous, the challenges of the trail brought with it a earned joy when reaching the alpine zone. Respect for DaKooba's power comes after a long sore day. With views north towards the distant mountains of the last section of trail, the enjoyment of this true wilderness before the final push seems to warm us at nights. Watching sumset fade over Fortress Mountains silowet and long marmots whistle, brings a reminicing memory of those long summer days... Soon our walk will be done.
From the backcountry mile
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
PCT 25 - In the Shadow of Becky's Peaks (Alpine Lakes Wild)
My first long backpacking trip was in these mountains. I remember that first day like it was yesterday. Elise had just dropped me off at Fish Lake Meadows, just below Cathedral Rock. The mist was still streaming up from the rivers surface as the Cle Elum meandered it's was across the flower covered valley floor. Before I left, we sat beside the rivers edge and talked about what we though life would me like. Today, that friend fights a growing cancer with as much life and spirit as she had that day. I am always insipered by her view of life. Now I walk again with another kindered spirit along the high trail of Fred Becky's Peaks. It has also been a joy to share these moments with another likewise youthful spirit.
These mountains sing to me as home like no other. As I climb up the ridgeline of Kendells Katwalk, the masses of day hikers pass us by. This is a place of high discovery for new eyes tothe mountain lore. The beauty here is painted on the rocks reaching out towards the horizon. The high tower of Stuart, like a watchtower upon the cathedral hill, always stands off over the last ridgeline. This ridgeline we walk is home.
In the next day we weave our way below the twin towers of Thompson and Huckleberry, cross the long talus field below Chikamin Ridge. Layers of compressed mudstone that long ago found themselves buried deep in the oceans of Mesozoic times, now reach high towards the heavens as they are made golden by the dawns light. Every now and the I pick up a rock and break it along fine lines to reveals another world in the fossils of an ancient sea. And yet the views of Park Lakes and the small meadows below, bring us back to the present and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
On that first solo trip, I brought along a book to keep me company, "Challenge of the North Cascades" by Fred Becky. In it was a page after page of descriptions of the inner sanctuary of Lemah, Overcoat, Chikamin and Dummot Chief. I remember coming over the ridgeline and putting a face to these giants that had become part of my own mythology woven frpm his descriptions. To see them again, was to look upon the face of heaven itself. Needless to say we had good skies.
Near the base of Three Queens, we came upon two hikers, who I immediately recognized. Wayne and Rick from work were out for the weekend to explore these upper reaches along the crest. We talked and swapped stories of trails we all had seen along the way, snapped a few pictures of eachother and parted ways. There is something special about meeting hikers and friends in the backcountry. Each shares that great experience of discovery, and chance meetings seem somehow part of the fate of the travelling experience.
That night after climbing out of the deep valley of Lemah Creek, we camped at the same campsite I stayed at when I was young. As the sun faded, we saw grand silowets painted with alpenglow lines of gold, pink and orange. The chill in the air on the clear night and the half moon seemed to speak of the trips end upon the horizon. But for the moment, the feeling of being deep in the wilderness and looking upon beautiful cliffs and glaciers fading to black was enough to bring warmth to our bundled hearts.
From the backcountry mile
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Snoqualmie Pass MP 2400
There are few words that can match the sense of coming home. The warmth of the familure seems to flow over the soul. That placement within all that has come before. And yet, there is a deep feeling of difference. That feeling that the distance had placed upon the heart. I feel as though the land I have traveled before me had touched upon the way I look upon my life and others. In the end, an experience that has been transcending. We sit around coffee tables… Talking casually about distance and miles, place around the world, in which to roam, in which to reach out and touch that inner harmony again. This is the trials and tribulations of a Thru Hiker coming towards the end of the line. In the next 250 miles, comes the last great finally to a hike that has been utterly marvelous! A dream walked upon the very soul, and realized by the slow progression of feet upon the earth. I can only hope to bring light to such a journey, yet my mind only finds itself rapped into the folds of another, on an island far deep in the south pacific, a world away.
The last week has been a trail, against the elements. Wind, Rain and Pain has come my way, and yet the ever constant, has been the trail before me. There is still more to hike. And yet the feet pull me forward. Every person has that point, where will and soul must collide. Where the true questions seem to resonate within and only ask the hard questions. Where does the trail go after Manning. It is on the mind of most every hiker these days. Talk of the after life, the world beyond the trail. And yet for each their heart is still on those endless days of summer. Those long miles, and high mountain passes. Will they ever end. For so long, it has seemed like a secret dream of each, and yet as we walk north it seems to become the resolve of each to answer those questions that set us out on this journey in the first place, to look for the residing calm in deep.
In the last few years I have seen much, far more then I though before. A world has opened up before me, miles of trail seems to stream seamlessly before the dreamers eyes. And yet the final questions still remain. Society demands a heavy toll, and yet the soul demands much more… Which path… Which course…. After seeing the sunrise among the dawning petals of a desert rose, or upon the High Sierra Peaks, how can a man come back down from the mountains? Once it resides deep within, almost a candle lit beyond mark. The answer seems to reside in the fact that the trail keeps pulling me, like many others forward. It seems that many within our own little world have heard the piper. And are lead by the melody of that distant horizon. Each day spent reaching out towards the fine line of gold. I always wondered how travelers face each day alone, Today, I feel a glimpse into their eyes, into their world… It seems to give a man a certain courage that has not been felt before.
Well a few days rest, and we are back… To the trail that calls our names, and seems to haunt our dreams. The distant mile further to mark, and yet our heart calls out for more. The spell of the wild seems to call like a Robert Service poem. And yet, home calls as well… It is the spell of every wilderness traveler, what happens at the end of the trail…
I guess we will see…
Monday, August 25, 2008
Four mountains survey the lands of Southern Washington, like sleeping giants. Wy'est (Hood) to the south, Loowit (St Helens) and Klickitat (Adams) making up the east west axis, and mighty Tahoma (Rainier) to the north like an anchor. Between these temples form a Diamond which the trail crosses, holding a deep forest and berry fields atop old Lava flows. Here a person is greeted with every shade of green imaginable. Stands of Old Growth Douglas Firs with their armor plated trunks reaching far into the sky. Here huckleberries cover ever bit of open ground, rolling through the undergrowth beneith lumbering giants. While the rain showers down with an echoing hush, captured by the oval leaves so small. A jewel unmistakably Washington, embodies these Diamond Forest beneith the mountains shadows.
There are many things that make the land north of the Columbia special, but it is the forests that captures the hikers attention when you first come here. Grand conifers vault sky-ward, almost reaching to connect heaven and earth with their green baughs. Cedars curve around rock and slope, tying themselves around old nurse logs with roots like delicate fingers weaving the earth. Hemlocks, row after row seem to stand at attention upon the hillslopes, dawning their white and grey coats against the constrasting green forest floor. And mighty Douglas, Psuedotsuga menzezii, with its towering height and thick bark, to anounce to all, its might and stature here in the evergreen forests.
The forest is alive with much more here. Shafts of light from the sky between rains lead the eyes lower to the Sea of Green that make up the land below these giants. Ferns with their outreaching fronds, give a sense of the ancient, here long before much else. These are the relatives of those upstarts that brought forests to life back in the Carboniferous Period, 300 million years ago. Then a mirid of flowering plants give highlights to this forest. Vannila leaf, with three leaves
appearing like the first few moments of a bird taking flight. Salal, bringing a shine to the remains of old stumps and logs. Each blue vase-like berry in a row almost to hearld the ringing of the bells on the final day. And last the variety of blue and huckleberries, who's array of small leaves and berries seem to reach up to the bear-like hiker who ambles along.
These forest inhabit animals that seem to walk like a spirits whisper behind the dense trunks and vinemaple. A mystery to those who first arrive from the southern forests, till their unearthly buggle echoes through these halls. With the tramp of brush and a sudden crack of branches, they are gone. Only a strike of brown a white in the far distances remains. There is the clatter of the Douglas squirel, offended at your presence. Making a ruckus of his territory while bumbarding a hiker with the remains of cones he had aleady pillaged for treasure. A few fox and coyot leave only tracks as marks of passage. And the sonnerous Kha of the black Raven, eyes of this woodland domain resounds from above. To the first people he was the mischievous spirit who brought salmon and fire to them. Wise, powerful, and dangerous.
These woods are alive, unlike any other we have crossed. They seem to demand your attention with their presents, even the rain mists brings your senses closer to you. And yet like many others, you understand how threatened these are. For outside the reach of the trail's protection, the land is shaved, and denuded of its aweinspiring power. These forests are special places indeed. One that has haunted my memories and desire since leaving Campo four months ago. They are home to part of ourselves, to a place that the great bear still roam. But with unwatched eyes, they are lost, and forgotten. Yet to the hiker who walks through them, they weave a spell of sense and image that can never be forgotten. For a man returning home, they remind one of no greater lesson. The land is alive, part of you, and above all should be respected...
From the backcountry mile
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The meadows of Jefferson on the north side are one of a small taste of things to come. The change of these mountains, with growing vails of white glaciers along their ascending rise towards the heavens, seem to become greater as we pass the 45th N Latitude. Jefferson reaches up towards the sky with a sharp point, looking over the Deschutes and Metolious. With a great garden along the northern wall.
Drawn north over the snows of Park Butte we make our first 32 mile day. Waking the distance between the mountains to the base of Wy'est. Through gentle forests of blueberries and pines. Ravens follow us along the trail through Warm Springs lands. At the end of the day, Clackamas River and a view of the last of the Cascade giants of Oregon, Wy'est (Hood).
The rumble of thunder through the night and morning, begin to cool the forests that surrounded the last of Oregon's mountains. Wy'est covers itself in a cloak of mist. The following evening lightning takes the sky, and thunder trembles the forest. Wind begins to whip through the Old Douglas stands, and soon we find ourselves along the banks of the Columbia.
Wy'est kept us from her meadows. But the mist along the great gorge towards the Pacific, tell of one more state to go. The storm passes on and thoughts of the Goat Rocks, Klickitat, Tahoma, Da'Kooba and Komo Klashan, meet us here at the rivers edge. Oregon has been beautiful, but the deep forests of Washington lay beyond the rivers edge with promise. Tommorrow we'll begin the last 500 miles. I look forward to the long High Cascades ridgeline. Hopefully the end of summer finds us well.
From the backcountry mile
The Sisters caught me by suprise rising out of the 4 days of long forest of lake after pond after lake. With a first view of the red and white cap of South Sisters through a break in the green of trees, it was like a hint of things to come. Out of Elk Lake five mountains stand sentential watch over the divide in the cascades, the three sisters, broken top & mount bachelor. Surrounded by remains of recent lava flow, ground broken and black, obsidian, rhyolite, basalt and pumice stand as a mosaic of the mountains upon the lower slope plains.
South Sisters is the first of these glaciated jewels a hiker looks upon coming to their domain. Glaciers draw her cone down, etching through the red cinders to grey ash that lies below. The alternation looks as thought great braids of a fierce redheaded woman, with subtle line highlight the dawn of her middle age. Atop her summit sits a pool to reflect the face of heaven in translucent shades of blue. Held only to those who caught by her spell climb along her elegant ridgelines.
From behind south sisters, stands a younger cone of a mountain. Evidence of age stands in the smooth lines descending down her flanks. Darker tint to the rock gives the fine ones almost a perfection feel like Fujiyama from the westside. As the sun begins to set, the colors of the fading light playout along the fingers of snowfields descending from atop the mountains 10'000 ft high upper reach.
The last of the sisters stands to the north. The eldest bound in roots to the youngest, the etched interior rock of the mountains magma heart stands exposed like many to the sky by thousands of years of glacier ice that carved away the outershell. Black rock flows surround the base of this mountain. From giant vents and craters that we walk around in long arcs. For one of these craters we ascend into its heart, like the black gate of Mordor, it holds us at bay only welcoming us along fine lines of a trail that works its way throughthe jumble. Indeed, the twin fingers of the oldest sister, looks north towards the broad solder of Washington, just beyond McKenzie's saddle. And one white glacier streams down a cirque that long eroded away.
The mountains of this area, seems to demand more time of me , begging for deeper research. To round their base in a grand arc and to explore the sanctuary between, middle and south, I will have to return for another trip. But with Jefferson and Washington on the horizon, as always my way leads north.
From the backcountry mile
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
They stand like a long forgotten army in an old battlefields. Silver spires, row upon row, reaching up to the bright blue sky. Branches stretch out and roots like legs frozen, at the place of their final stand, holding back the tide of flames, that raced by. These are the remains of an old green forest, similar to the one we walked through just that morning. Yet now after a 2006 fire the stand as silver silowets to what the once were, as beautiful and proud in death that they were in life.
My imagination is fueled by the lore of Tolkien, and his great Sheppard's of the trees, the Ents. The forest we had walked through was a great stand of Hemlock tall, dark and green. From the arms of each tree hung the striking green of Mathuselas Beard, giving these trees an ancient look, of wise kings of a previous age, now resting along the Willamette slopes. The forest teams with spirits of the living, brings comfort to the lone travellers, like Hobbits a long way from the Shire.
The wind seems to howl like a lone bagpipe up on the hills. At places large old growth stumps stand chard and worn. Around them ashes an scorch marks radiate out in a grand arc, as though an Ent battled a great spirit of the fire as it charged forward. Defiant to the end. The ground is covered with blueberry and huckleberry shrumb, bringing fruit and life back to this desolate landscape. A sign of rebirth to this Memories of Trees.
When most people think of a trip into the wilderness they think of places of lush environments. But at the same time it is inspiring to walk through the otherside and feel the power of the forest remaining after the forest green is long faded away. It brings a calm wonder to out own cycle of life. I nod my hat to these powerful giants, and walk further down the trail.
From the backcountry mile
Thursday, August 7, 2008
It seems that some of the best places moments are found when the are unplanned. This last week was much like this old saying. After spending a night with many hikers that we had not seen in a long while at Mazama Camp in Crater Lake, Line and I headed out to the Rim Trail.
Lingering later the we thought we ended up camping right on the Edge of the Caldera in a crop of mountain hemlock. We could tell that we were not the first to camp there, but the site was pretty hidden. As the day faded, the sun played out its magic in slow motion across the layers of smoke from the California fires still to the south. It was one of those moments that passes by as you look around at the Caldera Rim aglow with that light from above. I have been reading "Cosmos" by Sagan lately. He talks about the beauty of nature and the sky above. That taking the time to understand the larger realm helps us appreciate how wondrous it really is.
The next day we finished the rim walk and began the hot dry segment through the northern end of the park. They call it an Oregon Desert, a place were pumice or lava beds hide the creeks and only stands of small Lodgepole pines remain.
By Theilson we were almost burnt out. So a sudden detour found us at Umpqua Hotsprings a few hours latter. The change in ecology was like night and day. We sat back relaxing above the rushing waters of the Umpqua River below. Layers of green surounded us with every shade
playing out in the baughs and lichen hanging over the hotsprings pools. Sometimes you need a break from walking, and this was a great one. At the evenings end with a few fruits to eat and some beers to drink from a friendly local, we were rejuvinated.
Now we could hitch back to where we left the trail, that would leave us a day behind. Then we saw a trail sign that showed a whole network of segments leading back to the headwaters of the Umpqua and junction with the Pacific Crest. The first segment was 13 miles and titled "Dread and Terror". Who names a trail that? Our minds had been made up we would walk the trail back.
The Dread and Terror Segment was far from that. Instead it was one of the richest waterfall trail I have seen since Eagle Creek. Water sprang out of the basaltic rocks flowing down between moss and tilted columns. It seemed every corner was ablaze with white from rapids amount the light green of firs new growth. It colminated with a high cascade of Lemolo Falls over a Basalt flow. All of this as if descending an Olympic old growth grove. Far from Dread and Terror!
The next day we found the trail again. Following the meanderings of a river through large meadows, we were meet by the mists of new rain, that would later give way to ground trembling thunderstorms that have persisted since.
The North Umpqua River Trail is 80 miles total, we hiked 25 of those miles. Some fall it would be worth it to hike the full length. But for now Canada calls. And many more miles yet to go before we rest again. So it will go on that ever growing list of hikes for someday.
From the backcountry mile
A line of mountains presides over the Oregon Cascades. Standing high above the green river valleys to the west and the high lava plateau to the east, the are the watchtowers of a long ago volcanic age. To walk the trail through this land is to follow these peak like beacons leading a man north along the Cascades towards Canada.
Rising above the small crest between the Rogue-Kalamth divide, stand Pilot Rock. The basalt columns that line its side complete with chartreuse lichen staining the rock, stands as an old reminder of days before. Erosion around the column expose the conduit form the bowels of Hades. A name such as "Kels Anvil, where Thors mighty hammer was awakened!" would seem more approrieate. But with a cover of Douglas Fir, sleeping it remains just within sight of Ashland Valley. Yet to the north from its ridgeline the next of the watchtowers stands just a day long walk away.
The next in the chain of volcanoes along the trail is McLoughlin. This conical mountain temps the climber with her elegant lines leading down into the sea of green surrounding the base. We began our ascent at 2 pm, and within the first mile the trail began to be steep. More of a boot-beaten scramble then trail, it kept both hands reaching about for the next rock all the way up. The mountain is by-no-means hard to climb. Yet for this watchtower, her treat is to look in the hidden rock towers of the northern slope. They look to stand over a wide rubble field of the last flow.
The forest seas continue up through the Sky Lakes Wilderness. Every now and then we climb an old cinder cone or volcanic vent with names like Lucifer, Devils Plug and the Crucible. Yet we are always aware that Mazama was king here as we climb nearer to the caldera rim. Pumice and lava are the forest floor. And the rugged lightning rod that is Thielson stand in the distance beyond the spires of Hilman, Scott and Watchman along Crater Lake. These are just the southern watchtowers of Oregon with many more to come.
From the backcountry mile
Monday, July 28, 2008
Sometimes a town just takes you in an makes you feel welcome. Those old haunts of music, good food, new people and just the ability to take in some culture lure a hiker in. Our stay in Ashland has been truly relaxing. It started when we arrived at a bookstore and a woman who had just rafter the Colorado River for 18 days offered us a place to stay near downtown Ashland.
At 75, she was the most intellegent and active traveller that I have meet. Her stories worth pages of adventures. Her home overlook the whole of the Upper Rouge Valley a view that told us we were not in California any more. So we settled in before she was off to preform in a Taiko Drumming Group in Lithia Park near Ashland Creek.
Soon we found that her youthful spirit was the norm for this fountain of youth in Oregon. As we walked through the park later, it was filled with music, people, dancers and outdoor plays. After all this was the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and we were hiker walking through the high season.
We went to a replica of he Globe Theater from London, and watched a group of Spanish Flamingo dancers flow through the music of the mistro behind the guitar. To watch these beautiful women weave their hands and body to the rhythm the notes as their swirling dress followed behind the lead of their hips. Compared with the towns that we zeroed in before, it was like landing in another world. It was nice to enjoy a some of the haunts of the city.
We came back and talked wellinto the evening about our hosts travels around the world. It seemed that she had been a local college professor in the Arts, and she had taken up painting locals that she meet along her travels. Tales of Tramping around New Zealand and sailing through the Sea of Cortez seemed to inspire the thoughts of life after the trail. Yet for us Oregon and Washington was calling us, so we started to prepare for walking again.
Half way through town the sound of Celtic fiddle music drew us into the Black Sheep Pub, and with another free concert of Latin music in the park this evening we were sold on another night at a local hostel. It is the lure of good town stops, this is a place I will definitely find myself at again.
From the backcountry mile
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Smoke has filled the air pretty much since we left Lake Tahoe. Each
day we walk north another section of trail closes as new fires are
found benieth the haze of old ones. The first real fire that we saw
was the American River Complex just west of the trail at Donner Pass.
That fire was burning about 10 miles away yet causing the sky to turn
an orange haze that covered most of the Tahoe Basin. Luckly we passed
that fire high above along Squaw Valley Ski Resort.
The next fire was actually a complex of seven fires, called the Butte/
Canyon Complex. This one was more of an impediment. When we arrived in
Sierra City, about 130 miles of trail were closed, with the towns of
Belden and Bucks Lake on fire. It was then that the full impact of the
California fires could be felt. It was not so much that there were
fires, this is a normal part of Western Wildland Forests. But that
there were soo many all started on the same day, summer solstice. That
storm hit while we were on Muir Pass (11500'). A dark cloud growing in
mass as it hit the Sierras, in the end only snow came of it for us.
Yet for the rest of California, it hit like Thors Hammer.
We had to hitch and take a bus to get around that complex of fires.
Along the roads and towns we saw the small armies set up to attack the
blazes. Schools and roads filled with the green forest service
engines. Finally we were back on trail after Chester. Behind us that
evening the smoke was thick in the air and we could see the orange
glow from the fire behind us. We were back on trail at the half way
point heading into Lassen.
Three days later we have decided to jump the last of California 250
miles. Smoke has moved in from the Coastal and Kalamth Fires. Most of
Is closed to a series of fires just discovered that have gone un-
noticed due to the high amounts of smoke from the Shasts-Trinity
Complex. It is best to take the out to Oregon and call the 1377 miles
hiked in California good. We after all have still about 1000 miles
more to walk for Oregon and Washington. On to the Cascades and thier
From the backcountry mile
There are special hidden places along the trail that seems to lift the
hikers spirit. After the last week of being ill and having to deal
with a complex of 8 fires that closed the trail, we have finally made
it to the half way marker and Lassen National Park. Its a small
unknown park to many, filled with mudpots, geysers, boiling lakes,
lava flows and cinder cones. This is the start of the Cascade Mtns and
of course the home of Drakesbad Guest Ranch.
This is a special place because of the people that run this epicurian
getaway. Ed and Billy from Baveria, run it much like a Swiss Chalet.
They are welcoming and have wonderful stories of their own. For 19
years the have run Drakesbad getting the best consessionair award in
the Park Service. Before that they ran huts in Austria where hiker
would come in off the Trans-Alpine trail. So they understand the
hikers, and that they constantly hungry. The food here is great and a
good soak in the hotsprings relieves the sore aches from the trail.
Great way to celebrate the halfway mark (MP 1354).
After three meals and one good long soak in the hot springs waters, we
pushed out along the trail. Through a young forest and a few lakes, we
made our way out towards the lava plateau. Sand was the order of the
day, and we found huge cinderfields. The trail weaved its way through
the stand of trees and lava crags. As we turned the corner a large
black and red lava flow stood before us, with a black cone looming
The hiking was slow going, it seemed like. For every step forward you
would slide back some. After working our way around the different
crags, we set up our tent at the base of the cinder cone. The with the
coming sunset, we took the trail up the steepside of the cone. In all
directions the light of sunset was shining beautifuly on the smoke
from all the local forest fires. Lassen stood magesticly above the
lava plateau 10'000 ft in to the evening sky.
When we reached the summit of the black cone, one of the most
aweinspiring sights lay before me. The cone was two concentric circles
of crater within crater. Caught in a wave across the rim, the lines
seem to draw the eyes in as the skies become more and more brilliant
with the passing hour. We walled the rim looking down to the painted
dunes below. It was a magical place to be at, and well worth the hike
off the main PCT.
On towards Old Station and the Hat Creek Rim, the trail just keeps the
imagination rolling and my feet moving forward.
From the backcountry mile
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
We had just rounded the third bend in the canyon, when we came upon
the upper meadows. For the next three days we were again off the Pct
into the spine of the Sierras, this time it was along the Matterhorn
Ridge. The plan was to avoid Yosemite's mosquito infested north
country. On my last time thru, these vengeful creatures had broken my
spirit with the hord that attacked day and night. Now the plan was to
stay above 9000' until Sonora Pass when the Geology of Basalt flows
would bring salvation.
The approach to Burro Pass walked along the ascending meadows of the
Matterhorn Canyon. The flowered filled meadows seemed to reveal a new
color around each bend, giving life of color to the granite white
walls with lupine, columbine, and paintbrush. The views of the
Matterhorn, Sawtooth ridge and Whorl Peak were a climbers dream.
Smooth white and tan spires held aloft into the 12000' skies, urging
the dreamer to go higher. We made the top of the pass to find a small
little tarn that stood below two chutes of Finger Peak.
We left the Burro Pass area and began to work our way towards Mule
Pass the second of the Two Asses Passes. It was here that we began to
follow the tracks of a mountain lion. Every time the trail crosses the
snow so to did the feline's a couple of times as we walked through the
steep granite chutes, the lions tracks were perfectly inside the
tracks of a climbers boots. We knew that after turning two trail
junctions, he was headed towards Peeler lake on the otherside of the
Yosemite Divide. That day ended with us bellow the spite of Crown
Point above a chain of jewel like lakes in the Hoover Wilderness,
wondering if the cat was in the same valley.
The morning sunrise across the Eastern Sierras was glorious. It was
like the beginning of a symponey as the light cast across the valley
with the desert in the distant horizon. That day we continued to
follow the tracks of the cat that finally turned uphill near the
popular Peeler Lake. This was our last encounter with Yosemite as we
slipped in and out it's backdoor at Buckeye Meadows. After this we
followed our blueblaze down the Buckeye to an old Snow Survey Cabin in
a meadow. Of had a few ruins around of other cabins, and by the looks
of the sulfur rich hillsides and tailings, it once was an old mining
village. But now all that was left was a small wooden cabin overgrown
with grass and wildflowers besides a creek woods. Idillic!
One more pass to go before the blueblaze was over, Kirkwood. This I'd
where I meet my advisary, mosquito! They came like waves when you
stopped. Many times if we just keeps moving they would just follow
behind. It was a great ascent to the pass. We came to some bear tracks
crossing the pass into the long fields of the Piute Meadows below.
The last of the trail before the PCT was a huge back meadow ofthe
Waller River. Tower Peak stood like a King's Thorn over the meadows,
and at the far end an old Forest Service cabin. We took the evening
and pitched out near the cabin, having dinner on the porch. It was a
well loved cabin with a great view of meadows and the peaks of the
upper Walker in the fading sunset. A mosaic of rocks of colors and
shapes had been layer down in a wheel in front of the cabin and it
seemed a good place to wish the Yosemite Blueblaze good by. In the end
we never saw the cat and I only saw the black bear as he wondered dim
light across the meadow, but it was a good blueblaze and well worth
leaving the trail for, and should be the "offical" PCT route north of
From the backcountry mile
Towering cliffs of granite and thundering veils of waterfalls. These
bring millions of visitors to the park each year. Each with cars,
tents, bicycles and motorhomes. To serve all these people there is a
crew of thousands, mostly in the confines of one valley, the Yosemite.
Every now and then a ranger passes by in the classic grey shirt, green
pants and old Stetson hat bearing the leather marks of the giant
sequioa cones. Yet they seem as out of place as the rest of us
backpackers huddled in a remote camp in the park. All like church mice
on a crowded Sunday revival.
After three weeks in the relativle solitude of the High Sierras, the
valley was a sort of system shock. I had grown up with Wilderness
Parks such as the Olympic and North Cascades, yet those I have always
regarded as special. Yet to see the city brought to the Temple was
hard to swallow.
As I sat there below Yosemite Falls, moved like a great force in awe
at the falls above, I wondered what old Muir would have thought. Would
he shake jos cost at the wave of commercialism that covered the valley
floor. is hard to say. He had the full range of the Tuolumne and
Merced to explore alone. Yet he lived long enough to see the park
grow. Yet this is Olmsteds park too. Where society meet nature along
planned avenues. These cliffs and waterfalls still inspire people to
leave the confines of city comforts of Camp Curry or the Awhanee
Lodge. To walk the footpaths up the valleys past those first few
miles, to find a little of the Muir in each of them.
Would Muir understand his valley was given up for a greater cause?
After following the trail that bears his name and watching new faces
in amazement at the mountains that surround, I suspect he might have
some hope. So as we eat our ice cream sandwich from the trailside
stand we head towards the wilderness, just 6 miles north of that
Tuolumne Trailhead. There is were we find home again, back to the long
thin line we call the crest.
- Ridgewalker 山武士
From the backcountry mile
Saturday, June 28, 2008
PCT 12 – Besides Lonely Desert Waters
Somewhere in the music and drink of a great Thursday night in Mammoth, I said yes. By the next morning, I was in a old Volvo driving away from my beloved Sierra Nevada Mountains, and cruising along a straight road out into the Nevada Desert. Here in the Basin and Ranges, let mountains and valleys are countless. Yet there is a lonely silence as only the sounds of the tires on the pavement, and a few conversations with eyes outstretched to the horizon bring. We were heading to the final resting place of the Sierra Snows of the Walker River, north of Yosemite. After the wandering of the rivers course through valley and gorge alike, the end in a Salt Lake just north of the town of Henderson, NV. There, to collect aquatic insects with two young scientists that I had meet before playing in a Bluegrass band at the Local's favorite "Tap."
We entered into a broad valley surrounded by two high ranges. Desert on the floor, yet snow highlighted mountains graced the sides. At the Lakes edge a fine white of the evaporated salt could be seen even at this distance. We traveled through a long valley with hundreds of concrete bunkers, holding the instruments of pain for a war that never occurred. An eerie silence passed over us as we looked at each, with derelict rails and trains between the rows and rows extending out across the valley.
By the time we reached the lake, I was relieved, yet realized that I was far from the mountain home I had been walking through before. But then we saw the pipers fly in large flocks, elegantly along the shorelines edge. With bucket and net, we tromped down towards this inland sea, enthusiastic about the day's task. Collecting rocks, while damsel flies mated just above the waterline, flashing in their long blue lines, I felt a sense of discovery, that over came the desert sun on my back. With the black lab Katadin, chasing after the rocks we tossed back in, after collecting our treasure into small plastic cups, it seemed like a holiday from the act of walking. And soon we had sampled all, of the coves of the lake, which extended out for 5 miles.
Leaving our Desert lake, as the sun came near the horizon, there was a beauty to once again seeing the birds take flight. Long wings outstretched, almost touching the lake, yet gracefully they skimmed by. The road we followed back, was just as long as the first, but turned around Pinyon Pine and Incense Cedar groves. With the rounding of a pass, to the western views, the rise of the Sierra Massive came into Clear. The reflections off the calm waters of Mono Lake seem to give giants like Dana, Virginia, and Matterhorn their full charm. And soon, we were back to Mammoth Lakes, with only the last fading ember of light touching the sky.
The desert always has a certain draw to a man, much like the lure of the Arctic ranges. It is the space it fills, and with what seems to be empty, but full to the eyes of the patient. The wide skies and the foreign landscape seems to open the heart and the eyes. And in the end, one is left in a dreamlike trance, wondering what was just around the bend…
-- RidgewalkerMore Entries at http://ridgewalkernw.blogspot.com/
PCT 11 - The High Cathedrals of the Sierra Nevada
The other day we were taking a nero day in the Middle Fork of the Kings River. It had been hard to write all that we saw for the last few days, as we went over pass after pass in the High Sierras. Each day seems as rich as the next, and with the travel north towards Mammoth, each Pass opened up a different view almost as beautiful as the last. Names like Siberian, Guyot, Forester, Kearasarge, Glen, Pinchot, and Mathers had filled out days. Each pass taking a lot out of us to rise to 11'000+ feet and then descend through the lakes and rivers to the base of the next for another day. Yet before Muir Pass we decided to take a day and to enjoy one of these canyons. It seemed to be worth all the while. It's name is Le Conte Canyon. And as far as I am concerned it is the most beautiful of all the Cathedrals that I have seen in Quebec and America. The next description is inspired by John Muir's description of the Yosemite Valley….
The walls rise up towards the heavens in their black granite faces. Each like a pillar holding up the sky lit roof above. Halls of this canyon echo the sounds of the river below as it makes it's way down from the great alter at the head of the canyon. Each buttress holds up its tower with elegance, lending the climber within to follow their lines as they seek the highest point. Draped from each of these is a long veil of white descending down, like a hand woven tapestry from the middle ages. Singing the songs of the glory of it's creator, in its thundering roar as it reaches the floor. Standing like a grand congregation, the rows of trees with their green boughs wave in the breeze, as if making bows of homage towards the sky ceiling above. On the breeze, you can hear the singing chorus of heavens heralds calling out their distinctive tone, as they fly from tree to tree. The breeze moves through the meadows like waves thru the green reeds that stand. While clouds cross over this cathedral floor making for a show of shafts of light from the heavens. All seems fixed in an symphony of worship. Towards the high alter at the end of the cathedral hall. This is where the sacred river descends from. The snowy heights, hidden by clouds like Moses on the Mountain. High where the earth touches the heavens, this is when the trail goes, and my heart soars. Yet to stand here in this grove is to pay my tribute to the powers of nature. We walk among heavens graces, here in the upper house of the cathedral known as Kings Canyon.
When I look to these mountains,
My eyes draw up to heaven,
Where the earth and the sky meet.
My life it leads, is in between,
With a spirit that guides me forward.
With humble eyes I look on to their beauty,
Gifted as it seems with their presence.
For this is a true house of worship,
Among the groves and high range.
Always keep looking up with humble heart *:o)
Friday, June 27, 2008
Deep in the upper Kern Valley, surrounded by a ring of mountains
rising higher then Rainier, there is a small tarn that captures the
imagination. Set on a high mountain plateau, with the sides descending
to the Kern River below. An alpine parisidse like no other with the
snow capped reflection of the Great Western Wall reflected along the
waters edge. This is heaven, the Tibetans call it Shambhala. It is a
place where the sky and earth meet. And where the warry traveller is
reborn between. A view of perfection, yet guarded behind 14'000 foot
granite walls, that only those who work to get there.
I had been here before. With my eyes wide open to the view before me,
I vowed I would return. Earlier that day on the summit of Whitney, a
middle aged man told me with a glowing face he had never backpacker
before that week with his son. Now that he had seen the heart of the
mountains, he didn't know what I'd would say when he went back to work
the next day. He too had seen the light shining on Bighorn Plateau.
This part of Sequoia National Park is truly special. Away from the big
trees and the crowds, it is homeof the backcountry traveller. Walking
through its forests and meadows with all they need on thier backs,
they take only memories and leave only footprints. The spell of the
mountains lure us on.
Yet after spending the afternoon besides the waters of this little
pond. With the mountains extending far and beyond. I know that again
one day, I will find myself walking these long trails home to the
From the backcountry mile
Thursday, June 26, 2008
It seems serendipitous sometimes how events unfold to find yourself to the perfect places in life. This is how the last three days have felt. We left Kennedy Meadows in the afternoon, finally pulling ourselves away from the "porch's" powerful hold. Felling good we started up the meadow following the Kern River. Then there was a sudden cloud ahead, that over the next two hours as we walked closer turned into a churning mass of a forest fire filling the valley that we were travelling towards. As we got closer and could see the flames over taking Clover Meadows, we knew that another route around this fire had to be found. turned back and camped with a couple from Redlands at the car campground at Roads end.
The next day I found a ride in the back of a 4x4 truck out to Monache Meadows. With 10 people stuffed in one truck and all our packs in another, we watched meadow and mountain pass by as the locals took us on every rolling jeep road that lead towards the trail. It honestly felt like the Indiana Jones Ride at Disneyland. After 3 river fords and 20 trail miles we ended up at Tom's favorite fishing hole behind a man made stone dam. With a perfect swimming hole Tom left us there to find our own route north.
Some decided to take a route east towards the base of the volcano, Olanche Peak, there the trail continued its high route on the edge of the desert. For the rest of us adventure was on the mind. With no map, we began to follow cairnes along the river towards a talked about meadow. The going followed many talus fields and river fords. And soon the group of 8 split into two. Young and ambitious the other group lead by UCONN headed up the river, waiting for us twice. Accent and I realized that Detour (a hiker from 2006 I had travelled with) was slow over the loose rocks, and so we decided to hang back with him to get him through the river section. So we all split ways, sure that Uconn had enough Nav experience to lead the others to Trail Pass.
The going was hard for Detour. After two hours I had figured we had only gone one mile up the river and he was getting frustrated. So we headed up a creek gully to the top of the canyon and began to walk cross country through the Lodgepole pine forest. Travel was easy and fast. Working our way around decending creek valleys we covered a lot of ground. The wilderness was true here, without much sign of man. We felt free and alive, without a line to follow other the a direction north.
By evening we reached the edge of Strawberry Meadows. Here we could see the Sierra flank extending before us in the sunset light. The route back to the PCT headed up a canyon to the east. But all eyes were on the meadows. The desison to follow the river through the wondering ranges was a quick one. Slept all through the night to the sound of coyotes howling across the open meadows which was the size of a large town, ringed with mountains extending to 10'000 ft.
Dawn rose, and the three of us began to make our way across the meadow. The path happen to come upon two women climbers who had decended Kern Peak the day before and gave us information of the meadows ahead. They had also ran into the other group that had broken into two and after traveling all night and were on track back to the PCT. With new sense of direction, we pushed deeper into the Golden Trout Wilderness, making a map as the miles passed while hunting trail signs for more info.
After two river crossings we came to one of the most expansive and beautiful meadows my eyes have ever seen, Templeton Mdws. This was a scene that seemed that perfect vision of a western mountain range. We took lunch and were inspired to explore more. With a signed trail to Trail Pass, Detour decide that he would push on back to the trail exploring the east arm of meadows where he knew the landscape. Accent and I said our goodbyes and walked two different trails across the meadow, slowing getting futhur apart, till both of us where like silowets on a great field.
Accent and I, headed into the woods following a trail as it weaved in and out of countless arms of Ramshaw Meadows. Signs of old sheep camps appeared along the edges of the Meadows, hailing to days before wilderness protection. But now they were abandoned, and we saw little evidence of people in the last week or so. The wilderness was long and deep, and each turn proved more beatiful the the last. We pushed into a volcanic region with cinder cones an relic lava flows. Passing an old backcountyry horse station, we followed a creek up into Big Whitney Meadows. Camped on the edge watching the light play it's magic on the peaks of the south flank of Sequoia National Park. Our exploring had brought usto a final wall before the peak. Right were I wanted to be. Again that night the echos of coyotes played across the mountains and meadows, giving one last desolate evening before arriving in the grand cathedrals of the "Range of Light."
The dawn of the third day found us rising through the Lodgepoles onto the forest of Foxtail pines. Vivid colors of white granite, blue skies, orange-red bark and green needles played for our eye attention. With a steady climb of switchbacks two travellers arrived at the top of Siberian Pass (11'000 ft) to a large plateau ringed with snow capped peaks vaulting to the sky. This was the High Sierras in true form. We had arrived...
With the PCT before us at a trail jct, our feet took the other route as Frost once spoke of and rose high into the peaks to hunt for more alpine lakes and meadows. "... And it was worth all the while."
-- Ridgewalker 山武士
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Rising out of the Mojave the mountains of the Sierras extend like a carpet of ridges and ranges. We get our first view of what John Muir called the "Range of Light" atop the Plateau of Kaivah Wilderness. Here the Stark views of the Mojave and So Cal to the South and the Sierras to the north give a man a feeling of wonder... California is a place of so many environments, that you could not possibly imagine that they are in one state... And the locals, point out, which they would like to, split it up. But for this hiker, the ability to traverse from the Southern California Mountains, to the High Desert of the Mojave, and finally the Grand High Sierras, is one of inspiration to tired worn feet. When we say the granite face of Mt Whitney rising off on the horizon, getting closer with each ridgeline, it seemed like my momentum on the trail keep growing., 18 mpd turned into 23-24 mpd as we got closer to Kennedy Meadows. And the desert Joshua Trees were replaced by stands of Pinyon and Coulter pine groves, with one Ponderosa Grove of Lander Meadows taking us in for an evening with Honeydew Melons waiting in a spring (left by Trail Angels the day before.) Spirits are high indeed.
Yesterday we rolled into Kennedy Meadows, following the cooling waters of the South Fork Kern River. This is a special place. It signifies the end of one hike and the beginning of another. From here on out there desert is behind us. But more importantly, this is 1/4th the trail and Milepost 703. Here the hikers all collect on the famous "Porch." Tucked away in a Pinyon Pine grove overlooking the Meadow that the Kern River flows thru, it is a heaven for hikers. It is easy to spend Zero day after Zero day here, everything you could want is within a few yards. From a Burger stand, a spotty Internet Café, to a Movie Theater at night selling popcorn to boot, hikers settle in to a state of suspended animation as the other wary travelers come in and join the "Porch-life." Some make the motion to leave the porch, paying off three day old tabs of Beer, burgers, and resupply items. For them, Olache Peak and Monache Meadows await just down the trail. For us, last night's happy hour seemed to be the perfect community feel of a group of souls, transient in nature at one place, sharing their stories. In the end, it was a great evening; we'll likely have another one tonight before making it "off the Porch" and into the Sierra high country.
Lately, our travels have been drawn to the different Biota that we see along the way. A book by John M Laws, Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada's has been our guide so far. From identifying different plants, insects and birds, the Naturalist within seems to be coming out. It is one thing to learn from books about the natural world, how things operate and are classified. But it is quite another to take the time to observe and watch things in their environments. The difference in the Desert and the Mountains always amaze me. Each organism finding their own way to turn disadvantage into advantage. Plants seem the most adapt to this, creating a mired of varieties just to catch one pollination method over another. The desert produces the most variety, while the mountains give many different levels of variety. The same genus can be different from the desert to the mountains. But to just watch as nature plays out, wither it be watching a dung beetle attack a locus, or how the sphinx moth imitates a hummingbird to capture extra nectar, in the field is the Naturalists domain. It seems to draw me forward each day, giving meaning to my walk as I fill field notebooks with observations. Maybe they are already known by others and science, but it is discoveries for me, enough to fill a lifetime.
-- Ridgewalker (Jorj)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Hikertown - MP 518
For months before the trail, thoughts of the southern Californian desert brought to mind the 110 degree heat along the 20 mile waterless roadwalk. My plans were to night hike the section, while hunkering down under bridges during the day. It was my way to beat the heat.
Well, mother nature beat us to the punch. Snow, Rain and winds is what has greeted us. Even thought it dusted snow on us in the Mojave Desert last night with 30 degree temps, our spirit is high. The irony has brought a second bloom to the desert high-country as we make our final push towards the Sierras.
Through the last few days since the Saufley's we stayed at the Anderson's. This oasis also know as Casa de Luna was filled with music, hugh taco salads, free beer, and lively people. The Andersons are the opposites to the Saufley's in a great way. They call there setup with the hikers who drop by every night as they head north, "Hippy Daycare". After two days of holding oit of the storms that were creating tornados in the Mojave, we made a break out of the comfort of the Oasis. White snow greeted us...
Along the Lenora Divide parelleling the Mojave is a stand of Black Oak that is like a great expansive park. With their sheltering baughs reaching out over the trail, the wind and weather passed over head. The special groves that they hold are ones that seem to hold almost a magical feel. For 30 miles, these forest grow and soon the trail will follow them all the way around the Tehachapi Mtns. But for now we gain a taste of thier groves and descend to the cold Mojave floor. Tonight we will walk the aqueduct while looking above to the best views of the Milkey Way. One without the lights of the city. The trail goes on and the natural world always seems to inspire and amazed us forward.
Subject: PCT 6 - San Gabriels, Trail Angels and the Saufley's
The echo of water runs through the pines and Douglas Fir of the Gabriel groves. We pass high above the divide between the desert and the ciyt. To the North the great Mojave extending out towards the first hills of the Sierras, Mt Whitney on the far horizon. TO the South the great mass of LA sprawls below, with the lights at night to send the imagination reaching for some future scifi movie. Yet we walk along a line of high mountains. Towering above both. Here in the Alpine forests and meadows, following the trail of silver moccasins, there is time to find the rhythms of the trail. Snow Plant brighten each pondo with a red glow as the poke out of the forest floor. Following the march of foot prints, all going forward to Agua Dulce. Along the way climbing to the tops of Mt Baden-Powell, a tribute to scoutings founder.
After the desert heat, to walk the forests, is to be in heaven.I once told Jake while walking the high forests of the North Cascades, that if I died on the trail, I would know that when I came to the trailhead there would only be a resupply and more trail before me. For me I would skip the white clouded utopia, just to walk the Mountains and Rivers without end. Somehow here, the taste of things to come seem refreshing. *:o) The glimpse of the High Sierras warms Line and my heart with anticipation. Yet the Mojave still beacons.
There area a few people that have helped us along the way that should be told about. First Meadow Marry and Gorden. There are road crossings with the trail, and it seems one of the two are always there, sporting water, fruit and gateraid to wary travelers. Meadow Mary, wife of Hiker Billy Goat, follows the hikers north to her home just south of Ebbits Pass. Her words of encouragement and pad and paper of names seems to keep hikers on the trail, hiking along. The second is Gorden, and old hiker that now supports others along their way. He spent years supporting his sister along the triple crown (PCT, CDT and AT) who was blind and diabetic. To here Gordan's stories about determination, puts us in our place on hotd ays, and gives us the courage and inspiration to push on.
Finally, here in Agua Dulce is the Saufleys. L-Rod (Donna) and Buzz Saw (Jeff) have the hospitality that goes unmatched. I was here in 2006 and spent 2 days, and here we stay for 3 while 35 other hikers come in out of the heat to enjoy a relaxing few days after a month of hiking. IT is incredible to meet such compassionate people, and their dedication goes well noticed and appreciated. We will leave today from heaven to head back into the Oak Groves towards the Mojave. Thanks to L-Rod and Buzzsaw, we leave enthusiastic about the hike...
Hiking hiking we go, to the north towards our home,
PCT Fotos so far
Subject: PCT 5 - San Bernidino & Deep Creek
It was like a spot out of a movie, a paradise amid the desert hills. There was a cool stream flowing down the white granite canyon walls, sandy beach, and palm trees rusing above the hotspring pools. The previous day we had walked a dusty road through the blacken remains of the Butler Fire from Nov of 2007. On one side of the road, the Ponderosa stands were still green and rich, while the south side the blacken remians of Incense Cedars, and Pondos remained. Yet once we reached the cooling sides of Deep Creek it was a magical walk. We decided to take a Zero day at deep creek and meet the locals. There were all sorts of characters that Saturday, and it seemed like the stories flowed from each as to the land that surrounded. Most knew about the trail, and the pack of people (79 strong) had just moved through the night before. But now it was just locals...Deep Creek was a special place in the San Bernidino Mountains. Part of the Transverse Range that we would be traveling through for the next week. Echos of Jacinto still in our thoughts, we look forward to the Gabrials that were coming up. To any that never though that So Cal had mountains of interest, the 10,000 foot mountains reminded us, that it was indeed a special place. Yet fire, is very present in this region, and after a day at Cajon Pass, we saw the starts of another fire on San Antonio Peak. This one started by a lone campfire in the winds... My feelings grown more and more to (No Campfires in the Wilderness) as I see these blazes and their effects. Yesterday it grew as we ascended towards Wrightwood, and it's power was awesume. Luckly the fire was away from the trail, and we still enjoyed the snowfields that lined the trail we ascended.The people along the trail are a special breed. All of them seem kind and willing to help. Last night we stayed in a Ski Cabin at Mountain High Resort for free, enjoying a home cooked meal and showers. Meadow Mary helped us with the ride, and seems to keep track of us as we move along the trail. Soon we will be in Auga Dulce and in the kindness of the Saufley. I fear what will happen as the trail numbers grown. Now it is 450 hiking this year, it was 290 in 2006, and the populatrity seems to grown. The compassion of those in towns all extending their welcome is great. I hope that it remains there as more people hike the trail...Well, back into the forests...Hope everyone is enjoying theirs,"We follow Mountains and Rivers without end, it is our home..." Gary Snyder-- Ridgewalker
Visions of oaks fill my memories as I walk up Mission Creek from the
desert floor. The 8000 ft ascent out of the Colorado desert into the
pine forest of the San Gorgornio Wilderness is a long one, crossing
all the ecological zones of the mountains of so cal and three major
faults of the great San Andreas. We marvel in the deep narrows at
tortured granite gniess, twisted in circles and resisting change. A
sharp contrast to the open fields of the canyon the give much needed
shade and water. I know Jake would send hours just trying to figure
out this complex geology here, as I feel myself wanting to do. Yet of
is the biology that strikes me the most.
On my last hike through this long canyon, I caught myself amazed my
the mix of oak, mamzanita, and joshua trees extending up the canyon.
Each holding thier corner of the canyon to the water that flowed down
from snowy heights on Gorgornio. But since then a fire raged through
the groves leaving only a few untouched near the narrows.
Black and white highlights the remains of these plants, but with all
things of nature fire leads to rebirth. Almost as a recent reminder of
the fire still burning on Jacinto, the rebirth had an unexpected
beauty. All the land of this desert canyon was radiating with fields
of vivid purple and gold. For at the base of each tree remains was a
bloom of purple cantebury bells. The were as big as each finger and as
alive as the hummingbirds and sphynix moths that hovered about them.
Among these flowers, the shoots of new trees grew. Here the forces of
life over fire showing through.
The rest of the climb brought us up to the company of grand vanilla
smelling Pondos and Oak groves. By the end of the day we were throwing
snowballs back and forth and sauntering through the ancients. Back in
the forest again...
Sent from my iPod
There is a grove on the mountain that reminds me of home. Hidden in
the desert high mountains of San Jacinto, is a tucked away stand of
old growth Cedar, complete with two watching black ravens. We stayed
there overmost of the day as hiker after hiker ran down the hill to
get water from the clear springs. Each looking around and the moving
along to get to Idyllwild and town comforts. Slowly we packed upand
left our forest haven.
Back on the desert ridgeline and in the high gustsof wind flowing over
the 7000+ foot divide, we moved quickly along the crest. Just out of
Forbes Saddle I saw a rise of smoke on the horizon. Realizing it was
not a good sign , Line and I moved quickly towards it's source, Apache
Springs. It was around 4 pm and we had planned tp campat that springs
for water. But by the timewe reached Spintster Saddle the whole peak
was ablaze in an inferno. We just seemed to be drawn closer.
The power of fire over life isalong known force. Ecologists know it
for it's regenerative forces. Fires like this clear the land and break
open seeds. For the pyro there is an alureto the brillance of the
orange flames, carrying in it a beauty of creation and destruction at
the same time. To a chemist, the orange red flames mask the many Redox
reactions that bring electrons from their high excited state in Oxygen
to a lower Carbon Dioxide state. But for me at that moment I saw the
groves of pines burning away.
As the helicoters and tankers buzzed us from above we moved back down
the trail towards Forbes Saddle. High winds making the travel
difficult along the ridgeline. But truely of was the constant looking
back over shoulders to watch a 5 acre fire grow in intensity to a 300+
fire. We meet three more hikers and made it down off the ridgeline by
7 pm with just the glow of the flames behind us. By morning most of
the Pct in that area had burned. Yet luckly, the winds had turned away
from the direction of Cedar Springs. The spirit of the mountain was
Now, hikers wander around Idyllwild debating their next move. Many
will move on like us. Others will stay to be pure and follow the
trails full course. There are many more miles of beatiful groves yet
to see, and the trail still lives in my memories. But for now just
enjoy the shelter of the pines of Idyllwild.
Sent from my iPod
We had been walking through the desert scrub of Anza-Borrego most of
the day. Temperature had been high most of the day but the climb had
been beautiful. In the sky, the gliders soared above our heads as we
made our way north. Just past a basin that I had called Weathertop in
2006, due to it's look from Tolkins description, we came upon
There was supposed to be a water cashe maintained by a weekend desert
rat that live around the bend. As we came upon the road there was a
rock that had the words, " Water, Rest, and Shade 1/4 mi." inclined to
get out of the Anza heat, we started to walk the road.
There as we turned the corner was a house with a long porch over
looking the Santa Rosa Mtn, with the sounds of old time western music
coming from it. The place looked like an inviting oasis.
We walked down the road and entered the gate. There kicking back
watching his nephaue practice archery, was two men in reclining
chairs. One of them introduced himself as Mike and invited us to stay
for dinner and some water. He pointed to a back porch of the house
where there was everything a hiker could need from cold beer and chips
to water and much need insoles for Line. We kicked off our shoes and
pulled up a chair, where Todd who we had been hiking with already was.
After about an hour of resting and conversation, Mike kicked up the
grill and we had a huge dinner with his family on the patio watching
the sunset blaze the sky. All of the foods of the 4 major meat groups
were there. Ribeye, BBQ chicken, tritip and pulled pork. Line had
mysteriously told me that day that she was craving milk for Idyllwild
and now it appeared.
We spent most of the evening talking and making out stars in the open
skies. To the north the light show of the Cohella music Fest beamed
away at the night sky and Mike Responded with a couple of million
candle power lights. All solar powered.
In the end it was great to find this desert oasis with the trail angel
Mike. It reminds one of the goodness of strangers at times. Hats off
to you... We left in the morning to the sounds of an old western
Sent from my iPod
First hundred miles, and more to come! The land has been beautiful the last couple of days. Opening up with a trail of meadows, desert cactus, and groves of oaks. My memories of the last hike thru this dry borderlands was a stark difference from this year. We were greeted by miles of desert bloom in every color imaginable. The variation of each plants was incredible, with at least 4 different types of Bush Poppies gracing the resent into Chariot Canyon.
Our trip began with a ride to the border by Girl Scout in the dawn hour. Weaving in and out of the dark desert canyons, we arrive at the border fences along that dusty trail. Soon after a few pictures we are down the trail heading towards our first night at Lake Monera, 20 miles away. We blasted out most of the miles that morning and them relaxed besides Hauser Creek before pushing on.
From there the trail follows the Cottonwoods and Oak pastures to Boulder Oaks campground before rising up to Mount Laguna. The views of a trail winding it's way through large out-stretched oaks giving shade to the grass fields below, gave the feel of Tolkien's description of the Shire. I could almost imagine rounding the corner to see Frodo reading below these resting baughs.
The land changes as you ascend out of the low border towards the high plateau of Laguna. Following the creek canyons, changing from the desert side to the forest side the views were unending. The mountains rise in a grand enscarpment here. The tale of San Andreas is written
in the geology. Far below, the scorching Colorado Desert, parching all that try and water it comes into view. A beautiful barren scape that run the imagination wild with western tales of a bandits haven, were the law fears to treed. Yet we walk the edge to Laguna sheltered by the passing cool breeze, and water at each bend.
Over the next two days we walk the Rim, following in and outpf views unending. We meet up with other vagabonds following this northward trek. Captain Teacup, Hotshot, Issac, Julian and Rockstar finding company in the evening as we shelter from the evening winds. Places
like Pioneer Mail, Lucky 5, and Oriflame pass by. The bloom lay before us getting only better. And after two days we come to a camp of 10 other hikers all watching the nights sky at Rodreigez Watertank. Below the sunsets on the next landscape one I remember well, San Felipe and the Anza Desert of Scissors Crossing far below.
We set off at 4 am, in hopes of getting a jump on the day. Third Gate Cashe is a hot dry 22 miles away, and my last encounter with this stretched left memories that still feel as if it werejust yesterday. The moon blazes the desert landscape, with cactus and scrub in the dark. Yet somewhere in the first mile out I dropped my camera. After two hours of searching I find it only after giving up. With time wasted, we continue to the bottom. The days heat never shows up, as the winds blow my dread away with the cooling breeze. And colors of viberent Pinks, yellows and green blossems fill my day dreams. A wet cool year has brought out the Barrel, Ocittieo, Prickly pear, and bear cactus in a grand symphony of color. Startling life to a stark land, brings a quickens to our step as we hike further. At 10 miles into our day Scissors Crossing comes into view. A well stocked water cashe fills or supplies and we continue to ascend the hill. We follow the winding trail, in and out of gullies fighting the wind at every turn. But compared to the 110F heat of my last hike, the 80F heat seems like a gift. We leap frog Rockstar most of the day, catching up in the shade. Making it after 20 miles to 1st Gate Sandy Wash, we call it a
There a mockingbird finds us his newest curiosity and spends hours calling every sound he knows to hear our reply. It makes me wonder at times if he really wants the car alarm to reply to his mating calls, he gives all thru the night. In the morning Line and I make it to Third Gate and the to the grove at the mountain foot, Barrel Springs. There an encampment of hikers surround the water troght talking up the visions of luxury at Warner Springs. Biscuits and Gravy, the hotsprings pool, and a bed for the warry feet. Most leave early, but we decide to enjoy the evening.
The next day the trail passes thru the grand Montazuma Valley of green and gold. Poppies every were lure us to the resort paradise. And we complete our first leg. After letting the feet recover we will push to San Jacinto and the 10,000ft peak there with alpine flavor. This trip has treated us well, and Line takes the credit with a grin. We'll have to see just what tommorow brings.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The reality, is that once a person has taken such a pilgrimage. It stays with them for a very long time. And soon the begin to look to the horizon for the next great pilgrimage. After trying to place myself into a box of a life style after having my eye open by what the trail taught me, I have found that revisiting that trail can only teach the next movement of thought to my soul.
This time I will begin with another kindered soul, yet the nature of the woods is my true guide. I am looking for new experience and old friends in the groves that I will walk through. And somewhere though it all, a glimps at the truth that I have been searching for all this time. I know it will not teach me everything, but it will begin a way of life for me. One that has been long overdue...
This trail will begin a journey that I don't know it's end, at this point it points towards New Zealand, Colorado, Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal. Only the Gods know which course it really should take. But with every turn brings discovery, from within, and from without. In the end, it is the best anyone can hope for in a life-time...
To those that read these pages after this. I welcome you to follow a journey, one that I will hope to write to from time to time. For life is a series of "Mountains and Rivers Without End." Different and personal to each, yet the telling of the tale to each other part of what makes us all human. For me a great walk is the closest I can come to understanding it all....
So I shall walk...