Monday, August 29, 2016

Paul Bunyan and Babe...

the Blue Ox almost cut all of them. I'm talking about the Old Growth Redwood Forests. 

Before the advent of White Folks to the Pacific Northwest, there was an estimated 2,000,000 acres of these green Giants  found along a lean stretch of the Northern California coast. Now only five percent of the Old Growth Redwoods remain. Eighty percent of those are in preserves, three California State Parks and one Redwood National Park. It's all managed with the trees in mind. That's a good thing.

Between the 1880's and 1920's most of the damage was done. This was a different kind of gold rush, but money was still the motivator. In Eureka, CA there were nine active lumber mills in operation. The trees were being mowed down at an alarming pace. What took 2,000 years to grow was gone in a relative "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick" moment. That's too fast.

All that carbon based-carnage finally got people's attention. "Save the Redwoods League" formed and began buying up land that the loggers haven't yet violated. The State and Feds got involved too. God bless them! 

A few Redwood factoids:
Redwoods thrive in cool temperatures, fog and rain. Not exactly my pint of IPA, but it works for them. Then again, I never grew up to be 379 feet high. Yes, they are the tallest living things on Earth. All this mass from a seed equal to the size of one tomato seed. The cones are as small as the tip of your pinky. Their bark is around one foot thick. It's impervious to disease, insects and fire. Unfortunately, it's not impervious to greed and loggers. 

Walking amongst them is the closest I'll ever come to an actual spiritual experience. A feeling I never received when I sat in a Synagogue; listening to Rabbi Isbee drone on about the human experience. 

I'm not the only one who feels this spiritual connection. I've seen visitors stop to touch the bark of a magnificent specimen. Their heads are usually bowed and their eyes are shut tight. Seeing the Redwoods make many feel humble. Even me. 

Silence is the predominant sound here. Footsteps are muffled in the duff. The Redwoods seem to vacuum up excess noise. It's a dignified, cultured and regal forest. These trees wouldn't vote for Trump! 

I love them. 

So does the United Nations. Redwoods State Parks and Redwood National Park have been designated both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. 
No wonder I heard so many people speaking non-English languages.

This place is a Must See. I'm not joking...

Cheers from the Sunny Sierra Nevada of California,

PS. I'll leave you with a John Muir quote. That dude really loved his trees. He didn't even go to a Forestry College like I did. 

"Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed - chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones." 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Oregon's Cascade Range...

will never be confused with North Cascades National Park. 

For one thing, it's sort of gentle compared to its neighbor to the North. The terrain is rounder and more rolling. There's not many waterways. It's dusty! The exclamation points are the stratovolcanoes running roughly north to south. When you hike above the green carpet layer of needle-bearing trees, one can see the nearby volcanoes. They rise up above everything else. The peaks are so prominent, they name Wilderness Areas after them: Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Three Sisters and Mount Thielsen.

There would have been a Mount Mazama Wilderness, but a mile of its height went Big Boom around 7,700 years ago. The blast was 42 times greater than the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. 

Now we call the water filled caldera Crater Lake National Park. The lake is 1,949 feet deep. Dude! That's deep! All those potential IPAs  come from rain and White Death melt. No creeks or rivers run into or out of the Crater. The color can be found at the paint section of any Home Depot. It's called "Ridiculously Blue." 

I painted Barley the Van's foyer in this easy-on-the-eye color. 

Come and see these Natural Wonders for yourself. It's all good, especially when the sun is out. 

This post was written in dank, dreary and clammy Crescent City, CA. I'm only here to hug Redwoods...


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"I must go down to the sea again..."

to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;"

Excerpt from Sea Fever by John Masefield 

It was in the early 80's when I first tried by weather luck on the Washington/Oregon coast. At the time, I was riding a bicycle burdened down with panniers. I endured rain mixed with mist and fog. The temperatures ranged from lower hypothermia to upper hypothermia. Of course there was a dank breeze. I survived on hot bowls of clam chowder, washed down with mildly boiling tea. 

On another miserable day, while slurping my soup,  I glanced at a local newspaper. Hmmm. The temperatures on the east side of the Coastal Range were summery. 

That day I rode up and over those small mountains. 

This time, I noticed a looming high pressure system bearing down along the coast. The National Weather Service went so far as to issue a "High Heat Warning," for the ocean viewing masses. No need for clam chowder and tea on this go-around. 

I began my sandy sojourn at Cape Disappointment, WA. I wanted to see the infamous "Graveyard of the Pacific." It's also known as the Columbia River Bar. A 3 mile wide by 6 mile long wet stretch where the Columbia River exits into the Pacific. Seafarers can expect standing waves, winds, nasty currents, shoals and other watery hazardous conditions. Since 1792, 2,000 large ships have gone beneath this blend of salt and fresh water. Many lives have been lost there. 

Now, large ships are captained in by specialized pilots. Their job requirement is to get the freighters safely through the Bar. The pilots are well paid for their efforts.

Cape Disappointment is also known as the temporary hang out for Lewis and Clark's Corp of Discovery. The Cape wasn't to their liking for a winter's stay. Eventually they canoed across the Columbia to what is now the Oregon side. It still proved to be a drippy winter quarters. It was named Fort Clatsop. They weren't happy campers there.

With the fine weather I kept moving south. Then a change came my way. In Newport, OR I reached for fleece and a sweatshirt. The fog and damp found me. At least it was toasty at the Rogue Brewery. My personal forecast for the following morning was chilly to damp conditions. My joints and muscles got sore and achy.

Hmmm. It was summer on the eastern side of the Coastal Range. Up and over, Barley the Van and me went.

Some things never change.

Last photo: No visit to the Northwest Coast is complete without a the tasty treat of a Banana Slug appetizer. I like mine sautéed in butter and garlic. Bon Apetit! 


Friday, August 19, 2016

On May 18, 1980 at 8:32 am...

Mount St. Helens drank too many triple Starbucks espressos and went Kablooie. It was the worst geological disaster in America's relatively short geologic timespan. A 5.1 earthquake triggered a blast which reduced the mountain by 1,300'. The explosion leveled 230 square miles of prime Northwest forests. Fifty-seven people were killed, 250 homes were destroyed and 185 miles of highway went Bye-Bye. It was an expensive disaster. 

I remember washing volcanic ash off of my Dodge Dart in Fort Collins, CO. The fine grained particulates went further than that. The dust eventually circled the planet. 

Mount St. Helens is still considered the most active volcano in the vast Cascade Range.  It's an occasional puffer. There's a new dome building inside of the maw that the blast left behind. After thirty-six years, green things are returning. Animals are calling it home too. Remember, Mother Nature detests a void. 

In 1982, President Reagan set aside 110,000 acres as an National Monument. I've seen the steady comeback in 1986, 2012 and a few days ago. It's progressing along on a scale humans can notice. That's fast. 

The Monument is a laboratory of what nature can do if left to its own devices. Humans would only  hinder the inevitable. One day (not in our lifetime) there will be an old growth forest here. That is, unless Mount Saint Helens decides to blow it's cool again. 

You better check it out.

Jeff from Newport, Oregon

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"It's so big, you can't see it from here."

Quote from Dr.  Sal Butera

This pretty much sums up Mount Rainier. By comparison, most other peaks look like the Flint Hills of Kansas. Or comparing Shaquille O'Neil vs. me, although we both sport above average smiles. 

How big is Rainier? Well, it's more than a 14,411' mountain. It's girth contains 25 glaciers. It's the birth canal of seven rivers. There's too many creeks calving off of its summit for me to count. It takes the Wonderland Trail 93 miles to go around the circumference.  This massif should have it own zip code. It's HUGE.

Geologists consider the volcano to be "episodically active." The last witnessed eruption was 1894. There's still stuff going on below and on the ice. Sit in one place long enough and you can see and hear rockslides and ice falls. Even now, trails sometimes go missing due to landslides. I've been on a few of them.

I had the pleasure of spending a few days and hikes in our Nation's fifth National Park. I came away with a feeling beyond awe. (And Aww). On a clear day, your eyes are naturally drawn upward. The views change by the minute and your angle of sight. I never had to stifle a yawn. It's so much better than watching so-called Reality TV.

But, there's trouble in Paradise. Last year, 1.85 million guests visited Mount Rainier. More than a few might have been guests from Hell. At the ridiculously popular Paradise section of the Park, trails are paved and roped in. It reminded me of going through an airport security line. Wildflower meadows beyond the passive constraints were trampled down. No blooms, just bare brown dirt. Very sad. 
The Park is 117 years old. In 1899, America's population was 63 million. Now there's 323 million who call the U.S. home. I can't and don't want to imagine what Paradise will look like in another 117 years.  

In Genesis 1:28 God ordered Adam and Eve "to be fruitful and multiply." Maybe Homo Sapiens are getting too good at duplicating themselves. I'm glad I was born in 1954 instead of 2004.

Enough somber thoughts. Come and see this amazing place while there are still untrammeled meadows and places of solitude. You will be glad you did. 

I'll be back for a more in-depth look at Mount Rainier ASAP. There's so much more to see here.

From Packwood, Washington 

PS. The last photo shows what happens when the Fox Fear Network creates the signs for the National Park Service.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines...

The word "Enchantment" this way: "a feeling of being attracted by something interesting, pretty, etc."

This sums up the quest of my retirement. 

So it's no wonder why I pursued a Wilderness Permit to take a look-see into Enchantment Basin. 

The Basin is on the Bucket List of too many Wilderness Wanderers like myself. Scoring a permit is equivalent to winning both the Powerball and Megamillion lotteries within a week. In other words, highly unlikely. I tossed my name and money into the drawing and waited. I was rejected nine times. (About the same odds I'm having with women.) 

My last resort was to arrive in person for a walk-up permit. The Forest Service website information wasn't encouraging. "About 50 people show up daily for a few spots." Between the lines, I could almost hear a snicker. 

What the heck!  I was in the neighborhood of cheesy (faux Bavarian-themed) Leavenworth, WA. I would fit this stopover into my BUSY schedule. 

There were only three others hoping to "get lucky." The low turnout might have been the weather forecast of an 80% chance of precipitation. Who in their right mind wants to go up a mountain and get wet? Me. That's who. 

My name was called! I hadn't even packed. I went into hyperdrive. I threw food, gear and a rain suit into my backpack and headed uphill for 3,600' in 6 miles. Thank you Starbucks Coffee for the caffeine aided energy boost. 

By the time I arrived at Nada Lake, the 80% chance of rain became 100%. I set up my tent and threw me and my gear into it. The rain continued for four hours. I decided to stand down and see what tomorrow would bring. 

I peeked out at first light, and saw benign skies. Two Starbucks coffee shots and two Clif Bars later, I was on my way. 

I'm going to digress here. 

With all the the Hullabaloo about E.B, I reckoned it would be an easy stroll. Most folks don't have challenging items on their To-Do list. OY! Was I wrong. From Snow Lake, the trail ascended 2,000' in two miles. During the in-your-face climb, the trail crossed rockslides, creeks, mud holes, granite ledges and slick tree roots. This was no Sunday mosey in Central Park. BTW: this turned out to be the easy access. The hard way was a scratched out route consisting of 2,600' of straight up in one mile. Ouch. 

Now here's my second wrong assumption about Enchantment Basin. With a poetic name like this, I envisioned Julie Andrews pirouetting in a field of wildflowers. Of course, she would be belting out "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music!" 

There were no wildflowers. There was nothing for them to grow on. It was all glacier scoured granite. The few tablespoons of soil were occupied by runty tamarisks/larch trees. They weren't about to share their precious substrate with some low life flowers. 

It was all very wild. It was also raw beauty. 

See for yourself.

I'll keep wandering. There is just too much to see. I'm getting frustrated by that thought. 

Cheers from the White River campground in Mount Rainier National Park,

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Waterfalls are Standard Issue

Waterfalls are Standard Issue...

in North Cascades National Park. 

There are plenty of Nature's other spectacles as well. This is a remote landmass where bipeds are and always will be a guest. 

The reason? The topography is too steep and inaccessible. The mountains rise anywhere from 4,000'-6,000' above the valley floors. The slopes are in free fall. There's nothing gentle about the place. The word rugged doesn't explain the situation.

The park boasts 312 or so glaciers. (Of course, they are mostly receding). A third of all the glaciers in the Lower 48 live within this half-million acre Park. There's about 300 lakes too. That melting ice has to go somewhere.

There are few roads penetrating the vast interior. Washington State Highway 20 (AKA the North Cascades Highway) wasn't punched through until 1964. Most of the trails take the path of least resistance and follow the many waterways. There's  a lot of territory that's never been squished down by a hiker's boot. 

Dense old growth forests were spared the plight of the Paul Bunyan crowd due to these intimidating features. There's easier game to cut and mill. Miners tried their luck with limited success. They too gave up, but left a few reminders of their earth moving ways. 

93% of the North Cascade Complex is designated wilderness. Now the Park attracts Seattle city slickers, climbers and folks like me. There's plenty of sightseers too, who only venture a few feet from the comfort of their Winnebago campers or sedans. 

On the trails, climbers strut by burdened down with ice axes, rope and other tools to challenge rock and glacier. Families amble by too. On a sun-kissed day, it's a happy place. 

Come by and see for yourself.

If you haven't figured it out yet, me and Barley the Van are on a great roll.

Cheers from Cle Elum's Whispering Pines RV Park. (Most of the trees are Douglas Fir)
PS. Bring bug spray instead of bear spray. It's the Great North-Wet and it's buggy.