Monday, May 27, 2013

Marble Mountains Wilderness Memorial Day Backpacking

This weekend started off with a bang... literally.  Emily and I had packed for our weekend getaway to northern California on Thurs night and she picked me up from work early at 3pm so we could get on the road and hopefully beat the rush hour traffic out of Portland.  Not only did we not beat the traffic, but we also ended up getting rear-ended in the middle of it.  No one was injured but the girl who hit us was a little shook up and needed some guidance off the road and reassurance that it wasn’t the end of the world as it was her first accident.  I tried to call the police but after message systems just called 911 who told me an ambulance and fire were on the way just in case.  I picked up the parts of our bumper off the road and when the firemen came they helped me duct tape our bumper back in place so we could continue on.  They also really enjoyed petting Leo in the back of the Prius who didn’t seem at all phased by the accident and loved the attention.  

The accident set us back a little and we didn’t end up getting to the Tree of Life Campground just across the California border until about 10pm after we stopped for some food and groceries along the way.  The campsite was completely full and we ended up just parking in the day use area and camping in the back of the Prius with Leo who as usual felt a little crammed between us.  We had a few beers and relaxed with an audiobook I had before hitting the sleeping bags for the night.

In the morning we stopped at Daddy O’s Diner in Yreka for an amazing, and huge, breakfast before heading down Scott Creek road to the trailhead at Lover’s Camp.  The roads were well maintained thankfully as we had a bumper that was taped in place.  We started our hike around 11am and made it up to the Sky High Lakes area around 3:30pm in the afternoon.  Along the way we passed multiple streams and a pretty big waterfall, all of which Leo stopped at to stand in the cool water and take a cold drink.  He is terrific to hike with as he generally stays on the trail or just off of it along side us the entire way.  He often looks back to check on us as we hike and even prefers to stay between us to keep tabs on us.  

We only saw two other hikers the whole day who were leaving the area and I’m pretty sure Emily and stayed where they had been as we found a lean-to with piles of dry wood all around it for the campfire.  We walked around a bit to look for other spots but decided that if it rained it would be really nice to be under a dry shelter (mostly dry as there were a few holes in the roof).  We saw two other tents at the shore of one of the lakes but by the next morning they were gone leaving us an entire alpine lakes basin all to ourselves for 3 days!  

On our walk around the lakes to check out the area we came across some food that was left behind... not normal camp food, but huge blocks of cheese, eggs, sausage and friggin’ bacon wrapped fillets!  It looked like someone had just dumped out about $60 worth of food!  At least we figured any bears in the area would be more interested in that than our food!  

We spent the rest of the night relaxing with a nice fire that Leo wasn’t fond of listening to more of the “Hunt for Atlantis” audiobook I had on my phone.  Emily had packed in a couple small boxes of wine with about 4 glasses in each for us to enjoy that night with some chocolate covered pretzls after we ate our usual Mountain House meals.  We were able to briefly see some stars before the clouds rolled in over the mountains in the distance.

On Sunday we awoke to pouring rain, which didn’t let up until about 2pm in the afternoon.  We basically stayed in our warm sleeping bags with Leo also in our crammed tent squished between us but happy listening to the end of our audiobook and snacking on food we had brought in.  Almost perfectly, my iphone battery lasted until the end of the book and the rain seemed to have stopped at the same time.  I knew we had about 5 hours left of sunlight and I really wanted to see the Marble Mountain Rim area so we quickly packed up some stuff, put on our rain gear and took off with just one backpack and Leo following us.  

It quickly became apparent that the rain was done for the day so we undressed a bit down to our thermal underwear for the hike and continued on.  Along the way we spotted a young deer at a cliff overlook far below us that Leo thankfully didn’t notice.  By the time we had reached the junction with the PCT we had amazing views of all the snow covered peaks of the Klamath Mountains around us as well as spectacular views of the interesting Marble Mountain Rim that we were headed towards.  

Emily lead the way and we soon noticed that we had traveled a bit too far on the rim trail which led us to the backside of Marble Mountain.  This actually worked out ok as it afforded us some cool views of the backside (west face) of the mountain that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.  The cliffs above the valley below were huge and Emily even spotted a single Elk in the glacial bowl below which had a very young fawn in tow. I checked my gps and we found our way up to the top of Marble Mountain which gave us even better views.   

We had put booties on Leo back at the PCT junction and it proved to be a great choice because as we traveled out onto the face of Marble Mountain we really got an idea of how sharp the marble was.  If you ran your hand across it, it felt like sharp sandpaper.  It would have severely injured Leo’s paws had we not had the booties for him.  At first he looked ridiculous as he adjusted clumsily to having them on but by the time we got to where he really needed them it looked as if he didn’t even notice they were on as he kept up with us easily.

About half way across the face of the mountain I told Emily to wait with Leo while I ran ahead to see if there was anyway we could descend down from the marble formation to Marble Gap to make the hike a loop hike back to camp.  I ended up hustling up the far north peak of the mountain only to find that there was a huge cliff right before Marble Gap so that option was not going to pan out.  When I walked back down to the two of them Emily told me that Leo had been whining and was clearly worried about me walking off.  Cute.  

Before we let the area we relaxed for a little bit to get some photos and take in the scenery.  The face of the mountain looked like a “lava flow” of marble.  It was expansive and only had a few trees sticking out of the rock, much like the dark lava flows in Oregon but this one was a bright white landscape littered with caves.  Before the trip I had read there were over 16 miles of underground caves in the area where it was rumored sasquatch was living along with black bears.  Most of the caves had deep vertical entrances that were dangerous so despite Emily’s love for spelunking we stayed away from looking for any and simply returned back the way we had come.  

Leo had a slippery time making it over some of the snow fields on trail back to camp with his booties on but with some help from me catching him I think it was best that we left his booties on until we got back to camp just at sunset.  Emily filtered water and I got the fire going for a second night and we listened to the Great Gatsby on her phone while I figured out how to successfully write messages with our headlamps using a long exposure on our camera.  

Once again we awoke to pouring rain, but this time it would not stop for us.  We packed up all our gear after sleeping in a little bit on Monday morning and headed out of camp around 10:30am.  We were completely covered in Gore-Tex Pro Shell which kept us dry on the 3 hour hike out of the woods despite pouring rain the entire way.  Leo wasn’t as lucky and ended up getting soaked.  Near the parking lot we encountered a volunteer who was taking surveys on users of the Klamath Forest Lands and I got stuck answering questions to his very lengthy survey.  I felt bad for the guy though as I’m sure he didn’t see many people that day.  

Despite the trail being the most popular in the wilderness we were the only ones in the Sky High Lakes area and despite the weather we had a great time and even had a weather window to explore the namesake peak.  It was a pretty uneventful ride home with Leo passed out in the back of the car the whole way.  We got home around 8pm and I think Leo was glad to be back in a familiar place.  It was a great weekend in a geologically amazing area we hadn’t explored yet and we will definitely return to sometime!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Engagement Photo Shoot

On Sunday Emily and I drove out to Latourel Falls for our engagement photo shoot with Alice and Josh from Mosca Photography.  We really love those guys and are super stoked to have them as our wedding photographers.  It wasn’t a beautiful day but there was enough light for them to get some really amazing shots of us in the lush Columbia Gorge.  We were also super excited to hear that Josh had proposed to Alice and they were going to get married sometime in Italy down the road.  They have posted several photos on Facebook and we can’t wait to see the rest when they finish them.. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tessa's Going Away Party and Daughter at the Doug Fir

Tonight Em and I went over to Arley’s new house for a going away party for Tessa as she is headed off to New York City for school.  It was a 20’s dress up party and Arley looked like Amelia Arehart.  Em and I didn’t stay too long as we were pretty tired from the week.  It was a fun party and I heard that Eric and Ryan had a pretty long night there. 

On Saturday Emily and I got tickets from Anna Li to go see Daughter play at the Doug Fir lounge.  I hadn’t heard of them until we were invited but after listening to them on Spotify I really liked them so we decided to go.  We met up at Burnside Brewing beforehand and I took it upon myself to get pretty tore up.  From what I remember of the concert it was really good.  :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thorns vs. Big Sky

Tonight Emily and I got to watch the Thorns play the New Jersey Big Sky in spectacular season pass seats given to us by her boss.  We were 3 rows up from the field and got to see my crush Alex Morgan up close.  It was a great  game but unfortunately they lost last moment.  We’ll be looking forward to seeing them play again soon though.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mt. St. Helens Mother's Day Ski

Emily and I had a rough end of the week culminating with her in the emergency room on Thursday night with a severe migraine, blind from the pain.  The emergency room doctor in Salmon Creek gave her a cocktail of pills which didn’t really seem to do the trick like the IV of narcotics did when we had to go in Corvallis a year ago.  

Her head was still hurting on Friday when she went to see a doctor at the Vancouver Clinic who told her stupidly that she had hyperventilated to cause it..  She said the guys was nice but was super young and straight out of med school.  I made her promise that if it happens again within a year that she will get an MRI done.

Because of her migraine we both decided it probably wasn’t a good idea for her to attempt Mt. St. Helens with us on Saturday which is a 6,000 ft. ascent.  The worst thing imaginable would be her with a migraine on a bright glacier unable to see and skiing down in bumpy snow that would jar her head.  If there were any signs of her relapsing I would not have left but on Friday she seemed to be on the mend and doing much better.  

I barely had time to stop at the store and Panda Express for some grub before Eric arrived at our house to pick me up for the trip with Dominique and Matt.  We quickly jammed all of our gear into the back of his spacious Forester and headed north to the Lone Fir Resort about an hour away to meet up with Erica and Craig and pick up our climbing permits we had bought online for $22 the night before.  

When we arrived we quickly got in line for our permits with our receipts which was a great idea because about five minutes later the line was 30-40 people deep and out the door.  Apparently we had just beat everyone also getting out of work from Portland and heading up there which made Eric’s early pickup totally worth it.  

Traditionally, this is the last weekend of the year that the park service issues unlimited climbing permits.  After this weekend the mountain is limited to 100 people per day.  It has become tradition over the years to climb the peak in a red dress in honor of Mother’s Day.  Because the weather looked crappy on Sunday everyone had come up on Saturday for the sunshine this year instead.  When we picked up our permits we learned that this year the record had been broken with over 650 permits being issued (we learned later that it was closer to 700 people on the mountain).  Yeah... it was going to be insanity.  

We left the Lone Fir with Erica and Craig following us up to the Climbers parking lot at Marble Mountain Sno Park.  After a brief wrong turn we made it to the parking lot just before 9pm and had time to set up our area before the sun went down.  Eric was able to find his friends Kate, Elliot, and Sandra shortly after and we spent the rest of the evening sitting in the parking lot in warm clothes drinking some beers.  We certainly were not alone as there were dozens of other groups partying around us as well.  Around 11pm I gently encouraged us to call it a night as it was getting pretty quiet and I knew other climbers would be getting up early and needed their sleep.  

Eric and Dominique walked down to the lower lot to sleep and Craig and Erica slept in their car.  Only Borish and I were left outside in our bags which turned out to be a bad choice because the upper lot became extremely loud around 3:30-4am when inconsiderate climbers began to awake and make a lot of noise putting on their dresses and yelling to each, as well as accidentally setting off their car alarms on multiple occasions. Needless to say, Matt and I didn’t get much sleep while the rest of our party slept like babies in quiet cars or the lower lot.  

Our alarms went off around 6am (late compared to most of the other climbers) and we all met around Eric’s car to gear up and head out on the trial.  All of us had skis or snowboards besides Sandra so we weren’t too worried about getting a later start.  Sandra had ridden up with Kate and Elliot so she wasn’t really with the group of us 6 who had planned on skiing over a week before.  I had my gps and downloaded iphone maps with me but none of it was needed do to the highway of people we simply had to follow up the mountain the entire way.

We left the parking lot around 7:30 after a group photo and found that we had to hike nearly a mile on mostly dry trail until we hit enough snow to put our skis and skins on.  The past two weeks of sunny 80 degree freak spring weather in Oregon had certainly done its toll on the spring snow pack.  It didn’t take us too long to reach the tree line beneath the worm flows on the southern face of the devastated volcano.  Matt had been skinning along with his phone blaring tunes along the trail but by the time we really started to climb into the open his batteries wore out.  Dominique who didn’t have a split board kicked ass hiking in just her snowboard boots, often staying ahead of us all on the well packed-in trail.

Above treeline on the lower slopes we all chose to start skinning but after some time we found the well trampled boot pack to be a faster option and strapped our skis to our packs.  Matt, on the other hand, declared how much he hated boot packing and chose to switchback all the way up with his split board on, very impressive as the snow was mushy and slick.  

We all caught up with Sandra at the weather station area about halfway up the volcano.  We took a break there for a while eating some food and resting while I wrote messages on some poster board Kate had brought up to our mothers.  I even wrote “mom” on the golden belt of the red dress I was wearing the whole day.  We snapped some photos of all of us holding the signs and soon people around us began to ask if they could also borrow the signs for photos.  They were definitely a big hit.

From there it was a boot pack trudge up to the top.  We took another couple stops to rest but after the last one, with about a thousand feet left I took off out front.  Oddly, my legs weren’t tired at all and I found myself passing person after person as they stepped aside to let me pass when they heard me approaching behind them.  My legs felt so good I almost could have run the last 200m to the top.  Apparently biking, running and CrossFit are paying off.  

Once on top I put on my bibs, puffy jacket, gloves and hat to wait for the others to arrive and busied myself taking photos of the views towards Rainier, Goat Rocks, south towards Hood and down into the massive blown out crater of  St. Helens.  I’m always in awe up there on the rim at how much of mass of the volcano just fell away in the eruption.  It used to be nearly 1,300 feet higher than it is now.  The true summit was further West along the ridge but because I had been there in 2008 I decided to skip it this year and just relax in the sun with everyone else.  

After a few celebratory beers at the top along with sardines and more shot blocks we geared up for the descent.  Matt, being an ex AK heli ski guide, went into guide mode and offered to run sweep and help Sandra down the peak as she was the only one without skis or a board with us.  Sandra had ridden up with Elliot and Kate and wasn’t technically part of our group of 6 that had been planning this climb so when we caught up with them at the weather station we, as nicely as we could, basically said that Kate or Elliot needed to keep an eye on her as Matt and the rest of us had purposely brought skis and boards to enjoy a quick descent.  I felt bad that Matt missed out on the ski descent directly from the summit but he was a good sport about it and from the looks of it Sandra was moving pretty quick down the slopes even without skis.  

I was able to grab some great helmet cam footage and point and shoot footage all the way down the peak, trying to follow each person at one point or another, but occasionally getting over excited a few times and pointing down between them.  Again, my legs were feeling super strong which was definitely a new feeling for me ski mountaineering.  We soon made it down to treeline where we had to take off our skis on a multiple occasions to cross dry rocky areas.  

We had made it to the top in about 7 hours and it took us a little over 2 hours with a lot of stops to get down and back to the car.  On the way out we heard about a couple different mountain rescue events on the mountain which wasn’t surprising given the number of people climbing that day.  The guy who had slept next to us in the parking lot actually was one of the volunteers who helped a woman get down who had severely twisted her knee.  

We also saw a dad who was being really cruel to his son, calling him a pansy although the kid had made it all the way to the summit.  Dominique made a point of telling the kid good job in the parking lot when we saw them later.  Elliot pretty much took off ahead of us down the peak all the way to the parking lot and Kate stayed behind with Sandra to make sure she got down safely. 

We all had a few cold beers that I had stashed in the snow and rehydrated with water and snacks at the cars.  We laid around for a bit chatting and resting before starting to pack up the car for the ride home.  We were planning on possibly stopping for food on the way home but something hit me hard in my stomach and I began to feel truly terrible.  It felt like a mild case of food poisoning and nothing I was doing was helping to alleviate it.  I spent the entire hour and half ride home curled up in the back seat trying to sleep away the pain.  

When we got back to the house I asked Emily to help grab my gear while I ran upstairs and puked.  Puking up sardines may have been the worst vomiting experience ever....  I spent most of Sunday sick in bed, but very thankful that it hadn’t hit me while on the mountain.  It was a terrific trip and I was super stoked to have spent a great day backcountry skiing with Eric, Craig, Erica, Dominique, Sandra, Kate, Elliot and Borish!  Next year Emily will definitely be joining us!