Hiking from Seiad to Etna Summit on the PCT: Part 2— I Photograph Bigfoot, and Peter Pan… The Thousand Mile Trek

Marble Mountain. This may not be the type of marble that excited Renaissance Sculptures, but it obviously caught the attention of the people who named the Marble Mountain Wilderness as it does people who hike the area today.

I am stuffing myself. Today is my last day to cram in the calories before I hit the PCT again and I am bone-showing skinny, skinnier than I have been in about a thousand years, give or take a few. “Eat!” Peggy commands, and I eat. Bring on the half pound hamburger.

Today I am focusing on the second half of my trek from Seiad to Etna Summit, Section Q as it is defined on the PCT. I’ve just left Paradise (as in Lake), and what the heck is left after Heaven. How about meeting up with Bigfoot and his partner Peter Pan. Once again, I’ll be using the photograph format for my post.

I meet Truckee near Big Rock. “My trail name is Truckee,” he informs me, “because I live in Truckee.” Good reason. Truckee was raised in the California Central Valley city of Stockton but returned to the mountain town of Truckee so often he moved there. Having lived in Stockton’s sister city of Sacramento, I was forever escaping to the mountains.

Following Truckee south as he disappears into the distance, I come on Black Mountain, the partner to Marble Mountain, as dark as it is light.

My next landmark is Big Rock , a huge chunk of Marble that resides near the PCT giving both a creek and campsite its name. I wonder if it rolled down from a nearby mountain or was deposited here by a glacier.

I meet up with a snowpack and see Truckee’s trail racing across it. I follow in his footsteps.

I work my way around a marble rock face…

And find this hole. Water dissolves marble as it does the rock it derived from, lime, often leaving caves and holes in the ground such as this.

I catch up with Truckee again filling his water bottles at this small stream…

He introduces me to Uphill. “You need to talk with this man,” Truckee announces. Like me, Uphill (Mark Bowden) is blogging about his PCT experience. “Back home,” he explains to me, “I blog about hikes along the Appalachian Trail.” He is out of Atlanta, Georgia. “I retired one day and was on an airplane west the next.” Two days after his retirement he was on the PCT. His blog is http://www.uphillhike.com. “Be sure to say hi to Dirt and Rye when you meet them,” he admonishes me.

I thought Christmas when I saw these firs and then apologized to them about my evil thoughts of turning them into Christmas trees.

I’ve rendered the Marble Valley Guard Station in black and white given its historic status. Years before I had hiked through here and even then it seemed old.

There was nothing old about Dirt and Rye who came into the meadow as I was eating lunch. I had to ask about the names. Dirt had Dirt tattooed on her knee. There had to be a story, which I didn’t hear. Rye was a baker, so rye bread was the answer. The girls were sisters hailing from Southern California.

The Guard Station also had a great view of Marble Mountain.

Another perspective.

A creek, running close to the ranger cabin, was filled with butterflies on its moist sides.

A close up of one of the butterflies.

There’s great water down here,” I heard piping up from below the trail after I had just finished a long climb. “Come on down,” they urged. “You must be the 75-year old blogger.” (They’d run into Truckee.) And thus it was that I met Bigfoot after searching for him for years. He wasn’t nearly as hairy as I expected. And what was he doing running around with Peter Pan? And since when was Peter Pan a girl? It was all more than I could grasp. “I tried to persuade him to take the name Tinker Bell, ” Peter Pan told me with a laugh. No deal. Turns out that this delightful couple is from Palmer, Alaska. They had worked for the National Outdoor Leadership School for decades and are dedicated outdoor adventurers.

I detoured off the trail that night to camp at Cold Springs, which I shared with a frog.He didn’t drink much.

The view from the springs the next morning.

The trail to Etna Summit continues on, providing stunning vistas:

 

Welcome water…

Colorful flowers…

Red Mountain Heather.

Marsh Mallows…

Poppies…

Close up of poppies…

These beauties…

A member of the composite family…

And this strange fellow.

Closing with Spirea.

I continued to meet through-trekkers hurrying on their way north. Very few travel north to south, the direction I am traveling. Some pass by with barely a grunt of recognition as they run their unending marathon. But most have a smile and a hello, and many stop to chat. Hiking the PCT is much more of a social experience than I ever imagined.

The PCT has become a major attraction for hikers from all over the world. This is Oscar from Birmingham, England.

Caveman from Austria stopped to chat. “This trail is incredible,” he told me. “We have nothing like it in Austria or Europe.” It is a refrain I have heard over and over again. I flashed on the Sound of Music, however, and broke out with a not so stirring rendition of “Climb Every Mountain”. He laughed. “I guess I need to see the movie again.” I apologized for my breaking out in song. “It happens all the time,” he assured me. My girlfriend is an opera singer.”

Ridge Route and Short Cut were from closer to home: San Diego. Ridge Route explained to me that Short Cut got her name because she was just over five-feet tall. It didn’t seem to slow her down.

There are times when the trail seems to go forever on, like it will never end…

But eventually, through trekkers come to another trail head, another opportunity to resupply, another opportunity for a cold beer, hot shower and good food. For me it’s the view of Peggy waving excitedly, and our van. I am ever so lucky.

The cold beer comes next.

When Large, Very Noisy Animals Invade Your Camp, Who Do you Call… Hiking 1000 Miles Down the PCT at 75

Our backpack trip though the PCT section R of the Siskiyou Mountains took us through our backyard…the Red Buttes.

The Red Butte Mountains of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

The other side of the Red Buttes Mountains as they appear from our patio during the winter.

I’m happily settled in the small community of Etna while Peggy and our nephew Jay shuttle his car down to the town of Dunsmuir, which is 100 miles down the PCT and our next resupply point. He is joining me as I hike through the Russian Wilderness and the Trinity Alps. Jay is a budding cameraman and director out of LA who focuses on documentaries and independent films. He  last joined me on a backpacking trek when he was 16 and I was 60! “Follow your bliss. Do what you love to do,” I had urged. And he has. I am looking forward to seeing this section of the trail through his cameraman’s eyes and will share some of his photos. 

I’ve now completed my first two segments of the PCT, which included hiking through the Siskiyou and Marble Mountains. Today’s blog will take us back to finish up hiking through the Siskiyous, quite literally our backyard, and down into the small, very independent-minded town of Seiad. Again, given my time limitations, I will do this post mainly as a photo essay.

 

Life slows down when you enter the wilderness and the every-day world fades away. The beauty of the woodlands and mountains, the sheer physical challenge of the journey, and the brief encounters with the cast of characters hiking the PCT become our everyday reality. I go for days without thinking of ‘The Donald’ or what he might be up to. Instead, the almost mystical Mt. Shasta provides us with tantalizing glimpses, endless flower gardens cling to the steep paths we climb, butterflies flutter among the flowers and then shoot into the air in mating rituals that predate humankind. What’s happening in Korea doesn’t seem to be nearly as important as where the next watering hole is. Even the flatness of our tent site seems to take priority.

What’s around the next corner or over the next mountain always pulls us on. This is Sheep Camp, which I featured in my last post. The lush green grass seen here appealed to both sheep herders and cattlemen for summer grazing. It also appealed to us! This was the view from our campsite.

Water can be plentiful or precious in the mountains, and a spring attracts both animals and people. Through hikers on the PCT pay close attention to where the next water may be found. It may be just around the corner or 15 miles up the trail. A pipe delivered water directly from the spring to thirsty hikers at Sheep Camp. And it was cold and delicious!

Peggy found this natural chair along the trail, perfect for the weary hiker. Her grin says it all.

Like lack of water, snow conditions are always a major consideration of people who hike the PCT. Many of the hikers we met had skipped the southern Sierras because of heavy snow over the passes and would return to them after reaching Canada. In fact, through-hikers jump around a lot depending on conditions. I planned my trip so snow wouldn’t be an issue. The concern here was the snowball that I knew would soon be flying my way. Peggy simply can’t resist. It was guaranteed as soon as I turned my back. That’s my “Don’t do it, Peggy.” Ha!

Only a small portion of the people hiking the PCT go from Mexico to Canada. May people hike sections. Molly and Brandon were hiking from Castle Crags to Crater Lake. Others may be out for just a day hike like many of the people we saw around Mt. Ashland.

Ezra and Janie were a mother and son team (the second mother/son team we saw that day) who were hiking from Seiad to Ashland, I believe. Jane owns a clay sculpture shop in the historic mining town of Jerome, Arizona. Ezra is going to college in Portland. “We try to get out on a backpacking trip together every summer,” Ezra told us.

If there is one sign guaranteed to get the heart of every through-hiker beating fast, this is it.

Here’s why. If you are hiking to or from the Mexican border where the PCT starts, it is 1,706 miles away.

Like Sheep Camp, Donomore Meadows was another area that appealed to early ranchers and miners. Just before we reached this meadow, Peggy and I had stopped to check out a lightning damaged tree and a fawn  jumped out of the grass where its mother had hidden it. It bounded off with a squawk that sounded very much like “Mom!” Deer usually do a great job of hiding their newborns. The color of the fawns, their absolute stillness, and an almost total lack of smell helps guard them from hungry predators. Just like human moms, babies can come early, however! We came down our driveway a couple of days before starting our trip and a doe had dropped a pair of twins in the road. One was spry enough to stand up on wobbly legs, but the other still couldn’t move!

The Offenbacher Cabin, built by stockmen in the 1930s, still stands today in Donomore Meadow. Descendants of the family have turned the cabin into something of a haven for through-hikers. Water, chairs, and even a bed greet trekkers.

I found this unusual fungus growing near the cabin…

And Peggy stopped to admire this tree.

Our camp at Bearground Springs brought an unusual surprise. And it wasn’t a bear. We could hear them coming from a long ways off… with bells. BTW, I have my Kindle along and am reading “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Mathieson.

The bells came into our camp and stopped. Peggy, who had to go out and ‘serve nature’ took this photo. Nine cows had come to visit! It sounded like a hundred and it appeared that they were going to hang out with us for the night. There would not have been much sleep. I growled like a bear from inside the tent and the cows remembered an urgent appointment they had over the mountain. We could hear their bells rapidly fade into the distance. Each bell, BTW, makes a different sound and the cowboys are able to recognize the cow by the bell.

Rocks also captured our attention and schist, a metamorphic rock, was common along this section of the trail. Quartz, which Peggy loves, is often found with schist. In fact, Peggy likes to pick quartz up to take home for her rock garden. There was no picking up quartz to go in our backpacks this time, however!

It was ‘look but don’t touch.’

Always on the lookout for strange or interesting things along the trail, I found this rock and couldn’t resist a photo. Quite a set of choppers, eh?

I also find interesting wood sculptures irresistible.

This tree stump looked a bit like a river otter from one perspective…

And quite reptilian from the other side.

“There’s water down here,” we heard a voice pipe up. It was a welcome announcement. We’d been many miles without any. Turns out, it was Strawman, who we had met a week earlier and given a ride when we were scouting out the Etna area where I am today. We had a happy reunion. Such meetings are typical encounters along the PCT. Strawman, we had learned, navigates from a PCT App on his phone, as many, maybe most, trekkers do. I’m old fashioned and prefer a map.

Not too far from Beardog Springs where we met up with Strawdog and camped the night, we began to hike through areas that had been ravaged by forest fires. This was the same series of fires that had forced Peggy and me to evacuate our home last fall. (I’ve rendered it in black and white.) A through-hiker commented to us how ugly it was— I think it was Road Runner who hikes 40 miles a day. Peggy replied she found it interesting and got a strange look. But forest fires are a part of the natural process. A combination of us doing everything to prevent forest fires for the last 70 years and drought/global warming has created the situation where the whole west seems to be burning. (More on this in later blogs.)

Knob cone pines, like this one, actually require fire to free the seeds from the cone so they can germinate.

We found these strange looking schist stones in the burn area that looked something like tombs in a fantasy movie. All that was missing was a winged demon…

Which the fire had provided! Note the glowing eye.

Peggy and I felt right at home on Cook and Green Pass. We had hiked up here last year from the road above our home.

The trail from Cook and Green Pass that goes around the Red Buttes Wilderness goes up a bit. Peggy went through 99 bottles of beer on the wall, and then 99 bottle of rum, and then 99 bottle of wine, which was beginning to sound a bit like 99 bottles of whine. 🙂 The hot afternoon sun didn’t help. Flowers did, however. We had found them all along the trail from Mt. Ashland to Seiad. Here are a few of the many:

We also learned what makes the Red Buttes Red. These reddish rocks when broken open…

Are filled with the blue/black mineral Olivine that happens to be rich in iron. The red is rust!

We camped that night at Kangaroo Springs, which is just below Kangaroo Mountain. For my friends in Australia, I don’t know how the mountain got its name.

Here I am with my first aid kit of drugs looking like maybe I’ve had a few too many. Actually, I am contemplating the 4,000 foot drop we have to hike into Seiad Valley. Are my 75-year-old knees, ankles and hips ready for the descent? They are screaming “no.” (They ended up doing fine.)

Looking down at the steep, narrow, rocky, occasionally overgrown trail. You can see the switchbacks on the left.

Some stunning views helped. Once again, Shasta can be seen in the distance.

We met Crazy 71 Plus who is now 72. He insisted on pulling his pants up for the photo. Crazy, who is from Hong Kong, got his name last year when he hiked the first half of the PCT. He has returned to hike the second half. Part of what he is doing is raising funds for charities in China.

“We need to take a selfie,” he directed. So we did. “Your face is in the wrong place,” he chided. I told him I liked the photo. I think he was disappointed to learn that I was older.

Once again, our water was getting low when we reached Fern Springs near the bottom of the trail. The water tasted great, but not nearly as good…

As the cold beer we bought first thing when we reached the Seiad store!

We stayed at the Mid Valley RV which welcomes PCT Trekkers allowing them to stay over night and use the facilities for $15.

The owner, Bruce, does everything he can to make hikers feel at home.

As does the Seiad Cafe that has a pancake challenge. They make five big ones for $15. If you can eat them all, they’re free. The owner told me that several hundred trekkers have tried in the past ten years, but only four succeeded.

Peggy ordered two of their regular size and could only eat one. The owner told me the challenge pancakes were five times as large!

Here’s the spatula used to turn the pancakes.

We met this Jack-a-lope at the store next door where we bought our beer.

The residents of Seiad are an independent bunch who would dearly love to break off from California and create a separate state. This is the seal. The two x’s apparently mean California double crossed them by not letting them break off after they had voted to do so prior to WWII.

A number of trekkers were staying at the RV campground. We sat around and chatted. Bone, who has been traveling the world since 1977 and is accompanying me on my 1000 mile trek, insisted on coming out and visiting. Mr. O is on the left, Jeanine is in the middle and Julie is on the right.

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From Mt. Ashland to Seiad on the PCT: Section R… Hiking 1000 Miles on the PCT at 75

Sheep Camp seems like an appropriate place to start. We camped there on our second night out. It is a beautiful place, but my reason here is the tiny knob you can see off on the left horizon. Early pioneers used it as a major landmark at the end of their 3000 mile journey to guide them into Oregon and a new life. This also shows the distant vistas that inspire and pull long distance hikers on.

The knob lit up by the evening sun.

The day had finally arrived. I was both nervous and excited. How could I not be? I was heading off on one of the great adventures of my life, leaving my home on Southern Oregon’s Applegate River and backpacking 1,000 miles to Mt. Whitney in southern California following the Pacific Crest Trail.

I wasn’t nervous about the backpacking; I am not a novice. In fact I’ve backpacked tens of thousands of miles in my life. Man was landing on the moon in 1969 when I shouldered my first pack. I watched the landing at a Denny’s when I was returning home from backpacking in the Canadian Rockies. The PCT organization, the folks who have done so much to create and maintain the trail, was a fledging one year old. I had stopped in Seattle to buy my gear from REI on my way to Canada when that was the only store that REI had. I guess that puts something of a perspective on how long I’ve been doing this.

But I had never been on a thousand mile trip. And I am no longer the 25-year-old I was then. Knees, hips, shoulders and ankles don’t have the same sense of humor they once did. That’s why I am not telling them they are on a thousand mile journey until I reach at least 500 miles. They understand going home, which is what I will tell them. It isn’t even lying.

One of my friends on WordPress, who thought I was being a little crazier than usual, wanted to know why I was doing this. My answer was simple: Because I love wandering in the woods. I am at home there in a way that I have rarely been anywhere else. This is an opportunity to revisit many of the areas I have backpacked in my life, plus see some new ones that I have always been curious about. And the truth is, I am not getting any younger. I realize how fortunate I am at my age to go out and do this.

The reason I emphasize the 75 part of it is because my wife Peggy and I believe age shouldn’t be a barrier to trying and experiencing new things, whether it is taking up gardening or going on a thousand mile hike. There are  millions of things to explore out there in the world. They help keep us young, both mentally and physical. Plus, just maybe, there are 25 and 35 and 45 and 55 year olds out there who will say, “Wow, if that old dude can do something like this, maybe I can too!”

And perchance, there is something for the soul in this kind of journey as well. John Muir certainly thought so. When Peggy and I hiked into Seiad yesterday, a through-hiker handed me this:

For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” From the Bhagavad Gita.

But then the trekker, (Mr. O is his trail name) also handed me this. I added the bear, a big fellow I met up in Alaska.

“I thought you said beer was around the corner, but it was a bear.” I’ve met my share of bears over they years. I’ll be sharing some of those tales. But I have also downed my share of beer.

Peggy happily consumes a cold Sierra-Nevada Pale Ale yesterday after we concluded dropping 4000 feet into the town of Seiad on a hundred degree day. We stopped at the store, threw down our packs, and bought the beer before doing anything else! The PR Director for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, BTW, backpacked with me as a 9-year-old.

There will be lots of time to ponder and wax philosophically over the next three months as I make my journey so let me share a few of the 400 photographs I took on our way from Mt. Ashland. I’ll be doing this as a photo essay in three parts.

The beginning point, Mt. Ashland. I was born in nearby Ashland in 1943. At the time, World War II was raging, Westinghouse Engineers were shooting dead chickens at airplane windows and women considered bow ties to be the latest fashion statement.

A pair of trail angels. Barbara and Carl Krack picked us up from our home on the Applegate River and took us up to the trail head.

Let the journey begin. Through and section hikers beginning the trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border will begin their adventures with this trail sign and follow it throughout their trek. The weather forecast had talked about 90 degree plus days. It was cloudy and cool. Our first night was spent in the rain.

Guaranteed: Every corner you come around on the PCT will give you a new view. The granite caught our attention, here.

The Crest part of the Pacific Crest Trail is serious. It means you will spend much of your time hiking along mountain crests with views like these.

One of the problems can be a lack of water. It may be five-miles between watering holes, or 10, or maybe even 15. Trekkers often have to hike off the trail to find water.

That happened to us on our first night! Water was only four miles ahead but we were tired and it was getting late, plus threatening to storm. We followed an old road down the mountain and found one of the streams that feeds the Applegate River, the river we live on. Here I am happy to be in camp with a cup of hot tea. It started raining hard shortly afterward and we scrambled to put things away as the thunder roared.

Peggy found this spider web reflecting sunlight the next morning. It promised to be a beautiful day.

A shot of the head waters of the Applegate River. The PCT is found on the ridge to the right.

Our trail that morning was up, as it seems like most of our trails are at the beginning of our days.

Flowers were in abundance along the whole trail between Mt. Ashland and Seiad. These are flox.

And this is a wild iris.

Ann and Dave Kelly looking jaunty. We met a number of day hikers near Mt. Ashland, including Ann and Dave who are from Ashland. Dave actually hikes with a replaced hip joint and has done part of the John Muir Trail with it!

We are always on the lookout for wild life as we hike. When you can’t see the animals, they often leave other signs like tracks or scat. This animal, probably a chipmunk, had left bits and pieces of pine cones outside its front door.

I’ll conclude with this cloud covered picture of Mt. Shasta. I will literally be hiking around it for the next three weeks. Expect lots of photos! I consider it one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

I have to pack up for the next section of my trail, friends. I head into the Marble Mountains tomorrow, solo. And it will be early since it is promising to be around 105 degrees down here in the valley. When I get to Etna in a few days I will continue with the Mt. Ashland to Seiad section of my trip.

Trail Angels of the Pacific Coast Trail… I Have My Own

I am ever so lucky to have my wife, Peggy, out on the route supporting me. Most PCT hikers mail their resupply to Post Offices along the way. Peggy will be at trailheads to supply mine plus give me a day’s break from hiking. I suspect that there will be a cold beer in there as well.

 

People who go out of their way to support through-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail are known as Trail Angels. My barber, Ed McBee, is such a person. He has written a book on vehicle access locations on the PCT in Oregon. But, more to the point, he also goes out on the trail to greet through-hikers and provide them with fresh food and cold beer. One of his favorite locations is on the Oregon-California border. Trekkers who reach there have hiked from the Mexican border and are ready to celebrate! Knowing how much a cold brew is appreciated out on the trail, I contributed to Ed’s beer fund last summer.

Ed is now working on a book about people doing the PCT. “I feed them hot dogs,” Ed told me. “They are much more likely to talk to me.” I’ll bet. There is no telling what somebody who has been hiking 20-30 miles a day while living off of backpacking food will do for a hot dog! Now, make that a beer and a hot dog…!

Backpacking food is adequate for getting down the trail. Just barely. I have never seen a fat through-hiker. The food has to be light and compact to carry on your back. And while you try to find high calorie food, it’s hard to pack much more that 2 to 3,000 calories for each day. Now, consider that you are burning 4-6,000 calories, daily. Hot Dog? Bring it on!

Below is what my food for 90 days looks like. I tried to compromise between things I like and things that might be a little healthy. Those Oreos you see in the back certainly don’t meet the second criteria,  but they are a treat. I’ll be eating two per night, along with my 16 ounce cup of tea. (When I was a poor student at UC Berkeley ever so long ago, lunch was always a cup of coffee, a baloney sandwich and four Oreos.) The #10 can you see in the back is chicken teriyaki. It includes 10 dinner’s worth of food. Instructions are: Add one cup of the freeze-dried dinner to 3/4 cup of boiling-hot water. Cover. Wait 4 minutes. Stir. Cover and wait another 8 minutes. Eat. Life is pretty darn simple out on the trail.

Peggy organized my food for me while I was taking care of other miscellaneous chores and then took this photo. It’s what I will be eating on the trail over the next three months.

Here is the resupply packed in the van. Our sofa/bed comes down and actually covers the food.

Most PCT-ers would kill to have the kind of back-up I will have on my thousand-mile trip. I have my own trail angel, Peggy. Once a week or so, she will meet me where the PCT crosses a road and resupply my food, plus have a cold beer ready (grin). Our plan for most resupplies is to work in a layover day where I can shower, wash clothes, pack in some calories (imagine being able to eat whatever you want to eat), and put up a post or two on my previous week’s experience.

Peggy assumes her ‘where is Curt’ pose. She sees her role as backup (when she isn’t hiking with me) as her own adventure since she will be traveling and camping on her own.

Who knows!? Actually I carry an emergency Spot geo-tracker that I can use in an emergency, if needed, and can keep Peggy and family informed of where I am each night.

Anyway, here I am in black and white, ready to hit the trail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I even developed my own ‘business card’ for the trail. (grin) The photo is taken from our front patio. Next week I will be hiking around the mountains you can see in the distance on my way south!

FRIDAY’S POST: I wrap up my MisAdventure series for the summer. Was I actually able to stay out of jail on my graduation day from high school.

SUNDAY’S POST: I am going to reblog a really nice post from my friend and fellow-blogger out of Sedona, Arizona, JoHanna Massey, that she wrote in support of my journey.

 

Backpacking the Rogue River Trail… Conclusion

Peggy and I weren’t expecting to find beautiful waterfalls along the trail, but there were several. This is Flora Dell Falls. The pool of water really looked inviting. Peggy took off her shoes and soaked her feet.

 

It’s countdown time! My thousand mile backpack trek starts in two weeks. Our guest room is filled with gear. Peggy’s office is buried in food. Maps have taken over the library. Miscellaneous other stuff is found in every other room of our house! I have a to-do list that would send Superman flying off-planet. Theoretically, it is getting shorter. One way or the other, on June 17th, I am out of here…

Needless to say, there isn’t much time for blogging or reading blogs. My apologies. I do want to conclude the Rogue River series and put up one more post in the MisAdventure series. After that, I will try to get up one more post before hitting the trail. Then there will be a break until my first posts from along the route start arriving.

Given my time constraints, I am turning today’s post into a photo essay. Enjoy!

 

The Wild Rogue Wilderness started a few miles after we left the Rogue River Ranch featured in my last post. The trail snaked along the edge of the river providing great views. The narrow canyon here provides some exciting rides for rafters! There is even a whirlpool.

This gives you an idea of what the trail looks like. We hit this section in the afternoon and it was hot. The rocky cliffs sucked in the heat and threw it back at us.

We were looking forward to Inspiration Point, and we weren’t disappointed. Stair Creek Falls was just across the river. More inviting pools!

A close up of the falls.

We called it a day at Blossom Bar. (That’s a river bar, not one where you can find a cold beer. Darn! I really could have used one.) We didn’t find any blossoms but Peggy found this pool above the rocks. When I came over, she had waded in with her clothes on and the water was up to her waist. She was taking her soapless bath and washing her clothes at the same time. Of course, I had to join her. The water was icy!

The next day we hiked by the Brushy Bar Forest Service Station that is now run by volunteers in the summer. James and Cammie, a couple out of Southern California, had done a search for opportunities to volunteer on the Forest Service site and found this. (The PCT runs right by their house but it is in the desert section that I won’t be hiking.)

We took advantage of Cammie to have our photo taken! I’d say we were looking quite chipper. My beard caught the sun!

Tate Creek had another spectacular waterfall. We decided to photograph down it since getting to the base involved scrambling though poison oak!

In case you are wondering what poison oak looks like, Peggy is pointing some out. The three leaves are distinctive. As careful as we were, Peggy brought some home. Adding insult to injury, she spread her poison oak from her hands to some bug bites she was scratching.

The flowers along the trail continued to impress us. This is yet another variety of Iris.

And another. This time a Douglas Iris.

And more of another variety.

Another wild, white rose…

And wild lilacs. While they couldn’t match the roses in the heavenly smell category, the had a subtle, pleasant smell.

Finally. these cheerful members of the sunflower family.

Old mining equipment had been left beside the trail in a number of places to remind hikers of the area’s history.

The Flora Dell camp site, located down stream from the Flora Dell falls featured at the beginning of the post, provided us with another attractive river side location.

I really enjoyed the large rocks beside the river.

The next day had some challenges. (Grin) This is always fun with a loaded pack! My knees were having a discussion with me.

I had little difficulty picturing myself out on the deck of this lodge with a good book and a cold brew… but you had to have reservations. Sigh.

There weren’t a lot of big trees along the trail, so I had to take a photo when we found these.

And use Peggy as a model.

She also volunteered for this shot. No, she isn’t practicing her skiing technique. She is showing a switch back trail. The map showed our last few miles running along the river. Instead it headed up the mountain, not once but twice!

Somehow, at the very end, we managed to get off the trail and hike through a cow pasture that included this rather unusual cattle guard. Normally they are flat and don’t squish down as you walk across them!

The end. I hope you enjoyed our backpack trip down the Rogue River. The next adventure: My thousand mile backpack trek down the PCT. I’ll be posting as I go!

Hiking the Rogue River Trail… Part 2: From Horseshoe Bend to the Rogue River Ranch

A view of the Rogue River from our camp on Quail Creek.

 

Today marks the second of my three-part series on hiking down the Rogue River Trail. It’s a beautiful 40-mile hike, best done in the spring or the fall. Peggy and I made a leisurely six-day backpack trip out of it, both to enjoy the beauty and to condition our bodies for our summer of backpacking where I will be hiking 1000 miles from Mt. Ashland to Mt. Whitney. Peggy will be joining me for parts of it plus doing back-up, a true trail angel!

 

Dark skies were suggesting rain when we rolled out of our tent at six. ‘Rolling out’ is a good description. My sore muscles and creaky joints were complaining about our first two days of hiking down the Rogue River Trail. They refused to cheerfully jump up; they threatened to go on strike. I told them to behave or I would double the number of miles they had to travel and cut off their Ibuprofen. They whimpered— but the Ibuprofen got their attention.

I have yet to tell them that they are going on a thousand-mile backpack trip this summer. And I may not, at least until the first 500 miles are over.

Things began to morph. My down pillow of the night before became my down jacket. My Thermarest air mattress changed into a comfy breakfast chair. Fifty years of backpacking have taught me that anything that can serve multiple purposes is a good thing. Routine is also good. I had packed my sleeping bag, clothes and personal items before leaving the tent. Now they were waiting to be packed into my backpack. Right after I put my chair together, I went to gather our food.

It was dutifully waiting in the middle of the ranger-built, electric fence enclosure. No bears had made a feast of it. Either they hadn’t been by to visit or they truly don’t like being zapped. I suspect that a tender nose coming in contact with a live wire is not a pleasant experience. If I were a bear, I’d skedaddle out of there on all fours and look for a ranger to eat.

Breakfast was next; I’m the camp cook. My job description is to boil up two 32 ounce pots of water per day, one for breakfast and one for dinner. Takes about five minutes each. Peggy arrived from doing her chores about the time the pot began to boil. We sifted through our food bags and pulled out instant oatmeal, breakfast bars, Starbuck’s instant coffee, and dried apricots. The latter are to help keep us digging cat holes. “Meow.” Or maybe I should say, “Purr.’” Being regular out on the trail is important.

The literature had promised an outhouse at Horseshoe Bend, but it had been decommissioned, i.e. filled up. The same is happening with the other ‘bathrooms’ that the trail maps promote along the river. Be prepared. Rafters are expected to carry their own port-a-pots. Backpackers are left with digging cat holes. We are used to it. Watch out for the poison oak. (grin)

With breakfast over, we took down the tent and packed up. A few drops of rain encouraged us to put on our rain jackets and pack covers. It promised to be a cool day, which was welcome after the heat of the first two days.

The trail continued its ups and downs, starting with the very steep up we had hiked down the evening before. At times our route dropped almost to the river. The closer we got, the thicker the poison oak and blackberries grew.  Peggy and I stopped and laughed at one point. The blackberries were occupying a third of the trail and the poison oak the other, leaving only a few inches for passage. It was like the plants had an agreement to drive you toward one or the other. We chose the blackberries on the theory that it is much better to suffer a few scratches than be covered in an itchy rash.

We also crossed several recent slide areas where the trail was minimal, about a shoe wide. Careful attention was called for and looking down not recommended. On one slide area, a tree trunk was stretched across the trail, forcing us to balance precariously while climbing over. It was not for the faint-hearted, or for people with a fear of heights.

Beyond that the trail was quite pleasant; passing through woodlands, providing dramatic views of the river, and crossing over brooks and streams on attractive bridges. Once again, cheerful flowers kept us company.

We found that the bridges along the trail were well built and fit in with the environment. This is Meadow Creek Bridge.

Another view of the Meadow Creek bridge.

Peggy on the Kelsey Creek bridge looking down at the water. A rain cover is on her backpack. It never did rain.

Our views of the river ranged from raging rapids…

…to more tranquil scenes.

A number of flowers were found beside the trail, including this wild rose…

This Pretty Face brodiaea…

And a Columbine.

A snack at Ditch Creek provided this view of several small waterfalls tumbling down the hill. Zane Grey’s cabin was a mile or so down the trail.

We missed Zane Grey’s cabin. The trail to it wasn’t marked and we weren’t paying attention to our map. Too bad. I had been an avid fan of his cowboy books during the Western phase of my youth. Such classics as Riders of the Purple Sage had kept me glued to my seat as good triumphed over evil in the Old West of six-gun justice. Grey had used the cabin as a fishing lodge in the 1920s. He even wrote a book about the area, Rogue River Feud.

Our campsite that night on Quail Creek made up for missing the cabin. Located on the edge of the Rogue River, it provided the striking view that is featured in the photo at the beginning of this post. Geese, buzzards, rafters and lizards provided entertainment. The buzzards seemed to be following us. “Maybe they think we are old,” I suggested to Peggy, which elicited a snort. The lizards were just curious, checking out all of our gear and climbing up on convenient rocks to watch us.

Rafters waved at us from the Rogue as they passed our camp on Quail Creek.

And a pair of Canadian Geese kept their offspring in a careful line.

The morning part of our hike the next day took us in to the Rogue River Ranch, which is a gem. Now on the National Register of Historic Places and operated by the Bureau of Land Management, the ranch was established in the early 1900s by George and Sarah Billings, becoming a lodge for travelers, the post office, and a social center for a small but growing community. In 1927, Billings sold the house to Stanley Anderson, the builder and owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The Andersons upgraded the property and used it to entertain their friends from Los Angeles and Hollywood up until 1970, when they sold it to the BLM.

An old barn on the Rogue River Ranch. One of the volunteer caretakers, Sally, can be seen raking up grass the old fashioned way. It went with the barn.

A close up of Sally.

Looking toward the river from the ranch.

Sally and Frank, the volunteer caretakers for the ranch, took a break from raking up grass and gave us an overview of its history. Peggy and I then visited the main house that had been turned into a museum. I was amused to find this description of the one room upstairs lodge provided by an early visitor:

When the place was full at night, it was a nightmare. There was almost continuous coughing, snoring, grinding of teeth, urinating in a can or out the window, and other night noises. There always seemed to be someone walking around the room or to the window or stairways, which shook the floor and building. Sound sleep for any length of time was impossible.

Not quite as fancy as the modern lodges that are found along the river today. But then again, three meals and a bed for the night could be had for a dollar, a far cry from the $150 plus per person charged today by the resorts.

A view of the main house at Rogue River Ranch. A single large room upstairs provided lodging for early travelers.

The ‘Tabernacle’ is located behind the house. This building served as a barn for horses and mules on the first floor and a meeting hall, dance floor, and church on the second floor. Today the building houses a number of artifacts.

Such as this old coffin…

A pot bellied stove…

And cooking stoves.

I’ll close today with a view of Mule Creek, which flows beside the Rogue River Ranch. The creek was named after a mule named John who wandered off and became lost. The story has a happy ending. Several years later his owner found him. I assume they lived happily ever after.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: What does a skunk have to do with my first date in high school. The MisAdventure series.

TUESDAY’S POST: I’ll wrap up my Rogue River series.

Hiking the Rogue River Trail: Part 1… Over the Side I Went!

The Rogue River is noted for both its beauty and its rapids. The Rogue River Trail has been cut into the steep sides of the canyon, providing spectacular views of the river as well as an introduction to the interesting plant and animal life of the region.

 

Peggy and I backpacked down the 40-mile Rogue River Trail last week. It has been on her bucket list ever since she rafted down the Rogue a few years ago. I, too, wanted to explore the area but also needed to do a conditioning trip for my thousand mile backpack trip from Mt. Ashland to Mt. Whitney this summer. My new gear and my 75-year-old body needed to be tested. Both worked, more or less. This is the first of 3-4 posts on the trip.

The Rogue River Trail starts from a large paved parking lot named Grave Creek.  (The daughter of a pioneer was buried nearby in 1846, thus the ‘Grave.’) The site is mainly used as a kick off point for people rafting the river. No surprise. This section of the Rogue is world-famous for its rafting. And the majority of people traveling this way prefer to have a raft carry their food and gear as opposed to carrying it on their back. As my friend Tom Lovering the boatman says, “Why wouldn’t they?”

We arrived at 11:00, an hour later than I had hoped, and the sun was beating down mercilessly. Summer had arrived early, it seemed. The day before had been yet another cool spring day. We had been whining that it was never warming up! Go figure. I could see the trail snaking up the side of the canyon without an iota of shade. Peggy and I futzed around: slathering on sun-block, filling our water bottles, putting on our boots, and taking advantage of the out-house (twice). But inevitably, the time arrived, as it always does; we shouldered our packs and headed up the trail.

The beginning of the Rogue River Trail as seen from the Grave Creek parking lot. Up and in the sun.

Face it, backpacking can resemble work. There’s a part of your mind that lets you know this when you load everything you will need to live in the woods for a week on your back and start hoofing it up a mountain in the hot sun. Mine usually has some unprintable comments for me. If it’s the first trip of the year, if you are out of shape, or if you are over 50, the mind might even say a bit more. Well, Peggy and I were in fairly good shape (score one for us), but it was our first trip of the year, and, at 67 for Peggy and 75 for me, we definitely resembled the over-50 crowd.

There are also rewards, of course, otherwise people wouldn’t go backpacking unless they were forced to— or had masochistic tendencies. “Ah yes, pain, bring it on!” They’d stay home in front of their big screen TVs and veg, or write blogs. While our trail shot up the mountain, it also provided us with great views of the Rogue River. And we soon noted an abundance of wild flowers. The trail even seemed to flatten out a bit and trees provided welcome shade.

Peggy at the beginning of the trail with the Grave Creek Rapids behind her. A few years earlier I had waved good-by to her as the rapids grabbed her boat.

The canyon walls were often covered with flowers, especially if springs provided a bit of moisture.

The yellow flowers above are monkey flowers, one of my favorites, as you’ve probably noted from past posts. A friend once told me you can hear them say “eek,eek, eek” if you listen. I’ve never heard them, but I still listen. (grin)

These colorful stonecrop flowers also decorated the cliff sides. Their succulent leaves provide water for dry times.

More shaded spots provided a variety of brightly colored iris flowers. This is a golden iris. We found several other varieties along the way. You will see more!

Shaded trails like this one provided welcome relief from the more exposed sections of the path.

As did the frequent cool streams along the way. We stopped often to refill our water bottles. (Water along the route needs to be filtered.)

Most of the streams have bridges built over them, which eliminates the issue of fording.  I’ll show several in the next posts. Many were quite attractive.

It was a river trail, however, and that means ups and downs. They come with the territory. I was on a down when the accident happened. The path had dropped to maybe 50 feet above the river and the sheer drop-off cliff had switched to a steep embankment. My left foot, i.e. the foot on the river side, slipped on some loose gravel. No biggie. Years of trail hiking have given me an automatic sense of balance and fancy foot-work to deal with such contingencies. This time, however, I was using walking poles and I set the left one to provide the necessary balance.

The next thing I knew, I was toppling over. Peggy, who was behind me, said it was in slow motion, like I had fainted, or suffered a heart attack, or had a stroke. You can imagine how she felt. I didn’t have a clue what had happened. All I knew was that I suddenly found myself stomach down, head first on a crash course for the river. You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes in such circumstances? All that flashed in front of mine was another 40 feet of rocky slope topped off by a cold bath. Not good. I would have loved to have had my pack where I could have used it for a brake. But it was on my back, along for a free ride. Whoopee! Packs are like that. I used my left arm instead, pressing it down. I could feel the rocks ripping off my skin. But it worked. I slid on for a couple of more feet and stopped.

“Are you okay?” Peggy yelled. Apparently, I didn’t answer quickly enough because she threw off her pack and scrambled down. I was busy checking out my arm. It looked a bit like hamburger. To paraphrase an old Tex Ritter cowboy song, there was blood on my pack and blood on the ground, there was blood on my arm and blood all around. But the arm felt fine. At least it wasn’t broken or gushing. Peggy helped me get my pack off and I stood up and carried it back to the trail while she gathered up my walking poles.

We hiked back up to some shade and I took out my water bottle and washed my arm off. Good news. It was mainly a scrape with some 14 small cuts providing the blood. Only one seemed worthy of attention. Another couple came by at that moment. “My husband is a nurse,” the woman announced. He glanced at my arm, pronounced “You aren’t going to bleed to death,” and hurried on. So much for the medical profession, I thought. Peggy smeared on Neosporin and slapped a band-aid on the larger cut. We were good to go.

We hiked down a few feet and I picked up my walking poles. One was considerable shorter than the other. And then it struck me. The left pole had collapsed when I had shoved it into the ground for balance, and I had collapsed with it. There is probably something in bold letters, or at least the fine print that suggests you check them before use. Otherwise, the poles would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. I was relieved to know that the cause of the fall was the poles and not me!

Eventually we reached our first night’s camp, a lovely tree-shaded site below Whiskey Creek. Booze Creek is the next stream down, which may say something about the early gold miners that populated the area. We got out our flask of Irish cream liquor and toasted them— and ourselves, for surviving day one. Chores that evening included setting up camp, a quick, soap-less rinse of our clothes and selves in the icy river, and dinner. At one point, I had the mother of all cramps, as my leg protested against what it was sure was abuse. Were we having fun, or what? It was early to bed. Peggy crawled in at the sign of the first mosquito. I hung out for another hour or so.

Every bird in the world arrived at our camp at 5 a.m. the next morning and immediately burst into song. It was a virtual cacophony of noise as each bird competed with the next over who could trill the loudest and the longest. I rolled over and pretended to go back to sleep.  We crawled out at six and started our second day.

It was a lot like day one except I managed to stay on the trail. The trail continued its ups and downs, climbing down to cross streams and immediately back up afterwards. Once again it was hot. We were treated to great views of the river.

There were many more views of the river on the second day such as this, which featured rapids that the river runners love so much.

At one point, I spotted a snake out of the corner of my eye beside me on the trail. There is something primeval about seeing snakes, especially when they surprise you. Alarms go off deep in your brain while your leg muscles bunch up for a humongous leap. Almost simultaneously, I recognized that this fellow was one of the good guys, a king snake. I thought ‘photo-op.’ It’s difficult to photograph snakes when Peggy is around. She gets nervous. “Don’t get too close, Curt,” she urged. “It might bite you.” Possibly, if I grabbed it by the tail. But king snakes prefer to crush their food, winding around them like a boa constrictor. That’s what they do to rattlesnakes, even rattlesnakes that are bigger than they are. And then they swallow them, whole. I’d like to see that. Apparently, they are impervious to the venom.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a snake making its way along the edge of the trail…

Having noticed me, the snake made his way up the cliff, providing ample opportunity for me to take pictures. The closer I got, the more nervous Peggy became. I don’t know what the snake thought.

Later, Peggy noticed a large slug. At first we thought it was a banana slug, given its size. Banana slugs are well known as the mascot of the University of California at Santa Cruz, a fact I love. You really have to like a college that selects a slug as its mascot. But our guy/gal lacked the characteristic yellow color. It seemed fat. “Maybe she’s pregnant,” Peggy mused, which led me to wonder how slugs mated. “Slowly,” Peggy suggested.

This large slug checked out Peggy while I took its photo. The walking pole is Peggy’s. Mine stayed affixed to the back of my pack after the accident for the whole trip.

Our greatest excitement of the day was getting from the trail down to our campsite at Horseshoe Bend. It was a long way down, and apparently, the Bureau of Land Management adheres to the philosophy that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Anything resembling a switchback was totally coincidental. The trail was so steep in places that we had to side step. We eventually arrived in one piece and discovered a new way of protecting our food from bears. It was shocking. BLM had created a small enclosure with an electric fence. I sat up that evening hoping to see a bear try to break in. No such luck.

Peggy provides her commentary on the trail down to Horseshoe Bend.

The electrified enclosure built to keep hungry bears away from rafters’ and backpackers’ food.

Do you think bears can read?

Our new, ultralight Big Agnes tent overlooking the Rogue River at Horseshoe Bend. We love the tent! It is big enough for the two of us (we like each other), and light enough that i can carry it to use as a solo tent.

The view from our campsite…

And finally, for those of you who were concerned about Bone being left behind this summer, here he is, happily ensconced in one of my belt pouches, peering out like a baby kangaroo.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: Smelly chemicals and long dead frogs discourage me from pursuing a career in science in the MisAdventure series.

TUESDAY’S POST: Part 2 of the Rogue River Trail series.

The 2nd 500 Miles on My 1,000 Mile Trek… From Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney

Highway 395 is one of America’s most scenic drives. This view looking up at Mt. Whitney (center top) is one of the reasons why. I’ll be ending my thousand mile trek here. From the top I will hike down several thousand steep feet to Whitney Portal. Peggy plans on being with me for this section of the trail. The hills in the foreground are the Alabama Hills, the backdrop for many of Hollywood’s early Westerns.

 

The first 100-mile backpack trek I ever led was from Squaw Valley to Auburn in 1974. Considering I had 60 people age 11-70 with me and that I had minimal backpacking experience, it was an insane adventure. Our last 50 miles had involved hiking in and out of river canyons with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees F (37.8 C). As steep as the canyons had been, my learning curve was much steeper! I was lucky the participants didn’t kill me. Fortunately, most of them were eager to go again and I went on to lead long distance adventure treks up and down the Sierras and in Alaska for the next 30 years. I limited the participants to a number that was compatible with my sanity and the environment, stayed at higher/cooler elevations, and required that anyone under 16 be accompanied by an adult guardian.

The second half of my thousand mile backpack trip this summer starts at Donner Summit on old Highway 40, some 12 miles away from Squaw Valley. I once had access to a winter cabin in the area and it wasn’t unusual to have 20 or more feet of snow on the ground. The cabin was warm and cozy. The Donner Party of 1847 wasn’t nearly as fortunate. Caught by bad weather, they were forced to camp out for the winter at Donner Lake, seven miles down the road from the summit. By the time they were rescued, half of the group had perished and the remainder had been forced to turn to cannibalism to survive. I’ll make sure that there is plenty of food in my pack.

My journey from here on will all be in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I will pass through a number of wilderness areas plus Yosemite National Park. My last 180 miles will be spent in what is known as the High Sierra, following the John Muir Trail. Here are some ‘eye candy’ photos to introduce you to the beauty of the route.

This photo is from the Granite Chief Wilderness. Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is on the other side of the mountain. The field of yellow flowers is mule ears.

Looking south from Granite Chief, the mountains in the distance are part of Desolation Wilderness, that runs along the west side of Lake Tahoe.

The area is filled with flowers. These are monkey flowers.

And this is a Washington Lily.

Another view of the Desolation Wilderness.

Those who follow my post know I have a weakness for reflection shots. I took this ‘face’ at 4 Q Lakes in the Desolation Wilderness. It’s off the PCT but I may go there for old times’ sake.

I also took this old tree blaze in Desolation Wilderness.

Moving south of Carson Pass, where Kit Carson once ate his dog and his horse, this is part of the Mokelumne Wilderness. The small mountain is known as the Nipple.

One of my favorite hikes on the PCT is between Sonora Pass and Tuolumne Meadows. This is Nancy Pape who may join me for a portion of this year’s journey. As I recall, 1977 was the first year that Nancy trekked with me.

This is a view of Tuolumne River Falls in Yosemite National Park just before Tuolumne Meadows and the beginning of the John Muir Trail.

Some of you have asked if 4.9 ounce Bone will be going on the trek. He was squawking loudly about the possibility of being left behind. I finally conceded, but I told him that it would be a bare-bone journey.

John Muir called the Sierras that he loved to wander through ‘the Range of Light.’

I thought I would add a black and white photo to provide a different perspective on the mountains I will be hiking through. During heavy snow years, which this one isn’t, the passes can be covered with snow and the stream filled with fast flowing water, adding another element of danger to the trip.

This is a view of some of my trekkers making their way over a snow filled pass, carefully. Slipping could have led to a fall of several hundred feet.

In this photo, Peggy makes her way across a fast flowing stream. Water is powerful. It is easy to be swept off your feet. Two through-hikers drowned last year in the southern Sierras.

The incredible beauty of the High Sierra makes the journey worthwhile, however. Always.

Alpenglow lights up a peak.

The view coming down from the John Muir Pass and hiking into Le Conte Canyon. I sprained my ankle once following Peggy as she ‘ran’ down the mountain and ended up hiking 80 miles on it.

Eventually my journey this summer will come to an end as I reach Mt. Whitney. Peggy is pointing out where it is.

This is my 16-year-old nephew Jay Dallen on top of Mt. Whitney. Jay joined me for the last portion of a hike I did from Lake Tahoe to Whitney to celebrate my 60th birthday in 2003. Jay is hoping to join me again this year.

I’ll conclude my preview with this photo looking down from Mt. Whitney.

Peggy and I are out this week backpacking the 40 mile Rogue River Trail. It is both an opportunity to check out our gear and continue our conditioning program. It is also a test to see what kind of sense of humor my 75-year-old body has. Wish me luck! (grin) I’ll respond to comments and check in on your blogs when we return.

FRIDAY’S POST: What factors in your youth led you to choose the path you have chosen to follow in your adult life? I explore some of mine as part of my MisAdventure series.

The Raft Trip Through the Grand Canyon… Conclusion, and Happy Earth Day

We were nearing the end of our 18-day journey down the Colorado River and had left the Grand Canyon behind. There were still spectacular views, however.

The river was slowing down, backing up as it approached Lake Mead. The rapids were behind us. We formed a flotilla and leisurely made our way toward take-out. We were ending our 18-day raft trip that had taken us through the Grand Canyon. Today’s photo essay reflects our final three days.

It is Earth Day tomorrow, and few things remind us better than the Grand Canyon that there are beautiful, wild places on earth that deserve our love and protection. I bumped up my normal Monday post to Saturday in honor of those who have fought so hard to save the Grand Canyon— and the earth. Enjoy.

The flotilla of rafts only required gentle corrections. Jame demonstrates just how gentle those corrections were…

And then lines up with several of our women rafters for a photo op.

Our adventures weren’t completely over. A sandbar that had been dry the night before provided an interesting challenge in the morning, as it had the night before for those who had chosen to sleep on the sand bar. (I’d picked a site above the river for Peggy and me. Grin.)

Our journey had been about several things, but certainly the people were central to the experience.

We had a whole cast of characters, including Yours Truly, looking like I had just spent 18-days on the river.

Peggy balances on the end of a raft and assumes a Titanic pose, which is something she likes to do. I have another photo of her like this poised above the piranha infested waters of the Amazon River.

Susan shows off by hoisting a five gallon propane canister! Strong woman, eh. 🙂

And Bone, of course, who found a prickly seat for this photo.

More than anything else, our trip was about rafting through the Grand Canyon. I took this photo of Hance Rapids from the rim after the trip. Each set of rapids was unique, and some were massive. Boatmen live for the challenges these rapids provide and our boatmen proved to be experts at negotiating them.

For me, the journey was more about the incredible beauty and natural history of the Canyon.

The beauty continued even as we approached Lake Mead and our take-out.

The Canyon walls were particularly beautiful in early morning and evening light.

But there was beauty any time of the day, and along every mile we traveled.

The Hualapai Indians provide a different perspective from their Skywalk, which is perched 4000 feet above the river.

And our eyes were always searching for wildlife along the river, such as these Big Horn Sheep.

A final reminder of the beauty along the way…

Eventually all great adventures come to an end. Here we are deflating the rafts that it seemed like we had filled ever-so-long before, literally lying down on the job!

A special thank you to Tom Lovering for organizing and leading our adventure. As you may very well imagine, a great deal of effort and expertise goes into planning a trip like ours. BTW, this may be the only time you ever see Tom with a halo.

And a special thanks to Don Green who so generously allowed me to use some of his excellent photos from along the way.

Bone, whose vest has now been signed by all of the rafters, looks down on Tanner Rapids, which we had made our way through a couple of weeks earlier. In addition to rafting through this section of the river I’ve backpacked into it twice and Peggy has backpacked into it once.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon along with Peggy, me and our friends. Thanks for joining us! The Canyon is a very special place. And it is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Happy Earth Day!

Curt and Peggy

Baby Bears and More… Kodiak Island, Alaska

These cubs were delightful little fellows, but photographing them called for a telephoto lens. I didn’t want to irritate their several hundred pound mom. Sow bears are very protective of their kids. One of the rules I always emphasize when hiking people through bear country is never get between a mama bear and her babies.

I visited Kodiak a couple of times when I lived in Alaska. Both times I was on my way to Katmai National Park to go backpacking. So, I missed seeing the Kodiak bears. It wasn’t a problem. The National Park has its own  population of large brown bears. When the floatplane landed at Katmai, a ranger was there to greet us. The area is a renowned fishing area for both people and bears. Fishermen come from all over the world to try their luck.”If you catch a fish and a brown bear comes along, cut your line. Don’t try to land the fish,” he instructed. It seemed like good advice. He went on to say, “If you meet a brown bear when you are out hiking, talk to the bear and slowly back away.” I wasn’t fishing so I wouldn’t need the first bit of advice, but possibly the second suggestion would come in handy.

The opportunity arrived that very evening. I had gone out for a stroll following a trail down to the beach when a thousand pounds of big claws and sharp teeth came strolling along in the opposite direction. Just what the heck was I supposed to say? I improvised. “Uh, Mr. Bear,” I started out tentatively, “You don’t want to eat me. I am an Alaskan just like you.” He stared at me with his small beady eyes and coughed. I wasn’t sure whether the cough meant I was full of BS or that I should go on. I assumed the latter. “There’s some great German food and Japanese food in camp,” I added as I slowly backed away.  It wasn’t that I actually wanted the bear to eat any German or Japanese fisherman. But, as I noted, I was improvising. He growled and left the trail. Maybe he was heading off to sample some ethnic dishes. I let out a huge sigh of relief and continued down to the beach.

The next day I watched an even larger bear fishing in a deep hole along the river. It was obviously a prime location. The bear wasn’t fishing the way you see them in the documentaries where the bears hang out at waterfalls with their mouths open. He was playing submarine where he would disappear under the  water until he caught a fish and then stand up on his hind legs while he consumed it. It was like he was eating corn on the cob except he was consuming the cob as well. I could here him crunching away. Twenty inches of trout disappeared in a couple of minutes. As I watched, a smaller grizzly sized bear came along to share in the catch. Bad decision. The large bear let out a roar and charged while the little guy leapt out of the hole and hightailed it though camp with the big guy hot on his tail. And, I can assure you, every thing they say about the speed of bears is absolutely true. I was ever so glad that I wasn’t on the trail.

The action on Kodiak wasn’t quite as dramatic, but it was equally interesting as the following photos will show.

Mama suggests to a large male that he go elsewhere. He did. You don’t mess with the mama!

Crisis solved, Mom leads her kids in the opposite direction along the fish pass,

And decides to go fishing.

Where she demonstrated her technique. (The salmon got away.)

“Come on in,” she urged the kids. “The waters fine.” But the cubs passed on the opportunity.

So she rejoined them— and provided a tongue bath.

Meanwhile, other bears were fishing the broader Dog Salmon River beneath the weir.

Including another mom with an older cub. The cub watched as mom searched for salmon under the water.

Successfully.

“Come on Mom, share!” the cub urged.

A seagull hovered above the cub, hoping for some table crumbs.

A bit later, a pair Kodiak bears had a standoff in the middle of the river! It seemed they were trying very hard to ignore each other.

Until the bear on the right decided to suggest that the other bear go elsewhere!

Which it did…

Junior stood up so he can see the action…

While Mom took a front row seat…

And then stood up to salute the victor. “I pledge allegiance…”

With the salmon caught and cubs fed, it was time to take a break.

The cool water provided an escape from the bugs…

While the fish pass provided  some warm sun for an afternoon nap. Anyone one up for telling the bear that it isn’t supposed to be on the fish pass? (grin) Next Wednesday I’ll take you along on trips to catch salmon, troll for halibut, and search for sea glass.

FRIDAY’S POST: A wrap up on the Mekemson Kids Did It.

MONDAY’S POST: The next to the last post on the 18-day journey down the Colorado River.

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