Friday, August 31, 2012

Once in a Blue Moon

Yesterday afternoon Liberty and I felt like going for a quick hike. We met up at 4:30 pm. Headed for the trail to Memaloose Lake. It's just a little ways beyond Estacada, and only 1.5 miles from the trailhead to the lake.



Time: 4:30 pm is a little late in the day to start a hike. (But it's summer, right? It doesn't get dark until 9:00 pm or so, right?) Um, it's almost September. And while I've been out playing hard all summer, the earth has continued it's steady rotation around the sun and it now gets dark at 8:00 pm.

Distance: Sure, the turnoff is only a little ways beyond Estacada. But then it's another 13 miles on Forest Service Roads. Actually, these FS roads weren't so bad. These roads were paved almost the entire way to the trail head. Still, they're twisty-turny. So we started hiking at 6:10 pm. (Did I mention that it now gets dark at 8:00 pm?)

More on distance: Sure, the map says it's only 1.5 miles to the lake. And you gain 500 feet of elevation, which means that, while the trail isn't steep the entire way, it's still a climb. And when you get to the lake, you're still not at the viewpoint at the top of the mountain. Oops. That's another .8 miles and another 700 feet of elevation gain. Plus there's a sign on that section that says, "Trail Not Maintained." Hmmm...

Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos from our brief moments at the lake.
 Memaloose Lake

What can I say? Liberty's tall. Hard to aim the camera. But we were both smiling.

On to the top of South Fork Mountain! (Boring name...who names these places? Why not Memaloose Mountain? By the way, did you know that "memaloose" means "burial ground" in the Chinook jargon?)

Wow - what a view! Even with the smoky haze from forest fires, we could see all the way from Mount Ranier near Seattle to Mount Thielsen near Crater Lake!!! Think of it. We were at 4800 feet elevation, and we could see mountain peaks all the way from the northern border of Washington to the southern border of Oregon. We could also see the following mountains in between: St. Helens, Hood, Adams, Jefferson, Olallie Butte, two of the Three Sisters, Three-Fingered Jack, and (maybe) Bachelor.

 Mount St. Helens in the left, background.

Mount Hood, with sunset on the slopes.

Sunset! Uh-oh...we gobbled our sandwiches. Before we started hurrying down that steep (unmaintained) trail, I called Mark. (We did have cell reception from the top of the mountain.) My message to him went something like this:

"Hi honey, we're at the top of the mountain above Memaloose Lake. It's 7:30 and we're just now starting down. There's a full moon, so we should be fine. But if we're not home by midnight, you'd better call Ken--he's been on this trail before--and come get us. Oh, and bring me a jacket. I forgot mine. Bye!"

We reached the lake again with enough daylight to see what we were doing. After that? Well, let's just say it got darker. And let's just say that both of us forgot to bring flashlights. But Liberty did have a "flashlight" app on her cell phone. Which was getting low on power. So we used it on the three stream crossings and a couple of other places where the trail got a little dicey. Other than that, we kept the phone powered off. Liberty called it "hiking by Braille." I called it "hiking-along-behind-that-shadowy-person/thing-up-front-and-trying-not-to-fall." 

End of story...yes, we made it home safely. No, Mark (and Ken) didn't have to come rescue us. Yes, I stayed warm enough just by hiking--no chills or shivering. Yes, we made it back to Oregon City at 10:30 pm a little late. And yes, we had a wonderful time! The kind of adventure that memories are made of, for sure.

Oh, and the full moon? Yup, it was really bright...on the other side of the mountain. If we had stayed out on the trail until midnight, we could have read a book. For us, on the west side of the slope, not so much. But it really was a blue moon! The second full moon in a calendar month. They're rare. There won't be another blue moon until July 31, 2015. 

I've already put it on the calendar for another night hike. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Camping 4: Twin Lakes

August catch-up: Part 5

This is the final camping post. Yes, it's true, we really did go on four campouts in a row, with only one or two nights at home between each one. It was crazy. Go home, wash laundry, pick up a few groceries, re-pack the camping gear, double-check our check-lists, and head out the door again.

One of my daughters asked me, "Why do you do this?" Not in a snarky way, but she was really kind of puzzled. She knows that I love to go camping and hiking, but wasn't this just a bit extreme?

Well, yes, it was. We were tired. The bed looked better and better every time we came home. And yet...what would we have left out? We loved every single outing, and even more importantly, we loved the people on every single outing.

In case you've lost track...

In the summer of 2012, Mark and I together...

  • spent 21 nights in a tent
  • backpacked 50+ miles
  • participated in 4 different week-long youth camping outings
  • organized 3 different family campouts
  • introduced 20 people to backpacking for the first time
  • and we hosted family in our home three different times, for a week at a time.

It's been an amazing summer. We have played really, really hard. Today I started back to work, and you know what? I don't even really mind too much. Because I really and truly got filled up with nature and the outdoors and family this summer. Watching kids head out down the trail, crossing into the wilderness boundaries, waking up next to a lake (or a stream) on a summer morning, watching the stars at night, picking blueberries with the fills something in me that I don't know how to do in any other way.

And so, speaking of introducing people to backpacking, allow me to introduce the Klines and the fun backpacking trip we took with them last week!

Ed Kline and I started teaching at Oregon City High School the same year (1995). Ed has heard so many things about our adventures over the years, and about a year ago he began saying, "We ought to go backpacking with you sometime..."

Well, "sometime" didn't get organized last summer, but this year, we made it a date.
Here's Ed with his wife, Christie, their daughter, Wrigley (white shirt), and Wrigley's friend, Ella (purple shirt).
We suggested several different "beginner" backpacking hikes, and they decided that Twin Lakes sounded perfect. It's about 2 miles from the trailhead to Lower Twin Lake.

Wrigley and Ella were great hikers. We didn't break out "The Whiny Hiker" song even once! When we arrived at the lake, they quickly chose our camp site and set up their tent. They had been practicing at home, and didn't need any help at all.

The view of Lower Twin Lake from our camp site. That's Bird Butte on the other side of the lake.

Mark showed Ed how to hang a "bear bag." Really, they ought to be called "chipmunk bags." It's the little critters that are a problem in these parts. They'll gnaw right through a pack to get at your trail mix. Mark showed Ed how to find a fist-sized rock, tie the end of a line to the rock, and then throw the rock over a tree branch. Once you have the line over the tree branch, then you discard the rock, attach the line to the bag, and haul it up over the branch. Easy peasy. Except, for a novice, there's just one little problem...  Ed told us that he's often heard that you should hang your food in a tree, but he never knew how you got the line over the branch.'s all in the rock you tie to your line. That's why it's so nice to go out with someone experienced your first time or two!

After we had our tents set up and the food dangling from nearby trees, we left our gear behind and took a day hike to Upper Twin Lake, about 2 miles away. It was a lovely afternoon and we all enjoyed ourselves. Here's a shot of the group chatting next to Upper Twin. Yes, that's Mt. Hood in the background, peeking over the trees.

From Upper Twin Lake, we hiked a little farther to the viewpoint on the Palmateer Trail. When we were here 3 years ago with Kat and Sarah, we followed the clues to a "Letterbox." Before this hike, I looked up the clues again online, and sure enough, it was still there! Emma discovered it hiding under a log, right where it should be.

In fact, the letterbox was right where we had left it 3 years ago! We looked through the little booklet inside the letterbox and found our signatures from our earlier visit. Two other hikers had signed it after us, on the very same day, and then no one else had visited the letterbox after that for three years!

It had a little moisture inside it, so we wiped it out and tidied it up with some fresh ziplock baggies for the booklet and the rubber stamp, and then the girls secreted it away again. I hope someone finds it soon!

Here's the group enjoying the letterbox booklet at the view point. That's Mt. Hood in the background again.
Did I mention that the viewpoint has a rather steep drop-off behind it? We made the girls sit down.

Back at our camp site, Ed and I are laughing about something. We've been close colleagues for 17 years! Numerous times during those years, we have shared classrooms. I just found out that I'll be sharing his room with him again this year, and when I emailed to let him know, his response was, "Woo hoo!" That's how I feel about it, too. What a treasure to have a job where your colleagues are your friends.

Mark made sure the fish knew that he was in town. They made sure to stay away from his hook. Like he says, "I'm fishing, not catching." Ain't it the truth. Although really, I think it's a way for him to just enjoy the scenery and the lake and have some quiet time to think, and all the time it looks like he's doing something. Smart fella.

Of course we had a campfire. Of course we roasted marshmallows. Need I say more?
(Ella, Wrigley, Ed)

Early morning view of the lake.

I discovered a funny thing about this lake on our hike. I've been here many times--day hikes, backpacking trips, even snowshoeing. But for some reason, I have never hiked the trail around the lake. I don't know why I've never done that before. It's not a huge lake or anything. While we were camped at the lake this time, I hiked the trail around the lake three times. Just to make up for lost opportunities, I guess. The best thing about those little circumnavigations? I discovered a whole bunch of secluded campsites tucked all around the lake. Who knew? Can't wait to come camping here again and try one out.

Another funny thing--on one of those hikes around the lake, we met a party coming in after us. It was getting close to dark, and they were a good-sized group. They hiked right on past our camp site (the first one you come to when you arrive at the lake), and marched off towards one of the more secluded sites. Best of all, they had two pack goats with them! I've heard of pack goats, but had not seen one before. The first goat was so well-trained that she didn't even need a lead. She just followed right along, carrying her load. The second goat was a pack-goat-in-training. Not only did she have a lead, but her guy was dragging her along with it. Guess she needed to sing along with "The Whiny Hiker Song." She wasn't carrying much, either. Her guy told us it was her first backpacking outing. I guess it's a little like taking the young grandchildren out  the first time...

Wrigley and Ella loved this log. They walked out on it several times a day. Sometimes they ran along it. Sometimes they laid there like turtles sunning themselves. Basically, this was a really good log.

Day 2, our packs loaded again, ready to hike out! This time we decided to take a different trail. It was a slightly longer route, and it definitely had more hills to it, but it went by the trail to Frog Lake Butte, which we wanted to see. The Kline clan was up for it, so off we went.
(Back row: me, Mark, Ed, Christie / Front Row: Wrigley, Ella)

At one point during our campout, Ed commented, "This wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be." I asked him what he had been worried about, and he said he hadn't know how it would feel to carry the pack. Well, he did great, and so did Christie. And the girls? We nicknamed them The Antelopes. They were always out front - we never could keep up with them.

After a steep hike to the top of Frog Lake Butte, what did we find? A cell tower. No view. Bah.

We did, however, find some delicious huckleberries. As Wrigley and Ella can attest. The huckleberries may have slowed us down a little.

Headed back to the parking lot. Do you know what that mark on the tree is? It's a blaze mark, used to mark the trail route. As in "blaze the trail." When somebody first figures out where a trail is going to go, he blazes it--i.e., make cut marks on trees every so often--then the trail crew comes along and clears the actual path.

Farewell, summer 2012! You were a good one! Thanks for so many wonderful memories of dear family, friends, the beautiful outdoors, good health and a strong body.

Camping 3: Pamelia Lake

August catch-up: Part 4

For our next camping trip (August 20-22), we went backpacking with grandkids again. Make that grandkid. Josh, now 12, got a "boy outing." We also invited Nathan, a 12-year-old from our ward.

Our destination was Pamelia Lake, just a little ways past Detroit Lake, off Hwy 22. I had been there once, over 20 years ago, back when I was the Assistant Scoutmaster over the 11-year-olds. (They used to call us Blazer Scout Leaders back in the much easier to say.)

We planned to spend 2 nights at Pamelia Lake so we could enjoy some exploring and fishing in the area. It is such a beautiful place! If you plan to go, be sure to contact the Detroit Ranger Station ahead of time for your wilderness permit - they are pretty strict about keeping a lid on the number of people accessing this area at any given time.

The next few photos are of Josh (dark hair) and Nathan (blond hair) on the way to Pamelia Lake. The trail is about 2 miles, with a steady uphill grade the whole way. The trail roughly parallels Pamelia Creek, so we were constantly within earshot of rushing water, and the scenery was beautiful all the way in.

The boys had so much energy! I had a hard time keeping up with them.

We imposed upon another hiker to snap a photo of all 4 of us: Me, Josh, Nathan, Mark

Pamelia Lake has 13 designated camp sites. Usually when we go backpacking, we can be pretty flexible about where we make our camp, but in places that have been "loved to death," the rangers have indicated where you can camp and make fires (with a steep fine if you break the rules). There were only two other camp sites being used when we arrived, so we were able to find a site with a fire ring...always a plus when camping with 12-year-old boys!

The view of Pamelia Lake from our camp site. The mountain in the center of the photo is in Hunt's Cove. I had hoped to day hike to see the area, but we'll save that part of the outing for next time.

Another lake shot - the boys went swimming both afternoons. At this end of the lake, there are a number of logs that have sunk at one end, and the other end sticks up out of the lake. The logs made great swimming destinations / diving platforms for the boys during their swims. The weather was warm enough that the boys were glad to enjoy the cool water.

Mark and I optimistically set up our tent without the rain fly. However, at 1:30 am on the first night, Mark was awakened by thunder...and it wasn't long before the drops began to fall on our faces! We threw on our boots and scurried around in the dark, getting our tent all snug and dry. We always put plastic garbage bags over our packs at night, so all of our gear was fine. We chuckled at ourselves, then went right back to sleep. The next morning the sun was shining and we had another beautiful day!

Smart boys - they already had their rain fly on their tent. They slept through the nighttime weather.

The next morning we took a day hike to Grizzly Mountain. Love the sound of that name - like something out of an adventure story! Our contour map showed that it would be a steep 3 miles to the top of the mountain...but we had high hopes of fabulous views, so off we went!
The trail to Grizzly Peak. Lots of lush growth. The trail was not only steep, it was narrow in places.

Every so often along the way, the forest would open up and give us tantalizing views of Mt. Jefferson. It's only a few miles away from Pamelia Lake, but the lake is in such a steep bowl that you can't see the mountain from the lake. It was fun to get a sense of how close we were to the mountain. (Josh, Nathan)

And we did enjoy some wonderful views from the top of Grizzly Mountain. To the south, we could see Three-Fingered Jack. We could also see 2 of the Three Sisters mountains...tried to take a photo, but they just look like clouds in the distance. You'll have to trust me!

And you could just barely see Mt. Hood peeking over the hills beyond Mt. Jefferson. The top of Grizzly Peak had a nice area to sit and eat our lunch and enjoy the view.

And down at our feet...Pamelia Lake! A long ways down. We wished we could take a zip line back down to our camp site.
Love this shot of the boys on top of Grizzly Mountain with Mt. Jefferson in the background. I love hiking with our kids!

Lovely early morning view of the lake (second morning).

The "pantry" of our camp kitchen. By the second morning, I was making piles to figure out what we needed for breakfast and for lunch. I didn't want to haul any of the food back out!

Of course we hung the food in a "bear bag" (it ought to be called a "chipmunk bag") at night and whenever we were all out of camp exploring. This is our food on the second morning. Lunch in the foreground, breakfast in the background.

A new food prep experience for me - Nathan can't have gluten, so I learned about gluten-free backpacking foods, and figured out some ways to prepare some old favorites without gluten. Nathan brought along his own gluten-free crackers. All in all, it was simpler than I thought it might be at first.
Here's our fire ring and camp kitchen. The grey and blue rectangles are "sit-upons." They are lightweight pieces of old sleeping pads. Makes it so much comfier to sit-upon a log. You can see the pink food bag in the corner of the logs, and our clean dishes along the far log. The cooking pot is sitting on the little backpacking stove, just on the other side of the fire ring rocks. The boys liked the food - Nathan said he would come any time that I pulled the menu together!

Both boys were great about taking care of their gear. Here Nathan's getting everything secure on his pack as we're getting ready to leave our camp site. 

After a hearty lunch of gluten-free macaroni and cheese, we hiked back along Pamelia Creek to the car. No damage to the windows this time! Hooray! (Josh, Nathan)

All in all, we had a delightful backpack with the 12-year-old boys. Everyone (kids and adults) agreed that it worked well for the younger girls to have their own outing, and then for the older boys to have an outing on their own. Josh and Nathan worked on some merit badge requirements and they were well-matched in their outdoor abilities and energy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Camping 2: Ensign Ranch

August catch-up: Part 3

On Wednesday morning (after the car window was repaired), we loaded our three granddaughters in the Subaru and headed for Ensign Ranch to camp with Polly and her family.

Having so many people in the car meant that we had to figure out another way to carry all the car-camping gear. Sweet! Mark remodeled our canoe trailer into a camping trailer. What a clever fellow he is. I know we'll be having fun with this little trailer for years to come.

Then it was into the car for the 4.5-hour drive to Ensign Ranch. It's about 1.5 hours east of Tacoma, Washington, and only about an hour away from Polly's house. It's owned by the Mormon Church, and for much of the summer it's used for LDS Young Women camps. Once all the YW camps are wrapped up, families are free to rent the cabins, teepees, and tents. Fun!

We camped in an area that requires cars to stay in the parking lot, away from the actual campsites. Perfect. No need to worry about little ones being hit by a car. And the kids love loading the gear into the resident handcarts and then helping push it to camp. Go, Grandpa!

Soon Polly and family arrived. They brought one of the Incredibles (aka Seth) with them. It was comforting to have a super-hero in our campsite.

Maleena and Max came too, so we had more fun cousin time. Just look at all these future backpacking-boys. Seth, Anson, and Hunter had a good time together. Well, actually Anson preferred being with his mama or another adult. But Hunter really did seem to be content in his stroller, watching all the activity.

Of course we had marshmallows and s'mores. Sarah and Katie are pros with a stick and a marshmallow.

Kat's shirt cracks me up. She says it's really her older brother's shirt. Because, of course, she is a twin!

Sweet cousins - Becca had fun entertaining Hunter. I think she likes being the bigger one. And Hunter is a little more interactive right now than Anson.

More sweet cousin time with Sarah and Becca.

The next morning we paddled canoes in the lake. Kat helped Uncle Eric paddle...
...Sarah helped Uncle Max...
 ...Seth helped Grandpa find some pond weeds...
 ...and Becca was convinced that her paddle was helping Grandma go the right way.
Good times for everyone...until the canoes started to fill up with water. Leaks! Looks like the Young Women camps were a little rough on the canoes this year.

Later in the afternoon we played on the famous Ensign Ranch slip-n-slide. Here comes Katie on the green ring.
Seth is on the blue ring (above and below).
And Becca is riding on Eric's lap.

At this point our camera battery died, so that's it for photos. We had so much fun at the slip-n-slide. Grandma Kathy even tried it out! Becca got brave enough to slide down on her own. Little Hunter went sliding with his daddy, Max. Kat and Sarah had nonstop fun with some girls their age, and Seth never stopped once. Katie was a whiz, sometimes on her own, sometimes with older cousins, and sometimes with Auntie Maleena. Oh yes, Maleena loved the slip-n-slide, too. We just won't say anything about the time she popped her swim ring! I'm sure it wasn't her fault.

Funny slip-n-slide story. Becca was brave enough to go down by herself, but she wanted someone to hold her hand as she walked up to the top of the slip-n-slide hill. To give you a little perspective, I'll go ahead and post two more slip-n-slide photos that show how big this hill is:

A long way up...
To get to the top, you have to walk up on the green carpeted area to the right. This is where Becca wanted a little help.
Once you're at the top, you walk along the top edge until you get to the place where you want to begin sliding down. Becca also wanted someone with her along the top.

Becca had a certain place she always liked to start sliding down. It was about 2/3 of the way across the top, toward the left. Eric had taught her that if she started there, she wouldn't land in the big splash pool at the bottom.

Ok, so I'm walking along the top edge with Becca, toward her special spot. We've probably done this 4 or 5 times together. And I think to myself, hmmm...this top edge is a little narrow. I sure hope Becca doesn't slip. So of course she DOES slip, right down the BACK side of the slip-n-slide. It's covered with the same rubber stuff, so it wasn't like she got hurt on some rocks or anything, but it doesn't get much of the sprinkler action, so it's dry and scratchy and steep.

Becca landed safely at the bottom, but she was a little shook up, and she looked up at me like, Now what do I do? "Hang on, Becca," I called to her. Then I handed my swim ring to Seth, who was standing nearby on top of the slip-n-slide, and then I tried to figure out how I was going to get down to Becca. Like I said it was steep. Becca wasn't crying yet, but I knew that I didn't have much time to get this figured out. It was way too steep for me to walk down it. It would take to long to walk back down the carpet and all the way around the back, and besides, if I did that Becca would be all alone at the bottom. So I did what any good grandmother would do...I sat down and slid down the back side of the slip-n-slide on my bottom, just like Becca had done. Then we walked together through the prickly weeds at the back, around to the carpet, back up to Seth and my swim ring (Becca had been holding tightly on to hers the whole time), and then we slid down the front side, none the worse for wear.

The last morning we were there, Grandpa Mark and Uncle Max took three of the girls (Sarah, Kat, and Katie) fishing. They came back with two fish! Katie and Kat were both successful. We cooked Kat's fish on the spot and she ate every bite. Katie cooked hers the next day while visiting her Uncle Ben.

Ensign Ranch has its pros and cons.

Pros: It's very clean, you never have drunk neighbors, the huge big tents are already set up for you, the kids love the slip-n-slide, it's a quick drive for Polly and Eric

Cons: Even though the camp is clean, it's also very dusty. The dust gets old. It's also a long drive from Oregon City - it would be nice to go camping with Polly's family at a middle point for both of us. But they have little kids, so a long drive is more difficult...but then Maleena and Max joined us this year, too, and they also have a little one. I just don't know of any good camps (yet) that would be at a midpoint for our families.

All in all, our Ensign Ranch campout was successful this year. It really is fun to have a place we can go camping with our younger grandchildren. And I'm glad we can set it up so that Mark and I bring most of the equipment and food. We want to make it as easy on the younger families as we can.

In fact, the most difficult thing about the whole campout happened after we left. Unfortunately, we hit Tacoma freeway traffic about 3:00 in the afternoon. It took us 2.5 hours to go 30 miles. Took us 7 hours to get home. That's the last time we'll take that route on a weekday afternoon.