Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another Tribute to Water





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Sierra water is the best!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kokanee Salmon

One of the highlights of the weekend was the unexpected discovery of Taylor Creek, where the Kokanee salmon return to spawn every October. The creek runs under the 89, and I stopped my car to take some pictures of yellow aspen trees. Then I saw a few people looking into the water under the bridge. There were salmon everywhere! One woman said she has returned to the creek every year for the last five years to see the salmon.

There is a nice paved walk that takes visitors through the meadow, around the creek, with excellent views of surrounding peaks. I couldn't help but feel extremely blessed to witness such a fantastic phenomenon unexpectedly. The Kokanee salmon were introduced to Lake Tahoe in the 1940's. The adult salmon return to Taylor creek to spawn, die shortly afterwards, and then the baby salmon are washed back into Lake Tahoe when the snow melts in the spring. The ducks like to eat the newly laid salmon eggs. Often, they would paddle with their feet to wash up some eggs and then eat them as they float up to the surface.

I experienced a bit of nostalgia when some of the parents brought their children down to the creek. The kids could not stop throwing rocks and sticks at the salmon. The parents kept yelling at the kids, but eventually another rock would fly into the creek, as the salmon would attempt to dodge the lethal projectile. It reminded me of my brothers and I when we would visit the Chesapeake Bay near Annnopolis, Maryland. Every trip would eventually descend into a hunting trip as unfortunate jellyfish and horseshoe crabs were mercilessly bombed with rocks from the pier from us kids. Eventually, we were taught to make miniature sailboats out of styrofoam and driftwood and bomb those instead. A book I just read about an indigenous tribe in the Amazon described the children running around the village with miniature bows and arrows hunting the tiny rodents in the surrounding rain forest. I guess the hunting instinct is still strong in us humans.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Ride: 1959

Here's a neat documentary about the first "thru-ride" on horseback of the Pacific Crest Trail in 1959.

Sierra Weekend

I visited the Tahoe area again this weekend and went for a couple of day hikes. I'm going to purposely keep this post somewhat vague because I visited a lake that from what I could tell, doesn't get a lot of traffic. Not that I have hoards of readers of this blog. It's a habit I would like to start however, because some places just don't need to be advertised. This place may or may not be special, but it felt like it.

When I arrived at this lake, I was struck by its beauty. It rivaled anything I've seen on the John Muir Trail. The trail leading to the lake seemed like it had not seen a lot of use this year. There was no one around all afternoon, and I had the spot to myself. It's a place I'd like to show to the right person someday. There was also a strange natural occurrence that seemed to be taking place. The air was filled with thick strands of spider webs floating through the sky, streaming off the tops of pine trees like silver ribbons. I saw a spider attached to one of them, wondering if they were taking flight or something.

For all intents and purposes, wildflower season seems to be over. There were a few blooms along the way, but not much. There were many birds chirping in the pines, probably voicing their protest towards me disrupting their paradise.

I spent a good part of the afternoon mesmerized by the changing colors of the water. There is something obviously beautiful about these frigid waters, but also something foreboding. Look deep into its bowels, and it's hard to find anything alive. I saw a few insects skimming the surface. Perhaps there are some micro organisms feeding along the floor.

It was a long, but fulfilling day of hiking. I returned to my vehicle well past dark, hiking the last couple of hours with my headlamp. Mosquitoes were non-existent! Temperatures dropped below freezing at night, and warmed perfectly during the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Redwoods

My friend Pete was bicycling down the coast last weekend and I picked him up in Eureka and toured around Northern California. It was nice to get an outsiders perspective of the area. The land was often a topic of our conversation as we identified past and present Redwood clear cuts. I was glad to hear a perspective from someone else on what has occurred and still occurs here. Often we would ask to no one in particular, "What would inspire someone to cut down 96% of the old growth Redwood forest?" Obviously, its all about the money, but still, what gives?

A few days ago I was in a park in Ft. Bragg, and was part of a conversation with a young man and his family. The man and his wife had immigrated from Mexico and were pushing their adorable little daughter in a tire swing. The man has been living in Ft. Bragg since 2002, and also happens to be a logger. I asked him if he drives the trucks, or cuts trees. "I cut the trees down," he responded. After seeing him with his beautiful wife and daughter, it struck me that this is probably ultimately what the man thinks about when he is cutting down the trees. His family.

Until we fix a system where a man must make his living consuming the land to provide for his family, there is little hope I'm afraid.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MP3 or No MP3?

As technology changes, so does the trail life. On the PCT last year, it seemed everybody was carrying some sort of device to listen to music. I had my tiny MP3 player with it's several hundred songs programed into it. I don't remember what Answerman had, but he was listening to audio books along with his music at times. Indie used an I-pod with not only songs, but hundreds of pod casts. His favorite being the dirt bag diaries.

Music helped lift the spirit to new levels, but also had the ability to take oneself out of the present moment. I found music to be really helpful when attempting the tough climbs, or when I just felt bored. At one point in Northern California, I hiked past an older man going the opposite direction and he asked why everyone was wearing headphones!

There were a couple of times headphones became a safety risk. One such time was in Southern California. As I was jamming to one of my favorite songs, I heard a distant "shaker" that I had never heard in the song before. Just then I glanced to the side and saw an enormous rattlesnake retreating off the trail into the underbrush, inches from my feet! Another time was near Crater Lake, Oregon. Indie was about a hundred feet behind me, I was humming along to another favorite song when I experienced something that felt like an earthquake. I immediately yanked the headphones out of my ears, and a few feet behind me, was a stampede of dozens of full grown elk! They ran right in between Indie and I, and I just stared dumbfounded. I doubt they would have trampled me, but I never heard them coming, the music blasting in my ears to blame.

Before hiking the TRT, I decided not to bring the MP3 player, and tried my best to enjoy the sounds of nature everyday, all day. I decided to say rosaries instead, whenever I had the urge to listen to music. Praying and hiking are a good combination.

If you decide to hike the TRT, just remember many miles of trail are shared with mountain bikers. If I had brought the MP3 player along, I doubt I would have used it during these sections because amazingly, the bikers were hard to hear sometimes. Listening to music would have been a safety hazard in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tarp

"Stingray" (above)

"A frame" (above)

"Flying Squirrel" (above)

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Mosquitoes in Northern Yosemite July 2010 (above video)


Here is the tarp I used on the PCT and the TRT. It's the Spinn Twinn by Gossamer Gear. It's an excellent tarp in my opinion, large enough to provide plenty of space, simple, and light. I've used it in heavy rain in Oregon and Washington and stayed plenty dry. Of course, you must be smart about your decisions when it is raining to stay dry.


I usually set up the "Stingray," mostly out of laziness. Usually I'd be so dog tired at the end of the day, I had little energy left to do anything. Same proved to be true on the TRT. I've always felt the "A frame" to be the most "bomb proof." On the PCT, if I knew heavy rains were coming, I set up the A frame, and enjoyed its protection from the elements.


On the first couple of days on the TRT, I was worried. Mosquitoes were out and I did not know the extent of their ferociousness. I was doubting my shelter choice because I did not have bug netting. I did not, and was horrified of the thought of experiencing mosquitoes like I did on the PCT in Northern Yosemite in late July last year. They did not bed down in the evening and attacked all night long in swarms. Thankfully, on the TRT, the mosquitoes disappeared after the sun went down, and the couple of nights they didn't, they attacked in small numbers which made it bearable. If I am able to hike a long trail again, I will consider sewing a mosquito net onto my tarp.

Snow?

Summer ended fast in these parts. Here's what's to come in the Sierra. The filming for this story was taken along the road I took home from the TRT.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dental Hygiene

Here is what I used to brush my teeth on the TRT. I tried to make a conscious effort to save a little weight this time around so I bought a travel sized toothpaste and a child's toothbrush. I guess if I really wanted to save weight, I could have cut off the handle on the toothbrush. One great thing about the kid's toothbrush (no, not Tigger greeting me each morning and night), is that the small brush head prevented me from putting too much toothpaste on the bristles, allowing me to conserve the paste.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cooking





Here is what I am currently using to cook. I bought a titanium cooking set from REI that was on sale before starting the PCT last year that has worked great. It actually was a four piece set, but my friend Pete and I cut the cost in half and he took the larger of the two pots. The plastic knife was given to me by Ursa Major after he bought extra utensils in Tuollumne Meadows on the PCT last year. It has come in handy, and is the only knife I carry. I made the wind screen in Etna after buying an aluminum cooking tray from the grocery store there. It has worked great. Blackgum gave me the stove in Mammoth Lakes last year. He had an extra stove he had made from a cat food can with holes punched through with a hole puncher. It barely weighs anything. The small plastic Nalgene bottle I use to hold Heet, the fuel for the fire. Heet is actually a type of antifreeze for automobiles, but it works great for camp stove fuel. It only costs a couple bucks per bottle, and usually lasts for several meals. I also carry a miniature lighter and a small can-opener I bought at am Army surplus store. Everything fits nicely in the pot, I put on the lid and carry it in the small bag that came with the pots.


The stove has been causing me concern the more I use it. Alcohol stoves can be very dangerous, and seem to cause several fires along trails every year. I need to find a way to stabilize it a bit more. I've accidentally knocked it over a couple of times while it was burning, and the fuel can be difficult to put out sometimes. On the TRT, I noticed several areas where I camped that had a thick mulch along the ground. I had to put the stove on a slab of granite to cook. I didn't want to risk starting a fire. One night I didn't bother, and cleared the ground as much as I could. After cooking, the earth was extremely hot a couple of inches under the ground. I poured water on the area before going to sleep, not wanting a repeat of last year when I woke up to a smoldering ring in my cooking area. It seems to me, that the best thing for me to do, is look into light weight alternatives. It feels like I'm playing Russian Roullette every time I cook dinner with the alcohol stove.


That being said, the stove has worked fine for me cooking pasta dishes. Usually, I can achieve a good rolling boil with the stove, and everything cooks nicely. If I wanted to experiment with more elaborate dishes, a better stove would be necessary. Answerman liked to cook all sorts of tasty, vegan dishes on the PCT last year, and concluded that an alcohol stove was not to his liking. Sometimes he had to cook things for 10 to 20 minutes which would be very difficult to do on an alcohol stove without using all of your fuel.

Water

In my last post, I forgot to mention what I am using these days to carry water. Gatorade bottles do the trick for me. I stopped using Nalgene bottles simply because they are too heavy.