Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Albino Redwood

It's an exciting day. I found this beautiful albino redwood while doing some redwood exploring in between work cases today. Probably one of the healthiest looking albinos I have seen so far...

Redwood Logging and Consumption

One of the great things about living in Northern California and falling in love with the redwoods is the constant presence of logging trucks. All summer long, trucks filled with redwoods and other lumber (Doug firs?) can be seen driving around every main road in the area. Day in and day out, trees are being harvested somewhere in the county. What makes this scenario great in my mind, is that it's a constant reminder of why these trees are harvested in the first place. For me, it causes me to challenge long standing, and unquestioned behavior patterns in my own life. The main one being consumption. The trees are harvested because we the consumer continue to desire the wood, plain and simple.

To watch the cut redwoods delivered to the saw mill every day would be equivalent to watching trucks filled with granite leaving the Sierra. To watch mountaintops leveled every day and the granite used for some desired product somewhere. Maybe it would be like watching trucks filled with wildflowers leave the San Gabriel's, or the sandy soil slowly removed by big rigs over time. Maybe it would be like trucks filled with barrel cactus or Joshua Trees leaving the desert.

As long as the redwoods continue to grow, I suppose they have a fighting chance. In a game where a tree needs time to reach maturity, every time I see a logging truck drive down the road, I feel like the game has been "reset."  "We just have to wait another 500 years, we just have to wait another 500 years, we just have to wait another 500 years."

What would a world look like where all living things are allowed to reach not only maturity, but full unadulterated expression? I don't think we humans are capable of that right now. Heck, we can't even do that yet with our own children. I still would like to believe that such a world is possible.

Until then, I have to wonder where these redwood trees are going after the saw mill. The battle for survival is still strong. The forests are continuing to re-grow. Humans, as stewards of the earth, still have time to get it right I hope. By "getting it right," in my mind, is allowing the redwood forest to exist, mature, and express itself fully wherever and whenever it decides to grow.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Redwood Goodness

 Today I experienced a great little hike. Probably can't really call it a hike, it was more of a visit. There is a tiny grove of redwoods I've had my eye on for quite a while, and today I decided to investigate. I wasn't sure if it was on private property or not, so I started taking small country roads that led me into the general vicinity.
 As I got closer to the grove, I spotted two women walking up a dirt road. Cowgirls. Sun-bleached blond hair and and sun kissed faces. A couple of California beauties. I slowed down and asked the women if the redwoods in the valley were accessible.

"Not really," one of them answered. "It's private property. But...."
She proceeded to tell me her name and said I could make a quick visit. If anyone asked why I was trespassing just to tell them that I was a friend of hers.

Wow, what a gift.
 (I will call her Allison for the story's sake.) Allison told me that redwoods once covered the hillsides all around where we were standing. These trees are also unusual because they grow so far inland. The rest had been logged long ago, and farms now stand where redwood habitat used to be. It was stunning. God, I wish I could see what Northern California used to look like. It must have been overwhelming.
 After parking my car in some gold California grass, I had to crawl under an electric fence, and then made my way across a field to where the redwoods were growing. There were only about two dozen of them, but once inside, it was like a little temple.
I probably spent no more than fifteen minutes taking pictures and inspecting the trees. They were of good size as the pictures show.
 I promised Allison that I would be quick so I walked back across the field and crawled under a couple electric fences once again. I gave myself a tick check when I arrived at my vehicle. As I made my way off the beautiful property, I saw Allison riding on a horse and gave her a wave and a thanks.
When I arrived home, I discovered another tiny deer tick that had already embedded itself in my stomach. It's a miracle that I haven't caught Lyme disease this summer. It almost seems unfair that one cannot walk through these fields without picking up ticks. So far this summer, it seems literally impossible.

Anyhow, it was an excellent visit. Thank you "Allison!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Desolation Wilderness/ Highway 50

 I've noticed that my posts seem to be taking an increasingly negative tone as of late. I have absolutely nothing to be angry or complain about. I am extremely blessed, every time I get to spend time in God's creation, I am a fortunate man. I hear-by plan to commit myself to concentrating on the positive as I write about these special places.

I woke up Sunday morning at Lake Aloha in my tent. I was glad to be secure inside, while the morning mosquitoes awoke and began buzzing around outside. I was eager to move on, to hike back to my car. The reason was twofold: I wanted to grab breakfast at Denny's in South Lake Tahoe. I also wanted to see the trees along highway 50 that I had missed while driving through the dark Friday night.

Before I reached my car, I met and talked to several PCT thru hikers. I asked one hiker what his favorite part of the trail had been so far.
"The towns!" he answered.
I met another hiker named "Inspector Gadget." He expressed concern for what the fall weather may hold in Washington. Ahhh, I remember those concerns.

Breakfast was calling, so I quickly made miles and reached my car by 10:30. What I was about to see blew me away. As I started driving down highway 50 towards South Lake Tahoe, the trees were breathtaking. There were giant pines everywhere I looked. Huge, fully expressive, ancient trees. The highway was extremely busy but I had to pull off and park my car in a turnout to inspect. As I was bushwhacking through some dense underbrush to reach one particular tree, I noticed a dirt road with a man walking along it. As I came crashing through the bushes, he looked at me and then quickly looked away. I must have looked nuts. As I tripped onto the road, I made eye contact with his wife and just laughed.
"Sorry, I know I look crazy, but I just had to get a closer look at these trees!" I explained.
"Oh....ok....cool!" the man answered.
 These were some of the largest Ponderosa Pines I have ever seen. They might be Jeffrey Pine. I'm not really sure, but they are stunning.
 After taking a few photos with a couple trees, I returned to my car and continued to South Lake Tahoe. The area looked really promising for tree hunting, and I will have to return later this year. By now, my stomach was craving some bacon and eggs. It was really congested on the roads into town. When I reached Denny's there was a line with about 25 to 50 people waiting outside. No bacon and eggs for me. I had to resort to plan B: the grocery store. After filling my car with gas and returning to the road, highway 50 out of Tahoe was a complete traffic jam. It remained that way almost to Sacramento. Thankfully, the trees along the highway kept me in a state of awe.
 I saw this monolith growing alongside the road. At 22'5" cbh, it's by far the largest Ponderosa Pine I have seen to date. Simply an incredible tree.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Desolation Wilderness

 I needed a Sierra fix, so I drove out to Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe over the weekend. Friday was a long day. After driving out to the coast for work, I didn't get home until 5:00. I didn't leave for Tahoe until 6:30. I arrived at Echo Lakes around 11:00. I felt pretty exhausted by the time I arrived. The drive was still nice. I did feel a sense of awe as I drove through the central valley along interstate 5 towards Sacramento.
Full parking lot at Echo Lakes (above)
It was amazing looking at the land, observing mankind's footprint upon it. We have transformed the surface of earth for our needs and wants. It is remarkable. The marshes were transformed, the land has been transformed with acre upon acre of food producing plants and trees. The grain distilleries, the trucks transporting goods, the airplanes flying overhead to the airport, boats floating down the rivers. Amazing. It's as if we are harnessing the power of the earth, the earth is our hive, everything else must adapt or perish. I felt like anything is possible if we can just get past our differences. What is humanity's ultimate goal? Space is the next logical step.
 Speaking of space, there is nothing like the stars in the Sierra. When I arrived in Echo Lakes, instead of sleeping in my car, I threw my sleeping bag down behind some trees. I think it was some one's front yard actually, but I did not see the cabin until morning. After lying down for the night, it only took a couple minutes before I saw my first shooting star. They appeared regularly every few minutes. That's always how it's been when I've camped out here. The Milky Way looks like clouds stretched in a band across the sky. No moon was present, in fact the new moon was on Thursday. I seem to be on a "new moon" camping cycle.
 Unfortunately, I didn't sleep well. I was restless from the day's rush, and the excitement of the next day's hike. Also, cars continued to arrive throughout the night. The place was packed. It was far more crowded than the last couple of times I've been here. I woke up around 5:30am, the sun was just beginning to arise. I was greeted by a few mosquitoes. It took a couple minutes to pack up. I was hiking by 6:00am. I could tell I was already feeling tired.
 Trees were my focus on this particular trip. I was seeing the areas trees for the first time. Fantastic shapes and growths are the norm out here. The trees are able to grow and reach their full potential and expression. There is nothing like a tree that is able to fully express itself. They have so much more character.
 Mosquitoes were bad in spots, but overall, not too bad. My roommate had just returned from a trip from Yosemite and said he barely noticed the mosquitoes. Foolishly taking his report at face value, I didn't bring bug spray or deet. It seems every hike I go on, I am amazed and then angered by my callousness. Why would I not bring any bug repellent into the Sierra in the summer? Foolishness! I had no self defense for the little critters. Thankfully, they weren't too bad. Just enough to be a nuisance. Thankfully, this was the first hike in a couple years that I actually brought a tent instead of a tarp.
By lunch, I was keenly aware of my tiredness from lack of sleep. I also find it amazing how our emotions seem to be the filters of how we perceive the world around us. Out of my tiredness and low energy, I felt like I was going through the motions just to get to camp.
 There was still a tree I wanted to visit however. I wanted to get a picture of this wonderful juniper growing along the PCT. I detoured about a mile total to get a picture of this fantastic specimen. I like how the living tree has wrapped itself around the section that has died. Who knows how old this thing is.
 After visiting the old juniper, I saw a hiker taking a break near a spring. He had that PCT look to him.
"Where you headed?" I asked.
"Where am I headed? Canada!" was his response.
His trail name is "House," and he's a part of the 2012 migration. He told me that the Sierra was snow free this year.
"Not even an inch of snow along Forester Pass," House said.
After wishing him a happy journey, I continued on my way. My destination was Clyde Lake.
"House" a PCT thru hiker
One hiker I passed said he could not believe how many hikers he saw on the trail. Personally, I had to agree with him. I knew Desolation Wilderness was popular, but there were a lot of folks on the trail. There were enough to make me weary to take a piss, knowing that someone was bound to come around the corner any second.
Lake Aloha (above)
Aloha Lake was beautiful as usual. The sun was really intense as the day wore on, and I was quickly getting dehydrated. Seems its almost impossible to stay hydrated on the first day. Clyde Lake is about a mile or so past Lake Aloha. First I had to climb up and over Mosquito Pass. I was really looking forward to setting up camp and taking a nap.
Mosquito Pass (above)
Eventually, Clyde Lake was in view. Last time I visited this place, there was no one around. Of course this was October, not July. Clyde Lake is small, so it has a more intimate feel to it. Selfishly, I was still hoping to have it to myself. When I arrived at the lake, I thought my wish was granted. I didn't hear or see anybody. As I was making my way around the lake to find a spot to camp all of a sudden I saw a man lying bare assed on a slab of granite.
 The moment I saw him, his dog saw me and aggressively ran through the underbrush barking and snarling at my feet. The naked man stood up and started screaming at his dog. The dog, of course, wouldn't listen and the  nude man grew increasingly irate. I knew he was probably more angry with the fact that my presence was ruining his wilderness experience, just I was getting angry his presence and his aggressive dog were ruining mine. "Fuck it," I said, and left Clyde Lake. I decided to head back over Mosquito Pass and camp along Aloha instead.
 I found a great spot to camp, with a natural wind break, and a front row view of the lake. There was also a mother marmot and her two young babies living nearby. They made sure to check on me from time to time. I just love marmots. They are like mountain sages. By late afternoon, I felt downright feverish. Exhaustion and dehydration had set in. I think I am starting to finally feel the effects of "age." I set up my tent and grabbed a seat behind the wind break, a shaded spot thank God. While lying there, someone across the lake started shooting a gun. It was a little unsettling knowing that there was nothing to block a bullet from one side of the lake to the other. Gunshots went off periodically for the next couple of hours. I fell in and out of sleep.
Lake Aloha dusk (above)
I woke up just in time to see the final hues of color before the lake went dark for the night. Actually the mosquitoes woke me up just in time. I crawled into my tent just before the stars came out, popped a couple Ibuprofen, and called it a day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sleeping Inside A Redwood Tree

 I have a confession to make. Not long ago, I was exploring a portion of redwood forest when I came across an incredible tree. This tree was massive, I can only estimate its age at 1500 or 2000 years old. It had a fire cave like many redwoods I have seen before. Only this cave was immense. And flat. I've never seen a fire cave as flat as this one. Usually they are uneven, piles of debris lying here and there. When I peaked inside, the first thought I had was "I've got to sleep in here tonight." The moment the thought popped in my mind, I was filled with fear. "Don't do that, that's weird," my mind told me. "What's wrong with you?"

Not one to give into fear, or one that particularly cares what other people think about me, a battle of conscience occurred the rest of the afternoon. "Should I do it?" "Don't do it you freak!" "Do you have permission?" "Has the tree given you permission?"

I texted a buddy of mine and posed the dilemma to him. The response I received was "Mark, you need to get laid." Perhaps he had a point, but as evening came, I overcame my fear and set up camp inside the redwood. 
When I stepped inside, all sound from the outside world ceased. It was noticeably cooler inside. The ground inside the tree was probably three feet lower than the ground outside the tree. The sky had not darkened, so I watched the remaining light dissipate through the caves entrance.
I wish I could say I had a positive spiritual experience of some sort, but to be honest, I immediately became spooked. My mind was racing, and I was battling something, some sort of internal fear or claustrophobia or something. There were bats flying in and out of the redwood cave, and I was watching them move around on the ceiling inside. The bats didn't bother me, in fact I enjoyed the company believe it or not. I became spooked by the scenarios of the tree crashing in on me while I was sleeping. The tree is probably in its last 5-10% of its remaining time on earth as a live, standing being. I imagined surviving the initial crash, only to have to tunnel my way out in complete darkness, or being buried alive. I started to worry about the cold musty air I was breathing, the possibility of getting sick from bat dung. I wondered if the tree did not appreciate my being there, invading its space. I wondered if there were ghosts inside. I'm sure someone else has slept in here before. As you can see, I was not in a good mental place to enjoy this new experience. Finally, just as I was calming my nerves and drifting off to sleep, it felt like someone started pulling my arm. In fact, my arm starting twitching uncontrollably for some reason. "That's it, get out!" my mind ordered. I bolted up, packed up my stuff, and made a bee line for the creek that was 100 yards away or so. After setting up camp next to the creek, I felt better immediately. It occurred to me that almost every time I've camped in the redwoods, I unconsciously camp in the transition zone as close to the creek as possible, as if I don't belong sleeping under the big trees. Usually, as soon as I wake up, I will lay down under them and watch the sun come in. Maybe that's the way its supposed to be for now...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bull Creek Road

(Dyerville overlook above. The Founders Grove is on the right, filled with old giant trees. The hill on the left has been logged and second and third generation redwoods grow there now. The contrast can be striking when seen in person.)

While driving home from the Lost Coast a few weeks ago, I have to admit that I was filled with sadness. The reason being, I was really looking forward to driving Bull Creek and Mattolle road because I thought for sure it was going to be unbelievable redwood habitat. The redwoods along Bull Creek road in Rockefeller Forest are some of the best I have experienced. When I am in there, it feels eternal, endless, indestructible, ancient. I had only driven so far along the road because part of me didn't want to know what was on the other side. The feeling of wildness and eternity was too great to tamper with. Well, my curiosity got the best of me, and I am sad to report that the feeling of wildness, strength, and endless habitat has been replaced with domestication, fragility, disappointment. I was truly shocked to discover that the point I had turned around in the road so many times was actually the edge of the redwood habitat in the area. The rest has been logged, replaced by grassy hills, homesteads, and a thinned forest.  I couldn't believe how fragile it all seemed. How could this wall of some of the mightiest trees on the planet, suddenly abruptly stop, only to be replaced by grassy fields and bright sunshine? How could this otherworldly habitat suddenly abruptly stop, only to be replaced by roads, homes, fields, and ordinariness? Why are there trees only growing along this tiny ribbon of a river, only to disappear on the other side of the bridge?

The redwoods have really brought home to me the importance of awareness when it comes to what I buy, and how I live. It's too bad that one of my favorite places to hike has been compromised to build houses all over the country, probably even the house I currently live in, and the cities I visit. The redwood habitat seems so fragile and minuscule at times. I am very grateful to be able to experience what remains of it. More often than not, I feel like the luckiest man alive whenever I get the chance to spend time in the untouched groves. I hope others will continue to be able to as well. Thinking strictly in human terms, I'd imagine as the world continues to get busier and busier in the coming years, the groves will become more and more important. Sanctuaries to recharge the mind, soul, and spirit.

Tree News

The tallest Pondersosa Pine in Colorado was just recently measured in the Colorado Rockies a few days ago. The news article can be found here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Cave Tree and Mystery Sticks: Montgomery Woods

Cave tree: Montgomery Woods
I went for a walk in Montgomery Woods yesterday afternoon and had a new experience. There is one particular enormous tree that grows right along the trail. Pictures do it zero justice. This tree has a massive cave at it's base, and a hole about 30 feet up. It's the kind of hole all children draw on trees. The kind you would expect a cartoon owl to pop out of. Anyhow, the base of the tree has one of the largest circumferences of any of the trees in the park. The tree looks like it could cave in on itself (no pun intended of course) any day now.
Redwood: Montgomery Woods
 When I walked past the tree, it was making all kinds of noise. I stopped for a minute to listen. It sounded like a woodpecker was banging on it from the inside. Then it sounded like mice squeaking from up above. Then I heard cracking noises. It was actually terrifying. I was wondering if the tree was about to give up it's life. I had to keep listening. I decided to walk into the tree, into the cave to get a better listen.
Mystery stick on the bark of tree (above and below)
Once I walked into the tree, I heard the most amazing sound. It sounded like water flowing through the tree. It was the same low pitch gurgling that I've heard walking across small creeks that are covered by huge boulders. The squeaking and cracking continued. I had to get out of there. It's been really warm here the last couple of weeks and I have heard stories of trees exploding when it gets too hot. It was probably an irrational fear, but I had to wonder if the water sound was a result of the warm temperature today.
(You can see the mystery stick pictured above wedged in the tree 50 feet up)
 Also, completely non-related, I've developed a theory about a mystery that's been bothering me lately in the redwood forest. Every grove I've been to, I find trees with random sticks attached to the bark, almost as if they had been placed there somehow. I thought perhaps climbers were marking the trees in a way that most visitors would not notice. Once I noticed these sticks, I started seeing them everywhere. They obviously weren't growing out of the tree, just lodged between the bark. They never seem to be branches either. Just sticks. Well, I don't think they are placed there by climbers. When I came across the two fallen giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park three weeks ago, one of the nearby trees that had been scuffed by one of the fallen trees had a fresh slash on it's trunk with one small sized branch stuck on the bark. I think what happens is that when a tree falls, as it is crashing to the ground and the branches strike the surrounding trees, every now and then a single branch breaks off the falling tree and gets lodged into the bark of it's neighbor. The one thing that has been throwing this hypothesis off for me, is sometimes I don't see any evidence of a downed tree nearby, such as the picture above in Montgomery Woods. Maybe branches falling from the tree above can also do the same thing. In the case of Montgomery Woods, the branches were probably moved into the brush to keep the main grove looking clean. I still don't know why there never seem to be needles on the branches. Again, just sticks.
(Humboldt Redwoods State Park three weeks ago: This mystery stick I am guessing was part of the tree that had just fallen down. As it was falling, this branch wedged itself onto the bark of this tree.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Trail Angels: Joel and Pam (PCT October 2010)

I am currently reading a book called "The Man Who Quit Money" by Mark Sundeen. My PCT hiking pal Indie brought the book to my attention. The book is about a man named Daniel Suelo who has chosen to live his life without money, and has been successfully living in a cave outside of Moab Utah since the year 2000. He also keeps a blog which can be found here. So far its a fascinating read. In the book, "The Man Who Quit Money," Daniel is often forced to confront the idea of having faith that the universe will somehow conspire to provide him with what he needs at certain times. The book describes several stories when Daniel received just what he needed at just the right time. The book triggered a memory when Indie and I were in need of some divine intervention near the finish of the PCT in 2010. 
While hiking the trail, Indie and I met a fellow hiker who went by the name"Stumbling Norwegian." Tall, with a beard halfway down his chest, the Stumbling Norwegian would often say "The trail will provide..." So often this was exactly the case. One such moment occurred at Rainy Pass in Washington, October 2010: 

Rainy Pass is the last main road to civilization before the PCT enters the final 40 miles of wilderness to the trails northern terminus in Manning Park, Canada. Indie and I were two days from finishing the PCT when we encountered a huge dilemma. It was already the second week of October, temperatures were plummeting, winter was on the doorstep. All around us were nature's signs of change. Snow was seen in the upper elevations, water was freezing at night, leaves were falling and changing colors. We had just enjoyed two weeks of Indian summer in Washington, and knew that the weather could change any day now. In fact, we should not have been on the trail this late in the season. For all intents and purposes, were among just a handful of 2010 thru hikers bringing up the rear.  

We had just endured two full days of rain where we did not even break down camp. It had been pouring buckets, and the temperature was dangerously low.  We were stuck. We were soaked. We were exhausted.  Two days away from finishing. Finally, we experienced a break in the rain. Indie and I broke down camp and started hiking, but we couldn't agree what to do next. Indie wanted to hitch into the town of Mazama and spend the day drying out, resting. He wanted to get a weather report. I was in complete agreement with him in that regard, but felt like taking another day to rest was too risky. If we were going to finish the trail, we had to do it now. (At least that was my line of thinking.) If we got a good weather report, we had to go for it.

To make matters more complicated, when we reached the highway, Indie and I talked to two different groups of folks who were parked in a lot near the trail. They gave us conflicting weather reports. One group said the weather was supposed to be good the next few days, the other group said it was supposed to snow that night and they did not advise hiking into the higher elevations. 

Indie and I could not decide what to do, and the frustration grew. 
"I just have a bad feeling in my gut about this," Indie said.
"Ok, let's hitch into Mazama." I said. Gut feelings are usually good to go by in my book. Besides, we had to get a weather report. Indie and I were in complete agreement that we would not attempt the final 40 miles if we did not have the confidence that the weather would work in our favor. To get caught in a snowstorm in this final stretch meant certain death. (At least in our minds.)
Indie and I stood by the highway for about an hour, thumbs extended. No body would give us a ride. It was getting really cold standing along the road. It felt like hypothermia was settling in. Indie and I were in bad shape. The trail straddles the highway for about three miles or so, so Indie and I decided to hike the three miles up to Rainy Pass and hitch there. The hike would warm us up. Rainy Pass would be our last chance. We also heard of a rest area near there. Perhaps we could inquire for a ride if we became desperate. Indie and I knew deep down that "The trail would provide," but this philosophy was being put to the test. If we couldn't get a ride, there was nothing else we could do. 

Our situation became more confusing when we reached Rainy Pass. A hiker by the name of Pig Pen arrived on the scene in a car. He had just finished the trail and was leaving a cache of food and supplies for a small group of hikers a day behind us. He had not heard a weather report, but offered to give us a ride 40 miles the opposite direction. While Indie and I contemplated this option, Pig Pen disappeared into the woods to prepare the cache for his friends. The frustration increased. Maybe it was exhaustion, fear of the unknown, who knows? For some reason, Indie and I could not make a decision. Indie began taking his frustration out on the cars that sped by on the highway, waving his hand in disgust. 
"You are in no shape to hitch Indie, let me take a turn," I said. Within five minutes, I was in the same emotional state as Indie, cursing at the cars as they sped by one by one. This was no way to get a ride. We did not deserve to get a ride at this point. Humbleness was gone, replaced by an anger at the universe.
"Move over," Indie said. "We can do this. The trail will provide."

While I was cursing our indecisiveness, all of a sudden a white Prius pulled over with what appeared to be two angels, a woman who offered a kind smile and a man with white hair and  a cheery disposition.
"Where you guys headed?" asked the man.
"Mazama!" Indie said excitedly.
"Jump in, I'll give you guys a ride if you give me a story! My name is Joel, and this is Pam."
 It felt like we had been rescued. Literally and figuratively. Indie and I were headed to Mazama, where we could rest, dry out, and hopefully get an accurate weather forecast. We began our descent out of the North Cascades into a picturesque valley and warmer temperatures. Indie and I tried our best to tell a few good stories. Joel and Pam were incredibly warm and friendly despite our stench and filth. When we arrived at Mazama, Indie and I spotted the hotel where we were going to stay. Joel pulled his Prius into the lot and we began unloading our packs. Just then, Joel spotted the price for a room written on a board on the front deck of the hotel.
"Seems kind of expensive, don't you think?" Joel asked.
Pam looked at Joel and whispered, "Why don't you ask them to stay with us for the night?"
Joel heartily agreed. "Why don't you stay with us for tonight? We'll cook you dinner, you can get a shower, and I'll drop you off at the trail first thing in the morning?"
"Yes!!" Indie responded without a moments hesitation.
It was too good to be true. Joel revealed that he was a "foodie" (Indie was as well,) and offered to cook us anything we wanted. Indie and I were in a sort of awed silence at the question when Joel offered,
"How's a stir fry sound to you? Chicken or beef?"
We stopped at the grocery store in the town of Twisp and picked up the necessary ingredients. Indie and I were also able to pick up a few more trail supplies, the main supplement being butter.

(Pictures coutesy of Indie)

Not long afterwards we arrived at Joel's homestead in Carlton, Washington. It was a beautiful home located in the middle of a long grass filled valley. Joel had built the house himself. He told us to make ourselves at home, showing us the location of the shower, washer and dryer, and a sauna that was also built by hand.
"You have to try the sauna before the night is over..." Joel instructed us.
The hospitality was overwhelming. Indie and I began drying out our gear on the lawn and threw in a couple loads of laundry. After getting showers, Joel, Pam, Indie, and I all helped prepare the evening's feast. It was a fantastic evening of story telling, laughing, delicious food, and fantastic company. Not only that, Joel offered us his computer to check the weather. The forecast showed three full days of sunshine. Indie and I were going to finish the trail. Before the night was over, Joel fired up the sauna. After a good sweat, there was nothing left to do but rest. Indie continued to blog until midnight. I was fast asleep. Joel woke us up first thing in the morning and drove us the hour and a half back up to the trail. The kindness was too much. Joel and Pam were the final string of a long line of incredible folks, strangers who quickly became friends, that Indie and I would meet on the PCT. Who are these folks who open their hearts and homes to strangers? Will I ever be so caring and generous to others I meet in my life? The trail provided after all that cold, rainy day in October. Thank you Joel and Pam!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Flying Redwood Albino

 A few months ago, I was walking through some redwood forest when I was jolted to discover what appeared to be an albino growing 100 feet or so over my head. Because this fantastic specimen is growing so high out of reach, I can't say for certain that it is actually an albino, but I'm about 90% sure that it is. Redwood albinos are one of my favorite oddities to look for when I am walking through the forest, so this one really opens the doors for what is possible in my mind. No longer must the gaze be cast downward when looking for these ghosts of the forest. They may also be flying overhead!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jim Wolf Books CDTS

My goodness, time is moving along quickly. Yesterday, I sent off a check to purchase the Continental Divide Jim Wolf Books and Supplements. These are the guide books recommended by CDT hikers to use if one wishes to hike and stay "found" on the Continental Divide Trail. It's ironic that the office is located on Charles Street in Baltimore. I used to work in an office in Baltimore on Charles Street many years ago. I guess Baltimore is a different kind of wilderness. Anyhow, the books (along with other merchandise) can be bought  through the CDTS website located here. Just click on "Marketplace" and you can access the store. The books cannot be purchased with an online credit card number at this time, so you need to send a check or pay using a paypal account. The books and supplements cost me $162.28.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Usal Road on YouTube

Here's a video I found on YouTube briefly documenting part of Usal Road. Look at those drop offs! As Kyle told me later in the day after our epic drive to place the cars, "I told Spillz to do the driving, and I'd do the looking!"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lost Coast Trail (What I Learned)

In conclusion, here are a few things I learned while hiking the Lost Coast Trail, and some things I would do differently next time.

1.) I would not advise taking Usal Road unless you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle and don't mind giving it some damage. Take the Briceland Thorn Road out of Garberville instead. It is much easier, despite the extra mileage. If you insist on taking Usal Road, remember the road is not marked. Look for "Usal" painted on the pavement of highway 1. Also bring spare tires.

2.) I'm not sure what I advice I would give concerning the tide charts. Perhaps, the little yellow booklet I bought would suffice as far as knowing the approximate time of the high tides. Perhaps a little more research can give you an exact time for the specific area of the Lost Coast where the trail is impassable. Trust your instincts.

3.) There are escape routes along the impassable high tide portions of trail. I will not advocate hiking these sections during high tide. Just be aware that if trouble arises, there are options. Again, use your best judgement, and trust your instincts. Don't be afraid to turn around and wait out the tide.

4.) The BLM Lost Coast map is excellent. Spillz, Kyle and I would use it when we needed a more detailed visual of where we were at times. The map is big, so it was annoying using it in the wind. We also used the printable Lost Coast Map on the BLM website. This often came in handy because we could put it in our pocket and access it quickly when we needed a broad overview of where we were at times.

5.) There is plenty of fresh water to be found on the trail. I never used more than 2 quarts at a time. The driest section was during the southern half. Nick's camp has water if you are low around the Chemise Mountain area. Otherwise, there is plenty of water after descending off the ridge line next to the ocean.

6.) Bring the bear canister. There was plenty of evidence of bear activity. We also crossed paths with the ranger who checked on us.

7.) Have cash on hand to pay the daily parking fee of $6.00 per day if you choose to park at Needle Rock. Mattole parking area was free.

8.) Don't forget your car keys if you are doing a two car placement.

9.) Check out the deli/store in Shelter Cove if you have finished your hike. Fish and chips, burger and fries, cold drinks, and ice cream are heavenly even after two days in the wild!

10.) Fill your car with gas before heading towards the lost coast. I believe there are places to fill up in in Shelter Cove, Petrolia, and Honeydew but it may be more expensive.

11.) Ticks were a real problem. Take whatever precautions you find necessary. Despite being as cautious as I've ever been before, I still was bitten by a tiny nymph deer tick.

12.) I probably would bring a tent next time, not my tarp for more tick security while sleeping. I think the deer tick got me when I was sleeping on the first night.

13.) Bring sun tan lotion. I would prefer to wear a white long sleeved shirt next time as well. The sun became quite hot during the day.

14.) Kyle wore a sun hat while hiking. I commented how fresh he looked while we were in Shelter Cove during day three. Spillz and I looked way more weather beaten as a result of not wearing a hat that kept our faces, ears, and neck completely covered. I keep telling myself to buy one of these hats, but still have yet to follow through with that idea.

15.) I hiked in trail runners and had no problems at all with my feet. Would do it again.

Lost Coast Trail: Day 4

 Tuesday July 3, 2012: Spillz, Kyle, and I woke up at the still windy Nick's Camp, and set out for our final destination at Needle Rock. The trail began to take us off the ridge, while offering incredible views of the coastline to the south and the ocean.
We continued hiking through Douglas Fir forest, and the air became noticeably more humid the lower in elevation we hiked. Pretty soon, we were walking through what seemed like a jungle. I could hike through forest like this forever.

It didn't take long before we were walking along the grassland again. The three of us were hoping to catch sight of some Roosevelt Elk that were transported here from Prairie Creek not too long ago. The original herds of Roosevelt Elk were hunted to extinction in this area in the 1800's. We saw plenty of scat, but no elk unfortunately.

The trail took us briefly through a small eucalyptus tree forest. Before long, we could see the Needle Rock Visitor Center off in the distance and new that our hike was coming to a close. It was about 12:00. Perfect time.

 After posing for a victory photo and packing up the car, we headed north once again to reach our other vehicle parked in Mattole. Before reaching Mattolle, there were two young women hitchhiking to Mattolle form the small town of Honeydew. They flagged us down and begged for a ride. The reason they were hitchhiking is because one of the woman did the same thing Spillz and I did last year while hiking the Skunk Train tracks. They had left the other vehicles keys in the glove compartment of the other vehicle! Again, if you are planning on executing the two car method, REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR KEYS FROM BOTH VEHICLES! We happily gave them a ride.
After dropping Spillz and Kyle off at their vehicle in Mattole, we said our goodbyes. I was looking forward to stealth camping in the redwoods for the night, rather than driving home. Overall, it was a great trip.