Monday, July 27, 2015

Well, I'm back

John Kittridge drove me back to Valhalla Ranch this morning. There was a joyful two-Bernard committee waiting to welcome this prodigal son back, and the overstuffed chair was ready for me after I finished the ritual greetings, sniffs, and buttscratches.

Thor in his summer suit Valkyrie in her summer dress

Yesterday's transcontinental trip was my first flight on the new C-17 transport! Here's a stock photo.

 Takeoff was extremely late (3 hours); after all, we were just extra cargo! They stuffed me in at the 940 mark (centimeters?), port side.  The old web seats have been replaced with a slightly cushioned ergonomic design, it seems, complete with a personal fire protection evacuation hood ... no life vest, though.

The flight was more of a family overnight experience than the usual cattle car feeling on commercial flights -- kids and some adults spread pads on the cargo floor, unpacked their PBJ box meals, refilled their cups and flasks from coolers full of ice water. Hate to think what some clear air turbulence would have done.

Plenty of leg room, though, about eight feet from the side mounted seats to the center of the empty cargo bay. And noisy children? Not a problem, we all had earplugs in to damp out the sound of the engines rumbling through the hull at our backs.

 The youngest member of the loadmaster's team marched smartly down the line checking seat belts with a polite frozen half-smile on her face, looking very professional. Nomex flight suit was more fashionable than one would think for a fireproof set of overalls. It fit better than many uniforms that the services have inflicted on women service members.

She engaged in a spirited discussion about the port-a-potty pallet with the square-built loadmaster of perhaps twice her age. They were beyond passenger hearing range in the thundering cavern, but it involved a lot of pointing. The complex sequence involved in raising and lowering the aircraft tail ramp that fascinated all the kids in the audience (yes, me too) was hers to carry out as well --clearly a full partner in the team's work. Times are changing, if slowly.

On the ground again, the taxi dispatcher asked what city the Andrews AFB passenger terminal was in. Right, I said -- thanks, it may be midnight, but I'll find other transportation. With a base map in hand and orienting on the lights of the flight line, I walked through the empty night time streets to the Air Force Inn.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Turning east today after a week of canceled flights to Yokota as the AMC military airlift schedulers struggled to deliver military families safely past Typhoon Halala's meandering wander between Honshu and Korea.  The storm also made webcam views of my objective look less appealing, likely impassable for a solo hiker, and the height of Japan's vacation season threatened even higher burdens on the mountain trails' capacity. So, another day.

Noticing that conditions resembled the myth-laden storms sent by the goddess Amaterasu to destroy invading Manchu fleets in the 13th century, I chose to declare a successful scouting mission, turn back to Virginia, and plan my next attempt to climb Fujisan from the comfort of Valhalla Ranch.

 That may be a while in coming. The three weeks I spent in Olympic mountain range have revealed equal and more accessible vistas with a lot fewer hikers on the trail. Plus, fresh salmon and berries!

My deepest thanks to my generous and patient hosts Virginia and Steve Tebo, and to my close friend Barbara Cook.

It has been a long summer and a good one, with many unexpected and joy-filled discoveries -- most important, perhaps, confirming that I do find peace and purpose in the life of a wanderer.

Many photos remain to be posted after I return to the ranch!

Seattle - Tacoma Airport

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why worry?

As the saying goes among the Space A aficionados,  you're never lost if you don't know where you are going.

Second typhoon of the month is threatening the Kanto plain and causing USAF cancellations and delays of the biweekly shuttle run. I will keep trying, but it may not do much good toward climbing Fujisan this year -- the storms are also affecting trail conditions.

One more week. Climbing in the Olympics has been at least as enjoyable.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Back from a three day wander through the Cascades -- too many jaw-dropping photos to choose the best for this post!

Mount Rainier from Mount Townsend

Here's a link to the unsorted stack (still adding more):

 Latest training hike in the Olympics finished on Saturday, summiting Mount Townsend in the Quilcene district.

Next stop, Fujisan -- but not yet! Tuesday's flight is filled with refugees from last week's typhoon-related flight cancellation. Next flight is Thursday morning.

Not too upset, many more enjoyable things to do here on the Olympic peninsula, and my host Virginia Tebo is a wonderful chef; this evening, halibut perfection.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Defying Gravity


Maguire's retelling still reaches inside and evokes harshness buried in the ruins of my first decade in the new millenium. Angered by the actions of those I trusted, I still accept personal responsibility for allowing others to steal away so much that was valuable to me.

I stayed in my seat this time as Elphaba declared her rejection of the Wizard, of Madame Morrible, of all her patched-together hopes for a meaninful life ... "I can't want it any more".

Still shaken by his memories of a troop train that had been bombed into ruin in the Rhône valley years ago, my father tried to teach me better -- but I chose to listen to the Aquarians' fantasies instead, ignored the pendulum swing, looked away from the slide into the fear-driven state of close-minded and destructive actors that we have become.  Perhaps we always were.

Shi kata ka nai. Still honoring my oath of office, in any case.

Back from an overnight climb to Boulder Lake, only 680 m in six hours. That's about a third of the Mt Fuji climb that I need to do at a higher altitude some day in about eight hours, albeit with less than a forty pound pack.
Boulder Lake

The scenery on the way to the lake was worth the climb, though; we walked narrow and uneven trails on slopes whose end was hidden in the treetops below us. Our steps were wrapped in the silence of towering giants that measure their lives in decades and the company of their companions in centuries. The waistline of one tall ancient we met easily cleared 14 meters. Its neighbor, twisted through a forty degree arc by some accident in its youth, was just as awe-inspiring.

Mosquitoes at the lake were also impressive. Exhausted, we wrapped ourselves in raingear, made dinner quickly, and retired. I slept, as J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote, "in deep content, if logs are contented".

Serious trail bridge
Best waterfall on Boulder Lake trail

Difficult as it is to see here, this rain forest is suffering in its own way from the drought afflicting the West. Snow caps are nearly gone already and glaciers are retreating. Large swaths of hillside are covered with dead pine trees stressed and made vulnerable to invasive insect attack.

Everything changes, only change remains.

Best bridge on Hot Springs trail
Best hiking break

Monday, July 6, 2015

Olympic adventures

Photos of the Olympic Range from Hurricane Ridge
Yes, visitors are expected to stand and stare in awe.

Tuesday, Barbara Cook and I climbed the non-technical part of the trail to Mount Angeles ( 1780 meters, 10.5 kilometers) and met some mountain goats on the trail! Not having any noisemakers handy, we scrambled off trail and let them pass.

How not to leave a trail, reenacted
These are mountain goats
This is not.

Also not a goat, but a good idea for the next project!

Thursday and Friday,  the training plan steps up to a longer and higher climb to Boulder Lake in the Olympics.

During the rest day on Wednesday, the wonderful people who are supporting me here will join in for a dinner at Purple and for balcony tickets at a performance of Wicked! staged by a Broadway touring group. Next week, Virginia Tebo will lead a four day tour of the Cascades. The first day's hiking plan is a section of the Pacific Crest Trail!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

You don't have to have a point to be a Point

Just enjoying the peninsula for a day. I am registered with Space-A for the next 60 days, and training hikes start July 2.

Point No Point

Photo courtesy of my host, Virginia Tebo.