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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Visiting a civilized country, no passport required until you leave

Ginny and I walked down to the state park beach with Blue before I left, resolving the world's troubles and supporting Blue's favorite exercise.

Looking out across the Hood Canal, I found myself wondering once again why I have passed through this part of the country so often without actually settling here? Not for lack of interest ... might have something to do with thoughts about the winters that leave snow packs on all the mountains.

View from Ginny and Steve's house

To Blue, all our concerns must seem to be wasted effort. The important questions are clear, and he knows the answers. When there is water, jump in it (not flowing water, an important distinction). When the water is big enough for swimming, find a stick and bring it to the Boss. When she throws it, race out to capture it, carry it back huffing and chuffing, and bite it a bit just to teach it a lesson. Then take it to the Boss, lay it down, and shake the water off your coat. That seems to amuse her for some reason.

Oh, and when the Boss calls, drop everything and come a-running! Then shake your coat off once more for good measure.

North, and then west into the Olympic peninsula. No submarines headed out today, so the drawbridge to Port Angeles was available, the trip through the deep forest was easy, and I was among the first cars to queue up for the 9:30 ferry.

Why is the ferry experience so much less irritating to me than the airline's? Same long delays boarding the flight, certainly. The obsession with invading personal space in the name of security, though, is absent, as is the focus on jamming as many bodies as possible into physical restraints.

Time 11:10 pm PDT. Odometer 217918. Victoria, British Columbia.

The GPS took me out of town and down a dark highway to the Malahat RV Resort, where I set out my tent in the shadows of unoccupied RVs and slept untl 5:30.

Why exactly did I come here? Right, Nanaimo. Kayaks. Canada, eh?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

North by Northwest

 4 am ... Bend, Oregon, after a long drive. What day was I supposed to be in Grand Junction? Cross check. July 24, right. What day is today?

Slow start, only 5 hours driving to go, plus traffic on Interstate 5. Those Californians, they just drive in circles all day. Not that we have anything against them, really.

Country Nook Restaurant. Spanish omelette with avocado on top and 1/2 inch thick wheat toast because, well, Left Coast. No WiFi, though; waitress apologized, owner closed access to customers out of security and inappropriate use concerns.

Inappropriate use? I did not ask.

Of note -- in Oregon, full service is the norm. No self service. Attendant was ready to be defensive about it, but I preempted with a declaration that it was safer than customary self service practice elsewhere. Which it is.

Northward! Passing over the Crooked River, skirting Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood. Locals and aficionados can identify all of the snowtopped peaks between here and Vancouver by shape, but I need a map. Mount Hood is reasonably easy to identify from US 26, though.

Crooked River Canyon

Mount Bachelor?
Mount Hood from the coffee house

Mount Hood from a little closer

Interstate 5 provided a less than welcome reminder of the world I left behind this summer, both while skirting Portland and again passing by Tacoma. Don't these people understand? If they can't get this under control, their fate will be the same as commuters in the Washington DC area!

Family friends Peggy and Larry were eager to hear about children and grandchildren, and to introduce me at the nunnery where they attend Mass. The priest, one of the many who speak from the Spirit rather than from the hierarchy, had good common sense advice to offer. Why do we worry so much about how others behave? We can let that all go, be free of the burden of trying to judge all those people -- and focus on getting on with our own lives. Amen.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Will the circle be unbroken?

Keith stripped down his old pack before heading over to the airport, cutting back weight to avoid airline surcharges. Want some wool socks?

Airport shuttle run, breakfast, laundry, cleanup. Northbound, then west Into Oregon again at 11:30, 217072 miles on the odometer.

Sign on a pair of weathered silos "Vale or bust!" Vale was only four miles farther down the road, so hopefully they made it.

I stopped for an early lunch at a roadside cafe deep in the range of hills south of the Malheur Forest. It was refreshing, with friendly counter service, and large helpings -- but when I pulled out, I headed the wrong way. Again.

It was the potato salad that did me in

Corrected, refueled, back on track westbound toward Bend, Oregon.

Time's long churning of the earth's surface is very visible here. The mountains with their seabed layer caps driven up by a burst of volcanic activity as recently as a million years ago, are collapsing into rivers of gravel and dirt pouring over the harder rock layers. They almost look like one of the strange buildings Gaudi created in Barcelona. 

Below, the creeks cheerily drag it all toward the sea. Will the cycle ever end? A few decades ago, almost every scientist would have confidently said yes. Now, with theories once mistaken for facts in doubt, phrases like "dark matter" and "dark energy" stand in for the "aether" that 19th century physicists spoke of and the Renaissance cartograghers' "Here there be dragons" admission of old.

Actually, we're not sure, let us know what you find if -- er, when you get back.

Another sign. "Do Not Pass Snow Plows On The Right." Good advice, even in summertime. Also, coffee may be hot.

After visiting with friends and family in the Puget Sound area, I will take Black Ball ferry into Canada for a short exploration. Then, south to Grand Junction, west to Castro Valley, east to BeATrice, Nebraska, farther east to Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, and the finish line.

I just keep rolling. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Out of the wilderness

And then it was time to close the circle, to hike down the mountain and leave this wonderful wilderness behind.

On Mary's advice, we took the lower "Horses Only" trail back to the parking lot rather than the less well maintained "Hikers" trail. That seemed a good choice! Given the number of washed out trail sections leaning over open slopes that, if much shorter than the ones we had already traversed, were still considerable enough to make our final hike interesting. 

Could a horse and rider actually manage that trail? Possibly so, but given the option I would walk instead.

Everyone took time in the parking lot to clean up and change into fresh clothing. On the way out, we stopped in to visit Prairie City's Eclipse Store, chat with the proprietors, and share the excitement and anticipation of those magic two-plus minutes on August 21.

We ate lunch together with the last of the local crew members and said goodbye.

Back to Boise. Keith and Kirsten fly back to Virginia tomorrow, and I will head northwest.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Another early start, this time to outrace the sun's heat on the ridge climb stripped by last year's fire. Kirsten and I made it barely in time.

Keith scouted ahead for ways around snow barriers reported by other hikers on the trail, while Tom lead us around the edge of a smaller ice pack.

When we caught up with Keith, we found him looking at a hundred-yard section of ice-blocked trail on a near vertical slope. No surprise that so many hikers had turned back!  Our two mentors, though, stepped over the trail edge and into the scrub that clung to the slope, edged along and through narrow rock fields, over smaller snow packs. The cross country approach saved time, our guides said, as we descended to Slide Lake. 

The rest of the group, who had come up from the other direction, welcomed us! They were getting ready for a short walk to explore Little Slide Lake, would we like to come along?

Sure! We'd hardly had any exercise that day, the sun was still high in the sky, and the mosquitos were still descending on anyone who stayed still for more than a few minutes.

As it turned out, Little Slide Lake was as much a highlight of the trip as Strawberry Falls and the mountain summit. The glass-clear water, the thick sea green moss covering the bottom, and the rock ledges and trees surrounding the lake called thoughts of fae folk to mind, the sun's warmth invited thoughts of an impromptu swim call -- so a few of us did.   

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday: getting High

Still recovering from Monday's summit climb and descent, we still rose shortly after sunup, breakfasted, and struck camp. Full packs, with extra water.

At the base of the scree slope, Kirsten and I carefully reviewed the possible ascent options. Where was the cross trail at the top where our climb would finish? We could not see it. 

We chose our path to work upward in short scrambles between the islands of relatively stable ground. Kirsten chose to pick out sure footing among the rivers of middle-sized shards, while I dug my boots in and worked upward on finer gravel. We alternated leads, leapfrogging between patches of evergreen scrub and avoiding looking back down until we were firmly seated on solid outcrops. 

Very aware of our novice abilities, the long open slope at our backs, and our packs' effect on our balance, we climbed slowly. Finally, I spotted a long, flat difference in the slope's appearance under the rising sun. We debated. Could it be the trail? We climbed higher. 

It was the trail, success after an hour's struggle! High fives and hugs for making it on our own before the more experienced hikers caught up.

We followed the well defined track south off the scree, off the mountain, and down to the meeting point on the ridge.

At the intersection, Kirsten chose a grove out of the sun. Unfolding my sleeping pad, I lay back, watched the wiry little tree's branches move in the morning breeze, and enjoyed the peaceful quiet. 

A hummingbird, the only one I ever saw on the trip whirred up and perched less than a yard above me! 

When Kevin and Tom arrived from their scouting of the trail ahead, we repacked our gear and hikedl south towards High Lake. Onward!

As Kirsten and I approached the turn around a bluff that would reveal the lake to us, Keith hailed us from a rock outcropping on the ridge above us. "Snow blocked! Come around, come up this way!"

We looked up the thirty feet incline of sharp-edged boulders, scrub, and loose rocks, shook our heads, sighed, and picked our way up the slope. Sure, why not? Compared to our morning ascent, it was hardly worth mentioning.

An hour later, we descended a slope laid bare of shade by a forest fire last year. The afternoon sun ate away our fading energy, leaving little strength left to appreciate the alpinr lake's quiet beauty nd set up camp in a grove of unburned trees at the lake's edge. We beat back the mosquitos, ate and retired.

One  more mountain pass, and the finish line for the full circuit hike would be in sight.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday, July 10 Ups and Downs

Updated to correct calendar sequence of events. The second day of our adventure was Monday -- mbj.

4 am wake up to the soft rumble of the falls, and up at 5 to strike camp. (Another common theme of our time here, actually a welcome one for me.) I walked back down the trail to immerse myself in the waterfall one more time, and then rejoined Kirsten to break camp and head out ahead of the group.

The trail went up smoothly through the pine forests, past great walls of uplifted seabed decorated with a light green lichen that gave the layered cliffs an appearance like that of rows of cuneiform writing. The Artist's signature, perhaps?

An unhappy discovery -- my smartphone battery was exhausted. All photographic records of our travels would have to wait for others to share what they had captured.

Onward over open meadows with hundreds of brightly colored flowers! Kirsten photographed them all. (Yes, I will post them as soon as she sends me the link.) 

The trails grew narrower, the vistas more awe-inspiring.

We clambered carefully over a number of trail-blocking snowdrifts and skirted a few others (common theme number 3). The others began catching up with us while we were eating lunch at a campsite just below the climb to Strawberry Ridge.

Based on reports of more snowdrifts ahead, the team changed plans to amend our self-contained status and include us in their climb to the summit (yet another common theme, numer 4!) We emptied our packs of nonessentials and followed them up the trail.

Just short of the ridgetop, the trail switchback disappeared into a large snowdrift -- impassable for our gear and experience level. Prospects for summiting the mountain looked grim.

Keith and Tom, our crew's mountain goats, went around the snowdrift and straight up the slope to the ridge, then called down from a few hundred feet above that the trail was clear on top of the ridge. Mary, the group's informal leader, declared that she was going to make the climb and invited us along (ct #4). 

Several team members gifted with less adventurous and more sensible spirits declined, but Kirsten and I looked up at the open slope and then accepted her invitation. Neither of us wanted to leave the summit unclimbed. Excelsior?

So up we went following Mary's lead, bushwhacking our way across loose earth and stone, around rock outcrops topped with scrub, and finally -- with a helping hand or two -- through a break in the snowdrift at the ridgetop.

Then, a mile-long march along an exposed slope with the early afternoon sun beating down on us and a final ascent over shattered stone plates to Strawberry Mountain's summit at 9042 feet!

We sat in the sun, posed for photos (yes, many photos which I will share as soon as I receive them), and looked down on trails we had walked and on trails yet to come ... which brought up a concern. 

The gear that Kirsten and I needed to set camp for the night, which we had originally planned to bring to the ridge, was down below the ridge and effectively beyond our ability to retrieve before sundown. Also, the plan to continue on was threatened by reports of more trail blocking snowdrifts ahead on the team's planned circuit through High Lake and Slide Lake. The party that had accepted us could be left with no option other than a long retreat back over the way we had come.

Keith proposed that he and Tom could lead us on a run down one of the rivers of shattered rock plates leading off the mountain, followed by a bushwhack shortcut to the location where we had left our gear. We were to camp there overnight, and then return refreshed and ready to ascend the slope one more time.

With our full packs. On our own. Why not?

While we were struggling up several hundred feet of loose scree, Keith and Tom would reconnoiter the trail to High Lake and find alternate paths around any impassable snowdrifts. We would meet on the ridge, then, continue to High Lake, camp, recover, and forge onward to meet Mary and the remaining team members at Slice Lake. Thursday, then, we would hike out to the trailhead and successfully complete the full Strawberry Wilderness circuit that the team had planned and that neither Kirsten or I had expected to do.

In for a dime, in for a dollar ....

Running down a steep slope of loose rock turned out to be more enjoyable than it sounded, although more exhausting. When we reached the bottom without stumbling and rolling downhill with an avalanche of stones, we limped after our team mountain goats as they pushed over and through obstacles straight back to the site where we had cached our gear. It saved us a considerable amount of time, they said. 

Kirsten and I set up our tents and avoided the mosquitos by resting inside. Partly recovered, we managed to get through the evening rituals of  filtering water, making dinner, and retiring before hikers' midnight (sundown) with the mountain looming above us.

Looking up at the summit the next morning, we agreed that it was hard to believe we had been at the top just a day earlier, and had completed a total of about 5000 feet of ascents and descents in one day. But we did, and there were more adventures yet to come!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Arrival and climb to Strawberry Falls

Updated to correct calendar of events. Our arrival was on Sunday -- mbj

Early up! Keith packed in minutes, and out the door searching for the best free breakfast he can find. The hotel's breakfast was enough for me, and Kirsten followed for the same when she woke; we gathered at her table to review plans.

Leaving Keith to meet his ride, Kirsten and I shoehorned our gear into the Ion and left for the trailhead. We stopped for a hearty lunch in Unity, Oregon (bulking up on carbs for the trail), then drove into the Malheur forest eagerly trying to identify Strawberry Mountain among the many peaks ahead and hopong to get a head start on the rest of the group.

This looked good!

(An aside about photos; the ones posted here are my own inadequte efforts. The group included a professional photographer, a semi--pro, and a ccouple of eager amateurs. I plan to add links to those photos when they post them online.)

About half the group was there when we arrived at 1 pm, though, eating lunch. So much for arriving early. At least, we weren't last.

Forewarned that the group 's attitudes toward Eastern hikers had been biased by previous guest, we worked the crowd, assuring everyone that we were slow, but would hike as a self-contained team to avoid interfering with their plans. The first part of this proved true, as we found ourselves well behind the  pack, puffing our way up the steady slopes.

Forest-covered hills -- Easterners call them mountains. Tall pines.  And then, at the end of another exhausting climb in the afternoon  heat, a ghostly blue-white mist filling the air at the end of the green tunnel.

Strawberry Falls. I dropped pack and walked into glory. The sun was shining through the tall pines on the ridge above, the dark stone layers and green lichen glowed, and the mist from the cataract above enveloped me.

We clambered up a short slope -- the first of many on the trip as it turned out, and the easiest --  set up our camp above the falls.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Strawberry Mountain

Back from the four day expedition to the Strawberry Wilderness -- great hiking team, sanity defying climbs, wonderful sights beyond description, moments to remember for a lifetime.

Also, complete exhaustion. I plan to post more details over the weekend, on my way northwest.