Friday, December 31, 2010

Snow Shoeing, Wilderness First Aid and 127 Hours

No real hikes or anything to speak of lately, but did get in to snowshoeing recently. Since quitting smoking, I have added a few pounds, and with what I have planned for next Spring/Summer, I need to get a jump on some conditioning. I did do a hike of the Mary's Peak Northridge trail a few weeks back, but a week later found out just a few miles on snowshoes on flatter terrain is even more of a workout! I went up to Black Butte for a few days this month, my boss's folks have a cabin there. I wanted to hike to the Black Butte fire lookouts, but the road up is already under a few feet of snow, so I left my truck on the FS11 road and snowshoed up a mile or so and back. Someone had gone up in a rig at one point, whatever it was had some seriously wide tires, so there was a few decent ruts to walk in going up. Having never used snowshoes before, I went up in the ruts. Nothing too steep, but a decent workout. After about a mile, I hit the Black Butte Loop trail system sign, looks like a good all day trip around the Butte. I turned back there, and decided to walk the powder back down. There was almost two foot of powdery snow, and holy crap, what a difference! It was harder and more exhausting going downhill in powder than it was going uphill in the ruts.

In February or March, I'm looking at taking the two day Wilderness First Aid class in Portland or McMinnville. With the amount of time I've been spending outdoors, and in some more remote locations, it started to make more sense. I've been wanting to get back into school, started on a law enforcement degree 18 years ago and then had a change of heart on choosing that as a profession, but have always wanted to be able to help people in some way. Being better trained (last first aid class I took was in 1993) in first aid, as well as potentially working my way up to Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness EMT has kind of started to motivate me back into schooling of some sort. Besides those classes, I've also started looking in to some other hiking and mountaineering classes sponsored by REI and a few other places. I'd LOVE to do the NOLS Outdoor Semester, but don't quite have the $12K and 78 days to spare. To get a head start on taking classes, I picked up copies of Conditioning for Climbers and Medicine for Mountaineering & Other Wilderness Activities.

I also picked up a copy of Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston after watching the movie 127 Hours a few weeks ago. Incredible movie, but I almost couldn't watch the last 10 minutes. Because of Aron Ralston having still and video cameras with him, he was able to document his situation to where the filmmakers could duplicate every last detail. I'd heard of Aron after his ordeal when his story was all over the news, and after an article came out in People magazine, my mom mailed it to me. I learned my lesson several years before that about letting several people know where you are going, when you'll be back, and if plans are going to change, they don't change unless you can inform the people you told what the change is. I stick to those rules every time I go out in the woods, even just hiking Mary's Peak. I learned from my dad when I was a kid this important life truth: Shit Happens. I've had a few of those moments in my life, falling through ice into a creek and soaking myself, getting pitched from a skiff in the ocean because the fuel tanks shifted, falling off a log 20 feet in the air because I stepped on the one piece of loose bark. I survived all those things, but they taught me to be more cautious and I had someone else with me at the time. I've been walking through the woods when there was decent wind blowing and heard trees fall within 100 yards of me, whats to say that a tree or large branch couldn't end up falling on me? You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times, and that includes looking up and expecting the unexpected.
Medicine for Mountaineering

Thursday, September 16, 2010

McDonald Forest

Working on getting myself in shape for next years summit attempts should be a bit more fun and entertaining now that I've started learning the trails in McDonald Forest. The area stretches from Oak Creek Rd all the way over to Highway 99W at Adair Village, and is covered with old logging roads and trails. The forest covers an area of 7,250 acres, not sure of the total miles of trail, but enough to keep me busy and to where I won't be repeating the same track every time. The other day I took the Uproute-Extendo Loop trail which is 4.5 miles total from the parking area with about an 800' vertical gain. The trail time estimate is 2.5 hours. Well, I blew that out of the water at a hour and thirty five, but paying for it a little bit. Seems that my shoe problems are still plauging me even though I pitched the Merrells. I was just using my Asics runners, and somehow managed to kind of dislocate something in my right foot. Its not that bad, just annoying. I really need to get in and get the Danners resoled.

McDonald is a great place for mountain biking as well, so I've been on the lookout for a decent used bike. I haven't owned a bike since I was probably 14, so I've had to do a bit of research on the different brands out there. One hike I've looked at, which I really think will help with training for next years climbs is going to be the Oak Creek Quarry loop. Total length is 8 miles with a vertical gain of 2000'. Other than the elevation here, it will be a good training hike for the first part of South Sister or Mt. Adams. Xeroxed copies of the trail maps are available at most trailheads, or the fullsize maps are available at Peak Sports and the local FS office. The map is a double sided with the Mary's Peak trails on the opposite side.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

South Sister Attempt 9-6-10

This climb was a serious learning experience, mostly of the what not to wear and how the wrong gear can wear you out in a hurry. Add to that the fact that I only got maybe 5 hours or so of sleep then drove 3+ hours to get there, yeah, I ran out of steam. I did however cover 8 miles round trip and 2400 vertical, so still qualifies as the most grueling hike I've done to date. The next go round for this climb I'm going to be doing quite a few things differently. First off is either staying at a hotel in Bend, then driving a half hour to the trailhead, or make it a two day and camp near the lake first night. That right there takes the first 1600' and 2.5 miles or so out of the hike.

The next problem I had was over dressing and over gearing. I'd been looking at the weather, and although it was calling for clear skies, it was calling for temps below freezing in the Bend area. I decided on long johns, lined jeans, UnderArmor tshirt, Carhart shirt, and fleece pullover. In my pack, I had my milspec GoreTex, extra hats, gloves, little bit of food, 3L of water, as well as my normal first aid and survival gear. That adds up to a lot of weight in a hurry. I was going the wrong direction for layering. In reality, with the late start and warmer temps, I should have gone with shorts and tshirt, left the extra gloves and hats, and used a lighter pack. Next time around, I'm also going for some lighter weight GoreTex gear as well. The milspec stuff was cheap and durable, but heavy! Fine for hunting season and flatter ground hiking, but that's probably an extra 10+ pounds in the pack for a serious climb.

Now, gear issues aside, the biggest factor that I feel prevented me from making the summit is too much too soon. I only quit smoking 53 days ago! Plus I'm also not in the best physical condition, so pushing myself to climb mountains this soon is hard on a body that isn't really prepared for it. Plus the boots I bought last month were horrible. My feet were in such pain by the time I reached my truck, I almost went straight from there back to REI to return them! I bought them based off of reviews on REI's website, and they seemed to have an over abundance of positive reviews. Only thing I can gather is the positive reviewers have never owned $200-$300 boots in their lives, and so far they were the "best bang for the buck". I'm getting my Danners resoled and sticking with them. Great boots, super comfortable even if the "waterproof" part was never true. Only reason I didn't wear them is the tread is pretty much flat on them.

So, today as I write this, I now know what I really have to look forward to when it comes to climbing 10,000'+ mountains. Yesterday gave me the insight I needed to start fixing the issues that kept me from the summit. First, physical conditioning. Even though I won't be able to see much for elevation through the next few months, I can lose weight, build joint strength and improve my overall cardiovascular function. Second, improve my gear. This is the same lesson I learned from the "Wilderness Adventure" about how better gear equals comfort with less exertion. After that episode, I started investing in better back country camping gear, but then again that was for relatively flatter terrain.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sleeping Beauty 8-30-10

Went up to Washington to visit my folks and was planning on a scouting hike up Mt. Adams. The weather was pretty snotty around the mountain, so didn't get a chance for that hike, so switched gears and climbed another mountain I've spent a fair amount of time around. Sleeping Beauty overlooks Trout Lake, and really does look like someone laying down asleep from the right angle and distance. The summit, at 4900',  is a rocky outcropping, and there used to be a fire lookout perched on top. The lookout was burned by the Forest Service in the late 60's, my folks told me a few interesting stories about that, but there are still a few remnants of foundation.

I went into this hike not knowing the length or elevation, since I decided to hike it after I got up there. Tell you what, even if I'd known, I wouldn't have thought it was as difficult as it turned out. The trail is about 3.5 miles round trip, but its the slope that surprised me. Starting out, its running pretty steep, around 30-40 degree for the first third or so. The middle section is fairly mellow, dropping back to 5-10 degrees. Then it kicks back up to 30+ and switchbacks for the push to the top. The elevation gain is about 1500' from the trailhead, so pretty fair gain in elevation for a 1.75 mile hike. Once you get above the tree line, that's when the reward of this trail really kicks in. On a clear day, you can see Adams, Hood, and St. Helens, and even though it was fairly overcast and quite a few threatening fronts rolling toward me that day, the views were still amazing. Then the construction of the trail gets your attention. To climb the rocky switchbacks to the top, the trail builders used the shale right from the mountain to build retaining walls. It's quite a sight to see for the first time.

Once you reach the end of the trail, you are sitting in a small gap between two rocky outcroppings. The remnants of the lookout are to the south up a short rock scramble. Not too steep here, but stay vigilant, because you are climbing above about a 500' cliff. Standing up there where the lookout once stood, I felt an interesting feeling of history in a way, that people used to spend summers up there watching over the forest. Its a mixed emotion, the view and isolation is amazing, but at the same time watching the ominous fronts heading in my direction, the thought of such isolation in the face of a strong summer storm must have been daunting. You would have to be a hardy breed to be able to spend weeks if not months at a time in such a place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Rush

I was having dinner with a friend the other night, and like usual the conversation was mostly about current events and life in general. The day before, we'd gone hiking together on some trails in the McDonald Forest area, and ended up picking a trail that climbed a fair way up and over a hill, and spanned a few miles. We started a bit late, and hadn't paid attention to where the trail came out, so there was some debate over hiking up. I told her we could bail on it at any time, but she decided to keep going. We made it up and over, but then decided to go ahead and turn around, since it wasn't obvious where we'd end up coming out, but we made it to the top, and she was pretty stoked about it. She told me the next day that although she was a little tired and sore, she felt really good because she'd conquered the hill.

I told her, take that feeling and amplify it, and that's how I feel when I summit one of the mountains I've hiked. Mt. Scott was a perfect example, because from the parking area, it seems so far away. It hits you with a feeling of intimidation at first, can I do this? So you head out, and its a burn, you wonder if you're going to make it. see that little fire lookout which was just a spot from the bottom, and you can see detail. You keep going, around the next switchback, and now you can see the stairs and door. Around a few more switchbacks, behind a small rock bluff, and there it is, a few hundred yards away. The adrenaline kicks in, because short of an all out catastrophe you've made it!! Down the ridge, up a small rock stepped hill, and you can reach out and touch your goal. Around the lookout, over to the boulders next to it. You look down, and now your car/truck is that little speck all the way down there in the parking lot.

That feeling of accomplishment is amazing. I've felt it a few times in my life, and it never gets old. Its the same kind of feeling I felt the first time I soloed in an airplane, first rafting trip, first rappel. I'm sure that people who skydive will tell you a similar story. Its like taking the first run you scored in a little league game times a thousand. Its hard to articulate the feeling at times, so I just recommend finding a trail to hike, a mountain to climb, a river to float....... You won't be disappointed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Upcoming Mountains

Have a few more hikes lined up before fall, and two of them could put me over the 10,000' mark. One of the possibles is Mt. McLoughlin near Medford. In one of the pics from the Mt. Scott trip, I had a perfect view of McLoughlin in the distance. At 9,344', Mt. McLoughlin is the 22nd tallest mountain in Oregon.

One definite on the schedule is a Mt. Adams preview the week of the 30th. Was already planning to run up to Wa. and see the folks after they get back from Alaska, and do a little pre-elk season trail clearing in one of my spots, so a visit to Mt. Adams is on the list as well. The plan is to head out early Monday morning from the folks place to the Cold Springs CG and head up the South Climb Trail at least to the Lunch Counter at 9,250. I don't think I'm near ready to make a summit attempt, but would really like to at least set foot on one of my main hiking goals that I want to summit within the next year. Closest I've been was back in 87 or 88 when dad and I hiked up from the Crofton Ridge trail to a bluff overlooking a boulder field that connected to the mountain. That was an impressive sight to see. Depending on how it looks, I might push to 10,000'.

The South Sister climb is the one I really want to accomplish by next month before the snow starts flying. South Sister is 10,318' and number 5 for Oregon. From there until you hit Hood at number one, the rest are pinacles off of Hood anyway that are more technical climbs. Until I'm in better shape and can afford climbing gear, I'm not even worried about anything I can't walk up.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Older Story

This was an interesting tale that happened back in '97 that I'd written about, so I thought I'd move it over here.

The Great Alaska Wilderness Adventure

Ryan and I used to be junkies for adventure. We were always on some sort of quest, looking for new and interesting places such as caves, mines, old towns and the like. That’s why the opportunity to search for old plane crashes was right in line with what we did for fun. Early in 97, we met a guy from Soldotna named John. He was on the island doing research for an aircraft salvage company, and had been staying with a friend of ours, so we had spent a bit of time talking about the gig. He told us there was a finders fee for locating wrecks, and I’d been around the airline biz in Alaska since I was a kid. We were more than up for the idea.

Being that this was the AOL dialup era, the sharing of information on the internet was a little more limited, so I relied on the old time pilots I knew for most of my information, but then found the NTSB website, and started finding all the crashes back to 85, and there were more on the island than we imagined. This was gonna be good! That is, until John bailed out of town, and we learned he’d been embezzling money from the company........ Oh well, now we were talking with the head honcho, and he was still planning on coming down and trying to find some of the crash sites, so Ryan and I kept looking.

We’d heard of a few crash sites around the Hollis - Karta Wilderness areas, so we started trying to find them. We headed out one day to the Hollis area, up the Maybeso Valley, and started climbing up the mountain with maps and notebooks. We were trying to find a quick way to Karta Lake, which we knew of at least a few planes in the lake itself. It was a wilderness area, so no roads in or out. Climbing the Hollis side was no good, almost vertical, very brushy..... Crap, looks like we would have to find a better way in. As we sat on the side of the mountain, we started looking at what appeared to be an old trail system, coming into the wilderness area from a road system on the North side of the lake system (The wilderness area consisted of Salmon Lake and Karta Lake). If the roads were still open, then we could drive in, and then the trail would only be about 3 miles in to Salmon Lake. The trail then continued all the way down to Karta Lake, then to the bay, with several Forest Service cabins along the way. That settled it, we headed back to town and loaded up my truck. The only problem was, we didn’t tell anyone our plans, and last anyone knew, we were going to go camping toward the North end of the island.

The drive over was less than an hour, but since we started late, we decided to camp at the truck that night, then head in first thing in the morning. We found a landing on a clearcut that looked like it matched the map for hiking in to the trail system. That night, we drank around the campfire, a normal tradition with the two of us, and talked about our game plan for the morning. At first light, we packed up out gear, grabbed our rifles, and headed out. Down the clearcut, skirting around a hill, and then dropping down into a drainage. Sure enough, after an hour or so, we hit an old road network. Huh, must be what they are showing as the trail system on the map, we though. Without hesitation, we kept going. Mind you, this is early March in Alaska, and snow can hang out inland in SouthEast for most of the spring. And hang on it did. The road started becoming impassible, the snow had bent the Alder trees down into a mangled mess. The lake has to be just another mile or so we thought, so we’ll head off the road and go South. First mistake.....pushing it when we should have stopped and gone back. This leads us to the second mistake. Neither of us brought a compass. I usually had one in my pack, but somehow misplaced it.

Eh, it’s not much farther....we thought. We kept going, and found a creek heading South, which by our map would have been Anderson Creek. Anderson Creek ran right into Salmon Lake, so we were going to follow it down. By now, the weather was coming in, and we had no landmarks to follow with our map, but we’d pushed it so far, in our minds it was wiser to find the lake and hike the trail out to another trail system than bust brush back the way we came. That was the third mistake. Next thing we know, we are standing in the creek looking down about a 60 foot waterfall. We’d followed the creek into a ravine, so it was straight down, back out the way we came (which was at least a mile), or straight up. We opted for the up, since there was at least trees and other hand holds, versus wet, moss cover rock to climb down.

We made it out of the ravine, down the hill, and hit the creek again. Now its dark....... and no flashlights. The plan was for a day hike, so we didn’t pack the right gear, but we at least brought sleeping bags and a tarp. Ryan was kind of starting to show some panic, so I told him to drop his pack and start looking for firewood. It was a moot point to build a fire, since it was pissing rain so hard you’d never get one going. It at least took Ryan’s mind off the situation, and gave me time to take stock of what resources we did have. I told Ryan to forget about the fire, and to get out the tarp and his sleeping bag, and just to hunker down for the night. Tell you what, if it wasn’t for total exhaustion, that was the absolutely one of the most miserable nights of my life. We were able to get a few hours of sleep here and there, and by sun up, the rain had quit. Now all our clothing and gear was soaked, so our packs felt like they weighed a ton.

We knew which direction to head to work our way back to civilization, but we had no idea how much farther we had to go until the second day of hiking was done. We kept following Anderson Creek until the banks became to marshy to walk on. We opted to head SouthEast, since it would insure that we would hit the lake regardless. Along the way, the sun decided to come out, so we threw all our gear out on a rocky sandbar to try and dry it all, and ended up taking a short nap in the sun. Just guessing, but we estimated that we’d walked about 15 miles by that point.

After about an hour, we packed up, and headed out. Ryan was leading, and found what looked to be a game trail that was heading in the direction we wanted. At least we thought it was a game trail, until we came across a log that had fallen that looked as if the center had been cut out of the way of the trail. Ryan kicked the moss off one end, and sure enough, it had been cut with a saw. I took the map out and gave it a second look. Turns out, the road system we camped on was new enough it wasn’t on our map, and the road system we thought was the trail was what the map showed as where we thought we started from! We’d finally found the trail that was on the map, no where near where we thought it was. So be it, we were committed to following the trail now, no way we were going out the way we came. The Salmon Lake cabin was just a few more miles ahead, so it became our goal for the day.

The trail eventually worked its way along the shoreline of the lake, so we knew that we going to be just fine, even if we still had about 20 miles and a mountain between us and the closest town. About a mile from the cabin, we stumbled upon a Department of Fish and Game camp on the lake shore. They’d built a platform, and left a tent set up at the camp, so we took a peek inside. In one corner was a plastic tote with a few cans of food left in it. All we had brought for food was a few packages of top ramen, so it was quite tempting. We continued on, and eventually made it to the cabin. First order of business was to get a fire going to dry out our clothes and sleeping bags. Next was to eat and refill canteens, so I set about to boiling water, and Ryan went back to the tent and grabbed a few cans of food.

We felt as if we were eating like kings, Spam and chili next to a warm fire with dry clothing. While eating, we read through the cabins visitor log. Turns out, the trail used to be a major portage from the East to West side of the island, back in the fur trading days. The Fish and Game camp was due to crews coming in during the summer to rebuild sections of the old trail. We hoped that meant it would be an easier walk the rest of the way to the bay. Of course we wrote up our own entry, signed as “2 Dumbasses From Craig, Ak.”, figuring that future visitors might find our story entertaining. The next problem, besides getting to the bay, was the fact that we had to get to the other side of the lake to even think of getting out of there. The plan was to hike the trail to where the lake system turned into the Karta River, cross the river and work out way to the beach. From there, we could hike the beach to Hollis, and call someone to pick us up. We did devise a back up plan, but it would involve another full day of hiking to even get to a road, and then another 10 miles to a main highway. We didn’t want to think about that option, but it was an option available to us.

The next morning, with full bellies, dry clothes, and a good night sleep, we hit the trail once more. Of course our contentment would be shattered within a mile, were Senator Creek flowed into the channel running between Salmon and Karta lakes. At one time, there had been a foot bridge crossing the creek, but now, the bridge was gone, and we would have to suffer wading through waist deep water. To reduce the misery, we removed socks and jeans, and proceeded to cross the creek. Waist deep spring run off is not fun first thing in the morning, it falls into the insult to injury category. With that obstacle behind us, we continued on to our next stop, the Karta Lake cabin. It was only another mile down, but it was possible that someone either left supplies behind (common for visitors to leave food), or that someone could be staying there. The cabins were usually booked up this time of year for the spring Steelhead run. Upon arriving at the cabin, it was obvious that someone was staying there, but weren’t there at the moment. About another 2 miles down was a trail to the river, which we figured to be the best point to try a crossing. Boy, were we wrong. Because of the spring run off from hundreds of small streams into the lake system, the river could qualify as Class 5 rapids. There was no way possible to safely cross.

The only other option for our current plan was to continue to the bay, and hope that there was still a boat at the cabin. It had been a few years since I’d been to that cabin, we had to fly some gear in for a group that was staying there, and at that time there was a pair of small aluminum boats. Along the trail, we came across the Karta Lake cabin residents, a couple in for three days to fish. They told us that a group had just flown out of the bay cabin, but they’d left a box of food behind. We acted pretty casual, which wasn’t easy for living on Spam, chili and top ramen for the last few days, and thanked them for the information. As we lost sight of them on the trail, out casual attitude gave up, and we sprinted our way down the trail. Ryan made it first, and as I rounded the corner to the cabin, I see him standing inside stuffing his face with Dorritos! We were set...... They left bread, soups, a six pack of Coke, and half a bottle of Johny Walker Red Label. Our elation was quickly replaced as soon as we noticed that there seemed to be no boats anywhere in sight. Upon further inspection, the largest “piece” of a boat we could find was a chunk of aluminum about a foot square. The boats had been destroyed on the rocks during a winter storm.

Our plan for getting out of the wilderness was smashed in that instant. Our only option was another two days of hiking to get close to any chance of getting home. By now, we were fairly certain that our friends and family would be starting to look for us. Counting the night we spent at the truck, we were on our fourth night, where we had only intended on being gone for two. Getting the map out, we measured the distance of out travels. Close to twenty five miles, and we would have about 15 more to even find another person to help us get home. We didn’t sleep as comfortably that night, with the prospect of more hiking looming over us.

We awoke the next morning to the sounds of aircraft engines overhead. It hadn’t occurred to me earlier, but this was right along a major travel route between Craig and Ketchikan. All of a sudden, another option came to mind. I was taught from when I was a child how to make distress signals to catch the attention of passing aircraft, and at this point, it seemed to be the wise choice. If anything, we could get someone to land and have them relay a message to friends and family that we were alright, and where we were at. It was settled. I dug into my pack for the roll of orange ribbon I always carried, and proceeded to lay out a ten foot X on the ground. Ryan started gathering green cedar boughs, and built a fire. Along with the cedar, a sleeping pad was shredded into pieces to make a nice smokey fire for when the next plane flew overhead.

With all of our preparations in place......... Nothing. The planes seemed to quit flying over. So we waited for what seemed hours, then we heard it. A Cessna flying right down the lake system. As soon as it crossed the tree tops over the bay, the cedar and pad foam went onto the fire, and a huge plume of smoke was sent skyward! He saw us, as he made several circles overhead. Great, we’re saved! We ran back to the cabin, and grabbed up our packs. Someone should be along shortly, we thought. About 15 minutes later, we hear a helicopter. Wow....ok, we weren’t expecting the Coast Guard or anything, a float plane would have been more than adequate. Nope, it ventured on in a different direction. Looked like we’d be waiting a little longer, so we decided to clean up the ribbon on the ground, and extinguish the signal fire. While in the process of cleaning up, all of a sudden the float plane we spotted came roaring overhead at around 500 feet . Ryan grabbed up the bundle of ribbon and started to wave it in the air, and sure enough, he landed out in the bay.

Of course it was low tide, so we had to run about a quarter mile down the tide flats to get to his landing spot. That’s when I realized who had landed, Max Lukin. He was an aviation pioneer in the area, having been flying around South East Alaska for decades. He owned his own charter flying business, and flew for the remote school districts. He walked back on the float and yelled out “What happened? Your ride forget about ya?”. When we reached him, I explained what had happened, and if at the least we could get a message to our families, he would be helping greatly. He leaned in and asked his passenger “You mind if we give these boys a ride? Looks like they been lost out here a few days”. His passenger, a school administrator from Seattle became all excited, getting to participate in a wilderness rescue, and was more than happy to share his flight with a couple of haggard young men who looked a little bit like Grizzly Adams by this point.

We piled our gear in the back, and climbed in. Max leaned back and asked us where we needed to go. I told him Hollis would be just fine, since it was only about a 10 minute flight from the bay, and we could call a ride from the payphone at the floatplane dock. Landing in the Hollis bay was an incredible feeling, knowing that our ordeal was over. After unloading, I turned to Max and said “Hey, I don’t have any money on me, but if I owe you for the flight, I’d be more than happy to send you money”. Max looked at me, shook my hand a simply said “Naw, saved your feet some walkin’, and now ya got stories to tell”. He just smiled, and pushed away from the dock. We trudged up the ramp to the payphone, dug through all of our pockets and finally found a quarter.
I knew that my mom would be at work, so I called there knowing that we had a ride. “Hey mom, we’re in Hollis. Long story. Bring food”. Ryan and I simply collapsed on the ground, all we had to do was wait about forty five minutes, and we’d be on our way home. We ran out of cigarettes the day before, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask my mom to buy some. I told Ryan I’d kill for a smoke. He dug into a pocket, and pulled two cigarettes out. I could have killed him! He said he was saving them for either when we were rescued or about to die. That’s Ryan, a smart ass to the end. Mom showed up, and gave us a much appreciated ride to our house. She told us to come over for dinner later, since my dad would be home by then, and would want to hear the story. We tracked down Ryan’s folks, and any friends that would be looking, and made sure they knew we were back.

That evening at dinner, my dad wanted to hear the story, so I told him about the ordeal. I ended the story saying “Yeah, we figured flagging the plane down was the best way, figured everyone would be worried about us”. My dad looked at me and says “I wasn’t”, very matter of factly! Great, the one time I really am lost and in trouble, and my dad acts nonchalant about it! Then he explained why, because he was the one who taught me to survive in the woods, and he knew that I could do it.

A few days later, Ryan and I had to conduct an experiment to see for sure if Spam really was as good as we thought............ Maybe if you’re starving, I haven’t touched it since!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mt. Scott 8-16-2010

To date, this is the highest ascent I've accomplished. 8,934'. The surprise for me was how fast I was able to complete the roundtrip, just about 3.5 hours for a 5 mile hike with about a 1900' vertical gain. Mt. Scott is the tallest mountain in Crater Lake National Park, so besides being #48 on the top 50 list of tallest Oregon peaks, I'd never been to Crater Lake yet. Tried to get going out of here as early as I could, since the weather forecast was calling for a 20% chance of thunderstorms after 11am in that area. I arrived at the trailhead around 10:30, and from the parking area, I could tell this was gonna be a grueling hike. The trail starts up the West side and hooks around the side of the ridge coming down from the peak, so it is a steady uphill right from the get go. There is no flat, no switchback, no nothing except uphill for about the first mile. After that it becomes switchbacks up until the last ridge to the peak, which is a knife edge saddle for about an eighth of a mile. Once I made it to the top, I met up with another group of college age guys that started about the same time, and took a rest with them and snapped some pics from the top. I was so intent on reaching the summit that I didn't even take the camera out until the top, so the pics are all take on the return trip. Didn't start clouding up really until I was heading down, but even then the weather was perfect. Talked with a few really nice people heading up and down, and there were quite a few hikers that day. Made my way around the full loop of Crater Lake before heading home, quite a sight to see.
And good advice for anyone climbing...............

Iron Mountain 8-8-2010

Iron Mountain (5,448') is a hike I started 4 years ago, but never finished. I think this is where I really got the point that smoking wasn't just going to kill me, but seriously limit the things I enjoyed doing. Since there's not too much elevation in the Coast Range, I decided to head back to the Cascades and finish something I started. The Iron Mountain Trail system has several points of entry, either from Hwy.20 at Tombstone, or up the FS Road 2000-035, which is where I started. This is a fee use trail, or Northwest Forest Pass. I picked the pass, because come to find out, Mary's Peak is a fee area as well (oops). The road up is pretty screwed, very washboarded up and not maintained, but there is an outhouse and picnic table at the parking area. There used to be a fire lookout at the top, which was one of the things I was looking forward to seeing, but in 2008, they removed it and built a viewing platform because of the cost to maintain the lookout. From here, the trail is 1.7 miles to the viewing platform. I headed up after work and arrived at the trailhead at about 5pm. Changed boots, slapped on the sunblock and got my pack ready, and headed on up. It was kinda rough going, not being used to thin air, but I managed to pace myself and make it to the top. After snapping a few pics and getting visited by chipmunks, I headed on down. Fry the lungs going up, and the legs going down! Made it back to the truck at 7. Not bad for a 3.4 mile roundtrip hike.

Mary's Peak July 2010

Mary's Peak is a great place to go in the Coast Range to get a good look at the Willamette Valley and out to the coast. I didn't pay that close attention to how long the drive is from Philomath, but its about 15 minutes to the turn off from Hwy.34, and then 9 miles to the top on a winding road. Figure another 20-30 minutes up. The first time up was with a friend who wanted to hike up on a whim to just get out of town, so we drove up and hiked the trail to the summit. From the parking area, its about .8 to the summit at 4,097'. Now, I knew there were other trails around the Peak, but didn't know any of them until doing a little research after the first trip up. I went back up on July 19th, and tried some of the alternate trails. About halfway up the main Summit access road/trail, the Summit Trail / Meadow Edge trail takes off. I chose that route to the summit, then looped back down on the main trail and did the Meadow Edge. Meadow Edge will either loop you back to the start, or you can take another trail to the Mary's Peak campground, which is the route I picked. Then I huffed it up the blacktop a mile or so back to the truck. Pretty mellow, but a good hike none the less. I also tried hiking the North Ridge Trail that starts off of Woods Creek Road, but the bugs were so frickin' nasty that day, and I forgot the bug dope. Oops, I'll hit that one later. Right now I'm aiming higher!

The Start

Welcome to the first post of my mountain blog, where I'm going to be writing up reviews of the different mountains I have or am going to climb. This all came about after finally deciding to quit smoking after 18 years, and on average at least a pack a day. There has been so many hikes I've wanted to do, mountains I've wanted to summit, but due to my fitness level from smoking, I either back burnered them or gave up part way through.

Now, a little bit of background. I was lucky enough to have lived almost my entire life in the NorthWest, and a fair chunk of that in Alaska. I was also very fortunate to have a dad who spent most of his life in the woods. My pops was a USFS Forester for 30+ years, as well as spending four years in the Army. He started teaching me survival, navigation, hunting, and fishing at a young age. I was catching fish on my own by the time I was 5 and learning to shoot by 7. Took the Washington hunter safety course at 9 and aced it, with the majority of the class 3-4 years older than me. I love being outdoors, and living in SouthEast Alaska was a great place to live when I was in my teens-20's.

Unfortunately when I turned 18 and went to college, I started smoking. September of 92, and I can tell you almost what day, right around the 11th-12th. When I was younger it didn't affect me as much. I'd been out of shape after a car accident in 88 that precluded me from engaging in most contact sports (learned not to trust doctors as much after that), and in college really started working out. Took TaeKwonDo for a few quarters, then weight training and really improved my overall fitness. It wasn't until my mid 20's I really started to see how smoking was affecting my stamina, especially on uphill treks.

In 2000, I moved to Arizona and started working on my pilots license. My instructors were fairly impressed with my navigation skills, but after spending half my life running around in the woods or boats in the ocean, map and compass navigation was somewhat second nature. Then I started learning about the affects of smoking with altitude and night vision, two very essential aspects of flying. This was the time in my life were I started bouncing around between Alaska and other points South. I was getting fed up with life where I was at, so I was spending winters at various times in Texas, Oregon, and California. In 2002, I made the highest summit in my life at that point.

Hager Mountain in Central Oregon is 7,178' to the fire lookout, with a pretty decent trail going up. In 2002, I ended up back in Oregon for the winter to do more flying. I had to wait for some student loans to go through before moving to Corvallis, so spent about a month and a half staying with my folks in Silver Lake. I'll tell you, there's not much of anything over there, but the first morning in town walking to the cafe for some morning coffee, I saw Hager to the south. Looked at some maps after getting home, and decided to hike up. Started the first day at a lower point on the trail, and only made it a few miles and gave up. Gotta remember, the town is at over 4,000', and I've lived 95% of my life between sea level and 500'. The next day, I hiked a different section of the trail where the road intersected, and still only made a few miles.

I took a day off, and on Thursday loaded up my pack and started the hike from a lower trail head at a spring that would cover about 2 and a half miles to the summit. Well, that last mile took me almost an hour! I couldn't breathe with thin air and smokers lungs. Made it to the outhouse and storage sheds about 40' below the lookout and stopped to rest, then proceeded to the lookout. I thought the last 40' was worse than the previous mile!

In the last 8 years, it wasn't getting any better, and after a run of friends with health problems passed, I decided to kick the smoking habit. I set myself a goal of climbing Mt. Adams next summer, since most of my family has been to the top at one time or another, and it began to evolve into something all its own. First it was hiking Mary's Peak, then finishing the Iron Mountain trail I never finished 4 years ago, to planning to climb the South Sister Mountain by September. Finally it became wanting to climb the tallest hill/butte/mountain in every state of the U.S.

 So, I thought I'd start writing about it here. Just an average guy who went from spending half his life killing himself, to trying to climb mountains.