Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sahalie Falls & Lava Tube Caving with Emily

This weekend Emily and I cooked up a plan to explore part of Oregon I still hadn’t seen yet, the Lava Tube Caves just outside of Bend in the Newberry Volcanic National Monument off of China Hat road. We first drove on Saturda to the McKenzie River off of 126 to check out Sahalie and Koosah Waterfalls. We also did a great hike up the Mckenzie River trail to the famous Blue Pool where the Mckenzie River resurfaces after traveling through a lava tube under the ground. The water comes up in the pool then flows downstream in a normal river. When I was there last year it was silent except for the water at the southern end of leaving the pool. This year the waterfall was active and water was pouring into the pool from rocks on the side. Compare the photos here to the photo taken in the fall of 2006. What a difference spring melt has! It was beautiful for sure, but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t like it was supposed to be with the dried up waterfall.
From there we tried to find a hidden ice cave called “Sawyer Ice Cave” but couldn’t. We even asked a forest service worker but he wasn’t too sure himself either so we continued on towards Bend where we stopped at REI to pick up some fuel for my stove and firewood. Emily and I turned onto China Hat road which quickly became a dirt road and drove nearly 25 miles in the dark down the road into the high desert of the Volcanic National Monument. We didn’t see any signs for the lava tube caves we were looking for and the maps I had were simply drawings so it was definitely going to be tough finding them in the morning. We kept searching for a place to camp but we were truly in the middle of nowhere (the kind of scary “nowhere” that you see in horror flicks) so I aimed my GPS down the dirt roads towards rte 20 so we would be close to civilization if my truck died or something happened. About a mile from Route 20 I turned left onto some land called “horse camp” or something and found a fire circle among some small trees. It was about 10pm so we quickly set up camp and got a fire going so we could be warm while we cooked our Mountain House dinners. Emily is so adventurous and could tell she really liked camping out under the stars, although the howls of nearby coyotes definitely spooked her a little. On the drive to our campsite we drove around cattle, saw a rabbit and nearly hit a large owl. It was definitely cool to see in first person the wildlife of the high desert east of Bend. Camping out in the soft, dry dirt under the stars with a giant expanse of high desert around us was definitely a big change from the rainforest environment of the cascades and coastal range.
On Sunday morning after sleeping in we packed up and started exploring the lava tube cave systems. We had a lot of trouble finding the caves as the forest service has taken down signs, taken symbols off of printed maps, and basically tried to hide the caves to the public because of vandalism. Emily and I had found Boyd cave on the drive in and checked it out briefly. The access to Skeleton cave had been blocked so we didn’t hike out to it but with the help of some locals we were able to find Arnold Ice Cave (the cave used to supply all the ice for Bend back in the day), Charcoal Cave, and some others. I’m hesitant to list the ones we found on my blog as Emily and I definitely went into some that we were not supposed to be able to access (barricaded off but we found a way into them). I don’t want anyone of authority to google the name and find my blog. I don’t feel bad about entering them because bat hibernating season is over by now and she and I are very careful not to harm the environment and abide by the “leave no trace” mentality. We bumped into a bunch of others also looking for the caves and were able to help each other out in their locations which I thoughtfully marked on my GPS so I could return to them in the future.
In one of the lava tubes that was over a mile and half long (according to our drawn map) and about 50 feet in diameter we came across an amazing skylight as you can see in the photos. Emily and I were sharing a Petzl Tikka headlamp which she wore so we were hesitant to continue on into the darkness past the skylight and turned around there to find our way back out. I was wearing my Gore-tex windblocker running jacket with reflective stripes so the photos Emily got of me with her flash camera in the cavern were pretty cool. When you click on the title of this blog entry and look at the photo slide show make sure you have the big (i) clicked so you can see the description of each of the photos. We learned of the true location of Sawyer Ice Cave in Santiam pass from some of the people we met so we were able to explore that on the way home. Care has been taken to block off the parking lot to the cave and we almost missed it again. Inside the cave was amazing. There were icicles everywhere hanging from the ceiling and coming up from the cave floor as well, but each had a hollow center where water had been dripping down into them hollowing them out. The floor of the cave was covered in ice so walking was slippery but Emily and I were both able to walk into it and check it out. There is a large skylight in the roof of the cave where I was able to take some photos of Emily in the cave.
It turned out to be a very successful day of exploring and we found some very cool caves that are generally unknown to the public. I definitely plan on heading back to the caves with proper lighting to explore them further. Definitely check out the Flickr slideshow by clicking the title of this entry.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hodak Going Away BBQ

Eleanor’s going away BBQ at her place was Friday night. They had a keg of PBR and I brought my stereo, speakers, and Ipod over for the party. It was a good time and as usual a dance party broke out. Eleanor leaves on Sunday morning for a summer of working as an interpretive ranger in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, ME. I know she is going to love that job and really like the area as well. We are all going to miss her a lot when she leaves. She is definitely my best girl buddy here at OSU. Parties won’t be the same without her. Feeling really sad writing this.. She literally brings a smile to the face of everyone she meets. It’s not very often you meet someone as special as her in life and I really hope that we remain long term friends. She will always be welcome in my home no matter how much time has passed. Best of luck and we’ll miss you!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cape Meares & Cape Lookout with Emily

Wednesday night after work Emily and I took off for the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at the Spirit Mountain Casino West of Salem. I had heard about the buffet from my friends at Ruby’s who thought it was amazing so we decided to check it out. My friends weren’t kidding. They had pretty much every type of seafood imaginable except Alaskan crab and Maine Lobster. I took my time and made sure I had 4 gigantic plates of shellfish and crab (filling up several buckets of shells) before I made it to the amazing desert bar. After gorging myself on seafood we decided to hit the slot machines, especially the wheel of fortune one that had given me luck in past years but proved to be horrible this time. We lost 10 bucks in the slots and decided to call it a night at the casino and head towards the coast and Tillamook to find a motel for the night. We ended up staying at the Apple Tree Inn at Tillamook.
After sleeping in for a while and having a nice breakfast at the motel we headed towards Cape Meares to check out the seabirds, light house, octopus tree, and 3 arches. We didn’t see too many birds there so we decided to head towards Cape Lookout for a nice 5 mile hike out on the peninsula. It was the same hike that Jason, Mckenzie and Kristen did with me last spring and we had pretty much the same weather – cloudy on the way out and clearing on the return. It was really beautiful and I think Emily really enjoyed it. We even met a couple on the hike that knew professor Goldfinger fairly well at OSU. We saw a bunch of banana slugs on the trail and spotted a bald eagle on the drive to the trailhead as well.
On the way home we stopped at Pacific City for some oyster shooters and a drive on the beach before heading to Newport where we walked the old bay front and bought two dozen oysters for $15. It was the first time Emily had seen real Pacific Northwest Oysters still in their shell and we had a hell of a time shucking them when we got back home (think: oyster shucker and hammer on front steps). We were debating heading to Cape Perpetua but decided it was too late so we returned back to Corvegas which had a pleasant rainbow over it from the off-and-on showers of the afternoon. Emily got to see the northern half of the Oregon Coast and I think she really enjoyed it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Eleanor Hodak's Beer Olympics #2

It was that time of year for Beer Olympics and once again we had a great turn out for the games which was also a combo party for Eleanor as she defends on Friday and then leaves Oregon forever. This year I decided to spring for two kegs of PBR for the shinanigans. Once again Emily was also in town to hold her own in the drinking games. This year I invited a ton of people… lets see: COAS, Geosciences, Engineering, Ruby Tuesday’s, Watershed Sciences, and the friends of everyone from those groups… so I’m glad we got two kegs as I’d say about 50 people showed up throughout the afternoon and night.
Emily and I picked up both kegs from Squirrels on Saturday morning after walking through the Saturday Market to show her all the fresh goods from local farmers. We tapped the keg at 3pm when Colin Cooper showed up with some watermelon for us. The three of us started off the afternoon with a game of Beirut and by 4pm we had about 15 people that had shown up along with Hodak of course who was directing the games and starting to tally points on the whiteboard in the living room.
The games (the ones I can remember)
Bowdoin Beer Pong
Boat Race
Shotgun contest (no question Holm won this)
Ice Cube Tray Races
Flip Cup & Flip Cup Survivor
Dizzy Bat
Flip Cup Pong
And several others that I probably never saw… or more likely don’t remember. We had a great turn out of people and I was really happy to see many people I hadn’t seen in months because of my break from school. By 9pm people were chilling on our new garage roof, the neighbors (Brian) was over drinking with us and Chris & Aaron were pushing each other around the neighborhood in a shopping cart to the annoyance of all my other neighbors I’m sure. I don’t remember much past 11pm and Emily and Eleanor were passed out about that time anyway. I went to sleep as the gang from Ruby Tuesday’s was in the living room playing cards (apparently they were there until 4am). I think it was a great party to send Hodak off, but unfortunately I’m getting older and suddenly have a lot of friends under 21 now from Ruby’s so my days of throwing keggers I’m afraid is most likely over. Next year I’ll have to pass the Beer Olympics PBR torch to someone else.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

MacForest Ultra Marathon CMRU Medical Support

This weekend I volunteered for the MacDunn Ultra Marathon with CMRU. My station was at Chip Ross Park with Mike Sell. We basically setup a small first aid station and checked off the 200+ runners that ran by us to make sure that all were accounted for. It was a cool morning so we weren’t that worried about heat exhaustion. I offered encouragement to each runner by name as they went by me and I checked off their number. Our buddy and fellow CMRU member Drew was running in the race. Last year he took 7th place but this year without training and entering the race on a whim I think he placed top 30 which is still amazing! The race was 31.6 miles long and wound its way like spaghetti through the hills of MacDonald Dunn Research Forest. I’m going to have to try doing the length of the race on my mtn bike someday, and that will be enough of an accomplishment for me! 

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Skiing Black Butte

Last night I drove up route 20 about 20 miles past Sweet Home to meet up with the COAS crew 

at their camping weekend. I arrived to find them all huddled around a big campfire listening to someone play guitar. The spot Hodak picked was the Longbow Organizational Camp. It had a nice picnic area, a well with a water pump, outhouses and lean-to’s by the river. I showed up at about 9pm after spending a day

cleaning the yard and my truck at home. I could tell it would be a cold night and I really doubted that everyone was prepared for the cold night. There was a keg but it was pretty foamy and most people seemed to be drinking their own stuff. It was nice to see everyone again. I was toasty warm in my 0 degree bag all night but others such as Robyn seemed to freeze overnight. I left early in the morning, only stopping to chat with 

Eleanor for a bit, so that I could get any early start on a day of backcountry skiing.

Turns out that every hike I had planned was snowed in and the trailheads were not plowed out so my options quickly became limited. I was forced to stop in Sisters for some gas and

looking up I saw Black Butte and wondered how that would be. I noticed the road leading to the trailhead was opened and started down it only to find a couple miles in that about a foot and half of snow still covered the road. Being cocky I thought my truck would make it… nope. Got stuck. After several minutes of digging with my

pack shovel and a nice couple who showed up sitting on the tailgate for weight I was able to drive forward out of it. The couple from Bend hopped in and we drove another half mile up the road before it became snowed in again. I parked, got my ski gear together and day pack, threw on my Garmont boots and headed up the road for what I thought would be about 

4 miles added to my trip. Following my GPS I was able to cut through some switchbacks of the road to save time and arrived in about an hour and half 

at the trailhead which said the summit was 2 miles away. I must have passed the couple on one of my shortcuts up the road. My right foot was developing a blister but I pushed on to the summit through completely dry slopes facing the hot sun.

At the 6,325ft summit there was a cool lookout tower which had the lower staircase pulled up. It took some effort but I hoisted myself up onto it and climbed as high up as I could for some great photos of the surrounding peaks such as the Sisters, Jefferson, Washington, and Three Finger Jack. I then popped on my skis, directed my GPS to 

point me back to my truck and headed off down the backside of the mountain where there are no trails. It was by far the shortest way back to my truck being only a mile of descent but I didn’t know what I would encounter. I was pleasantly surprised to see an enormous upper field of well-spaced burned trees that I had a great time slaloming through down to the tree line. I found a few narrow paths through the trees for another 500 feet or so. It then got pretty rough with debris so I decided to take my skis off and just slog down through the forest towards my truck. About 5 minutes

into the bashing I stumbled open and open corridor through the forest left over from logging operations as well as what kind of looked like very old snowboard tracks from earlier in the winter. I followed this path down the slope, occasionally falling into

deep holes in the snow next to buried down trees without looking at my GPS again. Then, faster than I expected I emerged to the trailhead road below, looked to my right and about 200ft away saw my truck! How convenient J. It was a long ascent up the road and the 2 mile trail to the summit but in about 40 minutes or so I skied most of the way down the backside and then emerged exactly where my truck was forced to stop due to snow in the road. It was the perfect day. Then, on the way out I actually caught up driving to the couple I had met who told me they had turned around at the trailhead and come back to the car. So, in the time it took them to walk 4 miles and a thousand feet, I had gone 6 and also skied down from the summit. Not bad. I definitely will keep my GPS track and head back to the same location next winter for some safe fresh powder turns!  Click the title of this post for a full slideshow.