Monday, May 26, 2014

Grouse Ridge, and more - All's Well That Ends Well

I left Roller Pass and headed down the valley. I didn't have a map of the area but I had been here once before. Things looked somewhat familiar, but that isn't saying much and most of the terrain in this part of the Sierras looks familiar. For a while I imagined what route might a wagon try to take up the valley. It worked for a while and it kept me for having to do any serious bushwackng.
The lower I got the less snow I saw and finally it disappeared altogether. I followed deer trails for a while and they dropped me on to some dirt roads. The dirt roads disappeared into a pile of old logging debris. Apparently I chose the wrong direction. 
It was quite sudden that I saw a well graded road directly below the deer trail I was following. I climbed down on to the roadbed and saw what appeared to be a big garage with a concrete roof below the level of the road and going under the road. I walked over to it and looked down and saw train tracks coming out of the garage, or were they going in? In either case what I was looking at was not a garage but the eastern end of a train tunnel. 
There was a loud sounding water fall on the other side of the road. I had run out of water a few minutes earlier so the timing was perfect. I filled up about two liters and had just started the Aqua Mira clock when I looked back over towards the mouth if the tunnel. I saw a bluish cloud coming out of the opening. I grappled my camera. My thought was that it would be cool to get a picture of a train exiting the tunnel. Maybe even a movie. I stood there on top of the tunnel waiting and waiting the smokie haze I continue to belch out of the opening, but no train. 
I went back and got my pack and brought it over. I sat there on the roof for over twenty minutes. Never saw a train.
I looked up my location on the maps applications that I had on my app and found there was a road that I could take from where I was all they way down to Donner Lake. I got here around noon with only one misstep when I turned too soon and ended up on a deadens at a top of a cliff over looking the lake. I backtracked about a half mile, kicked it into high gear and finished out my hike at a faster pace than when I started. Bring on the JMT!

Memorial Day 2014 - Roller Pass

I am sitting at the foot of Roller Pass. I am imagining what it must have been like here in September of eighteen forty six. In a few short months winter will be here.
They had traveled overland across the pararie the had crossed the Continental divide, braved the scorching desert in the summer. Entered the mountains, following the water slowly up through the valleys to arrive here at the foot of at least on hundred yards of steep slope. The only way for them to get to Sutter's Fort before winter was up and over.
Multiple heavy wagons, prairie schooners, in the meadow wait their turn. The children run around gathering pine cones. Playing with their friends or helping mom with the chores. Months and months of 'car camping' had left their clothing tattered and torn. They were not going to look like a bunch of vagrant vagabonds when they got to town if mom had anything to say about it.  So she worked to keep them in clothes, to keep them fed and healthy.
Meanwhile the men took one wagon at a time and hitched multiple yoke of oxen to them. Using ropes, pullys and rollers they slowly pulled each wagon up and over the steepest 'road' they had ever seen. It was this pass that the Donner party missed when they headed up the wrong valley and gave a lake and a pass their name by eating each other to stay alive.
It is quiet and serene here now without a sound of anything man made except perhaps the far off roar of a jet passing over head taking busy people to busy places to conduct business. Here this valley site quiet and alive with all the buzzing and chirping and chattering that belong to God's green earth. A beautiful place, that for a time held the future if California and the spirit of the pioneers that would establish American civilization on the west coast. A toast of fresh snow melt water to those hearty souls who have so much to become Californians!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Grouse Ridge Day3b - Memorial Day Eve

I am no longer anywhere near Grouse Ridge.
Eric dropped me off at the PCT trailhead at Donner summit last night. I decided hiking out together was preferable to being left behind. We stopped at the Summit Inn in Norden for dinner and I had a half pound burger with enough carbs in it to power me up the switchbacks to where I camps last light.
I arrived here just as the final light of dusk was fading. The time of twilight where it's easy to believe in Bigfoot and you're pretty sure he's watching you. I resisted the urge to run screaming down the trail and began to unpack.
When I left the trailhead I was a bit chilled. I knew that I had five hundred feet of elevation to climb so I began going as fast as I good. Being close to interstate 80 meant that my phone reception was good so I called Kelli. We talked until I walked around the corner and I lost reception. The whole time I was huffing and puffing because of the steep trail and speed I was going.

I was quite warm when I arrived, but that didn't help me as I began making a series of mistakes as I set up camp. Perhaps it was my concern with getting everything done before I lost all light, or perhaps it was Bigfoot unseen but felt presence. I debated with myself as to whether to hang my food and the more worried part of me won. I pulled out my bear bag line and began to untie the knot that I use to keep it from being tangled in its storage bag. I have no idea what I did but suddenly it transformed itself into a pile of spaghetti. Except it was all one noodle. I was faced with the proverbial and literal Gordian knot. 

Here I am I can barely see and thinking doss it matter? Will a bear actually show up and steal my food? I am tired and sweaty and it's getting dark. I don't have time for this. I took a deep breath and fished out my headlamp. For the next fifteen minutes I slowly unraveled the mess. It was quite dark when I finally finished. Fortunately I found I suitable tree and took care of my food in the safe responsible way.

I quickly through all my stuff into my tent since lit was now dark. Then I grappled my camp towel and rushed down through a bunch of bushes to a small stream to wet it down for my evening wash down. When I got back to the tent I sat down inside and took off my shoes. As I swung my feet inside I noticed the my hand, which I had placed on the floor of my feet to assist in the swinging, was soaking wet. 

When I had carelessly tossed my gear inside my water bladder, with its ingenious bite-tube end was on the bottom of the pile. My other gear applied enough pressure to release about a cup of water. The floor of my tent was a puddle. My phone, hat, stuff sacks, and other gear were sitting in a puddle. Oh no my phone! I left my life proof case at home and my zip gone is going commando. Right into to puddle. Fortunately it seems to have survived. But I spent another thirty minutes sopping up all the water. By the time I was done I was too tired to try to blog. So here I am laying in my tent while daylight is burning. That's all for now I got a trail to hike.

Grouse Ridge Day 3a - Natural Beauty

I just found out that Eric has a previous commitment on Monday so he will be leaving tonight to go to Truckee. I think that I will stay here by myself. Even saying that sounds funny to me. There are so many people up here this weekend that you really can't be here by yourself.

We spent the day hiking cross-country. Unfortunately I forgot to turn on my Spot until after we had already hiked a few miles. We didn't see anybody while we were off trail. As soon as we hit the trail right where Middle lake is supposed to be, two women and a boy of about eleven were coming down the trail. We asked them if they had seen a lake and they said no. 

We then assumed that our navigation was off, or rather Eric did. We began following the women and the boy. The boy was wearing some camps military style webbing harness. He had a cowboy cap gun sticking out of the armpit holster under his left arm. The older of the two women had an automatic pistol in a holster on her belt. We decided to walk slower.
I suggested that we look at the map and our GPS and navigate to the lake. We found that the trail had been moved about two hundred meters East from when the map was drawn. After walking another two hundred and fifty meters we found ourselves in the middle of a bid meadow. A clear stream was flowing through it, but there was not a lake in sight. 

We headed downstream after deciding to eat our lunch in the shade by the stream. There were no big trees in the meadow with shade that covered the stream's bank. Finally we came to a place where the meadow ended and the stream cascaded down a narrow gorge. As we stood there looking down the tumbling creek I followed the streams course down to some large rocks, boulders really. The boulders had people sunning themselves, apparently after a jump in the stream. Wait a minute that girl one the end has nothing on! Then she stood up, and removed all doubt. Al natural in nature. We decided to take a big detour around the party that was a little to free and easy.

Meditations on Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12 Read it yourself

Wise men from the east come to Jerusalem looking for a king. They had enough information to get there. They saw a star and it meant something to them, something more than what everybody else saw. Even though they were wise and even though they saw something no one else saw, they didn't know enough or have enough information without going to someone else for more information. Perhaps that is what made them wise. Being willing to seek out the missing knowledge that will give them the right clues to find what (or in this case, who) they were seeking.

Their quest for more information shows us that the scribes and priests had the knowledge but they did nothing with it. I suppose that makes them fools. Since they had the knowledge but didn't act upon what they knew. 

We also see Herod's character whose lust to maintain power and control leads him to perpetrate one of the greatest atrocities in history by massacring the baby boys of Bethlehem. He plays the fool be thinking he was going to outthink God. He had the knowledge and he used it for his own purposes and sealed his own fate while at the same time causing the young parents of Jesus to flee to Egypt, unknowingly fulfilling another prophecy about the Messiah coming out of Egypt.

What I find fascinating about this story is how the purposes of God play out in each of the characters lives without any of them conciously attempting to do God's will or to make something happen. The greatest event in the history of the world unfolds like clockwork in spite of the inaction of some and the contrary actions of others.

Sometimes you get all in a tizzy about events unfolding in your life. You feel as if you have to take actions that you don't want to take in order to stave off some great catastrophe. You take them because they seem like an expedient way to solve a problem. At other times you are paralyzed with inaction while events unfold in such a way that it upsets your cherished comfort. In either case, if your focus is not on God and what he wants you to do, you end up playing the fool.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Grouse Ridge Day 2b - Sunshine and no Mosquitoes

We ended up enduring the long lasting sunshine until finally we began to get a cool breeze from the north including a passel of cumulus clouds that gave us intermittent relief from the punishing rays. Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention to the backs of my hands and they are feeling a bit burnt.
The shade finally made it to our location and we decided this spot is a fine place to spend the night. It's flat! So at least I won't be fighting gravity all night. I am liking the new tent a lot. It has more headroom than any lightweight tent I have ever had.

We were able to have dinner while it was still light which was quite a luxury compared to last night. We met a guy who is up here fishing and so far he's caught a hundred times more fish than we have. 

A hundred times zero is still zero, but he certainly has been working at it more than I have. I haven't some any. Eric has spent some time throwing bait in the water without any interested fish. 

I ended up taking a nap in the shade. It will be interesting to see if I am able to sleep tonight with all the rest I got today. I think it'll be much warmer than last night as we have dropped about five hundred feet in elevation and there is very little snow on the ground. Surprisingly, there aren't any mosquitoes. At least there aren't any biting ones. They'll probably show up in the next few days.

Grouse Ridge - Day 2a

We hiked down to Five Lakes Basin after spending the morning climbing Black Buttes. It only took a couple of hours to climb to the top and back to our camp. The pace of this trip is much less frenetic than any that I have been on for quite a awhile. I kind of like the change.
After we got back from climbing the peaks Eric took up fishing and I took up sock washing. We'll if you can call rinsing your socks in a mostly frozen lake 'washing'. Perhaps a better term would be sock dunking. Anyway, my socks are not as smelly as they were before. Then I laid them out on the warm rocks to dry while I took a nap in the shade. This must be what leisure feels like.

 Some time around lunch time we mozyed down the trail. We past the couple with the dogs that barked at us. It wasn't the first time. They barked at us last night, and they barked at us this morning when we were heading up to the peak. They even barked when I was trying to quietly go make a fertilizer donation. It so much quieter now that we are here and the dogs are somewhere else.
We found a really great campsite at the northern-most lake in the Five Lake Basin. The only downside is it is only the middle of the afternoon and there really isn't any shade in the site. So I am hunkered down under some tree about fifty feet away. The giant ants of the Sierra also like the shade so every few minutes I have to stop blogging and flick them off of me. The hardest ones to flick are the ones that crawl up my back under my shirt. 

Grouse Ridge - Day 2a - Booger Nights

Good morning it is. After a cold night in the mountains all mornings are good. I don't know how cold it got but I ended up pulling out my Mylar space blanket. It's amazing how much extra warmth you get from a thin piece of aluminized plastic! My other piece of gear that really helps when it's cold out is my down hood. Yes it makes my head look like a giant green booger, but it's a warm booger.
Our camp is right by the lake, er, soggy snow pack. Since the lake is substantially covered in snow you don't get quite the same esthetic effect as a lake without snow. It's still a premier spot. The cost of enjoying a spot such as this is the requirement to camp on a slope. A rocky slope. My tent is guyed out to stakes that are stuck in about one inch of soil and then buried Under the biggest rocks I could find. 
I have discovered that my new gear, e.g. Neoair lite, sleeping bag, tent floor are all really slick. I mean slick as is slippery. The slope isn't that steep of a slope but nome-the-less, I spent the night pushing myself up to the high side of the tent as then slowly oozing my way back to the low side. Remember the booger head? Okay, combine those two pictures. I spent the night acting out the effect of gravity on the contents of a nose of someone with a head cold. You've heard the phrase 'slicker than snot?' That pretty much describes my gear.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Grouse Ridge - Day 1

We started down the trail at six pm. We only had to hike about three and one half miles so we had plenary if time before to sunset. Ha! It was just getting dark when we arrived at Glacier Lake. We met a number of people many of whom said, "you don't want to go to Glacier it's covered in snow." Well, they were telling mostly the truth because the lake is mostly covered with snow.
There is a delightful little stream of bubbling snow melt happily bouncing next to my tent down to the lake. I am listening to its soothing sound as I write this post. Today was a good day even though most of it was spent at work rather than hiking. I got a phenomenal amount of things accomplished today. Most than I anticipated, more even then I had faith for when I asked the small group I attend on Tuesday night to pray for my productivity. It is truly amazing to me how God answers prayer as I really don't know how I got everything done.
Anyway, back to hiking. As we wended our way though the trees we came around a corner and poof there was aan standing there. A silent man. He obviously had come from the other direction. It was eerie how quiet he was. He mouthed the words, "I climbed that mountain today," as he gesticulated vigorously towards a peak we could just barely see through the trees. 
Not a sound came from his mouth when we asked him, " you climbed that mountain?" He lipped "yes" as he nodded his head vigorously. We asked if there was a lot of snow and he mouthed, "yes" as he slipped off his pack and began rummaging through it, silent as a church mouse. It was the strangest thing.   
He dug around for a while and finally pulled out a device that he held to his throat. As he began to move his lips, suddenly as mechanical sounding sound began to form into words. He told his about his climb and the snow. He talked about a number of things I didn't quite follow. Something about breaking three shoulders. But as he spoke I noticed a hole about the size of a nickel in his throat. He was a strange guy telling a strange story with a strange device and a strange hole in his throat. Finally he said, "I gotta go" and he packed up his stuff and disappeared down the trail in the direction we came from. 
We finally made it here to Glacier lake, but we are not alone. There is a couple here with their two dogs. I think the dogs were happier to see us than the couple was. We moved do further towards to lake from their camp so as to not cramp their style. I had dinner while Eric sipped his tea, and afterwards I whipped up a batch of trail brownies while wi sipped the wine that Eric brought. Life is good, I am glad to be here. I hit the OK button on my Spot device. I'll be interested to see if the email I setup for Kelli was sent successfully. I will have to wait for that though. There is no cell coverage out here at all. It's way past hiker midnight so I will sign off for now, nighty night.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Super Full Moon

What is a super full moon? It's when the moon is at it's closest approach to the earth coincides with the phase of full moon. This is happening on July 12, 2014. This is also the day that I plan to summit Mt Whitney on the last day of my John Muir Trail thru-hike. The moon rises on July 11 at 8:37 pm. It reaches it's zenith (moon noon) at 12:59 am and it will set at 6:17 am on the morning of the 12th. The sun will rise at 5:53 am. So there will be a 24 minute period when then moon will be on the western horizon while the sun is on the eastern horizon.

Wow, there's lots of number in the previous paragraph. What I was trying to explain is that I am planning to be on the highest point in the Continental United States on the day when the Super Full Moon sets just after the sun rises. I know that I will not be alone in that there will be lots of others there at the same time. I will be getting up some time in the middle of the night so that I can climb from my last campsite to the summit prior to the sun coming up. The moon will be (super) full so it will be easy to see. I anticipate that there will be other hikers summiting that same morning so it'll be really cool and I am excited to experience the sunrise while standing on the top of a mountain over fourteen thousand feet above sea-level.

We (I) am so isolated from God's creation on a daily basis that it's easy to forget and overlook the grandeur that is all around us everyday. We (I) am so used to driving by stuff that I don't even see it anymore. I walk into my office first thing in the morning and most of the time don't exit the building until it's time to drive home. My home has climate control, four walls surrounding me, a smooth flat floor beneath my feet, and a roof over my head. I live in a box that keeps nature out, and I am glad that it does.

However, there is a part of me that is connected to nature, that comes alive when I am in the forest. I feel something special when the stream is laughing it's way down the mountain next to the trail I am following. Listening to the birds greet each other in the clear morning air takes my breath away and causes emotion to start seeping out the corners of my eyes. There is a part of me that experiences something close to transcendence when I feel the cool morning zephyr softly caressing my face as the sun peeks through the branches of the trees welcoming me to another day in God's grand playground.

Many of my closest friends don't understand the previous paragraph. They don't experience what I experience in that same place. They experience cold fingers and  sore feet and tired aching muscles. They are miserable from sleeping on the forest floor the night before. Breakfast was not convenient and they had to sit on the ground to eat it. It's been too long since their last shower and they are self-conscious about their appearance and their smells. I long for them to experience what I do, but they don't. I can't fix it for them nor can I force them to see it different than they do. Perhaps the only magic they'll ever experience in a moment and place like that is in a paragraph of words I write. It's such a poor substitute for the real thing, but its probably more than they want.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Singular Inability to Focus

The time of my departure draws nearer and I feel like my thoughts are scattered. There seem to be a million and one different little details that need to be addressed and I find myself bouncing from one to the other without completing any of them.
The first nine miles

Some of the larger things on my list are:
  • Increase workout regimen to include aerobic (bicycle rides) activity and consistent core exercises at the gym.
  • Add routes to way-point file and print out maps of route
  • Complete food list, purchase, and pack same
  • Acquire seal-able plastic bucket for shipping food to resupply point
On top of these there are other things that I don't want to forget so I am creating to-do lists and I now have a list of my lists.

Normally I feel like I get more organized before a trip, right now I feel the opposite. Perhaps it is because this trip is so far outside of my comfort zone. The epic nature of it has me wondering if I will be able to complete what I have started. The trip looms larger in my mind everyday. Especially the first four miles from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. Four thousand vertical feet in four miles with four days of food in my twenty-four pound pack. I tried to think of another four to add to the previous sentence, but four fours is probably sufficient. It seems that whenever I sit down and try to focus on a particular task I become side-tracked with trivialities, like how many fours can I fit in a sentence.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Meditations on Isaiah 52

Beautiful Feet?

Isaiah 52 Read it yourself

For too long God's people have been asleep. They have lost strength; they are schlepping around in pajama pants and worn-out old tee-shirts. They have been bound as if they were slaves.

Wake Up! Shake off the lethargy and laziness, get dressed to be seen. Go out with the good news that the captives have been set free.

Do you want beautiful feet? "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news..." How poignant is that to me. It was a few years back when my vanity got the better of my judgment and I pumice-stoned all the ugly callouses off my feet. (You can read about that here). I have been afflicted for years now with ugly toenail fungus. It's almost like God saying, "So your going to idolize your feet, have some fungus." I don't necessarily think God is vindictive, but I do believe he lets idolators make fools of themselves. See 1 Kings 18:26-29.

I asked my doctor about how to get rid of toenail fungus and he said, "Well they have this drug that will clean it up, but when you stop using it, the fungus comes back, and the longer you use it the more likely you will damage your liver." How ever ugly my feet are, I would much rather have them than a defective liver. I have been painting my toenails for the last couple of years with apple cider vinegar. It seems that the fungus can't live in the acidic environment produced by the vinegar. But its a routine that definitely doesn't enhance the look of my feet.

From God's perspective those bringing the good news are those with beautiful feet. Not only that, but where are the beautiful feet? "How beautiful upon the mountains." That is exactly where I intend to be in a couple of weeks. I am looking forward to meeting other people like myself, who enjoy the mountains as I do. Who knows, perhaps I am a missionary to 'hiker trash'. At the very least I can express the joy and freedom that I have experienced in my relationship with Christ. Perhaps I'll have an opportunity to serve those wandering souls along the JMT.

"All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." Surely that includes the JMT. I love how the chapter ends. "for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand" Isaiah refers to people who are ignorant of the good news, they haven't been told nor have they heard. He prophesies that they will be from many nations and that theye are 'sprinkled' by God.

To be sprinkled is to be cleaned. The ancient Judaic ceremonies included many instances of the cleansing of articles and people by the sprinkling of the blood of a sacrificed animal. These were all prophetic symbols and pictures of the reality of the Lamb of God, Jesus, being sacrificed in order to bring us sinners into a new and dynamic relationship with our God. According to Isaiah, when these sprinkled people are told, they will see, and when they hear, they will understand.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Yosemite Weekend - Epilogoe

I can't believe it was a week ago when I was preparing for my weekend in Yosemite. I had planned to write a short 'Lessons Learned' post when I got home, but after the drive I needed a nap. Then I woke up and did the stuff that didn't get done over the weekend. Then I did other stuff and... poof. Here I am at the end of another week.

It's about two months before I head down the JMT. Even though last weekend was cold and wet, I thoroughly enjoyed our hike up to Nevada Falls. I learned where the backpacker's camp was and also where the trail-head is to the Four Mile Trail. My first day hiking is going to be quite a day. I will hike across the valley to the trail-head. Climb four thousand vertical feet to Glacier Point. Once I arrive there I can begin my hike from the trail-head that I have been permitted to use. Then I hike from Glacier Point down to Nevada Falls, meeting the JMT at a junction about a mile before the falls. Altogether its about twelve extra non-JMT miles that are tacked on to my hike.

One of my tests last weekend was to tryout the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. This meal is a plate of scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, sausage, and hash browns blended together, freeze-dried, and dumped into a bag. The idea is that you reconstitute it with hot water and use it as a filler for a breakfast burrito. Woo Hoo! Yes, that's what I'm talking about. I brought along another one of my tests. A couple of tortillas that I had vacuum sealed over a month ago. They had preserved remarkably well. I draped them over my pot of boiling water for about a minute and presto, a steamed tortilla ready to be filled with Breakfast Skillet goodness. This meal gets my hearty recommendation and I will be adding it to my menu. I will, however, be dividing the meal into thirds as one pouch is way more than I can eat in a single meal. After I divide it, I will vacuum seal each serving, which will take a little under one half a cup of water to reconstitute.

Another test was sleeping in a 40 degree bag and a Cocoon silk mummy liner in cold weather. First off, I was completely warm and comfortable in my new ZPacks 40 degree bag. Along with the bag I purchased a matching Goose Hood for those nights that are colder than normal. It was colder than normal, the weather had predicted nights in the 20s however I don't think it was that cold, the water in the puddles didn't freeze. I would guess it was in the mid 30s and my sleeping kit worked flawlessly. I really like having the separate hood rather than a mummy sleeping bag with a hood. The draw string at the top of my sleeping bag snugs the bag around my neck and the hood allows me more freedom of movement for my head than I ever had with my mummy bag.