My feet are nasty white and waterlogged. The bottoms of my pants are wet and sandy, the uppers are flecked with dried mud. My fleece is damp with sweat inside my raincoat. Temperatures are well into the 30′s by 4:00 p.m. and soon I will be in bed, raincoat and all. The sunset is spectacular though. This is the first day I’ve had camp made before sunset. Dinner’s ready too. So I wrap myself in my sleeping bag and forget about my aching feet for a minute and just watch the waves calmly roll in on Shi Shi Beach from the door of my tent. White frost from this morning still sheaths the driftwood here despite the sunny day. I have reached my destination. It was a gauntlet getting here but the natural wonders grew more spectacular with every passing step and now that I’m 32 miles north of where I started I can safely say it was worth the effort.
I set out before my alarm even went off this morning, well before sunrise and even before twilight. I was cold and moved quickly but carefully on the frozen beach and frosty driftwood and rocks. I was naked and fording the steaming Ozette River by 9:00 a.m. and relaxing on a most spectacular overlook south of Point of the Arches eating a bag of almond granola that I’m going to regret. I took pictures and sent friends a Snapchat video from a precarious rock 200′ above the encroaching sea. By the time I realized I had not completely rounded Point of the Arches it was too late; I hiked down and a mile further along the beach to discover it was impassable already. I’d have to wait until low tide around 9:00 p.m. and worse this whole beach would be submerged. I had no choice but to climb back up the ropes to the ridge I had just left.
Once I was on the ridge I really wanted to keep moving. After all, it was only 2 o’clock. On my GPS I could see something called ‘Foot Trail’ half a mile back in the woods. Little did I know it would take an hour and a half of bushwhacking to cover that half mile or that the for trail would be disused and overgrown, only slightly better than the bushwalking that had gotten me to it. But I did find it, and it lead me to Shi Shi Beach via Petroleum Creek just in time for sunset. And when I walked down to point of rocks I I thought I could see where I had been standing and had decided to turn back three hours prior. I met Nathan, and he took a fantastic picture of me ‘from the Dutch angle’, whatever that means.
78 miles of remote coastline untouched by human development. That’s what I drove to the continental United States’ westernmost peninsula to see. 4 days hiking alongside water bottles, gas cans, bleach jugs, PVC pipes, ship bouies, Styrofoam beads and discarded fishing nets is what I got instead.
I love traveling, and some nights I’m just too excited to sleep. I can play harmonica until my lips are exhausted and this usually puts me to sleep – but not on these nights. So my new trick is to take a benadryl on nights when I just have to sleep. Benadryl puts me to sleep within an hour and keeps me asleep through strong winds or high surf.
My alarm went off in the morning twilight. I pressed snooze a couple of times before lazily packing and hitting the beach around 7:30. All of the driftwood had grown a fur of 1/2″ tall white snow crystals in the night, and sheets of ice cracked underfoot where water ran across the sand from seeps in the cliff. I made good time on open stretches of hard packed sand before being stopped by high water at Yellow Banks. I took lots of photos and I found 3 cold water immersion suits along the way, almost as if 3 shipwreck survivors had washed up there. The suits are really nice neoprene, so I may try to take one home on the way back. Its only 15 miles with an extra 10 lbs or so.
There is an amazing campsite at the north end of the Yellow Banks that overlooks the bay. Using a combination of rock climbing skills and mechanical engineering I added a tree swing from rope and a heavy plastic panel which I found washed up on the shore below. I swung and relaxed on the sunny driftwood deck while listening to oldies, and I did a little nude yoga when it was warm enough. Highs are in the 40′s this week. I also stashed my bear canister under the decking with two days of food and my dead headlamp inside. At least those canisters are good for something.
Shortly after leaving yellow banks I slipped again, this time whacking my knee and soaking my clothes in a tide pool as I struggled like a bug stuck on its back. I stripped down to my cheetah pajamas, dumped out my purple Playtex dish gloves and put them back on, dawned my tattered sky blue raincoat and put in my headphones. And as the sun set in a cold, cloudless sky I danced along light and free raving to trance and looking crazy as a jaybird. Not a lot of people would be in to this, I thought to myself, but I sure am. After all, its cold and this is pretty strenuous. Twilight had passed and I was setting up camp again by the time I realized I had forgotten to pull out my tent stakes and pack them this morning. I had also left the cord I use to support the roof tied to a tree I had used the night before. I staked the tent with pine twigs and guyed out the roof with discarded fishing rope. It was calm and clear, and with the rest of my dry gear on inside my 15 degree down sleeping bag I was mostly warm enough. I watched Venus slowly sink toward it’s seafaring reflection as satellites and a couple of meteors streamed by through the tall pines.
Its 2:00p.m. and I’m stuck. My pack is heavier than it should be and I’ve covered a scant 3 miles. My sleeping bag is still damp from last night’s fiasco: My tent stakes ripped out and when I got back to camp my sleeping bag had a puddle of water in the middle. I restaked the tent, dumped off the water, and climbed in raincoat and all. To my surprise I wasn’t cold and I went right to sleep. High winds and blowing rain pummeled my tent and woke me twice but I slept well. This was my first time camping in heavy rain in my homemade 8oz. shelter and I was quite pleased with it’s performance.
In the morning I dried everything out and began to pack, quickly realizing the disproportionate amount of relatively heavy bread and fruit I had to the single bag of relatively light quinoa. I packed the quinoa, 3 loaves of bread and 6 apples and hit the trail around noon, less than an hour before high tide. My shoes got soaked by a roge wave near hole in the rock and I spent an hour bushwalking to no avail in hopes of bypassing the submerged point just north of there. The tides are extreme right now because it is a full moon and we are nearing the solstice. I layed down behind a sun bleached log on the stony beach and covered up with my damp sleeping bag to wait for low tide. An avid if quirky hiker named Gary stopped to talk and told me about some great hikes in Oregon and Wyoming. “And I thought ‘You know what? These are two of the finest days I’ve ever experienced, and they’re back to back!’” He said, remembering a trip in Wyomings Wind River. We chatted for a while and at once I noticed the water was low enough to keep hiking. I bayed Gary goodbye and started packing.
From Bad to Worse
The sunset behind me was a beautiful fiery orange as I glanced back and then shifted my vision to the shadowy ground in front of me. I spotted the plummeting white head of a bald eagle starting into a headlong dive over the bay in front of me. It swooped to the waters surface and snatched a shiny fish, then pumping it’s wings it climbed toward the ridge beyond the bay. And as I walked along awe-stricken, I slipped on an algae coated rock and smacked my head on another. My teeth slammed together and I lay in the wet rocks moaning, my inadequate arms folded beneath me. I thought how lucky I was to still be conscious and to have been wearing a thick wool beanie to help lessen the blow. I stood up rubbing my head and instantly I had a throbbing headache. A giant knot slowly took shape and blood began to leave it’s tingly trickle in my eyebrow. I hiked on shakily in the cold wind, Venus’s reflection following me on the vast, wet sand, wishing very much that I had ibuprofen and a cold compress.
I’ve been on 3 big adventures in the last 3 months. August saw me in the Nevada desert for the annual Burning Man festival. I took a little break for love after that, and from the love I took a break to spend 10 days trekking California’s Lost Coast. That was September and the combined experience taught me a lot about urushiol rashes (vis-à-vis poison ivy) and Santa Cruz girls (they’re the friendliest I’ve met yet, but don’t blame them if they change their mind at the drop off a hat!) Adventure number 3 spanned Halloween like my Sykes trip last year and found me floating around Willet Hot Spring on my Thermarest in the drought-stricken Sespe Wilderness where I had my clothes stolen and again had a urushiol encounter, this time in a ravine full of dormant poison oak. Do you know what dead poison oak looks like? Me neither.Dormant plants are no less ‘poisonous’ however, and in fact this encounter was far more severe in part because it was so closely timed with the previous exposure.
Now, rain patters away on the thin vinyl top of my convertible. This is the beginning of a fourth big adventure. I am on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. I sit tucked away in the tiny passenger compartment, cozily planning my lonely trek along 78 miles of the country’s most remote coastline. For the next few days I will base my life around the tides, sleeping at high rise and hiking, day or night, when the tide is low. I practiced this on the Lost Coast. Hiking on packed low tide sand to a setting full moon is an amazing thing, on par with the desert sunrise over Black Rock or a commune with the Earth in Hot Springs Canyon. For me, this is the perfect life. Just the right balance of raw danger, logistical uncertainty, and quiet comfort that maximizes excitement and relaxation.
This trek will be more demanding than any of the last three adventures. Unlike the Lost Coast, the beach here is rock, not sand, so it doesn’t pack down hard like sand, requiring more exertion and showing travel considerably. The drift wood is larger and plentiful to the point of being a slippery nuisance at best and a deadly ocean-powered projectile at worst. There are also more ‘tricky’ spots (terrain traps is what I would call them) that if improperly timed can leave a hiker trapped by the rising tide. There are also ladders, ropes and stairs that must be used to gain the benchland in places where the coast is entirely impassable. To top it all off I will have wet November weather to endure. My goal is to make it 25 miles north to the westernmost point in the continental United States, then turn around and hike south 50 miles or so to the other end of this remote coastline, resupplying along the way. My tour of the harrowed hinterland complete I will turn around and hike back to my car and go find a hot spring that isn’t snowed it. Sheesh, its only November.
The rain lets up, on and off as you’d expect in the Pacific Northwest, and I sneak out to setup my tent on the stoney beach. I can’t do another night in the passenger seat no matter how many benadryl I take. I am praying that this tent is waterproof, unlike the one I made for the Lost Coast. Actually, I bet on it by moving my sleeping bag inside and returning to my car to write. The rain doesn’t let up when I need to pee and in 60 seconds I’m doused, reminding me of the importance of staying dry in an environment where things get wet and stay wet.
My theme song for this adventure is a Moby track that I just discovered, The Perfect Life. I know I’ve heard it before but listening to it today is when I realized how really perfect this all is. Close your eyes. In the perfect life, life is all you need.
Today Sophie and I got together with two friends for a backpacking trip. Carina and Mable live in nearby Frisco so they came over as soon as Carina got off work. The four of us drove to the start of the Chiuhuahua 4WD trail near Montezuma, Colorado. There we donned our packs and headed up the rocky and occasionally flooded road.
We climbed and climbed and by late afternoon we finally reached our stubby-legged destination: the serene turquoise water’s of Chihuahua Lake. With a round body, stub legs and a grotesquely small head it looks like a characture of Sophie. Our gangly quartet shared triscuits, salami and cheese before exploring the short but deep outlet canyon.
By sunset we hiked down and out to a collapsed mine where we made camp and dinner on the old floorboards. In the morning we bid for the 14,200′ summit of Gray’s Peak.
What can I say, I’ve got a ‘stache. So I went hiking today, and I collected some pine sap to make pine-honey mustache wax!
Solid Mustache Wax Recipe.
Times I’ve ever had sober. I’m going on 4 months now. Dads at six. There’s a certain confidence in being yourself all the time, knowing that there’s only one you and not that other more outgoing intoxicated guy waiting for release. In a 36 hour span I had several defining moments. With family and friends I grilled and watched meteors and rejuvenated in hot springs and danced and sang with Michael Franti and still managed to spend some time by myself and make new friends. The Geminids seemingly coincided with another meteor shower, making for the most spectacular night of meteors that any of us have ever seen. I’m pooped but I wanted to share something very interesting that I learned about meteors: slower meteors burn longer, shallower angle meteor revel further across the sky.
Leonids: 71 kilometers per second
Perseids: 61 kilometers per second
Orionids: 67 kilometers per second
Lyrids: 48 kilometers per second
Geminids: 35 kilometers per second
Fall Taurids: 30 kilometers per second
Delta Leonids: 23 kilometers per second
Draconids: 23 kilometers per second
EarthSky.org’s latest on the Geminids!
Five Meteorological Phenomena in one: a sun dog (bright triangle), a parhelic circle (curved line connecting sun dug and the sun), a 22° halo (circle), an upper tangent arc and a Parry arc (top,) and diamond dust (looks like stars)
I woke up well before sunrise this morning. I slid my hand down my side and found the chord that ran in under the course sheets from my IV pole. I traced the chord to it’s handle and pushed the magic blue button.
The machine at the other end beeped and 0.4 lit up in red. Somewhere inside a pump came to life and began to add hydromorphone HCl to my IV tube from the 6 mg vial locked inside. I can press this button every 15 minutes. Any more and it just beeps at me. Only a nurse with the code can get to the vial or change the dosage.
The aching behind my nose fades away and I push the button again because, well, why not. Being in the hospital is like going to the buffet at Harrahs: I always eat more than one desert. I reached over and in the light from the bathroom found the incline adjustment and raised myself up. On my phone I checked the weather for Dillon. Aspen. Moab. Monticello. Farmington. Overcast in all directions for the upcoming Geminids meteor shower but no snow for the resorts. Dammit Jupiter, you are cruel. Contrary to popular belief though, statewide snowpack is higher than last year, although it is still about 40% below average. Speaking of snowpack. Sometimes when you have sinus surgery they have to pack your sinuses with gauze to stop the bleeding. They didn’t have to do that to me. I started to wonder how much water the resorts are allowed to use. Can Keystone make fake snow all season? I dug into the nitty-gritty blog posts, newspaper articles and forum discussions to sift out a fluffier understanding of my favorite winter playground, Keystone Mountain Resort.
Keystone and Arapahoe Basin both have water rights to the Snake River. This is their primary water source for snowmaking. As far as I can tell there is no seasonal limit on the amount or timing of water use. The only limitation is that the Snake’s flow may not be made to drop below 6 c.f.s. This regulation protects native trout populations that will die if the river’s temperature drops too low as a result of the low water level. With permission from the Forest Service, Keystone can use additional water from the Snake River if skier safety is at risk, so long as flow rates do not drop below 2 c.f.s. However, Keystone has an agreement with the State of Colorado to mitigate fish population declines by stocking catchable-sized rainbow trout to make up for those lost during due to low-flow.
When additional water is needed for snowmaking at Keystone it is diverted from the Roberts Tunnel via the 900-foot-deep Montezuma Shaft. Two pumps at the bottom of the vertical shaft run at 4kV and are permitted to extract as much as 1,500 acre feet of water (presumably on a yearly basis) from Denver’s water supply. Assuming that the snowmaking machines produce snow with a density of 30% this is enough water to cover all of Keystone (trees and sidecountry terrain included) with 18″ of snow. Impurities in the source water help ice crystals to spontaneously form, a process known generally as nucleation. Commercial products such as Drift as will as ina (ice nucleation-active) proteins from the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae are often added to increase nucleation, resulting in more efficient production and fluffier snow. It is not a good idea to ingest any of these and they can cause skin irritation as well.