Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The next morning, we rolled out of bed with a plan. We had shuttled the motorcycle down to Parkdale, OR the night before at the end of the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail and so all we had to do was eat breakfast and jump on our bikes. We were going to leave the motorhome parked where it was, but the consistent hunter and ATV traffic led us to move to an actual parking lot. This move added about 4 miles to our planned ride, but it was a good decision. The extra riding was really fast and fun on a mix of single track and double track. We were all warmed up by the time we hit the actual trail. The first six miles or so were a mix of quick ups and fast, rolling, downs with the most scenic views of Mt. Hood ever. It was spectacular! Our last major viewpoint was beautiful, but as we looked around us, we realized that fall was creeping in. The bushes were all orange and red and the air had a certain nip to it that suggested our trip would be over soon. The last four miles were all downhill. We cruised along a narrow trail, which was made more exciting by the brush crowding the trail. Soon the trail got really steep and rocky. There were numerous switchbacks, which were challenging due to the grade and loose rock. The grass was all dried out and it looked like we were on a safari. Watch out for lions!!! Just kidding. Before we knew it, we were crossing over a small bridge into the parking lot where our motorcycle sat waiting. We hopped on and headed back up the hill. With so much time, we thought we might go on a search for huckleberries. We took the motorcycle through numerous forest service roads and it wasn’t until we were cruising between 4-5,000 feet that we saw bushes covered with little purply-blue berries. I gorged myself and Eric helped me fill a couple containers to take back for later. It took awhile considering how small the berries are, but we were diligent pickers.
On Wednesday, Eric and I went on an unusual adventure. We did something that we just don’t do. Josh convinced us to climb Mt. Adams. Eric and I knew that we weren’t going to make it to the top. We were just entertaining Josh’s fantasy of climbing up a big mountain, which Mt. Adams definitely qualifies (12,273 ft). We tried to convince Josh that if we were going to even have a shot, we would need to start early, say 2 or 3AM to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Josh said that they weren’t gong to make it to the trailhead until somewhere around 8AM. Hmmm. Well, this should be fun. We started hiking with all our permits and registration forms completed at 7:50 at 5,400 feet. The first 2.25 miles were fairly tame and passed quickly. I forgot my hiking boots at my sister’s in Arcata and had to resort to wearing my jogging shoes, which Josh assured me would be just fine, because that is what he always hikes in. Great. Abruptly, our trail turned from wide and moderate to narrow and strenuous. The altitude clicked by and we stopped every thousand vertical to snack, drink and breath deeply. These breaks were cut to 15 minutes in order to keep trudging up the mountain. Soon, there was no trail, just loose lava rock with sand to boot. We could see our destination thousands of feet above, so a trail wasn’t really necessary. We watched another group struggle across a glacier and decided to stick to the loose rock, although we were equipped with ice axes for the snow/ice crossings. We ended up using them more as stabilizing agents than glissading tools. Fine by me. With about 2,000 feet to go, we stopped to watch the clouds cruise in. The mist cooled off the air, but lightning was not a huge danger. We worried that if we actually made it to the top, we wouldn’t be able to see anything due to the clouds. Crows circled above and we wondered if that was a sign. Maybe we should turn back. Nahh! We pushed on. When we reached the false summit, it was clear that we were going to make it. Eric and I were baffled. How could this be? We crossed over the one long stretch of ice and made the final push up the homestretch. We arrived on top and gazed across the landscape below through fast moving clouds. The wind was blowing hard and finding shelter was difficult because the wooden structure someone managed to build up there was full of snow. We took a few pictures and had to head down because everyone got really cold. We all bundled up and started the 6-7 mile trek back down. It was much easier to maneuver through the sand on the way down than the way up and we ended up taking a glacier down by skating in our shoes. Even with these seemingly faster techniques, however, it still took us just as long to reach the bottom as it did the top. I think it is fair to say that everyone was thoroughly exhausted. Although it wasn’t very late, Eric and I were so tired when we arrived back at the motorhome, we opted not to cook dinner and had cereal instead. We climbed in bed and passed out. We awoke to rain in the early AM hours and both found sleep difficult. We got up at 3AM for a Honey Nut Scooter snack before trying for more sleep. The next morning, we nearly crashed out of bed. Our legs seemed like they were incapable of supporting our weight. Our muscles screamed and I could only hope that Josh was in as much pain (I am so nice). We struggled through the morning and drove to Mt. St. Helens for an awesome ride up Ape Canyon, if it was possible to ask that of our legs. I would say this ride definitely made my top ten. It was a nice climb through dense forest with incredible views of the volcano. Around 5 miles out, the trail exited the forest and we had 360-degree views of the area. We stopped here for a Snickers break and discussed how this might be our last ride. We took it all in before continuing on. The next trail was called the Plains of Abraham. It was a bit steeper on loose volcanic rock. Ash blew up the canyon, which made the edge look like one bad move and . . . . We turned back considering the state of our legs. The way down was a cruise and we arrived at the motorhome haven ridden just over 10 miles. Phew! The legs made it. Getting off the bike was perhaps the most challenging part. For one, you had to support your weight with one incredibly exhausted leg, for two, it might have been our final ride. How sad is that? Reluctantly, we packed up the trailer and drove a short ways to the Windy Ridge road. We took the motorcycle out in the morning for a cruise up the windy road to view the volcano again. Although I wasn’t yet alive when she blew, I have a hard time imagining that this massive explosion occurred in this modern era and not thousands of years ago. It must have been out of this world! That afternoon, we drove to Packwood, WA to meet Jeff and Mindee Meyer. If you believe one person’s trash is another person’s treasure or are a garage sale extraordinaire, then Labor Day weekend at Packwood is your cup of tea. Seriously, it is a spectacular event. After gorging on a delicious buffalo burger, we crossed White Pass to check out the Tieton River. We intended to R2 the mini-me down early the next morning before heading to Spokane. The water looked awesome! It was moving fast and looked really cold. We were excited! Jeff and Mindee joined us for dinner and camping. We awoke, once again to rain. We tried to wish it away from bed, but it was relentless. Given the water is from the bottom of a reservoir right off of White Pass (brrr, chilly!), and I would have to hang out for about an hour while Eric ran the shuttle (sopping wet in the rain), we discussed whether we should run it or not. We chose not. We aren’t sure when we will be in the area to do it again, but we have both run this river several times before. In fact, the Tieton was the first river I ever did! Eric and I climbed into the motorhome knowing that we had probably just spent our last night in the Chateau and headed for Spokane. After a little switching around of clothes and food, we drove our Explorer to the Lake Roosevelt cabin. We arrived just in time for a delicious halibut dinner followed by a night of cards (you know, the usual).
Let this be my last post for our trip. Sad, but it is true, no one wants to read about a girl's readjustment to working. Also, today (9/30/09), I saw a bunch of people's blogs that are snazzy. I tried to make mine look cool, but it is too thin and not very colorful, kinda like I picked a template out of 4 possible or something. Right. In case you are wondering, I am working again. Sadly, I have to drive 25 minutes to get to work, but we love our neighborhood and apartment is second to none. Miss the bike. Looking forward to Moab. Over and out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The international kite festival was really fun!  There were kites of all shapes, sizes and colors.  Competitions included ballet, hot tricks, mass accessions, and kite fighting.  It was cool just to be by the ocean.  The Meyer family campout is always enjoyable as well.  We saw a lot of familiar faces and met some new relatives too.  There were 2 babies that Eric and I got to meet for the first time.  They are incredibly adorable and have their own unique personalities.  It makes you want to have kids of your own.  We ate very well during this portion of our trip.  I got to try some new things, which I am always a little hesitant to do including clams and crab.  Both are delicious!  We also had some old favorites like salmon and halibut.  As you can see we had a lot of seafood, which was mostly caught and brought by fellow family members.  We took a bike ride out on the beach, which was a bit difficult in the sand, but still pretty fun.  Mostly we just enjoyed everyone’s company and the festival down the road.  Eric and I left on Monday to head back to Portland so that I could catch a flight to New York City.  I forgot to bring any clothes that would be appropriate for my presentation, so we went to the mall where Eric and Josh helped me find a new outfit.  Tuesday morning (early morning (4:30ish!!!)) I caught my flight (direct, luckily) across the country.  It was a bit of a shocker stepping off the plane into the world’s most hectic city.  I had a car service to take me to the meeting, which was at Cold Spring Harbor, but it was much like taking a taxi.  The driver laid on the horn for 30 seconds at a time and spoke insults loudly to the drivers around us.  I have been so relaxed for so long, this was almost enough to send me running.

I won’t bore you with the details of the meeting.  Let’s just say that I met a lot of new people and got to hang out with some of my favorite people from CO.  My poster was well received and I actually thought that the time spent presenting flew by at record pace.  There were many interesting talks presented about cutting edge research and it felt like a chance to refocus my mind on science.  Baby fever is absolutely out of my system.  The lab is calling to me and I am excited to get projects rolling.

During the time I was absent, Eric spent his days visiting friends in Portland.  He helped someone move, helped someone tile their fireplace mantel, went jet-boating and  squeezed in a ride at the Tillamook State Forest.  After some minor delays at the airport resulting from Tropical storm Danny, my flight departed and crossed the country back to Portland.  I got in a little late (11:30pm, which felt like 2:30AM!!) and was happy to be back on vacation.  Eric and I are both feeling the end is near.  Although I am excited to get started, I am also a little hesitant knowing that this may be the last time for a long time that I will be able to take as much time off from work. 

Sunday, we got up bright and early, excited to see what the Mt. Hood area has to offer.  After restocking our fridge and cupboards, we drove the short distance to the Gunsight trail.  The weather is back to sunny and perfect.  During the time we were apart, Eric and I both suffered clouds, cool temps with the occasional rain shower.  Apparently our combined powers to control the weather is synergistic.  We started riding just after noon, which began with a long, steady climb on a mix of paved and gravel roads.  At the end of the road, we came to an awesome view of Mt. Hood and someone very lucky’s campsite.  There were millions of plump and sun sweetened huckleberries ready for consumption.  I took full advantage while Eric made some critical phone calls.  We finally hit the single track and continued climbing on the nicest surface ever.  This trail had a mixture of smooth forest trail and rocky technical, even super rock shale landslides.  At the very top, there was a lovely view of the mountain, which was best appreciated by scrambling up some giant boulders, much like the tops of the peaks just out of Boulder, CO.  The trail reached Gumjuac Saddle and headed down a long decent back to the car.  It had long, fast sections followed by switchbacks.  It was a lot of fun the whole way and the views were spectacular.  We camped near the start of the next day’s ride and enjoyed steak, zucchini from Ben and Tiffany’s garden, and rice.  Tummies full, we headed to bed.

Today, we got up early.  Didn’t feel that early.  At the conference we stayed up late every night and had to get up fairly early to get to the talks resulting in 5-6 hours of sleep max.  I thought we got up this morning around 9 because I had been in and out of sleep for so long.  Turns out, we were eating breakfast at 7:30.  Geez!  Today the plan was to ride 2 loops that were rated very highly by our map’s description note.  We started with a really fun, not too steep, decent that was just great and long on the trail called 8-mile creek trail.  After a long decent, we obviously had some vertical to make up.  It was really nice though, curving up the mountain with moderate effort.  We finished with a small decent before hitting the second loop, Knebal Spring Trail.  Again, the decent was super long, not too steep, fun, curvy, but a little dustier.  It is always a little disappointing to get to the bottom of a long decent and know that you only have climbing left, that there is no more fun downhill ahead.  It was another long climb, but we both were feeling pretty strong.  I didn’t think we had reached the top when we did and was surprised to be cranking through the forest in my middle ring and finishing with an addition mile of downhill.  Eric knew that I would be pretty tired after this ride.  My meeting in NYC didn’t exactly keep my fitness primed.  I pretty much sat with my heart beating around 57 bpm for five days straight.  The only time it might have been above 60 bpm was when I had to walk through the buffet line.  Eric wanted to ride a short section of mostly downhill trail that we could ride tomorrow, but decided against.  He said that it was pretty dusty, but still fun, just not a good trail to ride up.  I navigated correctly to the bottom trailhead and Eric arrived shortly thereafter.  We drove into the small town of Parkdale, where we managed to get some laundry and internet tasks done.  Tonight, we are again parked near tomorrow’s trailhead, although we aren’t exactly sure where that is.  We had a delicious supper and are only a little concerned by the weird trucks driving by with people in full camo and guns in the back.  Is it hunting season already?

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We drove as far as we could and slept at a rest area along with other RVs and many semis. Classy. The next morning, Aug 11, we drove to Crater National Park and toured the deepest lake in the country (over 1,900 feet) on the motorcycle. It was a little chillier than expected (still some snow visible) so we did the loop quickly and moved on. On to the Umpua Trail! This trail is a 79-mile adventure. Most of the sections are open to bikes, but due to fires, we had to be careful when planning our adventure. They didn’t make it incredibly easy to do because the trail is divided between 3 different ranger districts, which don’t communicate with each other. To check on a section of trail, you had to call the correct station and hope that the operator had the info you needed. There. That’s my gripe about the Umpqua. This trail was freakin’ awesome! We did a short section when we arrived, just to test it out, called Lemolo. It was a 6+ mile out and back from camp. It was fast and fun with plently of excitement along the way. Now, Eric and I were really excited. We decided to link up 5 sections amounting to 33 miles of sweet single track. To start, we headed out on the Dread and Terror section, a 14.7 mile “most difficult” section that toured water falls, ledges, scenic river views and springs flowing down the trail. It was much more challenging than the portion we had ridden the night before, but definitely worth it. I was a little concerned with how long it took us to ride just the first section. The next section was only 3.5 miles called Hot Springs (named appropriately so, but we didn’t partake). This section had a little climbing, which translated to a little fun swooping decents on smooth single track. Deer Leap followed, 9+ mile section, which had a ton of climbing and by now I was pretty spent. I was dreading downhill because I knew that it likely would be followed with another climb. That’s how spent I was. I had a little hysterical moment, but managed to pull it back together to finish the long, very long, fast, fun, decent. Now only 2 sections left! I was considering taking the road down, but that turned out to require climbing out of the dip we were currently in, so we continued with the Jesse Wright section. The length of this portion is controversial as we discovered that every sign had it labeled differently. This was probably the lamest section we rode (probably not that lame, by now I was in a riding coma). This section spit us out on the road. I didn’t even consider taking the trail any further and just made a run for the motorhome. Eric reluctantly followed. We camped right along the river near Horseshoe Bend in a sweet little campsite. I confessed that I wasn’t interested in riding in the morning, so Eric planned to hit the few remaining sections not engulfed by fire alone. I drove the motorhome to meet him after each sections to make sure he was still kicking, made lunch, and finally got some well needed rest and relaxation. If you have never ridden the Umpqua Trail, you better get your booty up to no-where Oregon and ride it. It is truly a magnificent trail with more views than the Grand Canyon and fewer people than waterfall sightings. We left the Umpqua and headed to the Newberry Crater National Monument for a 20-mile loop around Paulina and East Lakes. We killed ourselves on the first climb, which was brutal punishment considering the well graded Umpqua we had just left. Once at the top, however, we found the rim to be an entertaining journey up and down various landscapes. Nothing too tricky and nothing too spectacular either. The views were okay. I guess we were just a little spoiled by now.
On Aug 15, we hit Bend, OR. I had some work to do to get ready for a conference I am attending in New York City, which required hanging out with my computer and getting online. Because Eric doesn’t want to hang out while I fussed with Powerpoint, I left him at the Swampy Lake SnoPark for a ride on Bend’s extensive trail network. And now comes the story of how I almost got stuck with the motorhome, trailer and no place to turn around. I haven’t been driving the motorhome all that often. It turns out, I make a much better navigator. All I had to do today was make two simple turns to pick Eric up at the trailhead. Unfortunately I missed the first one, which left me in search of a place to turn around the Chateau. I chose the Meadow Picnic Area. As soon as I made the turn, I realized I had made a big mistake. The picnic area was about 1.5 miles down a gravel, washboardy road. I was sure there would be a nice area with picnic tables, a bathroom, and a parking area where I could flip her back. I crawled down the road, blasting the tunes, with my window rolled down. Panic didn’t set in until I reached the actual parking lot which had room for exactly 6 cars and no place to turn around a motorhome, let alone a motorhome towing a trailer. I called Eric and told him he may need to reroute his bike trip to hit the picnic area instead of the trailhead because I was not about to try backing a trailer out a gravel, washboardy road for 1.5 miles. Besides, it had taken me so long to get back there, I was going to be late already. Cars were honking at me because I was blocking everything. Ughh. I pulled off as best I could, got out, and went for a walk. The gravel road continued back a ways and I didn’t want to keep going if there wasn’t a place to turn back easily. I was releaved to find a small dirt loop down by the river that had some awfully large potholes and a rough edge, but it was doable. I hopped back in the RV and made my go at it. I am pretty sure there was a bit of scraping involved, but I now had a slightly annoyed audience and I was ready to be out of the jam. I mean, what’s a girl to do? I crawled back to the main road and found Eric at the trailhead. We had a fantastic second half of the day riding mostly downhill. It was a blast! Eric was especially excited because he rode over 40 miles in one day (with 2 shuttles, cheater.) With 4 miles to go, Eric’s seat bolt failed him. He didn’t crash, but did have to ride those last few miles without a seat, only a post (ouch!) to remind him not to sit.
On Sunday, the 16th, we planned a giant loop that contained a portion that is closed most of the year for elk calving. It opened on Aug 15 (lucky us!!!). We started with a bomber downhill on the Southfork trail to the Tumalo Falls. Very pretty! Then we began our climb. At first, there were a lot of hikers out clearly just checking out the falls and a few other bikers. It was steep to start, so we didn’t mind stepping off to let hikers pass by. Then we were grunting along and then crawling along and then stopping for a refuel. It was quite the climb, continuing far up into alpine meadows. Here we came out of the forest to see a beautiful creek, interesting plants and the sun beaming down. I though that once we hit the Flagline trail, it would be all down, but again I was mistaken. More climbing. The downhill, as it turns out, was well worth all the effort. There were gentle corners and meandering trail all way back to the motorhome. For dinner, we went gourmet and BBQed lamb burgers with goat cheese, roasted red bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumber. Mmmm mmm mmmmmmmmm. We had such a pleasant day, we decided to take a similar route the next day, in reverse. We only had a small section of overlap, but had just as much fun. The end was a bit tiresome. All the trail junctions were clearly marked except for one, which we missed and ended up on a technical trail with super steep and long hills. It would have been okay if they were to get someone, but they weren’t. As soon as you made it up the hill, you were shooting back down to where you were before. It was a cruel joke at the end of a 30+ mile day. In all, we covered 97 miles of trail in Bend. It was time to move on, but I am pretty sure if we had more time we could find at least that much more new trail. We drove to the McKenzie River and camped.
In the morning, we shuttled the motorcycle to the end of a 24-mile river ride. We thought it sounded quite similar to the Umpqua, which you know we loved. We hopped on our bikes by 11 (was hoping for 10) and got started. There were some extremely fascinating aspects of this ride. To start, we rode over lava bed. It plays a bit of a mind game with you because the obstacles aren’t that big, but crashing would tear you to pieces. I walked much of the lava. We came to Clear Lake (not very original, but undeniably true!) to find the most beautiful clear blue water on earth, maybe even heaven. It was just amazing. I imagined dolphins jumping, but of course there weren’t. Next, the river disappeared underground. That’s pretty awesome. Then it reappears from “the great blue hole” about five extremely hot miles later. The hole was calm and it seemed unbelievable that the water could be reentering without any turbulance what so ever. The only evidence that it wasn’t just an ordinary lake was the river flowing away from the hole. It was all very interesting. The hole was followed up with another lava section. It was hard to look ahead when you were still dealing with the obstacle at hand, but we managed well and with only a couple little mishaps. The rest of the ride flew by with numerous creek crossings on wooden bridges, some modest ups and downs, mostly just cranking along. The last 8 miles boarder the section of river we were considering rafting the next day. Although we tried to scout, the trail weaved away from the river making it pretty impossible. What we could tell was that the water was moving swiftly and traveling alone could be a dangerous mistake. We camped at the put in to see if we could find some other fellow rafters that wouldn’t mind us tagging along, but it wasn’t until the next morning that we found some. Eric and I tried scouting from the road, however, the trees were so dense we couldn’t make out water from rock. We were trying to figure out if we should even do the river (I was leaning towards no) when a Subaru passed us with a giant blue boat straddeling the car from windshield to backhatch. We jumped back in the motorhome and raced back to the put in to see if we could catch these fellow whitewater fanatics before they pushed off. Eric parked the motorhome and ran up to the put in while I started frantically pulling out gear. I lifted out our 45-pound raft all by myself (very proud moment) and began unrolling it for inflation. My heart nearly stopped when I saw the most lovely nest made out of our Mexican blanket, a mama mouse, and 4-5 little babies all warmly curled up waiting for their moment to invade the motorhome, I’m sure. Eric was jogging back just in time for my freak out. We didn’t name these guys because they crossed the line with us by chewing up our home furnishings. I will save you the details of the next few minutes and start again with meeting our new friends, Rich and Harold. It was clear that these two had been on a few rivers before and had rafted the McKenzie the day before too. This was nice because they already had an idea about which lines would work and which log jams would kill you. Eric and I made sure to get hung up right away to make sure they would keep good track of us the rest of the float. Ha! Everything we saw from the shore was true. The water was moving very quickly. There were rocks that required tedious maneuvers and there were very few (if any) places to pull over and scout the next rapid. We forgot our camera and water (rookies!), but had a great day on the water. After wrapping up the rafting gear, we had plenty of time to find a camping site on the way to Portland. Somehow, we still managed to wait until nearly dark to get settled in. We had one more trail that we were considering riding. The only problem was, it was so short. It was 4.2 miles out and back for a total of 8.4 miles. This may sound like a decent ride, but it only had 200 vertical feet of climbing. Given the short distance and the modest aerobic level, we decided not to go through the effort of putting all our bike stuff together. It sounds lame, but we are getting a little worn out. We decided to take our time driving to Portland. We met up with Eric’s folks for a late lunch before heading to Josh and Jodi’s place for a visit. Eric immediately remembers why he hates driving in big cities . . . . traffic. No surprise there. It was amazing how many close calls we witnessed in just a short time on the freeway. Our blood pressures were both steadily rising. It was stressful! We arrived at Josh’s and parked the beast on the road taking up the majority of the neighborhood’s parking. Not to worry, we wouldn’t be staying too long. Eric and Josh talked about house and car stuff while I enjoyed a hot, luxurious, shower. I finalized some details on my poster for my conference and then relaxed on couch. Eric and I had to pick Lisa up at the airport early the next morning, so we opted to stay in the motorhome at Walmart instead of at Josh and Jodi’s sweet crib.
Lisa called at 5 in the morning to make sure we knew she was boarding the plane. Great! We slept another 2 hours and met her around 7:30. We were all going to travel together in the Chateau to the Meyer Family Campout. First things first, we pulled over in one of the airport hotels so that Lisa could try and talk with her recently deployed husband via Skype. Eric and I took a walk around the transit platform. Soon we were off again, but not for long. Eric thought it would be fun to dump the RV so that Lisa could share in that experience. Siblings. Later, we stopped for McDonalds breakfast and then again at the pharmacy. It took about 5 hours to get to the campout that was only 2 hours out of Portland. We arrived in Ocean Park in time to head back down to Long Beach for the Washington State International Kite Festival!!!