Backyard Lakes: Trillium and Timothy

25 06 2018
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Trillium Lake just over an hour from my house!

Anyone who lives in Portland, Oregon like I do, has difficult decisions with free time. Go west 75 mins to the coast? Go north to Mt. St. Helens or the Gifford Pinchot National Forest? Head to the Columbia Gorge? South to Wine Country? Or due east to the playground that is the Mount Hood National Forest. Over the past couple of weeks the weather has been great, so I spent some time up by Mt. Hood.

I spent a day relaxing at the shore at Timothy Lake, and not long after, met my friend Laura up there and spent an evening under the stars. Each time, the weather was spectacular. And early season, before school gets out, these lakes shine and seem like Olde Tyme camping. That’s because they are super warm, nobody’s around, and it’s super off season. And added bonus: You will have spring flowers at your campsite! Rhododendron and Trillium are in full bloom. And the there is still snow on the peaks. The flowers, the blue lakes, the green forest and the snow on the mountains make for a feast for the eyes!

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On the day visit, I needed some “me time” and simply packed a lunch, some stuff to read, and most of my camp stoves to tune up for the camping season. I forgot the old Coleman Dual Fuel 533.

On the “day visit,” campgrounds were maybe 25% full. It was so quiet I only encountered one wife with kids on the shore. Oh. Well, wait a minute! I encountered a whole family! Just not human.

 

The geese have a plan of action. Adults have a guard who keeps up a vigil whilst the kids and other adults can clean and preen. There is a rear guard too. I found the longer I just sat, the trust built and they came up almost to my toes. No worries!

Okay, so then the following Monday I resolved to go up and spend the night. It would be my “birthday eve.” Laura, who was in Bend, Oregon, offered to meet me up there and celebrate. It was another perfect day!

The evening was pretty chilly but in my sleeping bag, with pillows, and a ski hat and the all-important eye shades for the Pacific NW 4:45 a.m. sunrise, I was set. No tent fly needed, the stars are far more important! The sky was absolutely bright with the Milky Way on full display.

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Venus was on hand for my birthday eve sunset. Not the sharpest focus but I hope you get the idea!

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Laura captures an image of the sunset.

For Timothy Lake, my suggestion is its best times are before school gets out in the early summer, or after Labor Day.  In high season summer, it’s best mid week. However, there are plenty of kayak-in or hike-in spots on the opposite side of the lake. There is opportunity for quiet camping over there!

 





Sedona: Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock

18 06 2018

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Ruth Ann, Tully and I managed to get through the traffic south of town, to reach Red Rock State Park. At this time, about mid-day, it was cloudy. Still, the mesas were very beautiful. And if one looked close, the struggle of life in the desert was there for all to see. Our shoes padded through dry, soft dirt. The flora around was very dry, and lots of it had protection like needles or prickers. Evolution created plants specialized to take advantage of whatever rain comes.

Many plants are succulents, evolved to hold onto and store water. And it’s true, the rocks there are red. Or, orange-red.

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And where the rocks are eroded in such a way to capture water for any length of time, even way up on a mesa, oases of life have been created. Life finds a way. On these little places where water stayed on a bit longer, plants that normally grow elsewhere created a miniature ecosystem for themselves!

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Great picture with Ruth Ann. Up above you can see life has taken advantage of every place water has collected.

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I’m holding a nice tumbleweed!

After having our fill at Red Rock, we journeyed further to find Sedona’s famous Cathedral Rock. Using our GPS was of limited use. We kind of futzed around down where we knew it was to be, and eventually found a park and trailhead. During our walk, I kept watch on the sky, and I noticed an upcoming clearing was pending. We waited for it to happen, and it paid off!

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I suck at selfies but this one worked! The sun breaks through!

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On our way out it continued to clear and the red rocks glowed brightly!

 

And what would a day be without a great picture of Ruth Ann!

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So, our day down at Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock was a good one! For Tully and I, it was going to be back to Albuquerque. On the way we’d visit the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Meteorite Crater.

 

 

 





Grand Canyon, AZ day two

7 06 2018

 

OK, yesterday we checked out the eastern side of the South Rim, and glimpsed the sunset. One thing about the Grand Canyon, and some of the other Planet Earth Famous places I’ve been (like Torres Del Payne, and Angkor Wat) is that these are international superstars. We heard Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Hindi, and at sunset, one language we could not pin down. It was a family, so we asked them. It was Portuguese, they were Brazilians!

Okay, for this day the idea was to spend a few hours “getting into the Canyon.” Tully had been here before twice, the first in high school, and he’d hiked all the way down and back up. We certainly didn’t have the time to do that today, but we decided to hike the well-trodden Bright Angel Trail down a ways and back.

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Icicles clinging from flora at the start of our hike!

A well-known fact about hiking in the Grand Canyon is transitional climates. The weather or temperature at the rim might be chilly but at the bottom it can be unmercifully HOT. On the day we hiked we struck a PERFECT balance. It was chilly when we started but nice and warm on the return.

I forgot to mention the altitude. I did feel some altitude oxygen deprivation my 1st 36 hours. But by the day our hike arrived, I was acclimated just fine. So my suggestion if you head to the park: Don’t try to do these hikes your first day. Spend that day doing less strenuous activities like hiking the flat rim. The 7,000 to 8,000 ft. altitude doesn’t sound like much, but if you are accustomed to living within 100ft of sea level, believe me, you will notice it your 1st 24 hours.

 

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On this wall something had “scratched” the rocks.

Today it was much more busy. People had rented bicycles, the “Grand Canyon Train” had arrived, somewhat like some kind of cruise ship, and the “village” was packed with folks from all over. I ought to mention the North Rim was closed. If you get to the Park later in the year, go to the North Rim and you will get a much more up and close personal experience. It gets more snow, and was closed in mid -April when we were there.

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We continued down the Bright Angel Trail to its 1st rest stop. This was only about 1.5 miles. There were a lot of other folks. Some had done the hike down to the bottom and spent the night there, and were coming back up. Others were completely unprepared. I saw women in fur coats. Saw flip flops. And a guy trying to run the trail with his smart phone in his hand. On our way down we passed through millions of years of geologic time. We chanced upon a National Park Guide, who told us that this trail hugged a geologic fault and pointed out that the rocks on one side of the trail mis matched the rocks on the other side because of faulting!

We did not spend as much time down there as anticipated, but it was OK as this place, an international magnet, was getting super busy. Once back at the Rim, we saw even more tourists. It was time to head back. Next stop: Sedona Arizona and meeting up with more friends!





Hike and A Hot Tub Soak!

8 08 2017

Today’s plan calls for a mellow (well, relatively) hike out of Huayhuash to a 15,584′ pass, 5-hours total, and ending with the afternoon at a hot tub soak and camp at Viconga Thermal Baths, at 14,432′ – natural hot springs here we come! Sounds good! We’ll also break out our portable hot shower! After these hard-won days, I’m liking the sound of that.

Like most mornings, our “beast herders” are out before dawn wrangling the herds! These guys sometimes climb hills, yelling urgent taunts to get their charges (donkeys and llamas) in line. Sometimes they disappear behind hillsides. But every morning, they find the beasts of burden, bringing them back. I never understood why the beasts don’t just take off during the night!

We pass through some beautiful valleys, and pass by condors above, and chinchilla below.

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These chinchilla are really cute! Part rabbit, part guinea pig, or something, they inhabit the rocks all around these parts. With alert ears, long whiskers and fluffy tails!

In between certain elevations, our hikes flow through fields of wildflowers. We experience Paintbrush, Mistletoe, flowering cactus, giant six foot lupine, and others I cannot identify.

Then today as every day, our train of llamas, donkeys and horses catch up with us! They, and our crew, carry our stuff and set up camp so that when we arrive, we just crawl into our tents and mend.

Now it’s time to take a break.

 

We catch up with ourselves. Some like me de-layer, whilst others visit, or take in snacks. On the way we pass a good sized lake. It’s the largest we’ll see on our trek.

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Then, after some climbs and descents, we see our destination! It’s a little valley with a glacier-fed stream flowing through. Up above and behind, it’s got three different temperature thermal baths! Wow! It’s going to be a sweet afternoon!

 

Man that bath felt great. But getting out of the water NOT! OMG.

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They had 3 baths with varying temps. But when you get out, it’s chilly!

Along with our thermal baths, which felt EXQUISITE! Our staff also set up a hot shower. Now, this shower was far from automatic. Somebody had to pump up the water pressure for it to work! Cathy Ann and Roger handled the technical aspects.

 

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Regina peeks out ready for the shower!

 

 

So, Regina gets a real hot shower! Got to be worth it!

Tomorrow is a one of our WHOOP ASS hikes! We are due to climb over 16,000ft! We need all the soothing from today’s thermal baths for that one!

 

 





Past the Emerald Lakes to Huayhuash

7 08 2017

 

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Morning mist casts a moody tone…

 

Today’s agenda begins with a bang and continues! We’re all up before dawn to catch sunrise on this lake and Andes peaks! Once again ice covers the tent fly, and I stretch my body out to loosen those muscles. All our tents are aligned to catch the soon-to-be sun bathed peaks! This daybreak, a mysterious freezing fog shrouds camp, and partially obscures the view up above. Our llamas take it all in stride. But it burns off quickly!

 

It was worth awakening pre-dawn to get the pictures! We are so lucky. Beautiful sky and no wind. Today’s hike will pass by this lake, take a left and climb a valley just opposite these peaks. It will be a gradual rise at first then steepening toward 15,748′ Siula Pass.

It was pretty chilly at dawn. But as the sun warmed camp, it became nice enough to get rid of our breakfast tent! Aha! Breakfast with THIS VIEW!

 

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WOW! Time for coffee tea and orange pancakes!

 

 

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Anna ensures each place setting is perfecto!

OK, it’s 8:00 time to hoist our packs and hike! Out we go, following the lake, up up, and then to the left. We start tracing a valley filled with terminal glacial moraines and sapphire lakes beneath, all under the incredible towering Andes peaks.

 

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Roger checks back to ensure the group’s coming along

 

We take a rest stop at one of theses lakes, above which there is another truly colorful lake. This time I decided to stick around and catch up with myself. The whole area is so peaceful, except for loud thunderous noise which goes on for 15 – 20 seconds. Avalanche!

 

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That’s not fog, that’s an avalanche!

 

This was the 2nd of this day. A previous avalanche made it all the way to one of the lakes.

Past the lakes, the climb steepens, and I want to groan, but I didn’t. I kept on going, and then, Roger announces we are 15 minutes from lunch! This was good, because it broke up the steep, scree covered hike to the pass.

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Today’s hike is a long one – over 7 hours total! I was so glad to see the yellow tents of camp!

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Our Llamas at Camp Huayhuash, at 14,268′. Always ready!

 





Trekking Peru: The Cordillera Huayhuash – Acclimatization Days 1-2: Huaraz

10 07 2017

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Here we go! This the first of about a dozen blog posts covering my June 2017 trek in Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash! This was a big deal. Back in 2007 I did a Himalayan trek of Bhutan’s Chomolhari with Cathy Ann Taylor, and it stuck prominently in my mind. I watched her Cattara website for an Andean trek and when this one popped up I jumped at it!

These treks are simply the “bee’s knees” of hiking/camping trips. They involve undertaking the “ultimate challenge” level of athletic perseverance and mental toughness. Hiking 8 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. day after day at altitudes ranging from 13,500 – 16,404. All that effort is rewarded with beautiful, dry weather, flowers along the way, and views so spectacular as to literally defy description. But there is more: You don’t have to carry a big pack. Or cook. Or set up your tent. Staff brings coffee/tea to your tent to awaken you in the morning. And, they bring you hot wash water morning and after your hike. On this trek, we even had a portable shower – and one of our stops was at a thermal bath!

Why do these treks? I’m sure everybody has their own reasons. For me, it’s the chance to see mountains so big they are unimaginable at home. To conquer the athletic challenge. To completely disconnect from the snowglobe of distractive thoughts and temptations that are the Internet, e-mail, news, and ties to home. To peel off layer after layer of that routine, getting to the core and reconnecting with natural rhythms once again. For it is only then, free of the pull of those “can’t waits,” that things start to get back into perspective.

 

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22,205ft Huascaran towers over the airport at Huaraz, Peru

 

There would be 13 trekkers on this trip. We all flew into Huaraz to meet Cathy Ann (CAT). Our first two days would be acclimatization days, staying at the Hotel Club Andino. Huaraz, with a population over 100,000 sits at 10,150ft. At this altitude even climbing the hotel stairs was a struggle! But we’d have to do more – for our very first camp would be at 13,776ft!

Hotel Andino is a Swiss-owned Euro-style hotel perched on a hillside street at the top of town. Rooms have a mountain view and the restaurant is 1st rate.

 

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View from my room!

 

 

 

On day two, the plan was a 4-mile hike at Huillcachocha Lake, up to 12,650 feet. We hiked to a rock where Inca sacrifices were performed. From this hike, we had horizon to horizon views of the entire Cordillera Blanca Range! And we encountered some local families going out for the day.

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To me, the thin air and exertion of this “warm up” hike seemed like the max. But I knew in the next two days we’d be hiking to over 15,387′ and yikes. Can I do this? Will I make it?

The staff was excellent, making a slow, do-able pace. And they let us take breaks to get water, snacks, and adjust our clothing. The views would be one thing that would keep me going!

 

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View of the entire Cordillera Blanca! It’s the range next to the Cordillera Huayhuash.

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CAT and our local lead guide, Roger (pronounced “Roher”) of ExplorAndes, show us a map of the area

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Myself with Anna, local Assistant Guide

So, how much equipment, staff and stuff did this 12-day expedition take? 10 Llamas, 16 donkeys, 2 “emergency” horses, 13 staff, kitchen tent, meal tent, a dozen or so Eureka! tents for guests, plus food and emergency gear. Yes, we had supplemental oxygen just in case. Quite the production!

 

The day’s acclimatization hike complete, we enjoyed a terrific welcome dinner at the hotel. Tomorrow, we’d be off on a 5-hour drive to our first trek-camp!

So, you may ask, “How do I prepare for such a trip?” Answer: 4 months of preparation. Lots of cardio. Running is fine, but about six weeks before the trip, switch to hour long hikes/walks. Four times a week. Hikes with elevation gain are the best preparation because instead of static roads, you’ll get the benefit of walking amongst rocks and such. Even better, hike with a 20 pound day pack. Because on the trek, you’ll be carrying a day pack with rain gear and layers, plus two liters of water.

OK, upcoming are a series of posts from the trail! Passes, 20,000 foot peaks, avalanches, glaciers, emerald lakes, Llamas, and flowers galore! Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 





Trinidad, CA – A Slice of Coastal Heaven

13 10 2016

My visit with Jason Self and Shay Bickley in Trinidad, California, was more than hikes among Redwood giants and herds of Rossevelt Elk. The region sports some of North America’s most spectacular coastlines!

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Near Crescent City

Foggy and rugged, thickly forested, and impacted by frequent Pacific storms, this coast shows off when the sun pops out. Highway 101 passes through this region, tracing its line along surf beaches, through dark redwood forest, climbing to 800-ft above the sea before opening up to spectacular unlimited vistas dotted with sea stacks.

We spent a sunset hiking along the beach, and another afternoon walking to a point high above the waves. No matter what route you pick, rewards are rich.

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Man’s Best Friend waits for his family to come in.

One evening we took a pre-dinner stroll along the shore near the Moonstone Grill, a terrific restaurant with an unmatched Pacific View. It was surreal. No wind and calm seas. So beautiful!

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The incoming tide was mesmerizing. I could look down on the wavy sand, and see, with each passing wave, how the water was navigating its way further and further ashore. We found a few stranded sea creatures and set them back into the ocean, much to Shay’s delight.

The following day was to be our paddle on the bay. Days here often dawn in a pea soup fog, but most of the time, that fog loses out the the sun by mid day.

On paddle day, there was barely any fog at sun up.

We breakfasted, loaded the boats on the cars, and partially donned out dry suits. Then it was time to head to the bay.

The town of Trinidad leads to a peninsula – with beaches on the NW and SW sides. On this day the swell was coming in from the NW.

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The sea laid down for us!

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Shay readies the P&H Delphin.

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We launched on the protected SW side – which, I’ve got to say, had become an undulating lake! We got maybe a mile or one and a half miles down the shore, paddling amongst sea stacks and harbor seals, before the swells were bigger, and I could see waves crashing against rocks. Even with the small seas, they were quartering from behind, and I got a weird feeling like the sea was a magnet, and I wanted to fall in. Jason said it was a touch of vertigo. I have had vertigo sensations before, but never at sea, and I’ve never been sea sick. Turning around, facing the swell, completely reversed that feeling.

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A bay of kelp and harbor seals. And, as Jason says, sharks.

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We checked out the sea stacks, rocks, and took a “stroll” along a cliff face. There, we found murrelets, more seals, and a couple of otters! One otter came out of a little cave. Another had caught a fish, and was hurriedly eating, as if it were concerned a rival might try to steal its catch.

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And Jason LOVES his recently acquired P&H Hammer, but not having his photo taken! It was a memorable day on the big P. I hope to visit again!