Thursday, August 28, 2008

Climb On!

These 2 pictures are of the first route i did up Barney's Rubble.

I havent been rockclimbing in about 8 years, so the opportunity to get back up on a cliff wasnt one i was going to pass up! I went out with Adam, Blake, and 2 of Adam's friends who happened to be in town. Adam and his friends are damn good and very impressive to watch. I was a bit on the rusty side... We did 4 different routes, 2 of which i wasnt able to complete. We did 3 up a rock called Barney's Rubble and then one up a route called Classic Crack.
The third route i did up Barney's Rubble. This is one of the 2 i was able to complete.

I havent ever climbed a crack before, and holy hell is it different. My hands look like ive been fighting a brick wall and they hurt like hell today from learning how to hand jam. (hand jamming is where you cram your hand into the crack, then expand your hand by either cupping your fingers, flexing your thumb, or just making a fist so your hand wont slide out of the crack so you can get leverage) Granite is very rough, so cramming your hand in between the rock and then putting most of your weight pretty much takes all the skin off the back of your hand when you slip out.
Even though i only made it up 2 of the routes successfully, i was pretty happy with myself, considering i havent climbed in so long and hadnt ever done a crack climb before. The cuts, scrapes and bruises are definitely worth it! Im not sure if ill have a chance to get out climbing again before im done here, but i hope so!
Adam setting our route up Classic Crack. (which defeated me many times....)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

8 Mile lake

This last trip was for 4 days at 8 Mile lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This trip was a little different because in addition to the normal crew, we had 3 other people go with. Amelia, another intern in the forest service, Carly, a wilderness ranger, and Carlys boyfriend Jon tagged along. We went out on this trip to do some plant control on Canada Thistle, a rather nasty weed. This wasnt like our usual weeding trip. Normally when we are out weeding, we are in an area where you can just sit and pick the weeds out in the open, usually in a field. This particular weed, while still abundant, is really hard to find. It likes to spread out and hide in very thick underbrush, so finding it requires alot of bushwhacking. This made it more difficult, but more fun because it meant i got to go climbing around through the brush and jumping from fallen tree to fallen tree (i took 2 really good falls, but didnt get hurt thankfully). Saturday morning was the first day of weeding, and i was working around this rather thick patch of brush when something started to growl at me, which of course no one else heard and therefore didnt believe. Well, i couldnt see what it was, so i just kept on working. A few minutes later i came around the corner to find a nice fresh pile of bear crap, so i think i was very very close to pissing off a bear. Im glad it didnt decide to eat me.
This is the meadow we started picking weeds in, and ended up crashing around in the brush around it.

Sunday we went on a hike up to the Caroline lakes and then up to Windy pass (appropriately named, it was windy as hell). This was a 10 mile round trip hike, and it was definitely not easy. Halfway down from the pass the rain started, and didnt really stop until early monday morning, so we had a rather wet evening.
View from Windy pass
Monday was the hike out and a little more weeding. We were all working under this ridge when my crew leader suddenly calls us all over and tells us to hurry. I get over there to see a little black bear climbing around on the ridge! This was the first bear ive seen out here so i was very excited. We watched the bear climb around for a while (he was probably about 100 ft away from us), and he didnt really seem to be very interested in what we were doing, which is a good thing. Of course i didnt have my camera with me, it was in my pack down the trail and i didnt feel like wasting time going to get it, knowing if i did the bear would be gone by the time i got back.
Im off work now until friday,but then i have to work for 10 days in a row to finish up my internship! We are taking a 3 day trip, followed immediately by a 6 day trip. Monday the 8th will be my last day of work out here, mostly to turn in gear, say goodbye to everyone, that kind of stuff. My dad is flying out on the 12th to do some hiking and drive back with me. We are hoping to stop at a few places along the way too, to do some hiking and camping.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Days off

After working for 13 days in a row, we had 8 days off! I go back to work next thurs, so im doing quite a bit of relaxing before i have to strap on a backpack again. So far ive spent many hours in the hammock with a cigar and a beer, time in the lake on the kayak, and done a little bit of hiking. There is this old abandoned mining tunnel i had heard about so i went to find it, but i forgot my headlamp and only had a flashlight and it was way too dark to try to go through it with the light i had. Im going to go back to it, hopefully with a few people with headlamps so we will actually be able to make our way through.
entrance to the tunnel

Into the dark
looking back at the opening of the tunnel.

I took a day trip into Seattle yesterday, which was fun, but would have been more fun if i had someone to spend the day with in the city (Particularly laurie). I started out going to the Mac and Jacks brewery, but unfortunately they werent doing any tours that day. I picked up a few pint glasses and a growler of their African Amber Ale (soooooo good) which i pretty much finished off last night. Its only a little over 2 hours to Seattle, so not a bad drive at all depending on traffic. I also did some shopping at REI, Pike Place market, and a nice little cigar shop at the market as well. Im not sure what ill be doing for the rest of my days off, probably more of the same. Its going to be around 108 degrees today, so im hoping to go out kayaking in the lake again to cool off.

Hooray Beer!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Scottish Lakes and the PCT to Lake Valhalla

Since we got back 2 days early from our Augusta trip, we had to do 2 more days of work before our break, so Rich had us do day hikes doing wilderness ranger work (making contact with hikers, checking signs, checking wilderness toilets, that kind of stuff).

Loch Julius

Sunday we hiked to the Scottish lakes, which were appropriately cold, windy and rainy, but still pretty. We drove up through a terrible looking clear cut on the way to the trail, which was depressing, as those things usually are. We went to 3 lakes, Julius, Eileen and Donald. We had to dig a new toilet at lake Eileen, which is about as fun as it sounds.

Loch Donald

Lake Valhalla
Monday we set off for Lake Valhalla, via the PCT. This hike was great, about 6 miles and a relatively flat and fun hike (a nice change from the very challenging hikes ive been doing the last 11 days). The weather was cool, but thankfully not as wet as the previous day. On the hike in we passed this boulder field and a family of marmots! I frequently hear these things, but rarely get a chance to see them this close up.

The rest of the day was spent checking campsites at the lake and doing some weeding towards the first mile of the trail. None of us were very excited to be pulling weeds again, but luckily we are off for the next 8 days! I am planning on getting a few hikes in and hopefully a trip to seattle.

Lake Augusta

Lake Augusta

My last trip was to lake Augusta, and was supposed to be for 10 days but we cut it short due to the fact that we are awesome! (got our work done faster than anticipated) The purpose of this trip was to work on erosion control around the lake area from sheep grazing a long time ago. What happens is the area that has been overgrazed starts to erode and cause a shelf-like pattern to appear on the landscape. The way we fix this is to dig underneath the shelf and drop it down to make a more gradual slope that wont erode nearly as bad. The hike in was pretty brutal (8 miles, most of it going up and up and up....)
This is what the the erosion problems looked like before we got to them

This is after we evened out the slope

This trip started off rough to begin with. We were being packed in by mules because of all of the equipment and supplies needed for this particular job, and we were rushed to get all of our food together for 10 days for 5 people so the mules could carry it in, so right off the bat we were having problems trying to get everything done in time since we were supposed to have a few extra days to get this stuff prepped. The morning we were leaving, we were told that no one was coming back to get all of our tools/trash/extra supplies, ug. This normally wouldnt have been a problem but due to the fact that we were told someone would be coming back in with mules to carry stuff out, we didnt pack light enough to have extra room to carry out all of our stuff. We figured it out, but all ended up carrying an extra 20 or so lbs in our packs and a few tools each (shovels, polaskis, loppers....).

The worst thing about this trip was the mosquitos. Pretty much the entire time out there from 6am till 10pm the mosquitos were out in thick clouds that basically made you want to scream all the time. If you waved your hand in front of your face you would probably hit 30 of them. There was a constant hum in the air all of the time that seemed to melt our brains a little bit, and i ended up wearing a bug net in the mornings just to keep my sanity before we started working.

The worst thing that happened was the day before we were hiking out. It was about 5pm and i was just getting finished with work, and bent down to tie up my boots when i completely collapsed. My back decided it wasnt going to work anymore for the rest of the day, so i had to crawl to my tent and lay flat on my back until about 6 the next morning because i couldnt really move at all. I was still very sore in the morning, but able to hike out with minimal pain. Luckily our supervisor Rich hiked in the day before to help us carry out some of our tools and supplies so that lightened our packs a little bit.
On top of the ridge overlooking the lake

The Crew: Blake, our supervisor Rich, Natalie, yours truly, Lee, and Ashley.