Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More enchantment pictures

These are the upper enchanments

Little Annapurna

These are the tracks from us glissading down the side of Little Annapurna

The view from the top of the pass

another view of Colchuck lake from the pass

I tried to load a video of my jumping off that rock into the lake, but it wasn't cooperating today and this coffee shop is closing so ill try to get it uploaded next time i'm in town.

The Enchantments

Friday we set out for the enchantment lakes area, which is kind of a big deal out here. You need a special permit to be able to camp in this area, which is available every morning by lottery, so it’s not easy to get a permit to camp at this amazing site. This is done this way by the forest service because there are so many people that want to camp there, and being the remote area it is, they need to regulate how many people are allowed to camp there to stop anymore damage from occurring to the environment there just from the presence of people and the waste left behind.

View of Colchuck lake from up the pass

The first day we hiked to Colchuck lake, which is the bluest water ive ever seen. It’s almost neon blue, it doesn’t look real. Me, Blake and Ashley saw this really big cube shaped rock across the lake, and knew immediately we had to jump off of it into the water, which im not afraid to admit, was a bit intimidating. I am guessing the rock was about 18-20ft high, and the water was far from warm. I jumped twice, and you get enough time in the air to get that weird feeling like your stomach just hit your throat while you are falling (very fun!).

Saturday we went up Asgard pass (aka “Assblaster” Pass, aka “Are you out of your mind? Im supposed to hike up that?” Pass). Asgard pass was probably one of the most challenging (mentally and physically) things ive ever done. The pass is 2000 feet high over around ¾ of a mile long, so that equals out to be a steep as hell climb. We had to build rock cairns up the entire thing. There isn’t a very defined trail, so we build these very distinguishable piles of rocks to kind of guide people up the best way to go, that way they can look ahead to see the next cairn and are able to plan their route up. What makes the pass difficult, other than the steepness, is that the entire thing is covered in boulders (big and small) and gravel/skree. This makes climbing up very scary because every other step you take you feel like you’re about to fall and become a bloody twisted mess. (Doing this wouldn’t be nearly as bad I didn’t have 45lb pack on that makes balancing a little on the tricky side) We worked on the pass for around 9 hours, then made our way up to the upper Enchantment lakes area, which is probably the most stunning scenery ive ever seen. Now, one of the interesting things about the Enchantments would be the goats… They are everywhere, and im not exaggerating. Apparently goats like salt, and have figured out that people provide a very nice supply of it for them (that would be through our urine, ug). The goats aren’t too patient about getting to the pee either. When you go to the bathroom, the goats follow you, so you are standing there trying to pee, with 5 goats within about, oh, 3 feet of you ready to pounce as soon as you pee (sometimes they don’t even want to wait for you to finish going to the bathroom, which can get a little freaky when they start fighting to get to the pee first with the other goats while you are trying to finish your business….) We camped at the top of the pass a little way into the Enchantments, where we promptly froze our asses off.

Asgard pass

Hi,we are goats and we will follow you around until you pee!

Sunday we finished building caryns and then went up a hike to Little Anna Purna. The hike up this peak wasn’t too bad, steep, but fun. Once you get to the top, you look over the other side, and there is a 2000 foot drop strait down, which was pretty freaking scary to stand on the edge of, which I did of course. Then came the fun part, getting down! There was a snow field that went almost the entire way down the side of Little Annapurna, so we decided to glissade down. Glissading is pretty much skiing down the mountain on your feet and breakneck speeds, which is quite fun and a little scary as well. Sunday night was so windy it was like the goddamn blair witch was outside shaking my tent all night. Luckily I had ear plugs so I could get some sleep with the howling wind trying to tear my tent out of the ground.

Standing on the top of little Annapurna with a 2000ft drop right behind my feet

Monday was the hike out, which meant we had to go down Asgard pass, quite a different hike than coming up. Going up the pass was very exhausting, but coming down was just plain scary. At least coming up you feel like you are in control for most of the time. Descending you are climbing down all this loose rock and boulders with this heavy as hell pack on, and every step feels like it will be your last and will send you tumbling down the mountain. Well, we all made it down, although most of us completely exhausted with our legs shaking from the hike (you use a lot of muscles not normally used when you are moving down a steep trail like that and jumping from boulder to boulder so it tires your legs our very quickly). I couldn’t believe how gross all of us were after only 4 days out working in the wilderness; I don’t even want to think about how bad we will stink after our upcoming 10 day trip…..

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

thank god this work week is over

if you look to the right of the river, there is the road i take into town through tumwater canyon.

This past work week was pretty much hell, with one exception. Friday(start of the past work week) we had to tear down some user built mountain bike jumps/trails. The bike community here had built a bunch on a trail on forest land (not allowed) and it sucked to have to go in there and tear out all these amazing jumps and ruin their fun. I can see both sides to the argument. The forest service wont put in a good course for the bikers, so they built their own, which the forest service has to tear out because user built trails are illegal on forest land. If they would just designate a place where they could have a good trail there wouldn't be any problem, but the forest service doesn't really seem to give a shit. This day wasnt too bad, other than the insane amount of work in very dry and dusty conditions (with not enough water to keep me hydrated so i lost energy very quickly).
Saturday morning started out awesome. The wildlife crew wanted to take a few from our crew out with them, so we drew straws to see who could go (they only had room for 2) and i ended up being one of the lucky ones! The goal of this trip was to find some spotted owls, which are very threatened out here. The head of the wildlife crew walked ahead of us into the forest, hooting for the owls, and they would hoot back, which was pretty cool to hear. They would come towards the hooting, and we would do the same until we found 2 of them. The male wasnt very interested in what we were doing, so he pretty much ignored us, but the female knew what we were up to and that she would get a treat out of participating. The point of finding the owls was to see if they have been banded and identified yet, and this is done by getting them to fly by you so you can see if there is a band on one of their legs. Do to this, you put a mouse on a stick, hold the stick out, and the owl swoops in and takes the mouse off the end of the stick right in front of you! I felt very lucky to witness something like this, since most people dont get to. I tried to get some pics, but the lighting sucked where we were and they didnt come out great. This is where the fun stopped for this week...
female spotted owl

The rest of saturday through monday was spent up on Icicle Ridge. For 3 days we had to hike up this 3 mile(i think?) trail, which had recently been burnt over and is very dry and hot, with little to no shade for the entire day. Once we got to the top. we were pulling Dalmation Toadflax (thousands of these goddamn plants). It seemed like it would never end and that we werent making any progress, which really had our crew's morale low. We were all very hot, thirsty and very cranky having to do the same thing in the same place for 3 days, and we still only probably got a 3rd of these freaking weeds off this ridge. By the end though, it seems like we probably knocked these weeds back and will keep them out of the wilderness for at least a few years (will be even better once next years crew does work up there). I think my crew leader felt pretty guilty for working a volunteer group like slave laborers so he took us all out to dinner last night, which definitely boosted our crews spirits.

burnt over ridge from hell
So, i think we are pretty much done with the weeding part of this internship! The rest of our time will be going on backpacking trips and doing work out in the wilderness. This coming weekend we are doing 3 nights in the Enchantment lakes, which is a big deal around here. It is one of the biggest attractions in the Wenatchee forest and only a limited number of people get to camp there (by reservation only) because of the damage larger groups would do to this particular environment. Ill be sure to post pictures as soon as i get back!

Oh, BTW, Mac and Jacks African amber ale is freaking awesome beer and i wish it came by the bottle so i could bring a case home with me in September. (only sold on draft) i wonder if i would have room for a keg in my car on the drive home.....

This video starts on the male owl, and of course i was looking away when the female swooped in for the mouse so i turned just in time to see her flying by the stick with the mouse on it and flying away with her snack. This is the best i could do.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

lazy days

On my second day off here, and am very much enjoying it. Yesterday i spent the day down at the lake with a few people from the fire crew and the wilderness crew. Good beer,cigars, great weather and a kayak! I hadnt ever kayaked before, and its very fun. My boss brought up his sit on top kayak for us to use, and im taking full advantage of it as long as the lake isnt too choppy. Its fun, but you get pretty soaked and the water is freezing. Im hoping to go out in it again later today. The rest of my crew is off doing some hiking trips, i decided i needed a few days to just hang out and recuperate from the intense work weve been doing.

On a much more depressing note, i got the call this morning that my Aunt Debbie died this morning (cancer) ..... my thoughts are with my uncle and cousins and im sorry i cant be there to be with the family.

Monday, July 14, 2008

been a while!

Ok people, sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated this thing. Its not easy for me to get online out here with my laptop. The place I can go near here for wireless internet has terrible hours and a really slow connection so it makes picture upload damn near impossible. My only other option is to drive into town (30 min drive) which I haven’t had the time/energy for after work hours.

Last week we climbed Mt. David on one of our off days, which was probably the hardest hike ive ever done. It was 7 miles to the top (elevation 7.400 feet if I remember correctly) and was steep as hell. We got to the ridge before the summit but could continue no further due to the amount of snow still on the mountain top. It was at least waist deep and melting so it was impossible to walk through.

On top of Mt. David

The peak we couldnt climb to b/c of the snow:

A few days after the Mt. David trip I noticed that the freaking sole of one of my boots was falling off, which shouldn’t happen on a very new pair of expensive boots…. This was solved by returning them to REI and picking up a new pair (for a little more money but it was worth it!). I took a day trip into Seattle on Tuesday with Natalie (one of the girls on my crew who also needed to return a pair of boots to REI) and besides the boot returning trip, we went and got some really good sushi. The new boots are great and have given me no trouble (or blisters) and I am very happy I went with these over the other pair I had. Oh, we also stopped an Ethiopian restaurant (I wasn’t hungry but tried some of Natalie’s food). This was quite different than anything I’ve seen, and pretty tasty!

New boots!

Friday we left for our first backpacking trip! We hiked a total of around 20 miles over 3 days (14 of those miles were with full packs). Backpacking is very different than the usual hikes im used to. I weighed my pack before I left, and with food and water it was around 45lbs, which isn’t fun to carry all damn day. You move a lot slower with that much weight on your back, but you get used to it quickly (after you figure out how to distribute the weight correctly so most of it is carried on your hips). We camped for 2 nights by the creeek (ok, what they call a creek out here, we would call a raging river back in Illinois) and had frequent visits by deer that weren’t afraid of us at all, which wasn’t a good thing. I am a VERY light sleeper, so the first night I really didn’t get any sleep because the deer wouldn’t stop wandering around my tent and pissing me off! Yelling at them really doesn’t do any good, they don’t seem to mind the noise, but they aren’t too keen on a few rocks headed in their general direction… So, it was a good first trip, I am starting to figure out ways to lighten my pack weight a bit and am realizing what things I need and what things are just nice to have. I carried the tent for the guys, but was the only one who used it. The other guys preferred to sleep outside under the stars (more room in the tent for me!). The girls had their own tent as well. I’m sorry, but there are way too many goddamn bugs out here to sleep out there without a tent. The mosquitos out here are unlike anything ive seen before, I think the first hike I took out here I ended up with around 38 bites, and I don’t react well to mosquito bites. I get nice big welts instead of the tiny little bumps a normal person would get from a bite. Bug spray helps, but there are just so many of them that it doesn’t really matter what you do (outside wearing full rain gear or a coat all the time, because those seem to be the only fabrics they can’t bite through). I think those little bastards come with armor piercing needles out here.

The "creek"

Full pack and a shovel, not light:

Ill try to do updates more, it just depends when I can get online. I can do simple things from the ranger station, but with all their security on their pcs, I can’t hook up my camera to upload pictures. Nobody wants to read a blog about backpacking without some great pictures to go along with all the boring text!