Thursday, September 25, 2008

2 years...

2 years ago tonight i lost my buddy jon, so i smoked a RASS, his favorite cigar i supplied for our many cigar nights. I cant believe its already been 2 years, and i really miss meeting up with him for cigars, drinks, and some of the best conversations. I told myself i would smoke a RASS every year on this date, and so far ive been successful. So this one was for you bud.

Sunday, September 21, 2008



The Tetons

Well, im back in the flat boring nothingness of Illinois. Yes, im glad to b e home. No, im not glad to be out of Washington. its too flat here and the air doesnt feel/smell right. I had a great time driving back home with my dad though, other than the insanely long hours behind the wheel. He got to Washington on the 12th. He wanted to do a serious hike, so i took him to Lake Minotaur, one of the hardest, yet shortest hikes on our district. It promptly kicked his ass but he still had a good time. The next day we did some bouldering and a short hike to the tunnel i had been wanting to walk through, which we did (it smelled pretty bad in there). Monday we left and drove to Twin Falls Idaho for the night, and then onto the Tetons! We did a 15 mile hike through the Tetons on Wednesday, then it was off to Devils Tower via a drive through Yellowstone on Thursday. In the Tetons/Yellowstone we saw a moose and some buffalo. This was a 10 hour drive, and we went pretty much strait to the tower to take pictures.

We decided to drive strait through from Devils Tower to my dads in Rockford, a 15+ hour drive. We made it, with some of our sanity in check,but not much. Having someone in the car on a drive like this made an insane difference, and i didnt feel like i was going crazy all of the drive.
I got back to Dekalb on saturday, to a very excited laurie, who made me an amazing pot roast dinner. This was a huge surprise, considering laurie has never been one to cook, and it turned out very tasty!
Back to work tuesday.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008



Over the 3 months I have been out here I have learned a lot, not only about the environment and how the forest service works, but about myself and what is important to me. This list covers everything from things I have come to understand about myself and about some simple and not so simple things about the world that I hadn’t encountered/thought about before my time here. (This is a very long list. Sorry, but 3 months is a long time and a lot of things come up!)

· Peanut butter tastes good with just about everything from milkshakes to pasta

· Everything tastes better after being in the wilderness for a few days.

· I will eat lentils and falafel (not only will I eat them, but have actually come to like them!)

· After a few days in the woods, you stink, everyone stinks, and its not a big deal

· Shitting in the woods isn’t great, but you get used to it.

· A shower after 8 days out is one of the most amazing things ever.

· Radiohead is actually pretty good

· It is possible to go without getting on the internet everyday (this was kind of hard at first since the internet is my main form of communication with many people)

· The average national park user is a slob. I cant believe the amount of litter people just leave in the woods.

· Not to rely on restaurants to cook the majority of my food. I have been cooking almost all of my own meals this entire summer.

· People being late for work consistently and making me late makes me very irritated.(ok, I already knew this, but the actions of several of my crew members just re-affirmed it for me)

· Patience is still something I need to work on

· What homesick really is

· After a few weeks, you kind of forget about TV (not that I’m not looking forward to watching some stuff when I get home)

· How much I truly miss Laurie when she’s not around. Long distance relationships are not easy, but it sure makes you realize just how important the other person is to you.

· Age definitely does not dictate maturity (another one I pretty much already knew, but new examples are always popping up to really hammer this one into my head)

· Seattle is probably the coolest city ever.

· Doing your own thing and not just following what everyone else around you is doing makes some people very uneasy and confused. I don’t need to be doing what you’re doing to have fun. Im fine, worry about yourself.

· I really don’t like being bossed around. This is different from a supervisor letting you know what you need to do. That im ok with. What im not ok with is people on equal footing with me ordering me around while standing there with their thumb up their butt.

· Being talked down to makes me want to punch said person in the face.

· How to successfully work in a group, even with all the personal and character differences between group members (most of which I have highlighted above).

· I can’t grow a beard very well.

· Just how often I repeat myself

· There are things that are nice to have with you when backpacking, but you figure out pretty quick what you need instead of things you just want when you have to carry it all on your back. Small things add up to extra weight very quickly.

· I need to continue to work on getting in better shape. This summer is hopefully just the start.

· Mosquitoes in very large numbers can drive a person to just about the breaking point

· Working for the forest service is actually pretty cool, but it is the government so there is of course plenty of bureaucratic bullshit to deal with along the way.

· The average person wants to help with environmental issues; they just don’t know how to go about doing it. This just shows how important environmental education really is and that it is something that needs to be stepped up. (well, I think so at least)

This was a very long list, sorry. These are just the things that come to mind when I think about my experiences over this summer. I have really learned a lot about what it takes to get out there and make a difference in the environment, and it’s really not easy work. Also, it may piss some people off along the way. We had people get mad at us for pulling noxious weeds because they thought they were pretty. I’m sorry, but these plants are taking over the forests and pushing out all of the native plants that are very important to the ecosystem here. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty to get involved in an issue or field you feel passionate about.

What am I going to do with the knowledge and experience I have gained over this summer? I still have no idea, but I think im one step closer to figuring that out. Im thinking something to do with trees…..

blake attacking Lee.

Lee being Lee.

Yeah, thats right. real men backpack in a kilt!

Ingalls Lake

Up above Ingalls Lake

Our last trip was to Ingalls Lake. This was a 5 day trip to work on campsite restoration and minor trail maintenance. Ingalls Lake is a highly visited site in the wilderness, which means it needs that much more work done to keep it looking nice. Camping is no longer allowed at the actual lake, since there are very few places to camp around the lake and the few sites that are there are in terrible shape. The sites have been closed for some time now, and are starting to look better, but are going to need some major time to be fully restored. Our job was to make sure these sites are still coming along in their restoration and to make sure that no one is camping in them. If you want to camp near the lake you have to camp in the Headlight Basin, about a half a mile down from the lake. We did the majority of our work on these campsites. We were working on de-compacting the soil to promote vegetation to return to the areas trampled by hikers/campers. We also installed rock icebergs to stop people from enlarging the existing sites. The way these work is that you bury a big rock so just the top sticks out of the ground, that way no one can put a tent there since this rock is in the way. We put these around the edges of the existing sites to keep people camping on the already impacted soil. People tend to want to spread out; this is our way of discouraging this and saving surrounding vegetation. Also, we worked on closing user built trails in the campsites. These are trails that people have worn in going from place to place instead of using the designated trails. It looks really bad when there are 6 trails going to the same water source when one would do the trick. We close these trails by filling them with brush and rocks, hopefully keeping people off of them so vegetation will return and also directing people to the already worn in trails and helping prevent further erosion to the landscape.

The lake and surrounding area were absolutely stunning. We had an amazing view of the south face of Mt. Stewart from our campsite and during all of our hikes.

The lake and basin is surrounded by soapstone (Serpentine), which is pretty, but really damn slippery when you are trying to climb it. Our days were filled with working on the campsites, and our afternoons were spent climbing/hiking/scrambling around the surrounding rock and trails. The weather was perfect other than Friday, which was windy and cold. The first night out, Adam, another wilderness ranger I live with hiked in with his friend because they were climbing Stewart the next day. We stayed up a little later than normal drinking Yerba and looking up at the Milky Way, counting shooting stars. Our last evening out we had a visitor at our camp, another goat! This one was not nearly as obnoxious as some of the others we have encountered this summer. This being our last trip, everyone got along very well, with plenty of stories and craziness between the crew members. It will be sad to leave Washington, this place is amazing, but I am very anxious to get home to see Laurie and my family. Not being with laurie for 3 months hasn’t been easy. My dad will be here soon and we planning on doing a few hikes here, then heading to the Tetons and then off to Devil’s Tower before arriving back home.

Ingalls Peak. We climbed up the scree field to the left of the peak.

One of the hikes we went on included some major scrambling along this ridge.

Getting ready to leave. Wow does my hair look gross in this picture.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lake Josephine, Chain Lakes, and Doelle Lakes

Fog, lots of fog...

This past trip was rainy, cold, windy and muddy. It rained most of saturday and sunday, and was probably in the high 40s to lower 50s as far as temperature goes. We hiked 5 miles in on the PCT to camp at Lake Josephine, and were completely socked in by fog for most of the weekend as well. Sunday we did a 15 mile (round trip) hike up very steep, muddy terrain to the Chain lakes and Doelle Lakes to hang some signs, get rid of some fire rings, and pick up some garbage. This was the longest hike ive done, and it was pretty brutal. The 2 nights were miserable. We were so damp that it was hard to keep warm, luckily it was a short trip. I wasnt able to get alot of pictures on this trip, mostly because of rain and fog. The lakes were actually pretty amazing from what i could see of them though.

Lower Doelle Lake
Oh, we also got snowed on a few times as well. Not a very exciting trip report, sorry. Tomorrow morning i leave for my last trip out here! We are heading up to Ingalls lake to do some work on campsites and soil erosion for 5 days. Ill hopefully get one more blog up before i leave washington (leaving the 15th!)