Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Something new to view

Hello all!

I'm changing up the game this week so hope you are up for something new!  I'm a pretty big fan of writing my blog as it provides an effective way to share a story with many people in a way that doesn't require a large time commitment on their behalf.  To that end, I also enjoy reading them.  Today I'll point out a few of my favorites and the reason I love them:

This blog covers the Pacific Crest Trail hike by two men from Florida, Randy Fitch and Jason Jorge.  As of Monday, October 11, the two were finished hiking all 2,663 miles of the trail from southern California to Vancouver, BC.  The trip, like many before and many to come, likely tested the will power, fortitude, and patience of the men, but no doubt provided them with something I have only experienced to date in small amounts...total and utter elation at the chance to see mother nature in a very intimate way.  Someday...someday.

The next blog, Divide by 1, showcases another outdoor-enthusiast doing something similar to Randy and Jason, but with a twist.  Gracie Sorbello, along with a friend, UNI-CYCLED the Continental Divide from the northern Rockies to Antelope Wells, New Mexico in 2009.  Gracies' perseverance (and thrill of doing the unthinkable) was a true inspiration to me.  I am very happy to say that I know Gracie from having worked with her here in Eugene earlier this year.  She's since gone on to work at McMurdo Station in Antrarctica.  That's right, Antarctica.  This girl knows how to live.

This blog, Gear Junkie, has a multitude of reports written that showcase a TON of different outdoor activities.  They range from snowkiting to cyclocross to marathon running.  These reports are usually first-hand encounters by folks who have tried the given activity, with varying degrees of success. 

The Outdoorzy Blog provides a great resource for outdoor recreation news, events, and more.  There are quite a few entries on this blog that caught my eye, including an article about a bear that was killed in Denali National Park over Memorial Day of this year, just months after the decision to allow handguns in National Parks was approved.

Those are just a handful of blogs that I have found in the last year.  Keep exploring and if you find any you enjoy post them here as a comment.  I always love to read new and interesting stories.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ikenick SnoPark Adventure

Claire & I took the doggers yesterday to play in the snow on the Santiam Pass. We drove about 70 miles before we came to the first SnoPark, an ODOT parking lot that is plowed so people like us can park off the road and play safely away from the traffic. We really like Ikenick as it's the closest SnoPark to our house and it's never very busy. When we arrived it was about 30 degrees and the snow was just starting to come down.

We got dressed and tromped around for about an hour and a half, enjoying the first heavy snowfall in the Cascades of the year. We loved checking out the dogs' athleticism as they cruised around the trees and over big snow piles. They were definitely having a great time playing in the cold stuff.

I'll let the video describe the rest of the trip...

If you like this video and this blog entry (or ANY of my others!) I encourage you to leave a comment letting me know. Thanks, Andy.

Have you enjoyed the outdoors today?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gold Lake snow backpacking trip

This week my brother Lee and I went to the Cascades to do some cold-weather camping.  It had been a LOT of years since I'd pitched a tent on the snow and I wanted to remind myself what it felt like.

Lee and I met around 11:00 a.m. on Monday morning and loaded up both our packs and the dogs.  We made good time to Oakridge and had a quick bite to eat before heading into the woods.  The area where we went was very near Gold Lake, just west of Willamette Pass ski area.  The parking lot we parked in is an ODOT SnoPark, meaning that certain times of the year a permit is required to park.  Being that we were so early in the season (permits aren't required until Nov. 15th) we were happy to avoid the fee and assembled our gear for the hike.

 We didn't have any real agenda, save that I was interested in seeing Maiden Peak, about 8 miles away from the car.  I let Lee know the rough itinerary and we headed across the highway and onto a seasonally-closed Forest Service Road.  As we hiked the sun came out and let the blue sky provide a beautiful contrast to the snow-laden trees.  I was very impressed at the serenity that was afforded to us almost immediately into our journey, as there were no other tracks in the snow indicating that we were the first folks on the road for at least a day or two.  We watched the dogs run back and forth (and back and forth again), playing in the snow they love so much.

After about two miles on the road, we came to a trailhead that led to the PCT, then on to Maiden Peak to our East.  We opted to take this route knowing that there were no lakes on this segment of trail that we would pass.  A note about my dogs; despite all common sense, they absolutely LOVE playing in the water, even in November, even when it's snowing, even when they are sleeping in a tent with me.  Knowing this, it was silly for us to continue on to Gold Lake where the dogs would inevitably go swimming.

We huffed up the trail (it was moderately steep) for an hour or so and then took a break, shedding layers and snacking on granola bars.  Lee and I decided to make a camp sooner than later, as we knew by this time (nearly 3 p.m.) we wouldn't make Maiden Peak on this excursion.  We donned our packs once more and hiked a short half-hour to our campsite, a wonderfully level tree-free area just about 100' off of the trail.

We decided although the sun was still shining that putting up the tent first would be a good idea.  This was fortuitous for sure as soon after erecting the tent it began to spit ice pellets.  They were very small and not long in falling so we continued to stay out of the tent, hours of daylight left before we wanted to head inside.  Lee had a strong urge to build a fire (and I did not) so he began to scout for firewood among the snowy branches.  The amount of snow on the ground was minimal, maybe two to four inches, so there were many canopies that had protected their undergrowth from the wet weather.  Lee quickly found several dry twigs, but it was apparent that I would be a big jerk if I didn't help him find debris.  We spent about half an hour looking, looking, looking for firewood to burn and finally amassed a small cache to get us started.  Although I was initially against the fire in the first place, I long ago learned that a good fire is the centerpiece for a decent camp, and that things just seem nicer when a soft glowing flame is warming your fingers and toes.

We had the fire going after one match, be it a VERY large match, and we quickly smelled of smoke and began to warm up.  After stopping our body temperatures quickly dropped so it was nice to have another heat source to keep us warm.  Lee put a can of soup on the coals to warm up and I cooked some ground beef and combined it with a container of leftover rice from home.  Soon enough, we had dinner and a couple beers, as well, provided by yours truly as a special treat.

We ended up going to the tent around 7:30 or so due to the darkness and the timidity of the fire.  We were sharing a four-person tent with the dogs, but they both insisted on sleeping ON our sleeping bags instead of next to us.  This made for a headache as neither of us could roll over or move our legs due to 65 pounds of yellow lab laying on us.  I slept poorly, on account of both being smashed and the cold air that crept into the tent when the wind blew.


Morning came eventually and I was the first one up.  My toes had been cold all night, but even with my thick wool socks (thank you in-laws) putting my feet in my frozen boots when I woke proved to be too much for me to cope with.  I couldn't feel my toes after about half an hour so I decided to revive our fire to help warm me up.  I worked for an hour or so on gathering more wood, then finally warmed back up once the flames were going.  Lee awoke and joined me, his boots frozen so solid that he couldn't lace them up, nor fit his feet in until thawing them near the flames.  I guess that it was about 25 degrees when we awoke, and it wasn't getting any warming as the morning wore on.

Lee and I then decided it was time to head back to civilization so we packed the tent, gear, and extinguished the fire.  We made good time heading back to the FS road that we came in on, and the snow was nearly constant.  It was wonderful to see the car at the parking lot and warm up our bodies again.  All in all, I had a wonderful time with Lee and was really glad he was able to join me on this trip.  Having done snow camping before I knew we'd have a few challenges, but we managed them well and neither of us got frostbite.  Next time, more warm clothes will be a necessity.