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?