Saturday, July 22, 2017

More Craters of the Moon photos

Lava field

Campground rock piles

North Crater center

North Crater overlook. See the back rim near the outcrop behind the center spires? It was bigger.

Trailside outcrop
A lone pine

Fast forward

All night ride last night, bridging the distance from western Washington to eastern Idaho and catching up on schedule. Three unreserved options had no room at the inn for me or for other tent-focused travelers.

My favorite one? An RV park at Historic Echo, Oregon. Lots of signs to make sure tourists know that the town is historic, not just run down. The Oregon state website may advertise RV and tent spaces, a children's playground, and a park, but the reality is a row of four RVs backed off a side street, a grass strip between them and the next residential property, a small community skateboard park, and a small public toilet building -- which was locked.

After a quarter hour of walking around, puzzling over the (also) locked building claiming to be a museum of Oregon Trail artifacts and no sign of the hosts, an exhausted motorbiking couple from Montreal and I decided to move on into the night.

The Lava Field campground at Craters of the Moon National Park is exactly as advertised, sites tucked between piles of spongy basalt ejecta and scrub desert pines. Best site choice? Shade, preferably over a flat space. Any Arizonan knows that.

Interesting display at the visitor center -- the geologic history of Craters of the Moon is linked to the Snake River "smile" of mountain-free and vineyard-blessed terrain that bridges the state and predicts the future of Yellowstone National Park! Discoveries of multiple large calderas in this region of the Pacific tectonic plate have been associated with a focused hot spot in the Earth's mantle.

As the plate slips westward, the section under pressure from the hot spot shifts east.

The hot spot prompts formation of lava domes, followed by sudden explosive collapse into large calderas that fill with basalt ejecta like the piece I am sitting on as I write this post. The earliest identified one occurred 18 million years ago.

So big, it doesn't look like a crater without a wider view

Yes, the hot spot is under Yellowstone now, and is expected to have another identity crisis some day in the next hundred thousand years. A few million years afterward, it may look much like these views of the North Crater.

Tomorrow, on toward Grand Junction, Colorado. Regret late posts -- time and useful Internet service remain a problem.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

More Ape Cave photos

The lava tube trail's name comes from the Mount Saint Helens Apes, a Boy Scout troop that explored and cleared out the current trail while searching for the Sasquatch. See for more information.

Here's a link to more photos taken by a team with better equipment and photographic skills.

My entrance photos

Some doubts about this


The mist -- invisible to my eyes

I could feel it, though.


Ginny prepared an excellent breakfast for my departure -- unmatched scrambled eggs! George and Small slipped around plotting ways to get up on the table without being noticed.

I was also encouraged to make a sandwich to take along and did so with Blue's careful oversight. Filled once again and inadequately expressing admiration, respect, and gratefulness to my host, I took my leave.

East over the Tacoma Narrows bridge, always recalling the classic film clip of the previous bridge's collapse over a half century ago, and down Interstate 5. Ginny suggested a number of must-see items in the vicinity of Mount Saint Helens, which turned out to be inconveniently located with the remains of a former stratovolcano in between them .... I chose to go for the alpine campground and forest road on the east side, and leave the Ape Cave for another day.

The GPS guided me off the interstate onto narrowing roads that wandered through cloud-obscured peaks. Mount Rainier was up there somewhere, allegedly. I stopped to fuel the Ion and eat the sandwich at Randle before heading up into the forest.

Weather, marginal; view, less so. Likely tenting conditions, wet. Decision -- scratch camping in the clouds, return downhill to the visitor center, half way around the MSH, ask about Ape Cave.

Two more hours of up, down, and around, following the gray strip of road between the tall pines. An impulse detour -- could I get a decent photo of the summit from the Climbers Bivouac? Several uphill miles of dirt road later, I did.

Mount St Helens crater south rim, up close and personal

Down off the slopes and back up to the Visitor Center. A friendly ranger on duty encouraged me to visit Ape Cave and then take advantage of "dispersed camping" rules in effect for the National Forest here.

Okay. Off to go spelunking on the longest continuous lava tube in the continental US (Wikipedia) created by another MSH eruption millenia ago. Down to the valley, a few exits worth of Interstate 5, and a long rolling drive up past farms and the trees ....

At 2:40 pm, the cave entrance. It was discovered in 1951 by a logger who avoided driving a bulldozer into a collapsed section. The trail down the 2.5 mile long tube runs 3/4 miles downhill from the entrance for rational visitors -- but the one way distance uphill would be almost the same as the downhill out and back, right? The ranger mentioned something about boulder crawls and lava falls, but did not seem too concerned; I was wearing hiking boots, carrying water and wearing a headlamp. No problem.

The first half mile was strange, beautiful, not at all claustrophobic. The glassy black walls of fused rock formed a high arch above the frozen flat floor of lava that had poured down the tube. Climbing the first pile of boulders was easy, obvious signs of a well used and maintained trail. The second, a little less so, and the third actually took some care to choose my route over the rocks. Not so different than the rockhopping scrambles that my sister and I had enjoyed along Sonoita Creek long ago, with the advantage of having no sun burning down on me.

Then the first lava fall, where the molten rock had frozen as it poured over a ledge about six feet high and smooth except for one foothold that had been hacked into the stone. There was a family of four trying to climb, so I boosted them up, and they pulled me. Standard "O" course approach. The parents thanked me and declined my offer to stay with them the rest of the way, so I went on.

Another two boulder crawls, over open rock rubble. I wondered how many people with sprained ankles have to be evacuated from here? Then, another lava fall to crawl up after spotting three heavy set sisters trying to work their way down. I waited for the family, but they waved off help. Onward, then. feeling the pressure of the lowering ceiling. .

Many boulder crawls followed, some with misleading paths that had me backing down to try a different approach, some that required going through on hands and knees. Three things to bring next time I try something like this: spare batteries, a hiking partner to go for help if I sprain an ankle, and gloves.

Photos -- not much use, really. The flash did reveal mist blowing downhill inside the tunnel, not visible to my eyes.

Up, up, up, boulder crawls getting steeper. How would the family manage, I wondered? The parents seemed confident, the children cheery.

The first skylight! A group of teen guys, clearly gripped with the same almost-panic that I was fighting, was trying to climb out the steep and lichen-covered walls. I excused myself past, reminding them that the ranger had said that the second one was set up as the exit.

On, on, on. The black glass walls closed in, sending me down on hands and knees to crawl under low points. I never cracked my head on the roof, but brushed it two or three times. I could hear the guys who had given up on the first skylight following me.

Finally, the second skylight, with a stepladder. "Found it!" I called back down the tube. Up into the forest, distracting a crowd of students from their teacher's efforts trying to stir interest in his students, Socratic style. They weren't buying it.

Downhill, then, as the shadows deepened over recognizable vents from the tunnel below, chatting with others who had gone through ahead of me. How amazing and strange, I said, something I did not know I had to do before I die, and now I've already done it!

Back at the car, I tried to find the energy to set up a waterless bivouac for the night Desires for wifi to finish planning for tomorrow's travels and for a celebratory dinner won out.

From a sign at the Visitor Center, along a memorial walkway over wetlands created by rockslide dams during the eruption --

As we reflect upon those who died during the eruption, we must respect the unimaginable power of natural forces. Some will only remember the mountains explosive eruption, and others will only remember those who died.

May 18, 1980. Let's remember it all. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back to the US of A

Very slow wakeup this morning after yesterday's marathon drive to Port MacNeil and back, taking advantage of generous slacktime I had planned in before the 1:30 boarding start in Victoria. Double coverage, really, since the boarding began 90 minutes before the actual ferry departure, allowing for U.S. customs.

I drove down to Nanaimo, parked, strolled to the boardwalk, had a cup of "Tiger Butter" ice cream for a snack (erm, well, interesting ...), and went back to the car with plenty of time for the drive to the ferry port

except for the road construction. I did post something about the excellent road conditions? There's no such thing as a free lunch, or 100 percent uptime without maintenance shutdowns. The workers were alternating northbound and southbound traffic through one lane at a time, and our direction included a largish construction shovel inching along on treads.

The Ion was the second-to-last car to make the ferry. (Whew.)

At 4:45 pm, back in Port Angeles, with 1500 more kilometres on the odometer. Ginny had reminded me, so I stopped for dinner at Gordy's in Port Angeles -- don't miss it if you happen to visit here, best pizza west of the Five Boroughs.

Soon again, Vancouver Island

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Vancouver Island in a day

"Serious Coffee". Hey, somebody get this chain franchised south of the 49th Parallel, and it may actually force Starbucks to start serving coffee ... serious muffins, too, I had to ask for a box.

Nanaimo's busy harbor hardly seemed interesting as a kayaking place. Given advice, I turned the Ion north at 1:50 pm for a four hour drive to Telegraph Cove and Port McNeil.  On a whim, I took the Oceanside Route to go local, get away from the four lane concrete rivers for a while ... sundown isn't until, what, 9 pm or so.

Discoveries on the back roads --

All the roads I traveled on were in excellent condition. Pretty impressive, given climate and heavy truck use by the lumber industry, eh?

In Courtney, A&W Canada is offering a 20 oz. cane sugar root beer with sweet potato fries! Could it be the same in the USA? I haven't been to one in years, but this root beer tastes like I'm ten years old again.

A sign in Parksville advertised the "Brigadoon golf course". Okay, both Scottish heritage, but does the course only appear when the PGA tour is in town? Slightly different connotation of walking through the heather, also.

Along both the Trans Canada Highway and the local roads -- small blue roadside info signs about ten cm square marking Artisan shops, with a white tag underneath for the kind of art -- pottery, quilting, metalwork, dance, and so forth. Slightly larger ones mark the B&B's ... and the wineries get much larger boards, brown and white. Flashy USA style billboards are rare outside the cities.

Cyclists coexist with 90 kph (55 mph) traffic along narrow margins. I wouldn't, but it works for them.

Hitchhikers also, mostly solo. No safe way I could see to stop and pick them up, even if I had room.

Stark and strangely shaped peaks, deep valleys ... Telegraph Cove looked much better as a kayaking venue. All closed up by the time I arrived, unfortunately.

After a Thai chili wrap at Gus's Grill, I refueled and headed back at 7:35, adding another four hours to a long and enjoyable day, wishing I had more time and marking off the things I wanted to see next time.

Seaplane takeoff Nanaimo harbor

Does anybody know what time it is?

Port MacNeil